WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Megalobox 2: NOMAD Episode 1, "Los fantasmas tararean un réquiem," now streaming on Funimation, as well as discussion of alcohol and substance addiction.
The long-awaited return of Megalobox -- which itself was a 50th-anniversary commemoration of Ashita no Joe -- delivers a look into what's happened to "Gearless" Joe since his triumph against Yuri during Megalonia's final bout. The Joe we meet in Megalobox 2, now going by Nomad, is in a much darker place than fans may have expected.
Now struggling with addiction issues and much removed from professional fighting, Joe wanders around from venue to venue, winning virtually every fight he takes on. While Joe/Nomad was a loner for the early parts of Season 1, he always had Nanbu -- and later Sachio -- by his side. With Nanbu's apparent death a reality, it's clear that Nomad will tell a much more personal story about grief and recovery.
5 Years on From Megalonia
Time and grief have weathered Joe, both taking their toll on his overall wellbeing. Though he left Megalonia the victor, and things seemed to be looking up for Team Nowhere, the events of the five years between then and now have shaken Joe. Sporting a thick beard and additional scars, Joe spends his time making money in underground fights -- making it very clear to any promoters that he'll never throw a match.
Joe doesn't seem to have missed a beat in terms of skill, at least for the most part, but from his pill usage and hallucinations of Nanbu, he is far from okay. His choice to go by a new name stems from a desire to be anonymous (and escape his past), with no one who reports on Megalo-boxing having any new information on the former champion Gearless Joe. From a brief TV report, we see that another Megalonia title match is about to go down -- with one of the fighters being Yuri's protege.
Fighting as "Nomad"
Joe spends his time outside of fights either in rundown motel rooms or in a bar, mixing his two vices: booze and pills. At the advice of a musician performing at the bar, Joe throws his drugs on the bathroom floor -- only to pick them up a few moments later. He's consistently vomiting and shaking as a side effect of even the briefest withdrawals. One night when Joe is riding his motorcycle in the snow, he crashes to avoid hitting a lone wolf that refuses to move out of his way. The wolf seems to represent Joe -- they both have scars below their eyes, which are also the same color.
Later, Joe overhears a crew of fight promoters discussing their frustration over not finding anyone willing to battle their fighter Chief -- the musician he spoke with at the bar. Joe volunteers, and the two trade blows for several rounds. Unfortunately, Joe begins to lose focus as his drugs wear off and a hallucination of Nanbu asks him what's wrong.
Addressing Gearless Joe's Past
Joe is knocked down after being surprised by Chief calling him Gearless Joe. While he's able to lift himself and land a solid hit on Chief, he can tell he's been tricked. The punch Joe threw was mostly dodged by Chief, who still goes to the ground -- throwing the fight. The moment is an inverse of how Season 1 began, where Joe was the one throwing fights, though he hated doing it.
After the fight, Joe confronts Chief in the parking lot and asks him if he's embarrassed of himself. Chief asks the question back, annoying Joe, who tries to throw a punch. However, due to the pills' side effects, his head is too fuzzy, and Chief is the one capable of landing the strike.
The episode ends after Joe encounters the same wolf he saw earlier, which is now dead on the side of the road. He pulls off, digging it a grave before making camp in the middle of the desert next to an old, broken-down bus. Nanbu's ghost approaches Joe, asking where they're off to next.