Kengan Asura – Is This Just A Better Modern Baki?

What’s Kengan Asura?

Kengan Asura Niko.jpg

From TVtropes:

When Kazuo Yamashita, a 56 year old underachieving salesman, stumbles across the mysterious young Ohma Tokita easily taking down a formidable looking muscle fortress, his world gets set to be turned on its head.

The following day Kazuo is summoned by the Nogi Group’s CEO, Hideki Nogi, who introduces him to the world of the Kengan matches, a place where wealthy business owners, corporation leaders and merchants hire gladiators to fight in unarmed combat where the winner takes all. With Kazuo being reacquainted with Ohma, the latter of whom has become the Nogi Group’s latest fighter, the two’s journey into the Kengan world begins.

Kengan Asura is a manga series written by Yabako Sandrovich and drawn by Daromeon,beginning publication in 2012 it runs in Ura Sunday, a Shounen Magazine, published by Shogakukan.

The Essence of Fighting

As you read in the above summary, Kengan Asura is literally TOURNAMENT ARC: THE MANGA. This focus on one-on-one battles in a roster for basically it’s entire run is a great way to not only have entertainingly gut-wrenching fights, but also to develop a large cast of characters and give them all ample amounts of time in the spotlight for character development. Kengan Asura’s biggest strength lies in its simplicity. While there are hints of a more overarching plot, the main focus is the conflict between two fighters, how their styles of fighting compliment or counter each other, and their motivations for winning the tournament.

As befitting a shounen fighting manga, everybody else around the protagonist fighter is way more interesting and insane. Not to say Ohma is an uninteresting protagonist, but half the fun of tournament arcs is finding out the different styles of fighting that the characters use. From Baritsu, the famed fighting style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes done by a Japanese-British priest-

Strong Style Pro Wrestling, a full-contact form of Japanese pro wrestling-

A Somalian mercenary whose fighting “style” is basically “whatever keeps me alive”-

-And many, MANY, more!

Inspired by Baki?

From what I’ve said so far, the first thing that most people will compare it to is, as my title says, Baki The Grappler.

While there are definite similarities in tone and insanity, there are three key differences. Note that these are my opinion, and why I dislike something could just as easily be something you yourself can enjoy.

Kengan Asura Is A LOT more grounded

While Kengan Asura has its fair share of insane fights and bro-science fighting, what with people redirecting bullets and cracking walls with their bare hands, it doesn’t reach “Caveman from a thousand years ago who fights dinosaurs called Pickle” or “Man with back muscles so large and toned they form a demon’s face”. I enjoy insanity, but the fighting in Kengan Asura just has that touch of real-life technique that makes it a lot more palatable and less “shouneny”.

Kengan Ashura’s art is way more realistic

Yes I’m using the same picture again, look at how silly this is.

Meanwhile, Kengan Asura is a lot better proportioned. I’ve always found Baki the Grappler to be a bit gross. It’s a stylistic choice, and I understand the appeal, because the fights in Baki are awesome, but Kengan Asura doesn’t make me want to recoil in disgust while reading (unless it wants me to).

Look at this joker, doesn’t even have eyes on his pecs.

Kengan Asura has actual character development!

I have no releveant spoiler-free panel to show, so here’s something nuts instead.

Baki the Grappler is a fighting manga first, character manga not really. Nobody REALLY changes much since the beginning of the story. Past their introductions and unique backgrounds, they never really grow as people. A lot of them continue to fight and be all-around pretty bad guys who just want to fight other bad guys. Fighting is not a plot device, it IS the plot. That isn’t to say there’s no changes, just that these changes are always in service of more fighting, not character growth.

Meanwhile, Kengan Asura actually uses the fighting as a vehicle for an overarching plot. Yes, MOST of it is fighting, and their motivations are fueled by it, but their personalities and backgrounds are by and large way more sympathetic than the psychopaths from Baki. I actually care about most of the fighters and have a hard time cheering on who to win during a match. They all have their own reasons and ideologies, and it’s hard to gauge who deserves to win more. Having an actual stake in the fights makes Kengan Asura a way more compelling read if you like character writing, as every fist thrown is another bullet point in that character’s growth.

