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Manga / Kengan Ashura

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Ohma Tokita, the "Ashura" and a small fish in a big pond.

"You wanna fight, too?"
Ohma Tokita

Kengan Ashura is a manga series written by Yabako Sandrovich and drawn by Daromeon,note beginning publication in 2012 it runs in Ura Sunday, a Shonen Magazine, published by Shogakukan.

When Kazuo Yamashita, a 56-year-old underachieving salesman, stumbles across the mysterious young Ohma Tokita easily taking down a musclebound yakuza twice his size, his world gets set to be turned on its head.

The following day, Kazuo is summoned by the Nogi Group's CEO, Hideki Nogi, who introduces him to the world of the suKengan Association matches: a place where wealthy business owners, corporation leaders and merchants hire gladiators to fight in unarmed combat where the winner takes all. With Kazuo being reacquainted with Ohma, the latter of whom has become the Nogi Group's latest fighter, the two's journey into the Kengan world begins. Several bouts into Ohma's careers, the eccentric leader of the Kengan Association Metsudo Katahara announces his desire to see things shaken up in the organization- by hosting a tournament of the best fighters in the business, with the winner being given anything they want and the CEO they represent being given chairman position in the organization. Kazuo and Ohma are entered on behalf of Nogi, and so begins a long-running Tournament Arc that sees Ohma's shady past slowly be brought to light.

In May 2015 the series won a poll organized by Ura Sunday in which the winner would become eligible for getting an Animated Adaptation, Kengan Ashura got more than 2 million fan votes, winning. The anime adaptation by Studio Hibari and Larx Entertainment premiered on July 31, 2019 on Netflix.

The sequel, Kengan Omega, began publishing on January 31, 2019. Set two years after the events of the previous series, Omega stars two newcomers: the brutal street fighter with natural talent Koga Narushima, and the mysterious and aloof Ryuki Gaoh. Both find themselves drawn to the world of the Kengan Matches after a chance encounter with Kazuo, who decides to mentor both fighters after seeing hints as to their potential. Unfortunately for him (and the rest of the association), rival underground fighting ring Purgatory is looking to acquire the Kengan Association for their own purposes, and challenge the Kengan fighters to thirteen rounds in a one-on-one tournament in Purgatory's home turf. As Koga and Ryuki gear up for the fight, it becomes increasingly clear that a mysterious third party known only as "The Worm" has a vested interest in interfering with the battle between the two groups- and their sights have been set on Koga and Ryuki...

Compare to Baki the Grappler. Kengan Ashura shares some similarities to the early beginnings of Baki and both protagonists are similar in design and personality.

See also How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?, a more light-hearted manga series set in the same universe and written by the same author, though under a different illustrator. See also ST☆R: Strike it Rich, made by the same team as Dumbbells and a more blatant Distaff Counterpart to Kengan.

Official English Translation: Comikey

The series provides the examples of:

