There are legendary stories about how back in the Edo period of Japan, Merchants would organize fights in Gladiator arenas to settle most of their arguments. ‘Kengan Ashura‘ audaciously adopts this idea and takes a more modernized approach towards it by portraying large businesses conducting similar tournaments where the “winner takes it all”. Despite being an anime about violent martial arts combats, it starts by introducing a character named Kazuo Yamashita who is completely the opposite of a fighter. He is low in the corporate food chain and is assigned the task of taking care of Tokita Ohma, the main protagonist.
This is where the anime starts to get interesting as it reflects on the polarity of the two main characters and yet, sets a common ground between them. Though Tokita Ohma, nicknamed “Ashura”, is the main character of the story, season one puts a lot of emphasis on how Yamashita becomes more confident about himself after meeting Ohma. ‘Kengan Ashura’ is only for those who can appreciate the various disciplines and personalities in combat which includes fighters from various art forms having their own personal reasons to fight.
Also, what’s really appreciable about the anime is how, despite being packed with one fight after another, there’s always some thought put into the story that explains the reason for the fights. Anyone who had a good time watching Season 1 of ‘Kengan Ashura’ is indeed, like me, a sucker for battle anime. So with all that said, here’s the list of best anime similar to ‘Kengan Ashura’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these anime like ‘Kengan Ashura’ on Netflix, Crunchyroll or Hulu.
10. Yawara! (1989-1992)
‘Yawara!’ is an extremely old anime that shows that martial arts is more of a spiritual practice than just a mere combat sport. Even the greatest sports anime like ‘Hajime no Ippo’ can often go a little overboard with their portrayal of the sport. But ‘Yawara!’ remains loyal to every aspect of Judo and even educates its viewers on the various techniques and moves used in it. It even shows how the main characters can reverse getting pinned by performing a certain move. ‘Yawara!’ may not be as well known as the others on the list since it is quite old, but it is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a more realistic combat anime.
9. Hajime no Ippo (2000-2002)
‘Hajime no Ippo‘ is considered to be one of the best sports anime out there. Its laudable depiction of the sport of boxing has made it popular worldwide. Unlike most other anime on this list, ‘Hajime Ippo’ has quite a long runtime and it involves everything in its story from fight scenes to intense training scenes to deep character relationships. The well-rounded approach of this anime is what makes it stand out from all the others.
Ippo, the protagonist of the series, is often bullied by his seniors at school. One day, while getting brutally bullied again, a professional boxer saves him by teaching the bullies a lesson. Ippo, who was knocked out cold, opens his eyes in a boxing gym and is instantly drawn towards what he sees around him. When he requests that he wants to join the gym, he is asked to pass a test that involves catching leaves from a falling tree. He trains hard for a whole week and manages to pass the test. Though reluctant about him at first, the coaches at the gym start noticing that the boy has a very strong will power and packs on some really strong punches. This is when his real training begins and he sets out on a long journey to become a professional boxer. The most glorious moment of all of this comes when even his bullies show up for one of his matches and cheer him on.
8. Samurai Champloo (2004-2005)
As you might have noticed, ‘Samurai Champloo‘ manages to show up in many of our lists. It is simply because the whole anime is nothing short of spectacular with its adverse representation of vagabond samurai. Its story focuses more on two main samurai characters who are on a journey with a girl named Fuu. Now unlike most other anime on this list, ‘Samurai Champloo’ is not all about endless battles and has more to do with creating an alternative Japanese history. But apart from its main story, the anime also focuses on the unique fight forms of the two main samurai protagonists. While Jin, who is a ronin samurai, has more of a disciplined and clean style of sword slinging, Mugen uses a raw blend of samurai-styled swordsmanship with break-dancing. This is one show you don’t want to miss out on.
7. Katanagatari (2010)
‘Katanagatari‘ is the story of a young swordsman who uses his body as a sword to defeat his opponents. Set in the Edo era of Japan, this swordsman sets out on a journey to look for all the deviant blades that are spread across the land. Along the way, he runs into a girl named Togame who joins him on his adventure to help him. While the two search the lands for what they’re looking for, they face several other blade wielders in ultimate life-threatening battles. If you’re into sword slinging battles and love stuff related to Japanese history, then this is one anime you wouldn’t want to miss out on.
