Megalobox and the Undocumented Story
Megalobox follows the journey of an initially unnamed protagonist, known by his ring name “Junk Dog.” The fighting style within Megalobox can be thought of as mecha-boxing, where fighters use techniques used in real boxing; however, they have mechanical arms attached to their body that increases the stopping power of their punches. Junk Dog fights in underground megalobox matches. At the start of the anime he is forced to suppress his desire to win fights and purposefully loses fights for the profit of his coach and manager. In many ways, the life of Junk Dog mirrors the lives of undocumented immigrants within the United States of America.
An undocumented immigrant is an individual who is not legally residing within the country as a citizen, either natural born, naturalized, or otherwise as a legal resident with a visa or green card. Undocumented immigrants often live under the radar. You wouldn’t know they are undocumented unless they told you. Data gathered in 2017 from the Pew Research Center 1 notes that there are about “10.5 million unauthorized immigrants” living in the United States of America . Given their status many have to work under the table, acquire fake social security numbers, or have fraudulent identities to work within the country. In a similar way, Junk Dog shares this undocumented status within the fictional world of Megalobox.
Later in the anime, Junk Dog acquires fraudulent citizenship documentation to fight in the Megalonia megalobox tournament, and changes his name to Joe. It is clear from the first episode that Joe is not a citizen of the land he resides in. There is a moment where Yukiko Shirato, CEO of Shirato Konzern and promoter of the Megalonia megalobox tournament, states on a television broadcast that entry into Megalonia is open to all citizens. Junk Dog listens to her statement with disdain on his face, hinting to the viewer that he is not eligible to enter due to his citizenship status. Following the idea that Junk Dog represents undocumented immigrant story, it seems that the anime’s creators may also hint that his character may specifically be inspired by undocumented immigrants of Latin American descent. It would be difficult to say for sure, but Joe’s experience may most closely resemble the experience of a Mexican immigrant. Though this is ultimately up to the viewer’s interpretation.
Throughout the anime there are a few small details that make this cultural allusion. Though not much of Joe’s cultural background is shared in the storyline, the show’s use of Spanish words, Joe’s tan complexion, and Christian imagery point to cultural and ethnic attributes that some Latin Americans share. In fact, most of the countries in Latin America use Spanish as the primary language. 2 The exceptions here being Brazil, Belize, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana, which use other languages such as Portuguese, English, and French. Throughout Latin American there are also many indigenous dialects that are used in smaller communities. Also, while Christianity is considered a world religion, Mexico specifically, 3 holds the word’s the third largest population of Christians.
Analyzing the Pew Research Data 4 of undocumented immigrant demographics in the United States of America further shows that Mexicans make up the largest undocumented immigrant group, with about 4.9 million people living in the country. Having some inspiration from the Mexican people would make sense since boxing is also a coveted sport in Mexico. Mexico is the second country in the world with the most boxing champions, the first being the United States of America. 5
Like the real people Joe is inspired by, he has the odds stacked against him. As an undocumented citizen, he lacks resources and makes a living throwing megaloboxing matches. This also means putting aside his pride and real skills as a fighter to make ends meet. Due to his less fortunate societal circumstances, there is little hope for Joe’s upward socio-economic mobility. However, there is a point in the anime where Joe is forced to find a way to overcome his situation. This happens when Joe meets Yuri, the current megalobox champion.
Yuri is cocky and seems to think little of Joe during their first encounter, except for when Joe trash talks about the megalonia tournament to Yukiko Shirato. This triggers Yuri, but Yukiko prevents the two from fighting in the street. Later, Yuri finds Joe in the underground ring where he throws his fights, and challenges him there. Joe resolves to fight for a win, which is contrary to the cycle of throwing matches that he and his coach Nanbu are accustomed to doing. Joe is easily beaten by Yuri. This is the main turning point for Joe that launches a series of events to where Joe has to somehow make it into the megalonia tournament by defeating strong opponents and receiving fraudulent citizenship.