  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: The Kengan Association members wager enormous sums of money on the outcome of matches as side bets. Most notable is the bet Kazuo accidentally makes with Penasonic CEO Sukizo Urita for 10 percent of his company's stock, which comes to a total value of 288 billion yen.
  • Acquaintance Denial: In one Yonkoma, Lihito and Okubo get themselves drunk while hanging out with Himuro and Kaneda, then starts going nude. When the two are arrested, Himuro is shown telling the police that he's never met the other two before.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: A minor case related to some of the refs from the manga being Adapted Out. In the manga, referee decisions to call a match aren't always consistent (for example, sometimes the match is stopped the moment one fighter goes unconscious, while other matches continue on); however, this is explained away by different refs canonically having distinct styles of refereeing. This is not the case in the anime, which uses only one ref—Yamamoto—making him just seem extremely inconsistent with his calls.
  • Age Insecurity:
    • Nogi's (and later Kazuo's) Sexy Secretary Kaede has her age listed as "?", although an offhand remark by Nogi implies that she's Older Than She Looks, and she gets annoyed whenever her age is brought up. By the same token, her older sister Sakura has her age unknown.
    • Shion's profile states that she'll kill anyone who asks her age, although it is eventually revealed to be 35.
  • All Just a Dream: How the bonus Street Fighter crossover chapters ended. Ohma fell asleep playing the video game and it apparently messed with his dreams... or did it?
  • Ambiguously Related: Rei Mikazuchi and his predecessor Byo are presumably relatives, due to their shared surname and hairstyle; however, Byo is described as Rei's master rather than family—unlike Jozaemon Inaba, Ryo's predecessor who is explicitly described as his grandfather.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: In Omega, the Worm grows to become a global threat, and the Prime Minister of Japan brought together various factions around the world consisting of gangsters, crime syndicates and religious cults to form an Anti-Worm Alliance.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Virtually all the Kengan Fighters (with the possible exception of Wakatsuki) are very confident of their strength and martial skills, and always walk into a match assured of their own victory, whether or not it is warranted.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Using techniques from the Koei Style, Setsuna Kiryu's unfortunate victims are left with limbs and necks twisted to unnatural degrees not possible in real life.note 
    • Haruo's almost remarkably rapid caloric expenditure was lampshaded by Yohei Bando as being medically impossible.
    • When using his "Advance" technique, Ohma is somehow able to overclock his heart, achieving a form of blood doping that gives him an immense boost in physical capabilities. Kiryu is able to create an overload of tachypsychia in his brain, risking nerve damage and brain hemorrhaging to achieve Super-Reflexes, and Fei Wangfang shows that these abilities are meant to be used together, achieving a suicidal Humanoid Abomination form that combines insane blood-doping and tachypsychia to push the human body to an unheard-of limit.
  • Audience Surrogate: Kazuo is an underachieving salesman who is immersed as a fighter manager into a secret society where powerful businessmen organize fighting matches to settle their market disputes. Kazuo is constantly thinking about the ludicrousness of all but still admiring such a different world from his usual pathetic life, and the ridiculously strong fighters who are the very opposite of his weak self. Adding to this, the one truly exceptional thing about Kazuo is his fantastic eyesight, which allows him to follow along with the matches just as the reader does.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Ohma Tokita and Lihito during the beginning of the Kengan Annihilation Tournament preliminaries.
  • Badass Boast
    Jun Sekibayashi: "Pro wrestlers are good actors!"
  • Beach Episode: Most of Kengan Ashura chapter 40 is dedicated to this, with most of the fighters relaxing by the waters before the Annihilation Tournament begins.
  • Big Fancy House: Since both series are about proxy wars between the fabulously wealthy, there's lots of these. Especially notable is the enormous island mansion where Idemitsu Toyoda meets with Nogi in Omega, which is revealed to just be a villa for one of his mistresses.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Part 1 ends with the tournament infiltrators stopped by Metsudo, who completely outsmarts them and manages to allow the tournament to continue unimpeded. Gensai wins the tournament for his company in a massive upset, taking down Ohma in the finals at the cost of shattering his arm. However, Gensai's handler (and the winner of the tournament) Takakaze decides to step down from his position, seeing it as both too much of a responsibility and too cruel to take Nogi's hard-fought dream away from him. Just about all the competitors come out of it better in some way- either with renewed motivation to become even stronger, or with bonds to help them become better people. Unfortunately, a combination of abuse of the “Advance” technique and his injuries ultimately result in Ohma passing away after the tournament concludes. Everyone mourns his passing as a talented fighter who was taken in his prime, especially his father figure Kazuo. Yet, with the lessons he's gained in seeing Ohma live his short life to the fullest, Kazuo refuses to let anyone boss him around, and he decides to start up his own company. However, there are still a lot of plotlines left unconcluded, and the story hints that, somehow, Ohma may have been revived.
  • Bland-Name Product: Many of the corporations involved in the Kengan Association have names only slightly altered from those of real world corporations. These include "Ginokuniya Bookstores", "Boss Burger", "Penasonic", "Sentory", and "Nentendo".
  • Body Horror: Most of the injuries in this series are absolutely horrific, in no part thanks to the artist's skill in depicting such injuries. Shout out goes to Muteba Gizenga's lethal brutalisation of Meguro Masaki.
  • Bowdlerise: In the manga and a bit in the anime, Lihito lays it rather heavy with the homophobic trash-talk in order to get under Sawada's skin. In the English dub, he's content with simply refering to Sawada as a freak.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Early on in the series, Ohma breaks into Yamashita's workplace during the evening and is shown to have physically subdued the guards in order to do so. Fast forward several chapters and a caricatured wanted poster of him can be seen on a wall in Yamashita's workplace.
