Fighting is one of the purest life instincts, one that has been embedded deep inside creatures as a means for survival. There are a myriad ways to approach fight-oriented storytelling, and by now, the manga scene has adopted almost every one of them. While there are more over-the-top, more popular ones like Dragon Ball, Baki, and Kenichi, which have gathered a mass fan following, the more grounded ones like Shamo and Meguru have left their mark in the minds of dedicated manga readers. Kengan Ashura, the manga series created by Yabako Sandrovich and Daromeon, falls in between these two categories, and what makes it unique is the way multiple characters are given equal importance in the cumulative growth of the narrative.
It almost seems after monopolizing Kaiju-oriented anime, Netflix has targeted fighting-based ones, as no sooner than Baki completed its second season, Kengan Ashura returned to the streaming platform after a four-year hiatus. With the second season slated to be released this week, let’s take a quick look at the first two parts of the anime and jog our memories regarding the key details.
The World of Kengan
The corporate world is an arena of ruthless, cutthroat competition where momentary lapses mean the end of dreams and aspirations. In such settings, where conflict and struggle are embedded in the core, the spirit of fighting is ever-present. The world of Kengan Ashura goes a step further and employs physical fighting as the means to resolve business disputes, usurp other companies, and destroy competition, as a number of uniquely skilled fighters are employed by different organizations. Once, Yamashita Kazuo, a soon-to-be-retired, timid cleric working for Nogi Publications, notices an illegal street fight taking place in one of the dingy alleyways of Tokyo. Kazuo is greatly inspired after witnessing an extremely skilled fighter, Tokita Ohma, effortlessly demolishing a physically much larger, stronger opponent, and almost finds a new meaning in life through the release of emotional burdens in fighting. Soon enough, Kazuo finds himself in the world of Kengan, a systematic, no-holds-barred battle conducted since the Edo period in Japan, where companies and private organizations hire representative fighters to settle deals. The one-on-one fights that take place among numerous different associations are managed by a centralized Kengan Association.
The company Kazuo has been working for for over three decades, Nogi Publications, assigns him to manage their newest fighter, who happens to be none other than Ohma himself. Living off the average salary of a clerk, abandoned by his wife long ago, Kazuo has debts on his shoulders, and his two good-for-nothing sons aren’t of any help. Therefore, he agrees to the proposal of managing Ohma and gets himself dragged into the alluring, violent world.
Tokita Ohma and The Kengan Tournament
The central character of the series, Tokita ‘The Asura’ Ohma, shares a lot of characteristics with another champion fighter from another fighting manga, Baki Hanma. Both characters are noble individuals, highly motivated to fight to such an extent that they get a sense of pleasure in getting pulverized by stronger opponents, have a traditional idea about the spirit of battle, and both share a murky past that motivated them to adopt an apparently reserved outlook. In Ohma’s case, he shared a strong bond with his adoptive father/mentor, Tokita Niko, who not only rescued a seemingly orphaned Ohma at a young age from a dangerous, destructive lifestyle. Niko trained him in the unique Niko fighting style and taught him a deeper meaning of life through hardship and struggle. At this point in time, Ohma was introduced to Setsuna Kiryu, another accomplished teenage fighter who started growing weirdly obsessed with him and killed Niko to gain Ohma’s undivided attention . The death of his mentor scarred Ohma for life, and he enlisted in the Kengan Association to have a chance at facing Kiryu in battle once again to seek revenge.
Ohma proves his worth in the first fight representing Nogi Publication when he defeats Lihito, a grip-slicer brawler, in a brutal matchup. After winning against the much stronger, fiercer opponent Sekibayashi Jun, where Ohma was forced to use his elevated spirit-possessed form, he and Kazuo meet the chairman of the Kengan Association, Katahara Metsudo, who announced the beginning of the Kengan Annihilation Tournament. However, due to Ohma being injured, Nogi Publications refuses to assign him as their representative in the tournament and instead forces Kazuo to assign him separately as his own one-man organization. Later, Kazuo learns during the commencement of the Kengan Tournament that they are still subsidiaries of Nogi.
Other Players in the Ring
Fighters from different backgrounds and fighting disciplines are assigned by companies to partake in the tournament, and the winning company will get to choose the chairman of the Kengan Association. There is the Kure clan, a deadly league of assassins who practice selective, illegal, and dangerous experiments with their fighters to create the most skilled brawlers, one of whom is Kure Raian, representing the mysterious Under Mount Inc. The interesting factor here is that the shadow boss of Under Mount Inc. is Yamashita Kenzo, the eldest son of Kazuo, who is secretly a calculative hikikomori – one who likes to live a cloistered existence secluded from outside world.
We also meet the youngest fighter to ever battle in Kengan matchups, Cosmo Imai, a grappling-based fighter who, despite his small stature, managed to demolish significantly stronger and larger opponents. Kono Haruo, a former assassin and member of a secretive tribe in Nepal, is a fighting prodigy who gave up a peaceful village life by being entrapped in gluttony and consumerism after having a taste of the capitalistic culture of Japan. Viewers get introduced to Akoya Sheishu, a morally disturbed riot police officer who is fixated on a disturbing adherence to justice. All the characters and their differing motivations make the series even more interesting than the fight itself.
The first season of Kengan Ashura ended with Ohma defeating Raian in a vicious fight after being inspired by a vision of his dead mentor and the verbal support of Kazuo. A conspiracy led by the Kure Clan almost resulted in the death of Kenzo, but with Ohma winning against their clan member Raian, the assassination attempt was rescinded.
What Can We Expect From The Next Season?
The Kengan Tournament is far from over, and a full-on brawl between Kiryu and Ohma is going to happen at some point in the future as well. The focus of the second season will be primarily on the battles and on the relationship between Kezuo and Ohma, as the first season hinted at the parental affection Kezuo feels for him. Ohma’s past and rivalry with Kiryu will be highlighted as well, and it is hinted that rival organizations like Purgatory can make an appearance to shape the future course of the series.