Sure enough, the Top 100 rankings were too full of chumps for us to really pay attention to so we might as well feast our eyes on the spectacles that the Top 20 can bring us before Joe can have his rematch with Yuri. Breaking into the Top 15-10 has Aragaki stand in Joe’s way, a man from Nanbu’s past coming back to “repay” his gratitude in a very specific way.
Enter Aragaki, Nanbu’s former protege who trained under him but was drafted into military service where he was presumed dead after an explosion. He returned to the ring afterwards when he turned up alive but somehow Nanbu was too busy in his hustling matches to really notice the top of the leaderboards. The two pick up their conversation outside but Nanbu can’t contain his relief that his friend was alive but Aragaki declares that he wishes to show his gratitude to Nanbu, by destroying Joe in the ring. Nanbu’s concern over the matter is immediately reflected as he wishes for Joe to find another way into Megalonia without fighting Aragaki if he has the opportunity to avoid it. Joe is angered at Nanbu’s reluctance but Sacchio brings up Aragaki’s profile that reveals his prosthetic legs which Nanbu not letting up this opinion that Aragaki might be too much for Joe. However, Nanbu decides to continue the gamble with Joe’s ability and ups his training to optimize and fine tune his skills.
Joe returns from training and eats the meal Nanbu had prepared while the latter left to deal with some matters. In his absence, Sacchio brings Joe up to speed on Nanbu’s rather daunting track record of round-one victories as well as his success both before and after his prosthetic legs. Nanbu visits Aragaki’s gym where he speaks to the coach about how Nanbu lost everything after the war and when he returned, he didn’t find the one thing and person he thought would be waiting for his return. Nanbu understands that this turn of events involves him as well and simply asks for the coach to relay to Aragaki that he accepts his judgment but wishes for him to not bring that grudge into the ring before leaving. The coach addresses Aragaki to skip out on this match to focus on better matters on finding tougher opponents and Aragaki justifies his own choice to bring down a rising star to gain more sponsors. The coach however sees through Aragaki’s jealousy and anger of being replaced by Nanbu but Aragaki is adamant about his decision and drop the conversation.
We see a glimpse of the struggle Aragaki went through before he returned to the ring where he briefly attempted suicide before being reminded of him and Nanbu’s days at the latter’s gym. He returns to its location only to find it abandoned and we return to the present day where Aragaki visits Nanbu’s current “gym” and encounters Joe and they leave to talk. Aragaki is surprised at Nanbu’s callous gamble on Joe to fight gearless and Joe admits that he was skeptical as well but believes in Nanbu’s judgment and trust, things that Aragaki warns and hopes that Joe will not be too reliant on as Nanbu will most likely betray those expectations. Joe is still unworried about these facts and challenges Aragaki that he won’t make his attempt at “destroying him” easy. All the while, Nanbu is concerned over his own decisions at how he simply moved away from Aragaki’s disappearance. The night before the fight, Nanbu’s overly concerned coaching has Joe declare that he’ll be able to fight his own way against Aragaki. The day of the match arrives and Joe and Sacchio head out first while Nanbu tries to relay to Aragaki that his grudge should be directed towards him alone and not Joe. When the fight begins, Joe is able to keep up with Aragaki but a powerful punch sends Joe to the ground.
Certainly the highest amount of emotional stakes are on the line as this is as much as Nanbu’s fight as it is Joe’s. This was mostly a set-up episodes and it definitely is an uncomfortable situation for Nanbu to have abandoned his student despite grieving for his loss only to have him turn up and be accused. Despite this, I can easily foresee Nanbu and Joe being reconciled about their different means of fighting with Sacchio did like in Shark’s fight so I hope the fight’s dynamic isn’t too repetitive.