The anime season that began in April is winding down, meaning that those who prefer to wait and ingest their anime in one flat-out, high-speed burn are starting to look around for series to binge.
This season saw several classic franchises get a high-tech makeover, including the boxing classic “Ashita no Joe” (“Tomorrow’s Joe”). The Asao Takamori manga (1968-73), later adapted into anime form by master director Osamu Dezaki, is back with a futuristic twist in “Megalobox.”
“Ashita no Joe” took place in Showa Era Japan; “Megalobox” transports the action to the near future, in which boxers strap cybernetic gear to their backs and arms to enhance the strength of their punches. That is, boxers who can afford it. In this mega-stratified dystopia, those on the down-and-out fight in unlicensed, fixed matches on the edge of town. That includes our hero, a fighter without a name who decides to forge a new identity and go legit. You can probably guess what moniker he chooses.
Much like this January’s “Devilman Crybaby,” “Megalobox” offers a new take on a 50-year-old manga, but despite the futuristic setting, modern tunes and some sleek animation, it largely retains the ethos of the original. Just as the old Joe stood for the working class of postwar Japan, this Joe reps the 99 percent. Same stuff, different day.
Another franchise celebrating 50-odd years with a new series is “Lupin the Third.” This time, Lupin and his pals are in France, the birthplace of the master thief’s grandfather, and they’ve taken a high-tech tack to thievery, using satellites, computers and the like. It feels at times like a desperate attempt to appeal to the young folk (“You can get anything on the internet these days!” says Lupin to Jigen in the first episode, like a grandpa discovering Amazon for the first time) and things are at their best when the crew abandons its gadgets and goes on the old-fashioned car chases the franchise is known for. How about making the next series a period piece?
“The Legend of the Galactic Heroes” got a face-lift this season with Production I.G’s “The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These.” But don’t call it a remake; the team behind it has specified this is a brand-new adaptation of the original novels by Yoshiki Tanaka. Still, that hasn’t stopped old-school fans from comparing this new series to the epic anime adaptation that ran from 1988 to 1997 and clocked in at some 110 episodes (and that’s not even counting the spinoffs).
The story of strategic space-faring combat between two military powers and their brilliant young tacticians is largely unaltered — the main point of contention with fans of the original is the character designs, which have been retooled for a generation that likes its boys pretty. But for the rest of us, “Die Neue These” is a great introduction to what has long been an intimidating franchise.