Garouden: 10 Similar Martial Arts Anime You Should See

Garouden—The Way of the Lone Wolf

‘Garouden: The Way of the Lone Wolf’ is the first-ever anime adaptation of the long-running ‘Garouden’ novel series from Baku Yumemakura, which commenced four decades ago. The plot follows Juzo Fujimaki, a fighter from the Takemiya dojo, who becomes a target for the police, rival martial artists and dojos, and an underground organization that aims to pit the world’s greatest fighters against each other. As Juzo participates in some of the deadliest fights, he must also battle past trauma and inner demons. His journey exceeds its goal from survival to reclaiming the love of his life, making his struggle deeply personal and emotionally charged.

The gritty Netflix anime received a positive response from critics and audiences for its hyper-intense and brutal depiction of distinct kinds of mixed martial arts. The anime’s attention to accurate fight details serves to provide suspense and authenticity. To complement its gruesome fight sequences and give its characters multiple dimensions, ‘Garouden’ adds the dramatic elements of perseverance and redemption, turning the anime into a high-stakes action drama. For fans of anime like ‘Garouden: The Way of the Lone Wolf’ and more intense, character-driven stories, these 10 series should be must-watches.

10. Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files (1992-1995)

Yu Yu Hakusho’ is a classic anime that blends dark fantasy with intense action. The story begins with Yusuke Urameshi, a teenage delinquent who unexpectedly dies while saving a child. Given a second chance at life, Yusuke becomes a Spirit Detective, evolving from a street punk into a powerful fighter. Based on the manga series of the same name by Yoshihiro Togashi, ‘Yu Yu Hakusho’ broadly focuses on the manga’s long-running Dark Tournament saga. In this fighting arc, Yusuke and his friends participate in a brutal, high-stakes martial arts tournament, where Yusuke coordinates special powers with teamwork to win.

Both ‘Garouden: The Way of the Lone Wolf’ and ‘Yu Yu Hakusho’ feature protagonists with hidden personas who only reveal their true potential in combat when the stakes are at their highest. For instance, Chu’s mastery of the art of Drunken Fighting is somewhat equivalent to Juzo unleashing the wolf inside him to embrace his inner, darker strength in the heat of battle. Both series also involve dramatic character transformations to highlight growth, particularly for characters once described as delinquents.

9. Fist of the North Star (1984-1988)

Originally known as ‘Hokuto no Ken,’ the classic anime explores a dystopian future where Kenshiro, the successor of the deadly martial art Hokuto Shinken, battles ruthless warlords and seeks to rescue his fiancée Yuria from the clutches of evil. The manga series, written by Buronson and illustrated by Tetsuo Hara, attempts to uncover the “what if” of blending fighting and dystopian genres. The anime presents a brutal and realistic portrayal of martial arts combat, where Kenshiro’s integrity and code of conduct as a true warrior shine through.

Not dissimilar to Juzo in ‘Garouden,’ Kenshiro also vows to participate in meaningless fights until and unless he is fighting for justice. The role of powerful entities is also central in both stories. The Empire in the former and the wealthy in the latter attempt to manipulate the martial artist world, treating them as mere objects of their play.

8. Fighting Beauty Wulong (2005-2006)

This action-packed anime follows the journey of Mao Lan, a young girl with extraordinary skills in martial arts, as she enters a popular high-stakes fighting tournament called Prime Mat. Based on the manga series created by Yūgo Ishikawa, ‘Fighting Beauty Wulong’ stands out for its female protagonist and the intense competition she faces. The series combines thrilling fight scenes with the drama of Mao Lan’s journey, highlighting her growth as both a fighter and an individual.

Similar to Juzo, Mao’s past and the truth about her parents, hidden by her grandfather, serve a greater purpose to the story and add intrigue. Both series exaggerate the obsession with media consumption with highly popular televised competitions. Additionally, the soul of both shows lies in their dramatic and high-energy matches, keeping the battle ring their top priority.

7. Elfen Lied (2004)

This bring-worthy anime miniseries is adapted from the ‘Elfen Lied’ manga series by Lynn Okamoto. The story revolves around Lucy, a young girl with invisible telekinetic arms called vectors, who escapes from a research facility where she has been subjected to experiments. As a result of her multiple personality disorder, Lucy transforms into Nyu, an innocent and childlike alter ego, and is taken in by Kouta and Yuka. Lucy’s inventors, to capture her at all costs, create another specialized assassin, thus turning the story into a deadly fight between the two.

‘Elfen Lied’ is well-known for its intense gore, violence, nudity, and adult themes, making it a perfectly mature candidate for the fans of ‘Garouden.’ The battle scenes in the series, characterized by their sci-fi elements, provide for carefully calculated fights, much like the detailed analysis in the latter. The two series share several similarities, such as the deep emotional struggles of the characters. Kouta’s traumatic past, when he lost his father, parallels that of Juzo’s. They also make a strong case for manipulation and control by showcasing a vast amount of human beings being exploited.

6. Fog Hill of Five Elements (2020-2023)

Also known as ‘Wu Shan Wu Xing,’ this Chinese anime, created by Samsara Studio, transports viewers to a mystical world where humans coexist with powerful monsters. The plot centers on a group of warriors who possess the ability to equip the five elements—wood, fire, Earth, metal, and water. These warriors protect their realm from supernatural threats by partaking in vibrant battles that consist of supernatural powers. The fantastical elements add a layer of intrigue to the fights, making each sequence visually rich.

