From the side, those tubes connected to Mikio’s Gear almost look like wings, don’t they? But this is fitting. After all, he resembles Icarus, the foolish child who dared to fly too high. Mikio had Joe on the ropes, but he couldn’t seal the deal.
— When the episode begins, we’re already halfway through the second round. I don’t mind this too much. This lets us jump right into the action. Besides, we already spent time prepping for the match two weeks ago. The fight just ended up being deferred till now.
— Not surprisingly, Joe’s opponent has the upper-hand. If they’re an important character like Mikio or Aragaki, they always have the upper-hand at the start… and 95% of the match. For once, I’d like to see Joe start out with an advantage, then slowly lose his grip on the match. Just subvert it a little, y’know?
— Mikio has since tweaked his Gear. It can now read its opponent even if they’re Gearless, so Joe no longer has that advantage to work with. Look at those fancy sparkles. That’s how you know it’s thinking! Hah, probably not… I bet you Mikio just added it ’cause it he thought it looked cool.
— Regarding the spectators, some of them don’t even seem human. Look how wild and bloodthirsty they are.
— At one point, Joe recklessly charges at Mikio after being taunted. He is subsequently tripped and sent to the ground. Is that legal?
— Yukiko and Yuri are both in attendance, but the woman feels as though she’s seen enough. Yuri, however, is confident in Joe’s chances. I don’t know why he has so much belief in our protagonist. He’s only fought the guy once, and they haven’t exchanged any words since then. I guess he just knows. Call it his fighter’s instincts, I guess. Unlike Mikio, Yuri doesn’t need a machine to tell him what to do and not do. He just knows. Mikio has to do all this digging into Joe’s life, and he still comes out of it thinking that his opponent is a fraud. Meanwhile, Yuri takes one quick look at Joe and sees a “genuine article.” Huh.
— Damn, Joe even ends up losing a tooth.
— To contrast Joe’s corner, Mikio’s team barely even look at him. They’re just hammering away at those consoles, which presumably display metrics regarding both Mikio and his Gear’s status. By the way, the Gear’s name is Ace.
— Mikio also treats his team like dirt, barking orders at them and calling them names when they don’t meet his expectations. This draws Yukiko’s ire. No wonder he didn’t get the company.
— The reason Yuri went with his current model instead of Mikio’s is because synchronization with AI poses too much of a burden both physically and mentally. In a flashback, we see Mikio having to inject himself with some sort of drug just because synchronization was wearing him out. That sort of thing just isn’t sustainable. So back in the present, Yukiko goes on to add that “[a] Gear that no human can make use of has no future.” I don’t really agree with her, though. In fact, I think she’s dead wrong. Perfect synchronization might very be impossible, but as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Mikio has gotten this far thanks to Ace. Just because it’s not good enough to beat Yuri or even Joe doesn’t mean it’s worthless. It just means there’s room for improvement. Yuri went with the other model because he correctly realized that Ace would not give him the best expected outcome in the ring. Fair enough. But that’s no reason to throw Ace away completely. Mikio’s done more than enough to prove that Ace has its uses. His biggest error is attempting to push Ace beyond its limits. He wants to hit 100% synchronization when 70% or whatever is already good enough to make him one of the top boxers in the world. But of course, that’s his tragic flaw, isn’t it? Look at Mikio. He’s not a bad looking guy. He’s got smarts. He comes from a powerful family. Even if he doesn’t have the Shirato Group under his control, he still has plenty of allies within the company. Honestly, his life is more than pretty damn sweet. Mikio’s got it made. He’s not even a 1%. He’s more like a .01%. But sadly, this isn’t good enough for Mikio. He wants more. He wants the entire company. He wants Ace to be the top Shirato Gear. He wants to be in Megalonia. He wants it all. So like Icarus, he will fail.
— Back in the ring, we see Mikio continue to reach for too much. Sure, he’s still winning the match, but there’s a reason why he hasn’t actually been declared the victor: Ace isn’t good enough. Most opponents probably would’ve already gone down by now. Ace would’ve made the right call, and the fight would be over. But we’re talking about Joe here. If anything, our protagonist makes a good punching bag. He just never gives up. He even gets knocked clean out of the ring at one point, and I thought that would disqualify him automatically. But nah, he just has to get back on his feet and the fight continues.
— Eventually, his team decides on finishing the match with one punch. An odd problem with synchronization is that Mikio is starting to doubt himself. He can no longer tell which moves are his and which are Ace’s. We see a flashback where it looked as though Mikio had instinctively guarded himself against Yuri’s punch, but he actually can’t tell if he had done it himself or not. Against easy opponents, Mikio can easily put his trust in Ace. But against “genuine articles” like Joe, even his faith in his machine begins to falter.
— When Joe suddenly stops assuming a stance, Ace doesn’t know what to do. It has no data to work with, so it approaches the fight from a defensive standpoint. It throws jabs at Joe when it should be trying to finish the match off. This only serves to weaken Mikio’s trust in his Gear even more.
— Before the fourth round begins, Mikio tells his team that he wants even more synchronization. He tries to wipe his doubts away by acting confidant, but he can’t deny the fact that he could’ve finished the match if he had just overrode his Gear’s decision-making in the last few seconds of the third round. But had he done that, he’d be saying that Ace wasn’t perfect. Ace is his baby. It’s designed by him, built by him, maintained by him. Mikio has too much pride in Ace to suddenly override the AI now that we’re four rounds deep into this match.
— The fourth round begins, and Joe throws out the same strategy. He’s not going to guard against any of Ace’s punches. He’s going to bluff and make Mikio go for a haymaker. And when that happens, Joe will counter with his own.
— At some point, Mikio goes for it. He tries to throw a right hook, so Joe starts to counter it. All of a sudden, however, Mikio pivots at the last second and decides to end the match with a left-handed punch instead. Luckily, Joe still dodges it, then finishes Mikio off for good.
— So what happened? I like to think Mikio truly lost faith in Ace. When he later asks how Joe knew what his last punch was gonna be, the latter said he didn’t. He also adds, “Yours did the same, didn’t it?” After all, the Gear is only attached to Mikio’s upper body. He made his feet pivot.
— Joe finally gets to share a few words with Yuri. The last time these two talked was back in episode two? Well, just look at Yuri’s face. He’s happy as a clam that his buddy just managed to claw his way into Megalonia.
— Meanwhile, Mikio goes for one of those late night joy rides. He should buck up. Like I said up above, he’s still got a pretty sweet life ahead of him. His wings may have melted, but he’s still got the rest of his life ahead of him.
— Look at all these people come out of the woodwork to bask in Team Nowhere’s victory. I can never trust people like these. They’re nowhere to be found when you actually need their support, but when you’re king of the mountain, everyone suddenly wants a hand-out.
— Afterwards, however, Nanbu has an ominous meeting with Fujisaki. Man, what now?