Episode 9 sees Nomad in another table setting period, or at least, a period of relative calm before (and technically during) the storm. It’s a testament to how absurdly compelling Nomad is that the episode is still so damned watchable, despite the focus mostly being on transitioning characters from Point A to Point B, and on paying off the smaller, emotional victories that Joe must earn before he has a right to step back into the ring. In that sense, the slower pace of Episode 9 makes perfect sense, since it will make the inevitable climax that much more thrilling…and potentially tragic.
The Spanish title for this episode is “Una sola mano no basta para vivir, pero aun así la forma de vivir prevalence”, and Wikipedia tells me that this can be translated to “The way in which to live cannot be counted on one hand, even still there are ways to survive”. It’s as perfect a summation of Nomad‘s central thesis as any we’ve seen so far, especially since the episode is all about showing us the ways that our cast have found to survive, both in regard to the elements of nature, and against the demons that haunt them on the inside. Every returning character from the first series has evolved in some way to find that which gives them purpose in this world; it’s just another way that Nomad has so effectively taken advantage of its role as a sequel to the original Megalobox.
Take Yukiko, for instance. Her growth is much more subtle than the other characters since she possesses basically the same amount of privilege and power that she did in the first series. Her ability to live and succeed in the world has never been in question, but it seems clear that she’s needed to reorient some things in order to live with herself. In the first season, she took advantage of Yuri’s health and talent in order to sell Gear to military buyers; now, all these years later, she’s the first one to raise objections when she discovers that ROSCO plans to develop military applications for its BES technology. She serves as a perfect foil for Ryugo in these opening scenes, especially when she expresses real empathy for the injured and PTSD-stricken soldiers who will be pushed back onto the frontlines with ROSCO’s enhancements. Ryugo, who becomes slimier by the minute, chides her for talking about the soldiers as if they’re “tools”, even as he knowingly falsifies Mac’s data and sends his cronies after Mikio for even daring to question his company’s methods.
On the more literal front, we have Joe and the rest of the Gym Nowhere crew, who have to band together and fight against the wrath of Mother Nature when that storm that got foreshadowed last week touches down on their home. In a lesser show, the obviousness of the metaphor might have ended up being too corny for its own good: Joe once took it upon himself to fight in the ring in order to save his home and his crew, and he ended up losing it all. After years of wandering as Nomad, though, he’s learned to trust his family, and that he needs to put in the real work of caring for them and building them up. Thus, when the storm hits, Aragaki and the rest of the kiddos (sans Sachio) work as a family, and this time the gym is saved.
Megalobox isn’t a lesser anime, though, thank God, and the whole sequence works as a perfect culmination of Joe’s growth. Just like the title says, there’s more than one way to survive, and he’s finally found a purpose and a home that doesn’t depend on his ability to punch his way out of problems. Even ol’ Sachio is coming around, despite slugging Joe yet again this week (and on Nanbu’s grave, of all places). Like Oichi explains, the kid didn’t know how to keep the family together, and his only role model was Joe, so he’s tried to take Joe’s place by reenacting all of Joe’s old mistakes. Hopefully, now that Joe has learned some, Sachio might be able to come back into the fold as well.
That doesn’t mean Joe will be able to go the rest of the season without putting on the gloves one last time (and Chief’s gear, presumably). You see, Mac has been trying to figure out how to live, too, but his path is muddled by Ryugo’s scheming influence. Mac knows that he is apt to lose control to “Mac Time” again at a moments notice, and he’s not enough of a fool to think that this endeavor is worth risking his life for. He wants to retire, before any harm can come to another fighter (or worse yet, his family). We even learn that the reason he hung up the gloves the first time was because Joe and Yuri’s bout showed him that he was never cut out for the life of a champion. He just wants to enjoy the new lease on life he’s been given in peace, with his family.
That kind of attitude simply won’t do when the investors are breathing down Ryugo’s neck, though, and that goes double now that the Shirato siblings are gunning for ROSCO’s data, too. And just like that, when the next morning’s paper lands on the restaurant’s doorstep, the newfound scrap of home that Joe has found is already being threatened. The headline reads: “Mac Challenges the Legend For His Next Match!! Does This Mean a Comeback for ‘Gearless’ Joe?!” I suppose it’s a case of how the more things change, the more they stay the same, Even if there’s not much of a question as to whether or not Joe will fight, though, I remain very curious to see what Joe will end up fighting for. That will determine whether this Nomad really has changed his ways, or if the Junk Dog never left in the first place.
• The scene where Abuhachi tells Oicho how happy he is that she is someone who can carry on his legacy as an engineer is painfully sweet. It’s also a great example of a character who has long since figured out how he plans to survive: by passing on his knowledge and passion to someone who will carry it for the rest of their life.
• Another great scene is the one between Joe and Liu. Poor Liu is going to suffer some degree of permanent paralysis from the beating he took from Mac, but the kid is clinging to his dream of becoming a champion just like Joe. I wonder if negotiating a path to recovery for him via the BES tech will be what gets Joe back in the ring.