Aside from spectacle, there are a lot of elements that get imbued in any well-made fight sequence, right from tone, stakes, tension, differing perspectives of opposing parties, individual motivations, and background, to name a few. This is the reason why it is often said that a good fight sequence is a story in an of itself. This aspect is showcased in the best possible way through manga and anime, let alone the genre-specific ones; even the adventure-shounen anime has become iconic thanks to how its fight sequences are built up, some of the best examples of which can be seen in Naruto, Bleach, Dragonball Z, etc. In the recently concluded first part of the second season of Netflix’s anime adaptation of Kengan Ashura, viewers similarly get to witness a number of fights that will undoubtedly be regarded as iconic in years to come.
Even though our protagonist, Tokita Ohma, doesn’t engage in any significant battle in this part due to being hospitalized while recovering from horrible injuries his body has sustained over the period, a number of top contenders in the Kengan Tournament clash with each other in the second round. Each battling with a personal stake on the line and also bound by the responsibility to bring their affiliated companies to the top spot, the fights become a spectacle to behold. Let’s go through some of the most memorable ones and discuss the contextual depth related to those.
Professional Showmanship: Sekibayashi vs. Muteba
After the all-out brawl between two top dogs, Wakatsuki and Reinhold, which resumed the second round of the Kengan Elimination Tournament, we were taken to the battle between two professionals. Representing the sadistic Togo Tomari of Iwami Industries is the legendary blind mercenary of Africa, Muteba Gizenga, the only fighter in the tournament to have killed his opponent so far. With violence and bloodshed as his second nature, squaring off with Muteba is like goading death. However, representing Gandai Corporation, Jun Sekibayashi, the crowd-favorite champion pro wrestler, is another legend in his own right, and if the gimmicks in the pro wrestling world have taught him anything over a prolonged career, it is that you have to be the perfect showman even while facing death.
Using a separate menacing, dark persona known as the Marvelous Seki, he enters the ring in almost funereal silence, creating a dramatic effect in a sequence that will definitely remind viewers of the real-world pro wrestling entry of Undertaker during Wrestlemania matches. Against any other fighter, the critical psychological advantage of the action would have been significant, but Muteba initially doesn’t seem to care, treating his opponent as a show-off clown whom he needs to put in his place. However, after Seki shows incredible resilience, disorients Muteba by injuring his ears, which provide him with major sensory input in the absence of functioning eyes, and catches him off guard several times, Muteba realizes Seki means business.
Using Seki’s pro wrestling methodology, Muteba tricks him into letting down his guard and attacks with a deadly heart jab, which would have killed any other fighter right on the spot. But even after facing death head-on, Seki rises for one last time—the show must go on. In a flashback sequence, it is shown that, growing up with a troubled past, Seki found solace in pro wrestling and the rigorous dedication to the discipline allowed him to be on this pedestal, admired by people around the world. Drawing every bit of his remaining strength, Seki slams Muteba one last time, but his body gives up, and he remains standing in a catatonic state. Muteba is immensely impressed by the courage and dedication Seki displayed and decides to honor him by slamming him in true pro wrestling style and pinning him down to a count of three. Later, he reveals to Tomori that, unlike what he initially assumed, Seki is a warrior through and through, as he had the chance to defeat him by destroying his ocular organs, which was totally allowed in no-holds-barred Kengan matches, but he chose not to do so. The dignity and spirit of the fight displayed by Jun Sekibayashi will undoubtedly remain iconic in Kengan history.
Identity at Stake: Paing vs. Mikazuchi
While for most other brawlers participating in the Kengan Tournament, their personal reputation and that of the company they are representing are on the line, Burmese Lethwei fighter Yoroizuka Saw Paing fights for the survival of the community he belongs to. The villainous first-world conglomerates evicted his people from their homes, and in Japan, Saw Paing found a refuge for his community in the Village of the Dawn. But in time, that too came under the cunning gaze of one of the most powerful men in Japan, Hayami Katsumasa, who, in order to secure his place as the future chairman of the Kengan Association, forcibly bargained Saw Paing’s candidacy from the village chief. An outspoken, loud, and flamboyant brawler, Saw is part of a legacy in his family of fighters and has lost his father and elder brother to Kengan matches. Despite knowing the risks, he has no other way to get out of the vice-like grip of fate than to fight.