6. Air Master (2003-2004)
Standing at around 7 feet, Aikawa Maki is a high school girl who is known to be an impressive street fighter. According to the word on the streets, she is the “Air Master” as she has this ability to fly through air during her combats. Just like Tohma from ‘Kengan Ashura’, she fights because she’s passionate about it and the stronger her opponent is, the more she enjoys defeating him/her. ‘Air Master’ is more of a comedy show, unlike ‘Kengan Ashura’ that has a more serious tone to it. Even the plot and characters of this anime are ridiculously interesting. ‘Air Master’ is easily amongst the best martial arts anime out there and you should surely check it out.
5. History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi (2006-2007)
Like ‘Kengan Ashura’, even ‘History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi’ is all about the struggles of a young man who’s on a quest to become a great fighter. Kenichi is often bullied and instead of facing his bullies, he always tries to run away from them. This changes when one day, a chance encounter leads him to a dojo. Without having a clue about what he’s getting himself into, Kenichi signs up and becomes one of the disciples of the old man who runs the place. Here, he goes through some grueling intense training that makes him stronger than ever. Later, he becomes the target of a gang called Ragnarok that is determined to kill him. He must now put his intense training into action to fight a gang of some of the greatest fighters and this is where both his physical and mental strength will be tested to their absolute limits.
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4. Shura no Toki: Age of Class (2004)
‘Shura no Toki’ depicts a unique style of martial arts known as the Mutsu Enmei-Ryu. This invincible unarmed style of combat allows a fighter to use his speed and strength to defeat any number of opponents regardless of whether they are armed or not. The anime takes you through endless battles between the three generations of Mutsu bearers and all those who cross their paths. If you’re a big martial arts fan, then this is one anime that should definitely be on your watch-list. It has some really impressive fight scenes that are also quite technically sound if you compare them with the ones in real life. It’s not really a very well known anime but certainly is amongst the best.
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3. Fighting Beauty Wulong (2005-2006)
‘Fighting Beauty Wulong’ is a female-centric battle anime that is quite similar to ‘Kengan Ashura’ and ‘Baki’. It revolves around a 17-year-old girl named Mao Lan who has been training with her perverted grandfather almost all her life. After teaching her everything about their family’s secret martial arts style, she is given the task to train with all the old men who show up at the dojo. Later, she trains much harder after her grandfather insists that she should enter a martial arts competition. The rest of the anime is again all about fighting opponents who get stronger with each round. Not to mention, ‘Fighting Beauty Wulong’ has quite a bit of Ecchi in it as well.
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2. Baki (2018-)
I would certainly rank ‘Kengan Ashura’ much higher than ‘Baki‘ when it comes to its overall storyline. But one thing that ‘Kengan Ashura’ lacks is training scenes before the final fights. But Baki’s training scenes are so intense that they can literally inspire you to pick up a combat sport yourself. The titular character Baki Hanma has proved more than once that his athletic abilities are beyond that of any normal human. He trains with a lot of focus in order to be able to surpass the strength of his father who is known to be the best fighter in the world. What follows is a tournament of underground battles that involves the world’s toughest inmates against Baki who has four other martial arts experts by his side. A gory series of death matches ensue where the winner will take it all.
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1. Dragon Ball Z (1989-1996)
A list of best martial arts anime is just incomplete without ‘Dragon Ball Z‘. It not only represents the battle shounen genre but also wins the hearts of anime fans from all over the world. Of course, the entire ‘Dragon Ball Z‘ series has some of the best fight scenes in anime history. But here I’m specifically referring to the tournament arc of the series which is quite similar to what ‘Kengan Ashura’ portrays. The best thing about The World Tournament Arc is the way it shows the Z fighters interacting with normal people of the world. While quite a lot of fight scenes in ‘DBZ’ are out in the space, for a change, it’s good to see a natural Earthly setup. This is an anime you must definitely check out!
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