Moriyama said that the idea for Megalobox‘s musical story was to represent Black music, starting with hip hop. At the time, there weren’t many anime that used hip hop, so among the few that existed, they took inspiration from Afro Samurai and Cowboy Bebop. mabanua said that they also took inspiration from the soundtrack of the 2013 film Only God Forgives.
When asked why Black music was such an inspiration, Moriyama responded that the anime adaptation of Ashita no Joe has a theme song “Midnight Blues” with a very Blues-esque mood. He went on to explain that as a musical genre, Blues originated from work songs. Because of this, he believes that it lent weight to a story that is about “rising from the very bottom all the way to the top.” When thinking about how to portray this feeling with a modern flavor, Moriyama came to the conclusion that hip hop would be ideal.
mabanua said that it took around two weeks to create the theme song for the anime’s first season. He paid particular attention to giving the song a snappy intro and a feeling that it is all played by hand.
As for the sequel anime Megalobox 2: Nomad, Moriyama said that because the setting of the story expands, he took inspiration from a broad range of films and games. In particular, his fondness for Westerns comes through in the story’s structure and how Joe travels on his motorcycle; this is inspired by the 1953 film Shane. Also, because the story has a focus on immigrants, Moriyama wanted the music to expand its range of influences as well.
Although mabanua said that he was initially nervous about tackling Latin American popular and traditional music, he felt that it turned out well, and was heartened by the positive reception. He was very meticulous about the research because he was aware that the anime has a lot of Latin American fans. He also personally performed the vocals for the “El Canto del Colibrí” ending theme. He said that during production, he was very into Narcos and Roma, which were both streaming on Netflix.
mabanua said that he was very honored to participate in the production of Megalobox, saying that “there aren’t that many anime in Japan these days that stick to their guns like this.”
The first 13-episode anime premiered on TBS in April 2018. The Megalobox 2: Nomad sequel anime premiered on April 4. For further discussion on Megalobox 2: Nomad, read ANN’s interview with Yo Moriyama and screenwriters Katsuhiko Manabe and Kensaku Kojima.