The Amazing Art

Yes, that is Ryu fighting the MC. No, I won’t give context.

The artist, Doraemon (not to be confused with that Doraemon), is 75% of the reason why I enjoy reading this manga. All the characters are striking and unique, with a huge variety of physiques, and we get to see all those physiques beating the crap out of each other.

Doraemon usually goes out with Sandorovich (the main writer) to watch actual matches depending on the combat sport they’ll be focusing on in a given arc. This gives the stances and strikes drawn in the manga that touch of realism, and making them feel like they have actual weight and impact.

In turn, this makes the fights that much more brutal, because every hit is shown in bloody detail. Every cracked bone, every torn muscle, almost nothing is left to the imagination.

The art is beautiful in its brutality for this reason.

Also-

You and me both, buddy.

The Characters

There’s simply WAY too many characters to talk about here, so I’ll just be general and cite a few examples of some of my favorite characters.

First off, despite the fanservice, all the women in this manga are actually strong female characters in their own right. Obviously, most of them aren’t gonna be trading blows with seasoned fighters, but their strength is embodied in different ways. There are plenty of female CEOs participating their fighters in the Kengan tournament for example, and all of them got to their positions with the sweat of their brow, and sometimes the blood of their enemies, both in the corporate sense and literal sense.

As for fanservice, both genders get plenty of eye candy. To my glee.

Gender Equality.

Secondly, all the fighters have their own quirks and some even have great chemistry together. It’s not rare to see “those two characters” always together talking about the fight, or just hanging out in-between matches. The omake at the end of each volume, or the chapters in-between fights, usually show us the characters hanging out even after beating the crap out of each other. At the end of the day, a fight is a fight, but that doesn’t mean they can’t share a drink or two after.

Okay, maybe ease back on the chemistry.

Finally, their backstories are all developed, and some of them are so interesting I HAVE to talk about them.

To save time, I’ll only be talking about two of my favorite fighters from this series. First, Inaba Ryo-

The guy version of every ghost girl in every Japanese horror movie ever, Inaba Ryo is a terrifying fighter, who while much more lithe and small than the competition, is just as dangerous.

You see, that hair isn’t just for show. That’s his weapon.

While the Kengan tournaments ban the use of actual weapons, Ryo’s hair does not count as one because it has been cultivated through generations of his assassin family to be as strong as steel. It’s technically a part of his body, meaning fighting him is like fighting a human garrote wire.

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/kenganashura/images/e/e9/Ch60.png/revision/latest?cb=20171006151208

So, what does the creepy-looking assassin with long Sadako hair act like?

Oh my god, it’s boy Froppy.

He’s a socially awkward dork. He’s a highly dangerous and skilled fighter, but if you take the time to talk to him, he’s actually quite friendly (and handsome). His relationship with the CEO that sponsors him is one of “childhood friend”, and yes, I ship them super hard.

Also, he’s cute as hell!

YES HOMO

On the other side of the spectrum, we have Sekibayashi Jun.

Where Inaba Ryo is a small, bishounen assassin who is socially awkward, Sekibayashi Jun is a loud and proud pro wrestler, whose style is all about being in-your-face and “building heat” for the crowd. He’s not just here to win, but to entertain!

His style is pro wrestling, and the style includes copious amounts of H A M!

Seriously, despite the fact that most of the other fighters are taking the fights semi-seriously, Sekibayashi Jun acts as if the whole thing is still scripted. His style incorporates taunts and psychological attacks, and he’s extremely good at pushing people’s buttons.

Just see what he does in his fight against a sumo wrestler-

Context: The ginko bun is traditionally worn only in matches or important ceremonies. By doing it incorrectly, Sekibayashi is essentially giving the sumo equivalent of a middle finger.

Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s not fighting seriously. He’s a big guy who uses his massiveness to his advantage. Hand chops, elbows, and of course grabs and throws, Sekibayashi is the ultimate pro wrestler.

Lastly, he NEVER dodges. He will take all hits, because as a pro wrestler, he will never fail a “spot check”, so that the audience truly believes he is taking punishment.

