This Week in Anime
Kengan Ashura is Netflix's Weirdest Punch Fest

by Michelle Liu & Andy Pfeiffer,

The second half of Netflix's beefy punch-fest is out and Micchy and Andy are here to figure out whether it lands the hit or is just a sprawling mass of confusion. With special appearances by not-Mickey Mouse!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Andy
Heya Micchy, it's time for TWIA! But, I'm a bit scared as Disney+ has decided to join this streaming age and the Mouse isn't too happy about us focusing on a Netflix show.
Micchy
Hold on, I think you mean Destiny+, home to Mockey Mouse and Honald Huck.

Gotta say though, I'm not sure my eyeballs needed to see a ripped Mickey ripoff. Though since Mickey will likely never be public domain, at least I can rest easy knowing Mickey/Donald slash will stay on the internet where it belongs.
As if that isn't based on someone's cursed tumblr. Anyways yes, welcome back to the land of Homoerotic Muscle Men and Evil Corporations with Kengan Ashura! So without further ado.
Kengan Ashura's second half picks up from where Netflix left us hanging in the middle of a tournament arc, going through maybe half the bracket to conclude on Tokita's second-round match. Leading up to that big showdown, our protagonists take the backseat while a bunch of other weird and wacky musclemen duke it out.
Last time we talked about this show the inevitable Baki comparisons came up, and this part of the Maximum Kengan Tournament really can't help it from the get go. This 12 episode block has a full 10 episodes of side characters duking it out with sometimes more than one pair per episode!
The fun part about a bracket tournament is that by the second round all the players are established, so we can have fun mixing up the match ups to play off their weird abilities in inventive ways. Before that though, there's a sizable string of new characters, each with their own gimmicks of variable notability There's the guy that punches good, the other guy that punches good, the guy that grapples good, the psychopath cop, and this beautiful mess of a mad scientist.
As is the usual case when you try to jam too many characters or fights in sometimes the gimmicks are lame or the fights are just a boring struggle between two punch men while the actual plot of the show exists as a backdrop, but then you get the best fight of the entire show randomly in the middle of it all.
Not gonna lie, I found myself zoning out during some of the less exciting fights, like the one with the guy who copies other people's moves like a musclebound, less cute version of Kise from Kuroko's Basketball, but the bone sword doctor made the drag worth it. Like this fight is an absolute delight, I can't believe how much the one character livens up the whole show.
You say one character but let's not forget his opponent. Again sorry for the Baki comparisons but when the best fight of your show is literally predicated on the exact premise of the Baki series on Netflix we really gotta talk.
Kengan Ashura takes plenty of inspiration from Baki, but yeah, sometimes it's a wee bit obvious I seem to recall one of the Baki convicts dislocating his joints to escape execution too, so Bando's shtick is by no means a new idea. The fun part is pitting one specimen of body horror against another.
Body horror indeed.

The weird doughy 3D models being twisted and broken in this fight make up for the rest of the time where they can come across floaty and weightless.
Yeah, for all the care that went into animating different fighting styles, Kengan still struggles to make the punching look weighty. But in fights that don't involve brute violence, oh is it wonderful. Like how perfect is it to match the guy with an abnormal body with the guy who modifies his own body to be abnormal? The progression from "I snapped your fingers between my vertebrae" to "I don't need fingers because I did surgery on myself to have sword hands" is just chef's kiss.
My brain is still reeling with:
1) That he got around the "No Weapons" clause by making the swords out of his bones
2) THAT HE SOMEHOW DID SURGERY TO IMPLANT HIS OWN FEMURS INTO HIS ARMS HIMSELF
He also did brain surgery on himself to not feel pain! I don't know!!
He's so happythat I can't be mad about how dumb it all is.

Also in case we hadn't made it clear what the show considers his superpower: being a doctor. That's it. All of this is just explained away with "as a doctor I did X" and everyone is like "of course!" And we completely skipped over the part where he's also got the powers of Neji from Naruto because the escalation to bone swords from that is so out of place and great.
Hajime's entire character is the nonsense 4th rule to rock-paper-scissors, where he nullifies basically any attack by explaining he did surgery on himself to make him immune.
Which hey, when your opponent is a ripped serial killer Dhalsim go for broke.

