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by Lucas DeRuyter,

Kengan Ashura

Season 1 Part 2 Anime Series Review

Kengan Ashura Season 1 Part 2 Anime Series Review

The Kengan Annihilation Tournament continues! Athletes, fighters, and all manner of freaky dudes flock to the underground tournament to compete and earn their corporate sponsors even more power and influence. While the events inside the ring take the spotlight, the shadowy politics and budding relationships outside of it are growingly important. With the position of Kengan Association Chairman and the pride of participating companies on the line, everyone is desperate for allies and any edge they can get.

Still, the underdogs in the competition, Tokita Ohma and Yamashita Kazuo, confront their past to survive their present. Memories of his adoptive father haunt Tokia and spur him forward, as Yamashita acknowledges his shortcomings as a father who tries to do right by his secretive son.


The back half of season one of Kengan Ashura — confusingly labeled "Part II" on Netflix and with episode numbers that reset to 1 through 12 — is better than the first part of the season. Unfortunately, that isn't saying much, as this martial arts anime opens with an incredibly weak batch of episodes. The art direction in these next twelve episodes is still as ugly as the show's worldview. While there is some character interiority and growth in this session, much of it feels forced or sophomoric in concept and execution. However, either because my expectations have hit the floor after wading through the first season or because the show is now just dumb enough that it's become a bit of a guilty pleasure, I have to admit that Kengan Ashura is on the upswing and that I enjoyed these episodes more than the first part of season one.

Materially, this batch of episodes covers the rest of the first round of the Kengan Annihilation Tournament through Tokita's fight with Kure Raian. The fights the show takes seriously — like the bout between MMA prodigy Okubo Naoya and "The Fang" of the Kengan Association, Kanoh Agito — are mostly bland and forgettable. The show goes out of its way to drive home how tough and important these competitors are but doesn't take the time to make the audience care about them. While these episodes spend more time exploring different fighting styles and have characters set up strategies within a given match, these considerations cannot compensate for characters in both corners of the ring being near-blank slates.

Where the show wins me back, though, is when it covers for its character writing deficiencies by being hilariously stupid. There's a fight in this season that features the leader of a biker gang who's moonlighting as a not-Disney crew member and fighting in the tournament while wearing an off-brand Mickey Mouse head. However, this fighter is instantly defeated when an assassin who spends most of his waking hours simping over his employer punches him on the chin at supersonic speeds. That description could have been a mad lib, and Kengan Ashura is so much better when it's more silly than edgy. Other moments when this season of Kengan Ashura is hilarious also include Texas hockey enforcer Adam Dudley saying ACAB, a small child being super stoked to get hit in the face with a mallet, and a family of assassins leaving while chatting as though a family reunion is winding down.

Unfortunately, Kengan Ashura isn't dumb fun often enough to be enjoyable, and its politics make it a slog to get through. This is a show where a character admits to being bisexual and then immediately becomes a problematic predatory lesbian trope. This is a show where characters ignoring their physical and mental well-being are framed as aspirational instead of reckless. This is a show where everyone is obsessed with martial arts, but no one seems to care about their benefits beyond how effective they are at beating someone into a bloody pulp.

However, despite all of this senseless gore and toxic masculinity placating, this show cannot commit to a fighter actually dying! For as graphic as Kengan Ashura gets with its clunky CGI animation, the story feels utterly devoid of consequence. While people do die in the life-or-death tournament this show is built around, they are, without fail, easily and instantly revived the moment they're taken to a medical facility. This leaves the show feeling devoid of consequence and leaves me annoyed with the show repeatedly insisting that characters are in mortal peril when they cannot commit to this outcome.

Tokita Ohma and Yamashita Kazuo also fail to endear enough to make me forgive Kengan Ashura's other writing deficiencies. Tokita spends most of the season arguing with a ghost/hallucination of his dad-that-stepped-up, and finally admits to himself that he's mad that his idol died because his martial arts wasn't strong enough to stop an assailant. No semblance of a grieving process follows this revelation, though, and instead, Tokita uses this breakthrough as motivation to modify the fighting style he learned from his ghost dad and win a fight. While this might seem like a big moment and could denote Tokita moving on from his adoptive parent's death, Tokita never expressed any interest in preserving his stepdad's legacy through his martial arts style, so this comes off as an ass-pull power-up.

Yamashita Kazuo's big character moment comes at the end of the season when he stands up to the patriarch of the Kure assassin family by demanding that they not kill his son. While this moment is meant to be inspiring and show that Yamashita will stop being a passive participant in his own life, it's completely undercut by the situation the show establishes. The head of the Kure clan explicitly says he will kill Yamashita's son if Tokita LOSES his fight against Kure Raian. Tokita wins, which means this conversation shouldn't even have happened! The Kure clan elder even points out that this conversation was unnecessary and didn't need to happen! Kengan Ashura treats Yamashita's moment of personal growth as a joke, and if the show doesn't care about one of its lead characters, then why should I?

That's where I'm at with the second half of Kengan Ashura's first season. I still can't recommend it, but I no longer care enough to be mad about its many problems or analyze them. The voice acting in dub and sub remains serviceable, but the script gives the actors little to work with. The music is also directly carried over from the first twelve episodes and is still too silly to hate. Life is short and people hopefully have better things to do with their lives than watch Kengan Ashura.

Overall : C
Story : D+
Animation : C-
Art : D
Music : B

+ A wealth of fun stupid stuff like a doctor turning his bones into retractable swords and his blood into poison without explanation.
A lack of consequences and a pervasive toxic masculine mindset makes it hard to care about the events of the show or its characters.

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Production Info:
Director: Seiji Kishi
Series Composition: Makoto Uezu
Makoto Uezu
Go Zappa
Yūichi Abe
Hiroyuki Becchaku
Akihiro Enomoto
Daisei Fukuoka
Yoshimichi Hirai
Seiji Kishi
Takehiko Matsumoto
Masatsune Noguchi
Noriaki Saito
Kei Sotokawa
Iku Suzuki
Shinichi Tōkairin
Yoshihide Yuuzumi
Episode Director:
Koji Aritomi
Hiroyuki Becchaku
Yoshimichi Hirai
Taiji Kawanishi
Shinichiro Kimura
Seiji Kishi
Takahiro Majima
Hiromichi Matano
Katsumi Nagai
Noriyuki Nomata
Hyeon Dae Song
Takahiro Tanaka
Ayumu Uwano
Music: Yasuharu Takanashi
Original creator: Yabako Sandrovich
Original Character Design: Daromeon
Character Design: Kazuaki Morita
Art Director: Naoko Akuzawa
Animation Director: Kazuaki Morita
Sound Director: Satoki Iida
Cgi Director:
Ryota Fukushima
Toshio Nishiiri
Director of Photography: Asahiko Koshiyama
Yūji Higa
Chihaya Imase
Tatsuya Ishiguro
Mitsugu Iwano
Tetsuya Kinoshita
Toshihiro Maeda
Reiko Sasaki

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Kengan Ashura (ONA)

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