His insane dedication to the craft of pro wrestling exemplifies one the reasons why I love the fights in this manga. It’s not simply a fight to see who is stronger, it is a fight to see whose ideals, beliefs, and fighting style will win out. It is a clash of two different people’s resolve, their natural talent, their intelligence, their strength, and most importantly, the drive to win.

Also, to show off their heaving muscles.

This is canon,by the way.

Conclusion

Kengan Asura is a fantastic fighting manga that showcases the essence of fighting, with a great cast of characters with good chemistry with one another. The art is brutal in its beauty, the fights are insane without feeling contrived, and with the upcoming Netflix adaptation later this year, I hope more people read this!

That’s it for today! What did you think of my short review? Is Inaba Ryo pure husbando material? Leave your comments below!

37 thoughts on “Kengan Asura – Is This Just A Better Modern Baki?

  1. 1.About the art:
    Kengan Asura is more grounded? Kengan Asura is everything but grounded . And the art is more realistic? The art of Asura is not realistic , baki’s is extensive where it needs to be and most of the time really pleasing but thats not the case with Asura. The logic of Asura is unrealistic. A guy that can control his hair , a dude that can shave off flesh with fingers and the list goes on and on . Baki gives reasoning behind each fighter’s abilities and the creator of baki has way more knowledge on martial arts and fighting as a whole . The logic it is just extensive so that the audience has a clearer understanding of the moves and techniques used in the fight . The art of baki is more curved not unrealistic , if only it’s more realistic than Asura , based on the anatomy of the characters the artist got almost all of it right . Both artist use a lining technique that depicts movement but in baki it is given more emphasis.
    2. The “no character development part” and the psychopaths part. :
    If you consider them psychopaths then you have either only watched the netflix anime or you are just retarded . There is more character development in baki but if u cant see it then I just mentioned why a sentence ago .
    3. Conclusion
    Baki is a manga about fighting Asura is a manga “supposedly” about fighting , aside from the fights it has nothing to do with it . No clash of philosophies just weak motives . Now these are the only serious points you mention everything else is just which character is cute , sexy and praise for the pervy humour that no other series has ever shown before .
    C A S E C L O S E D

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    1. Well, that is an interesting take and you make a lot of good points.

      That said, I still stand by two things. Kengan looking a LOT more grounded than the insanity of Baki is correct. Baki grotesquely shifts the human anatomy for the purpose of emphasizing movement and strikes.

      As for development? I really don’t know how you can say the characters have changed significantly from their experiences.l besides Baki. The rest were “humbled”, and became the same types of characters. Baki has strong writing especially when it comes to the clashing of fighting styles, but as of late, it’s gotten pretentious.

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    2. Boy are you full of shit. The anatomy in Baki is, in a word, atrocious. Fanboys always try to come up with the same “It’s just exaggerated!” excuse, but it really isn’t. Characters all have hideous faces that look like they’re covered in tumors and bodies that make zero sense. Also, you’re gonna come down on Kengan for being “unrealistic” because of what the fighters can do? Please tell me, what part of an unfrozen caveman or a resurrected Miyamoto Mushasi is in any way even in the neighborhood of “realistic”? How many actual people can no-sell natural disasters like earthquakes and thunderstorms and single-handedly defeat the entire US military? Tell me in what reality a human being is strong enough to bring down the Statue of Liberty with his bare hands, because it sure as fuck isn’t the one we live in.

      As to the point about the fighting, exactly why is the lack of philosophy a bad thing? What, you need there to be navel-gazing and psychobabble nonsense before, during, and after people are engaged in combat to be interested? Why? Personally, I find the lack of empty, meaningless bullshit to try and make it seem “deeper” to be one of the best things about Kengan. Being a martial artist of 10 years, a massive combat sports fan, and having met plenty of professional fighters, I can tell you that they aren’t spouting existential soliloquies about “what a fight truly means” and anything like before they compete. You claim that aside from the fights, Kengan has nothing to do with fighting. Are you aware that’s an oxymoron? Trying to point to the inane ramblings in Baki as some kind of “clash of philosophies” is laughable, and what’s even more laughable is that you think that in any way adds to the act of fighting itself. I think this quote from Tekken 7 sums it up quite nicely: “A fight is about who’s left standing. Nothing else.”