In case that image looks really fucked up it's because he dodged a sword by moving his own spine.
I'm still not over Bando's rubber spine dodging. It's so ridiculous, so simple that it's actually clever.
The theming of man who has gone out of his way to be a weird inhuman and a man who naturally is part of why this works so well, and I don't understand why only one of the other fights has anything even close to it.
The Bando/Hanafusa pair-up makes for the most compelling fight for that exact reason. There's more to the fight than punching harder and faster; their complementary strengths make them dance around each other as they try to find holes in each other's defenses.
Neither really cares about the tournament either! Their motivations actually lie in each fight in the moment. It puts the weight in the appropriate place.
Meanwhile, everyone else is like
Yeah, you can neatly break the fights from this season down into 2 categories. Ones to show some strong noobies getting stronger, and others to show how cool and strong the old guys are as they completely stunt on the young'uns and neither of them ever really feel like a complete thought. So when you get one that is both outside of that and with both fighters giving it their all since neither needs to hold anything back for a future round it really shines.
Which also makes this fight one of the most superfluous ones, since the whole point of the tournament arc is, y'know, the tournament.
Honestly with all the build up, Ohma's fight at the end of the season was one of weakest for me.
Even more than the one that ended in like 30 seconds?
At least that had the decency to end quickly. Ohma vs Raian was hyped up since last season, and then the actual fight was two veiny guys punching a lot until one fell down. I wish I was over simplifying it, but Raian literally decides to not use any techniques because then he'd win. We don't even get to see him forced to use them, or try to and fail, he simply never does and loses.Compare that with this:
and tell me which I'm supposed to care about. It also doesn't help that Ohma is still a pretty boring character that can be usurped by our good Doctor here.
Yeah, after a slew of weird fighters ranging from the (literally) bloodthirsty bad cop to the convict to the whaler, it feels mundane to come back to "guy who punches good vs. guy who punches gooder."
Old Man of the Sea was done dirty. I would've loved to see more wacky nautical shit rather than another dumb punch boy in the later rounds.
Personally I'm still amused by how he purposely gets whacked in the head to fix his land-sickness.
I laughed so hard when his super power trigger was getting concussed so that he felt properly dizzy and then started flipping around like a damn Jedi Master. But no, he lost to the super power of thick skull.

There you go everyone. If you want your kid to be a champion fucking sledgehammer them everyday.
Training via repeated concussions, it works!
This show takes the "if a bone breaks it grows back stronger" to mean that if you grind your bones to dust you'll become Wolverine.
Maybe that's how Mad Scientist is still standing after repurposing his leg bones. But yeah, it's a letdown to come back to the Ohma/Raian punchmen after the glorious stupidity of superpower concussions. There's an attempt to give that fight stakes beyond the match itself - some assassination plot regarding Kazuo's hacker genius hikikomori son - but nobody's actually watching Kengan Ashura for the emotional drama.
Hey, don't forget the other very important thing at stake.
I'd nearly forgotten about the girl who wants to have Ohma's murder babies, thanks for reminding me at the last minute.
If there's one thing this show doesn't want you to forget it's that high school girls are an acceptable love interest for older men.
Yeah, no thanks. To be fair, I don't think anyone takes Karura's quest to bone Ohma seriously, but the occasional suggestions that teenage girls are hot wink wink nudge nudge are annoying.
Yeah, between this, the Murderous Kamen Rider and his weird child girlfriend, and even the adult oedipal thing with Rei and Rino I'd kinda prefer if the show just didn't get into sexuality. Though this was pretty ok.
Buff Sasuke is not amused.
Well he's as boring as non-buff Sasuke so he can shove off.
As far as uncomfortably muscular men in this show go he's got nothing on Cosmo's glow-up anyway.
Man, these 3D models do not look good with copy-pasted Ken doll heads onto them.
He looks a lot better with blood all over his face imo. Adds a certain grit that his perfect skin was lacking.
I give that. I'm also glad that he's made friends with his old opponent, the epitome of America.

Cosmo's fight is him getting the shit beat out of him and the spectators going "What a genius" when he figures out he doesn't like losing sure was a thing. I'm just gonna pretend that line was because of this moment.
A tactic that Ohma takes to heart.

All in all, the second half of Kengan Ashura is a bit of a bumpy ride. But its highs are pretty memorable, and I guess that's all that matters?
Yeah, there's worse ways to spend your time, and there are enough fun moments that if you watched the first half you may as well keep watching.
My suggestion tho would be to just watch Baki. That's what you're looking for, Baki, unless you're specifically interested in the How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? extended universe.
Let's be real, those girls would also be into the Bakis. So in the end yeah, if you want a fun time of wild logic punchy men check out the Doctor fight from this show, and then head back to this magnificent man.
Never 4get Murder Santa

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