This genre is one of the most exciting in anime. Here are the 15 best martial arts anime that surpass all others.
·12 min read
Credit: Toei Animation
Everyone has probably grown up watching at least one shonen anime. Some of these anime have samurais, superpowers, martial arts, or a mix of all. Either way, they are filled with lots of action and intense fighting scenes. However, some of the fights from these action anime are extremely memorable, many of which have cool martial art scenes. If you are an anime fan, you should see our top list category to see many articles and characters ranked according to their awesomeness.
Martial arts anime are different from typical shounen or action anime because they have a more realistic approach to the fighting scenes. As many of them have pure hand-to-hand combats. Martial arts seems even more fun when watching it in animation which is why it’s enjoyed by fans worldwide. With so many good anime of this genre out there, which ones are the best? Keep reading to find out.
This list starts with the best boxing anime ever, Hajime no Ippo. This is an anime with an exceptionally good story and animation. Years have passed but fans still look up to this anime as one of the best sports anime ever made.
Hajime no Ippo is about a high school student named Makunouchi Ippo who is severely bullied in school. One day, Ippo is saved by Takamura from his bullies. He faints and Takamura takes him to Kamogawa boxing gym for his recovery. Once Ippo wakes up, he is impressed by his surroundings and requests Takamura to train him. The anime then follows Ippo’s painful yet rewarding journey of training and fighting to become a top boxer.
2. Grappler Baki
You can tell this anime is going to have lots of action by seeing the characters with their bulky, muscular bodies. Based on the ongoing 1991 manga by Keisuke Itagaki, Baki is an anime full of fights without any rules, where you put your life at risk all the time. Baki has multiple segments and has various anime adaptations.
The anime revolves around Baki, a man who was born with the reason to fight. He trains under the supervision of his mother, Emi Akezawa, has learned all types of martial arts, and is extremely muscular. He has one goal, to defeat the strongest man in the world, Yuujirou Hanma who is also his father. Hence, he sets out on a journey traveling and fighting multiple strong opponents to become stronger until he is strong enough for his ultimate battle.
3. Kengan Ashura
Kengan Ashura is a Netflix original martial arts anime that is relatively new. It is beautifully animated using 2D art and 3D stellar graphics. It has some of the best martial arts fights in anime as the fighting styles and techniques are unique. Each scene has a lot of details, effects, and the characters are so brawny.
Kengan Ashura is inspired by Baki so you can be assured that it is filled with fighting scenes. This anime is set in a world where all businesses decisions are taken by conducting gladiator combats. Each business hires the best possible Gladiator to win the fight and settle their dispute. The protagonist Ouma Tokita is a man aiming to become the strongest. Ouma is hired by Hideki Nogi, a businessman, and keeps a salaryman Kazuo Yamashita as his manager. These two are given the task of fighting in various fights for Kengan Association to make their business decisions. The anime follows the journey of this duo as they engage in many fierce battles to fight against those with the same goal as them.
4. Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple
KenIchi is the first comedy martial arts anime on this list and trusts me, it is worth watching. Laughter or goosebumps, KenIchi can give you both. This is an anime that would give you the motivation to try out martial arts because its protagonist has such an inspiring personality.
Kenichi Shirahama is a studious school student but he joins the school’s karate club to become stronger. One day, he encounters a girl named Miu Furinji who misunderstood his actions and throws him down to the ground. Later apologized and became his friend. Further that day, Kenichi is challenged to defeat a club member in a week or leave the club forever. His strong friend, Miu encourages Kenichi to train hard by joining her family’s dojo. That starts Kenichi’s brutal journey of becoming a skilled martial artist and protecting the weak ones.
5. Megalo Box
Megalo Box is a classic anime that remains popular and is even available on Netflix. This anime is set in an era where people do boxing using mechanical limbs called “Gear”. The protagonist called Junk Dog makes a living through matches as told by his Boss, Gansaku Nanbu. However, things take a turn when Yuuri, a Megalo Box champion fights against Junk Dog under disguise.
Junk Dog loses in a single blow but Yuuri gives him the challenge to fight him in his ring. Junk Dog is then given a purpose in life which is to fight against his rival. He enters Megalonia, a world tournament for deciding the best Megalo Boxer. He takes the name “Joe” and starts his journey from the lowest of ranked fighters. Joe must qualify for the tournament in a short amount of time, three months.
Naruto is such a popular series that even those who do not watch anime know about it. But a top martial arts anime list wouldn’t have been complete without it. Naruto is filled with multiple jutsus using chakra, but that doesn’t take away the martial arts elements from it. Epic action using martial arts is shown such as when Naruto using his shadow clone jutsu or the Hyugas use their Byakugan to have intense hand-to-hand combat with their opponents.
Moments after the birth of Naruto, Konohagakure is attacked by a demon called Kyuubi. The village’s leader sacrifices his life and saves the village by sealing the demon in Naruto. Years later, Naruto is shown as a hyperactive child trying to fit in the society as he is shunned by everyone for having a demon in him. He aims of becoming the village’s Hokage so he can finally have acceptance.
7. Fist of the North Star (1984 – 1988)
If “old but gold” was an anime, it would be this. Fist of the North Star is an unbeatable classic martial arts anime. It follows the story of Kenshirou, a warrior betrayed by his closest friend. He travels to a post-apocalyptic wasteland to find Shin, his enemy who has kidnapped his fiancé. Throughout his journey, he uses his strength to defend the ones in need. As his name spreads across the land, rival martial artists and warlords began to come after him.