His opponent is Rei Mikazuchi, a dreaded assassin and the only practitioner of Raishin style, who has no regard for the sanctity of human life and has entered the Kengan Tournament to please his lover and employer, Kurayoshi Rino. Rei’s lightning-fast strikes disorient Saw, but his tough skeleton and tougher determination don’t let him lose grip in the fight. After tanking a barrage of deadly yet swift attacks from Rei, Saw begins working on his opponent, injuring him physically with each strike. Focused on his singular goal of protecting his people, Saw knows failure is not an option and accordingly proceeds to pummel Rei. However, in his momentary overconfidence, Saw makes a critical error. It was a known fact that, as a champion Lethwei fighter, a single head-smash blow from Saw could finish the match if it landed on the opponent, irrespective of who he was facing. Saw tried to use it once Rei was in close proximity, but it ended in failure due to Rei quickly attacking his chin without giving him enough space to execute the move.
After starting to dominate the fight, Saw once again tries the same move, this time from a bit farther, which proves to be the single worst mistake he made in the match. Seeing the opening, Rei attacks at once and knocks Saw out of the match, totally turning the flow of the match in the opposite direction. Rei’s methodical approach ultimately handed him the victory, while Saw stays on his knees, devastated beyond measure as his dream of earning a secure life for his family is broken mercilessly. This was a match that easily could have gone either way, but history isn’t made up of would-haves and should-haves. Although Rei later admits that he underestimated his opponent too much and knows in his heart that Saw could have easily finished him off if he had fixated his focus a bit more, Saw’s dwindling spirit almost makes it seem that he will be unable to enter the ring ever again. This battle was a realistic reminder of the uncertainties of life and was definitely the biggest upset so far in the second season of Kengan Ashura.
Hotshot Meets Underdog: Kanoh vs. Kaolan
Like the main event of the fighting tournament reserved for the last spot, the second round of the Kengan Elimination Tournament ended bombastically with the battle between the top seed Kanoh Agito, aka the Fifth Fang of Matsuda, and the Thai God of War, Kaolan Wongsawat. Trained from a very young age under the tutelage of the Thai Rial family, a reserved, taciturn Kaolan is a champion nak muay boxer and was a former rival of Saw Paing. On the other hand, after winning a record over a hundred and fifty Kengan battles, Kanoh Agito is an undefeated fighting machine who isn’t even considered to be a human at times by his rivals and peers. Proud of his prestigious title and dominance, Kanoh starts the fight by mimicking Kaolan’s boxing style—to get the pleasure of beating his opponent at his own game.
However, Kanoh soon realizes what a grave mistake that was when, after measuring him up for a bit, Kaolan starts delivering vicious punches to pummel his face and body to a pulp. The legendary Fang of Metsudo starts quivering, unable to block the barrage of punches, and gets cornered in the process. Momentarily changing his style from boxing to systema, Kanoh manages to get back in the game for a bit, but as soon as he starts getting a bit cocky and makes the mistake of goading Kaolan, the latter indulges his request of going all out by combining the two fighting techniques he has gained mastery over—muay thai and boxing—thereby using both his feet and hands to optimum effect.
With a volley of perfect strikes, Kaolan once again starts toying with the top dog, to the point where it becomes embarrassing for Kanoh to even stand his ground. Desperate to at least win the match, Kanoh changes his stance once again and combines grappling and raw blows to finally land consecutive devastating blows, and Kaolan gets beaten at the end. The match totally subverted expectations in such a way that it was impossible to assume which one of the fighters was the underdog and which was the hot favorite.
In fact, even though Kaolan was eliminated by knockout, he thoroughly dominated and was an indisputable victor when it came to solely striking. For the first time in his life, the Fang of Metsudo got to know the fear of fighting, was put on the defensive the whole time, and by sheer chance, managed to qualify for the third round. Needless to say, the battle not only proved Kaolan’s superiority as a brawler but also indicated that the Fang of Metsudo was not likely to become the champion of the tournament in the end. The battle between Kaolan and Kanoh felt even more epic than Gaara vs. Rock Lee (minus the animation), and fans will surely look forward to witnessing a match like this in the second part of the second season as well.