It’s unclear why the creators of the anime decided on this to be the socioeconomic context of the main character. Especially since the manga it is based on Ashita no Joe, which takes place in Japan. Consequently, the anime becomes a commentary of the lives of undocumented immigrants. For Joe, one thing is certain, like the real people who he represents, he has the odds stacked against him. When his life goal is made clear, to beat Yuri and become champion, he is the definition of someone who started with nothing, yet has the internal ingredients that make up a legend.
In a sport like boxing, things like socioeconomic status can mean nothing at all, yet mean everything at the same time. It means nothing in the sense that, when fighters are in the ring it doesn’t matter if one fighter is from Beverly hills and the other is from the outskirts of Tijuana. Skill becomes the grand equalizer. A real life example of this is Mexican boxing legend Julio Cesar Chavez. Chavez was one of ten siblings. 6 His family was so poor that they lived out of an old rail car when he was young. 7 Poverty was one of Chavez’s motivations for fighting, as he started his boxing career with the intention to raise money for his family. In some ways, having nothing was the greatest strength for Chavez since he had nothing to lose, there were no limits he mentally placed on himself. Chavez once held an undefeated record of 89-0, one of the longest standing undefeated records in boxing. At the end of his career, he still maintained an impressive record of 107 wins, 6 losses, and 2 draws. 8 In Chavez’s situation, he shows that humble beginnings prove to be one of the contributing factors for success. Though Chavez was not an immigrant, the theme of starting from nothing mirrors Joe’s experience.
Creators of the anime further emphasize this by adding details to the story line to show how Joe truly starts from nothing and overcomes these odds. Joe starts his professional career “gearless” meaning that he doesn’t use the iconic technology used by megaloboxers to power up his skills. On the other hand, his opponents stick to using their high-tech gear that should make them stronger and faster than Joe. However, Joe uses his talent, training, and skill to defeat every opponent. At the beginning of the show, Joe also had no support system. But later receives proper training from Nanbu, who despite having real experience in the boxing world, used to use Joe to throw fights and win gambling money. In addition, a group of young orphans join Joe’s corner team, help with his training, and see his development throughout the storyline. At the end of the season 1, his progress and skill are acknowledged by Yuri who also decides to fight Joe gearless in the championship match of the megalonia tournament.
Joe’s triumphant victory over Yuri demonstrates how an underdog can in fact become a top dog, as long as one has a never-give-up attitude. Season 2 of Megalobox, focuses less on Joe, but continues to touch on elements of unauthorized immigration. All of the season’s episode titles are in Spanish and themes of faith are also present. Joe even finds himself helping out a community of undocumented immigrants who are faced with discrimination and government persecution. Whether intended to or not, Megalobox and Joe are a homage to the many unnamed people out there on the outskirts of society who overcome daily struggles, perhaps not boxing, but still fighting for their survival.
- Lopez, M. H., Passel, J. S., & Cohn, D. (2021, April 13). Key facts about the changing U.S. unauthorized immigrant population. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/04/13/key-facts-about-the-changing-u-s-unauthorized-immigrant-population/ ↩
- Spanishdict.com. (n.d.). Spanish-speaking Countries. SpanishDict. https://www.spanishdict.com/guide/spanish-speaking-countries ↩
- World Population Review. (2021). Most Christian Countries 2020. Worldpopulationreview.com. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/most-christian-countries ↩
- Lopez, M. H. ↩
- WBN. (2021, January 15). Data shows which country has had most boxing world champions in history. WBN – World Boxing News. https://www.worldboxingnews.net/2021/01/15/boxing-world-champions-history/ ↩
- TheFamousPeople.com. (n.d.). Who is Julio Cesar Chavez? Everything You Need to Know. Www.thefamouspeople.com. Retrieved December 27, 2022, from https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/julio-cesar-chavez-3368.php ↩
- DAZN. (2022, July 12). Julio Cesar Chavez: five facts about the Mexican champion you didn’t know | DAZN News US. DAZN. https://www.dazn.com/en-US/news/boxing/julio-cesar-chavez-five-facts-about-the-mexican-champion-you-didnt-know/zq9pqar2s4g213lqvrje4p1l3 ↩
- BoxRec: Julio Cesar Chavez. (2019). Boxrec.com. https://boxrec.com/en/proboxer/8119 ↩
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