As the heroes travel around some elaborated landforms to reach their goal, the anime pays equal attention to their backgrounds, exploring their motivations and struggles as they face both internal and external conflicts. Similar to ‘Garouden: The Way of the Lone Wolf,’ this anime offers high-octane combat scenes to engage audiences. Both series involve themes of overcoming inner fears and formidable enemies, and thus, balance a blend of action and emotional depth. The apparent lack of realism doesn’t let ‘Fog Hill of Five Elements’ compromise its fight choreography, putting the details on the same level as ‘Garouden.’

5. Kengan Ashura (2019-)

Kengan Ashura’ is a Netflix anime that directly takes viewers into the underground world of gladiator battles. As the fiercest fighters compete for dominance — a tradition going back to the Edo period’s Kengan matches—wealthy merchants and CEOs hire modern-day gladiators to fight on their behalf and resolve business disputes employing violence. The plot follows two main characters: Tokita Ohma, a street fighter, and Kazuo Yamashita, an average salaryman recruited to manage Ohma’s career.

Adapted from the eponymous manga series from Yabako Sandrovich and Daromeon, the thrilling anime keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with its intense combat scenes and the rich history behind the gladiator battles. Like ‘Garouden,’ ‘Kengan Ashura’ too lies in an epic scope, featuring elaborate arenas and a wide array of fighting styles. The two anime also explore themes of trauma; both Ohma and Juzo deal with their tragic pasts while focusing on their ruthless opponents. The series also heightens suspense, with Ohma being kept in the dark about the actual reasons for his involvement, paralleling the mysterious organization behind the Kodoku tournament in ‘Garouden.’

4. The God of High School (2020)

‘The God of High School’ is a Japanese anime series based on the eponymous South Korean manhwa by Yongje Park. The story revolves around high-school student and martial artist Jin Mori, who enters The God of High School, a tournament where participants from across Korea compete using any martial arts style or weapon. Adding mythical elements, the anime features three realms — humans, gods, and demons — granting extraordinary powers to participants.

The series is noted for its colorful fight scenes that help bring viewers from distinct demographics. Akin to ‘Garouden,’ ‘The God of High School’ portrays high-stakes drama through its wider realm. The two series create and solve obstacles through the inclusion of politics, judiciary, and audiences, which thematically align with martial arts mastery.

3. Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy (2002-2004)

‘Ultimate Muscle’ is a classic anime that dives into the world of wrestling with a mix of humor and action. The story centers around Kid Muscle, the humorous and goofy son of the legendary wrestler King Muscle, who must step up to defend Earth from evil wrestlers from outer space. As Kid Muscle grows, he faces increasingly bizarre and powerful enemies, learning to harness his strength and technique. Originally known as ‘Kinnikuman Nisei,’ the manga series was created by the writer-illustrator duo Yudetamago.

Unlike ‘Garouden: The Way of the Lone Wolf,’ which thrives on realism and accuracy of its battles, ‘Ultimate Muscle’ embraces a more fantastical and comedic approach, adding a hint of superpowers. The fights are over-the-top, featuring outlandish moves and a variety of colorful characters. Nevertheless, both series share a common appeal in their detailed and elaborate fight sequences, showcasing a variety of moves and techniques that keep fans guessing. Furthermore, the pasts and reputations of the characters often raise the stakes in both series.

2. Fighting Spirit (2000-2002)

Originally ‘Hajime no Ippo,’ this critically acclaimed anime series also adapts a coming-of-age angle to its sports themes. The world of boxing welcomes a reluctant high school student named Ippo Makunouchi when he is saved from bullies by Mamoru Takamura, a professional player and former World Champion. As Ippo attempts to turn boxing into a career, his character undergoes significant developments. While transforming into a competitive boxer, Ippo puts his maximum efforts under his coach’s wing, battling various opponents in the ring.

Created by George Morikawa, Ippo’s journey of self-discovery and perseverance deeply resonates with that of Hinekawa. In addition, both shows elaborate on the lives and battles of respective trainers, coaches, and other characters who mostly lie outside the ring. They also draw audiences by combining intense and gritty martial arts with emotionally invested stories. The scars seen on Juzo and Takamura’s chests extend the resemblance further.

1. Baki (2018-2020)

Based on the manga ‘Baki the Grappler’ manga series by Keisuke Itagaki, ‘Baki’ is a remake of the 2001 anime of the same name. The anime takes place in the underground world of martial arts, where the young protagonist, Baki Hanma, aims to surpass the legacy of his father, Yujiro Hanma, one of the strongest fighters in the world. In his grueling journey, Baki faces off against five deadly enemies—in a literal sense—who, after being sentenced to death, causes a jailbreak.

Also a Netflix series, ‘Baki’ shares multiple similarities with ‘Garouden;’ one of them being its focus on martial arts’ role in life. The two series exceed the lines of sports, letting viewers in on the exploitation of these deadly skills in the crime world. Like the five inmates, Juzo — despite all his righteousness — also happens to be on the run, causing trouble for police and people alike. Moreover, Baki’s encounters prove to be more than physical challenges but tests of his mental and emotional resilience, paralleling the inner demons of Juzo.

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