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      1. Hey asshole, if you learned to read, maybe you could see I was replying to the guy above you. Did the content of my post not give it away? Seriously, did it ever cross your mind at any fucking time, given we happen to be on the same page regarding Kengan Asura? Or maybe the fact that I was specifically replying to points from the other guy’s post? Or the fact I have a different fucking name? Don’t be so goddamn reactionary.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah.

        Well, whoops.

        That is a 100% my bad. I am really sorry for being reactionary, it’s been hell of a day. It has been MONTHS since I posted this and the aggressive tone fit the other guy and I just got pissed because I thought he replied so late. I just assumed it was a reply to my comment. I replied via the notifications on my phone, and names show up at the top without profile pics. I didn’t really remember the name of the guy, and made assumptions.

        Anyways, in that case, I pretty much agree with you (mostly). Friendly fire is totally on me.

        Peace.

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      3. Anyways, thanks for giving the post a read. We got off on the wrong foot because stress is lowering my IQ this week. Let’s reset.

        So, what do you think about Kengan Omega so far, if you’ve been reading that?

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      4. Eh, no biggie. I thought at first it would list my comment as a reply to his comment, but I don’t think it did that, so I can see where the confusion would come from.

        As for Omega, I’m enjoying it a lot. Koga and Ryuki are both very interesting protagonists and I’m enjoying the mix of new and old faces.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yeah. I can practically feel the buildup to a certain someone coming back, though. Koga and Ryuki feel like two different sides of Ohma.

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  2. Not going into any detail. Kengan is just fantasy. Baki is actually about martial arts. Musashi is a martial artist a ballerina simply is not. Etc etc. Baki is the best fighting manga

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    1. Hey Pendego. So youre saying the one Who made Kengan Ashura is a fantasy themed huh? Well you can see the extra credit of the Drawer and the Writer Going to OFFICIAL MARTIAL ARTS MATCH. They dont just draw like “Oh this do this and that do this” NO. Oh yeah And A Caveman like 5B years old was borned alive and A Ressurected legendary Samurai. Huh?? Bro. Do you know what is Fantasy and What is Not Fantasy.
      Go abck to your school and get proper education you pendego
      But hey.
      Both of them are good.

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  3. I don’t know about, the manga, but Kengan is Miles ahead in the art, and the plot. I’m extremely pleased that Netflix picked up this project. They have done a great job in all aspects of a good anime, and most of there other animated projects, as well. It’s hard to put a deep plot in a short, 24 episode Anime,
    about a fighting tournament, that concentrates on the high level of art, and intricacy of the fights. They do an amazing job of , putting most of the effort, and time into the fights themselves. To have the level of, intricate animated fighting. Instead of up close flashes, and clash art, like Dragonball etc, Rivals even madhouse. For what it is, this anime does a wonderful job, of being itself. While giving one hell of a show, and as I said the artwork in the anime is phenomenal, and gives enough effort in the plot, hidden agendas, and surprise twists. To even keep fans of a less gory nature, happy. When compared to Baki. Well there is no comparison. Kengan wins no question, and if you liked Baki. I recommend watching Kengan, as soon as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Geezus christ. The very first fight of Kengan is a ripoff of Baki vs Kaoru. Kengan also borrows from Street Fighter unapologetically and Pride Fighting Championships (which I kind of liked). Baki and Kengan both have their pro’s and con’s but they’re both deliciously absurd and entertaining.
    Kengan is basically Baki 3000 (same hair, body and fighting shorts) with a slicker look and an over-the-top (yet entertaining) premise. I do love the overly gay characters in Kengan and looking forward to seeing how they fair in the tournament. Baki has a lot of gay undertones in it but Kengan was twinks and trannies right in your face.

    This is basically UFC vs Pride in 2000. One isn’t better than the other, just personal preference.

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    1. As you said, personal preference! I personally like Kengan a lot more than Baki for being more well-rounded in terms of fighters and character development (what little of it we actually see in between punching each other in the face).

