Anyone can throw a match and rake in the money. It’s the practical solution. Hell, it’s the only solution that makes sense. After all, Fujimaki is a mob boss. He’s got enough money to buy all the muscle he wants. Not only can he send an endless amount of goons after Joe, Nanbu, and Sachio to make their lives a living hell — if not outright kill them — he knows all of their secrets too. He can ruin them at any time. So why would you defy the odds and disobey the man? Joe isn’t just signing his own death warrant. If he goes down, Sachio’s going down too. And of course, Nanbu will suffer, but he has it coming. Nevertheless, it’s not like a mob boss will show mercy on a kid, especially a street rat with no family. No one but his friends will even notice if Sachio suddenly disappears one day. But this is why we watch these shows. We don’t want our protagonists to take the easy way out. We don’t want them to do what we would probably do in if we found ourselves in the same situation. ‘Cause let’s face it, I’d be scared shitless in Joe’s shoes. Not just for my sake, but my team’s sake as well. But as viewers, we want our protagonists to be heroes and defy all the odds even when it’s stupid to do so. We want to see Joe not only win Megalonia, but win with integrity. So is it corny for everyone to band together and cheer Joe on as he pulls himself up from the mat? Hell yeah. Is it foolish to piss off a mob boss? You’re damn right it is. But Joe and his team refuse to go down like chumps anymore, and we sure as hell don’t want them to.
Misc. notes and observations:
— Man, if Fujimaki doesn’t kill Nanbu, the guy’s going to kill himself on alcohol.
— Sachio is trying his best to earn his keep, and Yukiko is tender with the kid. I expected her to be her usual cold self, but this is a nice surprise. I don’t think she’s doing it out of guilt either.
— So… Sachio’s saying that Joe will lose to Yuri?
— Fujimaki’s fish dish is a hot mess.
— Burroughs enters the stadium on a mustard yellow pickup truck. I wonder if this is what they think of boisterous Americans.
— Just look at the guy.
— Shockingly enough, Joe first enters the stadium with his Gear on. He also has that earpiece. This goes against everything he’s built himself up to be, but this is an interesting stunt. Back when he used to wear his Gear regularly, Joe would throw matches in the underground boxing rings. So for him to go back to that mindset, it’s almost as if he has to revert as a fighter. He has to devolve. At the same time, however, Joe’s going against the grain of his character, so wearing his Gear is almost like telling the whole world that he’s not being himself. He’s being inauthentic.
— Sachio refuses to attend the match, because he doesn’t agree with throwing the match. He thought they were going all the way to the top, so he feels as if the team has betrayed him. As for Nanbu, he’s all the way up in Fujimaki’s luxury box. If something goes wrong, he’ll have to face the music, so it makes sense that he’s stuck up there. As a result, Joe doesn’t have a single person in his corner. For now, at least.
— The match kicks off, and Joe is holding his own. After all, he can’t make it look obvious. He can’t just let Burroughs dominate the match. People would realize that the fix is on. At the same time, however, he ignores Nanbu’s help. The old man doesn’t want Joe to get seriously hurt, so he’s trying to give Joe all sorts of tips to avoid taking too much punishment. But right now, Joe’s fighting a battle in the ring and — as lame as it sounds — in his heart. He knows Sachio and Nanbu’s lives are in his hands, so what can he do but go against every fiber in his body and throw this match?
— As the match wears on, Joe’s flimsy-looking Gear slowly falls apart. His resolve is also falling apart as well. But which resolve? The one to throw the match or the one to be true to himself?
— So there’s this odd moment… Sachio runs away from the stadium in tears, but the kid eventually comes to terms with the reality that he was using Joe as well. In the end, they’re a team, so he’s got to be there for Joe. But this all happens after a rap solo… by Sachio. We also get to see him air-boxing. It’s weird, man. I can’t say that I loved it.
— This entire time, Nanbu thought that Joe simply had to throw one more match and be done with the grimy underside of society forever. But c’mon, that’s just naive. Fujimaki quickly corrects the record, and I don’t know what Nanbu honestly expected. The mob boss has been telling the old man all this time that people’s underlying nature can’t change. He wants us to believe that Nanbu will always be a scorpion and, likewise, Joe will always be a stray dog. But what’s really true is that Fujimaki will always be a slimy piece of shit. As a result, even if Joe throws this match, the mob boss will never let the kid or his trainer walk away. Why would he? If they’re obedient, they’re a cash cow to him. He can keep using them to throw matches for him. Fujimaki lives up to his own philosophy.
— In the third round, Joe takes a hard hit and falls to the mat. If he stays down, he’ll throw the match and guarantee Nanbu and Sachio’s safety… for now. But if he gets up, he becomes the real deal.
— Sachio is the first to return to Joe. He’s the first to give our hero the support that he needs. After that, the rest of the pieces fall into place. Even Yuri shows up ringside to encourage Joe. Last but not least, Nanbu seals the deal by telling his fighter to get up. Joe is no longer a stray dog. He has a family now whether he admits it or not. He wouldn’t have gotten up without Sachio and Nanbu. He probably wouldn’t have gotten up either without Yuri.
— So when Joe gets up, he’s back being the real deal. He’s back to being “Gearless” Joe.
— So what’s at stake? A whole lot. Nanbu can beat up some of Fujimaki’s goons, but he can’t do it forever. He’ll eventually have to pay a huge price. The show cuts to Fujimaki silently forking a fish’s eye. Foreshadowing?
— Like Yuri, Joe knocks Burroughs out with a mean left hook. What’s with this show and left hooks? Maybe he took inspiration from Yuri. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see who goes down in the finals and how.
— As Sachio runs to Joe’s side, Joe’s ID slips from his hat. Yukiko would eventually come across it. I wonder what repercussions this will have. The last thing she wants is for Yuri to lose in the final. After all, the fate of her company rests on the man’s broad, Gear-enhanced shoulders. Would she use it against Team Nowhere if Joe starts winning in the finals?
— Yuri confesses that he’s jealous of Joe as he admits that his rival is the real deal. Does Yuri see himself as a phony? A kept man who can only reach the peak of his craft through technology? Or is it something else?
— Joe and Sachio rush to Nanbu’s side only to find the old man clutching his other eye. Y’know, the one without the eyepatch. In a desperate attempt to get Fujimaki off their backs, Nanbu sacrificed the rest of his vision. He won’t get to see the finals, which means he also won’t able to coach Joe as closely as he’s been doing up until now.
— Still, don’t you think it was foolish for both Joe and Sachio to run right into a mob boss’s room? But I guess they couldn’t just leave Nanbu behind. Not if they want to be the real deal.
— Later that night, Yuri trains under the moonlight as his dog growls at… him? Nothing?
— We still have two episodes left, so I wonder what’ll happen next. Will we have an episode-long build up to the finals? Or will the ultimate showdown between Joe and Yuri take up a good chunk of both episodes?