You must have heard Kenshirou’s iconic line in memes“Omae wa mou shindeiru” translating to “you are already dead”. He says this line after using his Hokuto Shinken fighting form in which he uses Gekitsui Shi, his 3-second killing move. Can there be anything more satisfying than that?
What’s unique about this anime? The protagonist Shichika Yasuri is the weapon wielder and the weapon too. His fighting style, Kyotouryuu involves him using his body like a sword. Moreover, Katanagari’s animation style is a mix of Japanese and western elements.
The anime follows the journey of Shichika who lives in exile with his sister, Nanami. Things change when a smart girl named Togame enters their life. Togame requests Shichika’s help in collecting the 12 “Deviant Blades” that he accepts. However, their mission isn’t easy as the wielders of these swords aren’t giving up so easily and will do everything to prevent Togame from achieving her goal. The anime follows the duo’s journey as they set out on a path full of dangers and risks.
9. The God of High School (2020)
Released in 2020, The God of High School is the perfect martial arts anime for people of this generation. Animated by studio MAPPA, this is an anime filled with colorful animation and lots of fighting scenes that are wonderfully animated. Each character has a unique fighting style and skills which makes this a very entertaining martial arts anime to watch.
The God of High School is a tournament in which all Korean High School students can participate. The anime’s protagonist is a student named Mori Jin aiming to become the strongest fighter. He befriends two more people, participating in the tournament for different reasons. The prize of winning the tournament is having any one of your wish granted. The team must fight opponents using different powers but that excites Mori Jin rather than scaring him. However, as time passes, Mor and his friends realize there is much more behind this tournament than the obvious.
10. Ranma ½ (1989-1992)
Ranma ½ is an 80s anime but is still regarded as one of the best comedy martial arts anime ever made. The protagonist Ranma Saotome is a prodigy martial artist at the Saotome martial arts school.
While training in Japan, he and his father fell into a cursed spring. Then, Ranma gets a curse on him that makes him a woman every time he is splashed with cold water. Only hot water can turn him back to a boy then. Things turn worst when Ranma finds out his father has arranged his engagement with one of the Soun Tendo in order to save their dojo. Although Soun finds out about the curse he decides to proceed Ranma’s engagement with his youngest daughter, Akane. The anime follows the hilarious moments between Ranma and Akane while also handling his unfortunate curse and the engagement.
11. Dragon Ball (1986-1989)
Although all of the Dragon Ball series has lots of martial arts, we are talking about the original series here because this one is mostly focused on martial arts only fights. This is a legendary martial arts anime got so popular that it developed more of an interest in martial arts in the west.
The anime follows the story of a boy named Gokuu Son. One day, Bulma meets Gokuu and tells him about her search for the “Dragon Balls” as collecting all seven of them would grant any of her wishes. Gokuu has a Dragon Ball that he agrees to give to Bulma if she takes him on the journey to collect all of the Dragon Balls. Hence, their adventure filled with excitement starts. On his journey, Gokuu meets Muten-Roshi and becomes his disciple so he can become a strong martial artist and defeat the ones intending to use the Dragon Ball for wrong.
12. Fog Hill of Five Elements
This is the first Chinese anime on this list and it astonished all anime fans because of its outclass animation and art style. The story of the anime is simple but it is the amazing action in this anime that gives it a spot on this list.
The plot is set in a world where monsters can give certain officials the ability to master all five elements. The anime follows the journey of Wen Ren who is one of the elected officials. Fog Hill of Five Elements is worth watching solely because of its fight scenes. Since it is only 3 episodes, you can easily watch it if you’re looking for a short yet great martial arts anime.
13. Shigurui: Death Frenzy
As the title suggests, Shigurui is an anime filled with a lot of bloodshed. So only watch this anime if you like martial arts but can tolerate the violence this anime has.
At the start of the Edo period, Lord Tokugawa Tadanaga would hold tournaments in which wooden swords would be used. But in the current tournament, real swords are to be used. A blind man named Irako Seigen and one-armed Fujiki Gennosuke must fight each other in this match. Both of which are a disciple of Japan’s strongest swordsman, Iwamoto Kogan. There can be only one winner of the fight and he will determine the successor of the Iwamoto school. Hence, the journey of conflict and an unpredictable destination begins.
14. Hinomaru Sumo
There isn’t much room for action in Sumo wrestling, but the strength and emotions of the anime’s characters make Hinomaru Sumo an interesting anime to watch. Sumo wrestling has an attachment to Japanese history and this is an anime that gives a tribute to it. The best part is that this anime is very well animated which makes the action in it look super cool.
Hinomaru Sumo is a sports anime that revolves around Hinomaru Ushio. He dreams of becoming a pro-sumo wrestler. He is very talented and hardworking but his small stature doesn’t meet the minimum size requirement for it. His only way to go pro is by becoming the strongest wrestler in high school tournaments. Hence, he joins Odachi High and has to build a sumo club as there is only one member in it apart from him. Hinomaru continues to work hard and do everything possible to fight against the odds to become a professional Sumo wrestler.
Ben-to is one of the most unique martial arts anime ever. It is set in the modern era but in a world where people have to literally fight for food in supermarkets. This concept is hilarious but you will relate to it with your college days.
Everyone loves buying bento boxes from the supermarket because of their convenience. However, at the night the supermarkets change upside down because the prices of these bento boxes get half. Then, war starts as a friend becomes enemies to get their hands on these bento boxes, turning people into wolves and dogs. High school student You Satou unintentionally finds out about these wars and decides to participate. However, he doesn’t have good fighting skills so Wolf Sen Yarizui invites him to join the “Half-Priced Food Lovers Club” to learn how to win in these food wars.