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  5. I just started watching Kengan’s series and I have to say-
    I may or may not have yelled at my screen for having the first fight be a total Baki vs Hanayama ripoff.
    I was one of, if not the only that enjoyed a bit of the 3d segments (partially) in Baki, so seeing a series mixing both 2d and 3d animation is a nice turn for me personally. I disliked as aforementioned the first battle (mainly for you guessed it- plagarism, and even more since it was really downplayed, unlike the OG Yakuza boss vs anime protag). But the manga I have to admit looks nice from an artistic standpoint. I love the Capcom crossovers too. Baki’s still deep in my heart (and the anime that inspired me to turn to bodybuilding, calisthenics and sparrings), but I’m defo looking forward to Kengan Ashura and the Netflix adaptation!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Personally, I enjoy both. Especially when it comes to how different they are in animation, with kengan being mostly CGI and baki mostly 2d(other than small CGI parts). Personally, while baki has some supernatural seeming feats, I always liked that the author almost made it seem like it was possible. There are also a lot of cool characters form history, like Miyamoto Musashi and references to real life people like American presidents that make a cool link to the real world. In kengan, there are a lot less explained things like Ohma’s advance and such, but in a way it has its own advantages as well. I like the fluidity of the animation more, and I feel like perspective from Yamashita puts a different spin on the story. Yamashita’s development is almost loke the development of a fan reading baki, slowly being enthralled by the thrill of the fight. Anyways, good article.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The anime adaptation is some poverty cgi and most of the cast is copied from Baki (survived being hanged? c’mon) and popular fighting games. Kure is Chip from Guilty Gear, Akoya is Kazuya from Tekken, Takemoto is Oro from Street Fighter. It doesn’t bring new stuff to the table and they dont even have unique characters.

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  8. What the hell you talking about character development. Your going half ass backwards. Baki has character development. He grows and changes attitudes in time same with the other characters. Kengan is the same character from start to finish. Your leading a strawman argument.

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  9. Kengan Ashura is definitely FOR ME alot more enjoyable. Baki is enjoyable too but the fight kinda end too fast. Its like for Baki you know who will win no matter how you look at the chances. Meanwhile in Kengan Ashura, you gotta make a bet. Their technique, Style, and their Ideals. Its way more entertaining. The art style in Kengan Ashura is also better because when i read Baki. I just dont get it. Like when they start to Kick their arc kinda went wierd to look it. In Kengan Ashura however its pretty straight forward. You know what was happening. What sort of punch was aimed. Anyways I am here to Let you all stop The Kengan Ashura vs Baki thing. Its seriously Dumb enough. We people, We humans, We have our Ideals of some sort of way. Our ideal of Genre, Styles. We people have them. Unless you still wanna argue which is better yeah good luck in like what 100 years? Anyways both of them are very enjoyable to watch. (I swear to god who argue’d with this reply over here i will roast you harder than when Baki got Slapped in the ass)

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  10. Yeah. This guys points dont make any sense. He said Kengan is more realistic than baki becuz a mans back forms a demon and a caveman comes back from thousands of years ago. Yet kengan has a girl who fights with a hair and a zombie dude who can take lots of unhuman punishment.

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    1. “realistic” as far as the physics of these fighters are. They have powers, but they are “grounded”. None of them can, say, take a bullet straight on.

      Baki is a lot more fantastical. Realistic does not mean actually real, just that it FEELS plausible in their universe.

      Yujiro being as stupidly strong as he is borders on Dragonball Z levels.

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  11. You’re a boring person who likes a boring, derivative manga. Asura is the GoBots to Baki’s Transformers, the Battle Toads to their Ninja Turtles, the TNA to their WWE. A poorer version of something, devoid of originality, substance, or anything special. Asura is like if Baki was a leftover dinner, reheated after days in the fridge, and had all the flavour squeezed out. Sure, it still looks like the scrumptious dinner you ate days ago, but it’s not nearly as good.

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    1. You sure used a lot of words without bringing up any significant points as to why and instead resort to childish comparisons instead.

      I’ve told exactly why I believe Kengan to be a more satisfying read to me than Baki pretty in-depth. The fact that you call this work derivative then use a bunch of similes because you could not come up with words of your own to describe the work is laughable.

      Like

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