I still have some reservations over how Nomad has seemingly wrapped up and set aside the characters from the immigrant plotline, at least for now, but I cannot begrudge Episode 5 too much given what it has to do. It's been five long years since Joe lost his way, and seven since the first series concluded. Both Joe and the audience are in need of some catch-up time. Even with my concerns about the long-term impact of the series' structure, I do think it is respectable just how long Nomad was willing to delay this inevitable info-dump of an episode. A more reserved series likely would have given us one, maybe two episodes worth of teasing before explaining the tragedy that led to Joe's current circumstances, but Megalobox rightly kept its focus on Joe and Chief's story for as long as it needed to play out.
As the present-day and flashback sequences weave in and out, we learn what happened to Joe, Nanbu, the children, and the gym, and why it only took five years for everything to fall apart completely. The obvious factor is Nanbu's death – a slow and painful one, as it happens – of cancer. This hit all of the children hard, of course, and none more so than Sachio, whose offhand burst of frustration inadvertently inspired Joe's downfall. With the opening of Nowhere Gym and the establishment of a new and better life for the orphans, Nanbu has realized how good he's had it in the final stretch of his life, and has asked that his family not push themselves to the brink just to buy him a little more time. Sachio is a child, so of course he will have moments where he just can't comprehend the terrible work of having to stand and watch as a loved one dies in front of you.
Joe may be the adult in charge of the kids, now, but he's also never been one to allow the universe to get one over on him, and he takes Sachio's pain to heart. Yuri is back training a new protégé, Liu, who wants to bring Joe out of retirement. Despite the pleas and concerns of everyone around him, including Sachio, Joe decides to get back in the ring after two years away. He claims it is because the prize money might be just the thing to save Nanbu, but even Sachio is clear-headed enough to understand Joe's excuses. Nanbu is dying, there is no changing that, and Joe is just running away from the pain of it and running away from his family in the process.
We don't yet see what happens at Liu and Joe's bout, but we already know how it ends, and we've seen the damage that Joe left in his wake when he left his home for good. Abuhachi is the one to explain to Joe how the gym was destroyed in those typhoons that we saw being discussed on the news back in Episode 1, but that isn't what broke the family. Joe leaving the children to grieve and grow alone was enough to do that. It is awfully sad, then, but not at all surprising when a now fully grown Sachio arrives to find Joe sleeping in the ruins of the gym, and then promptly beats the shit out of him, before telling him to get out of town. Aragaki arrives later to do the same thing, but instead of kicking the man while he's down, he just tells Joe of how much he's lost. Oicho works for Abuhachi now, Santa is a reporter, Bonjiri has opened up his own little restaurant at the edge of town, and Sachio has taken up Joe's mantle of the hopeless junk dog that fights for scraps in the underground Megalobox circuit.
With its steady and confident direction, Nomad sells all of these emotional beats with care and precision. The black-and-white art of the flashbacks might be another one of the stock-standard cinematic devices that this season has been relishing in, but these time-tested visual archetypes somehow do end up feeling fresh and engaging when presented in Megalobox's particular brand of greasy SD-era anime sheen. The familiar backdrop of the city and the classic music stings from mabanua's soundtrack also hit like a nostalgic punch to the gut, as if the first Megalobox really was a classic series from decades back, and Nomad is its long-awaited follow-up.
The thing about nostalgia is that it is a double-edged sword, especially when the hands that cling to years gone by were the ones that poisoned the well to begin with. Joe ends the episode desperately digging for the remnants of his old life, the old ties that made him more than just some has-been drifter, but he ought to know better. One of the kids said it to Joe's face, and Sachio sure as hell got the message across when he bloodied his knuckles on Joe's bones: “That's all in the past, now.”
Odds and Ends
• This week's title is “La tierra prometida respondió que el mesás no se quedarà”, which means “"The promised land replied that the messiah will not stay".
• Though I don't want to belittle the incredibly hard work that industry translators are doing to keep up with the simulcasting schedule, I've noticed that Nomad's subtitles are sloppier than what I'm used to seeing from Funimation. There've been way more typos and missing words than usual, and the translation seems a bit stiff in places. Hopefully it picks up as the season continues.