      "If you see this man, please contact security. This man broke into the building at —.00 on —— —th and assaulted four security guards."
    • In Muteba Gizenga's Kengan Ashura commentary, it mentions that he is looking forward to going on vacation. Come Kengan Omega, his introduction is him relaxing with a bunch of beautiful women on vacation.
  • Call-Back: As Ohma walks into his final match against Gensai in Ashura, he turns to Kazuo and asks him the first thing he ever said to him once more...
    You wanna fight, too?
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • Adam Dudley's employer is a slightly uglier Ronald McDonald.
    • One of the companies in the Annihilation Tournament is Tochigi Destinyland, featuring its beloved mascots, Mockey and Honald.
  • Cast from Lifespan: Ohma's 'Advance' technique that he uses to defeat Sekibayashi, and other fighters take a serious toll on his health every time he uses it. This is symbolized by mentally blowing out a series of candles, potentially taking years of his lifespan.note 
  • Cast of Snowflakes: After years of publication, the series has been consistently about one big fighting tournament, and as such, its dozens of fighters have very varied designs, and each fight is given panel time, even those where the protagonist isn't taking part. While some fights are shorter, all fighters are given some character and background. This even extends to one-off Mooks, who all look different from each other.
  • Central Theme: Omega has a lot of emphasis placed on deception, identity, and inheritance. It's revealed that the Kengan Association has been infiltrated by the Worm early into the series, which puts all the returning characters on edge. Gaoh's fighting style is an assassination art based on redirection and confusion. A large amount of the Purgatory fighters are planted by the Worm in an attempt to subvert the grudge match between the two organizations- this includes people with established friendships, such as Lu and Fei. Characters like Nicolas Le Banner and Hikaru Yumigahama have backstories where they deceive someone thought to be important to them in pursuit of selfish ends, and "Nicolas" as we know him is an impersonator named Jean-Luc. All of these examples and more give the series a somewhat paranoid edge where the main characters don't know who they can trust and cling to former chairman Katahara's power and influence even after he steps down, which allows the really unsavory elements of the criminal underworld to make their move now that the Kengan Association is not monolithic in its power structure for the first time in five decades.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: The series' best fighters are capable of feats such as punching through concrete, being able to defend against bullets by reading the shooter's movements or killing them before they can shoot and withstanding blows that would have killed a normal person instantly by dispersing the force through their bodies by going limp at the time of impact or flexing their entire body in response to an incoming attack.. However, aside from a few genetic anomalies such as Gozo (thoroughbred of two athletes who could stand up at ten days old and dominated track and field for 3 decades), Wakatsuki (born with 52x denser muscle fibers than the norm), Julius (responds incredibly well to lethal doses of steroids to become a medical miracle) and several old families like the Kure Clan who selectively breed with fighters and athletes and train their children from birth to be fighters or hitmen, they are all normal humans from incredibly different backgrounds whose extreme lifestyles and sheer dedication to training themselves and becoming the strongest allows them to accomplish these incredible feats. Even with the anomalies, their modified DNA isn't enough to realistically explain the feats they can accomplish (e.g. Julius can pull a racing car that's moving in the opposite direction at full speed without the chains he's wrapped in even managing to dig through his skin), but the series also exploits this well for a larger-than-life effect.
    Elena Robinson: ...Oh. I've seen this before... It's just like those movies I used to watch with Mokichi. These two are like a kaiju movie...
  • Chekhov's Gun: Subverted when after the first round of the Annihilation Tournament, Metsudo announces that every corporation has the right to substitute its fighter once. This only ever happens once for the rest of the series, and it's Sekibayashi being subbed out for Marvelous Seki.
  • The Clan: The Kure Clan, a large family of assassins-for-hire who selectively breed to naturally enhance their DNA towards adrenal output and muscular strength, and can be distinguished by their black sclera. Omega introduces the Wu clan and the Occident Wu, the head clan that the Kure splintered off into Japan from in the 700's, and the Occident Wu splintering at the same time but heading into Europe, respectively. The Kure and Wu are amicable with one another, while the Occident has become very hostile under the leadership of Edward Wu.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The vast majority of fighters in the series could give a rat's ass about honor and will do whatever it takes to win, dirty, underhanded, or otherwise. Even in the comparatively Lighter and Softer Purgatory, don't be surprised to see an Eye Scream, a knee to the balls or literally flaying a man alive, starting from the jaw. Early on in the series, Ohma Tokita proves just this when he delivers a Groin Attack to Ivan Karaev, noting that the man's high kicks left his defenses wide open.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: The series' specialty: Some of the matchups are between people of wildly different backgrounds who would never get the option to throw hands without the existence of underground martial arts circuits; One of the least unbelievable ones is a Featherweight Kung Fu master taking on a Sambist one-and-a-half times his own size and convincingly beating said Sambist's ass.; In particular, one battle between a sumo and a professional wrestler causes the entire audience to go bananas at getting to watch such a serendipitous (there's a major element of chance at how the Annihilation Tournament bracket was determined) match-up.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Kaneda's Kujin Style is designed for combat in warfare, specifically by disabling an opponent with weapons and armor, then finishing them off as quickly as possible with (what the style assumes the user should have) a knife. This martial art is largely unsuited against the unarmed styles of the other, stronger Kengan fighters and he ends up taking a beating before he finally manages to get a hit in.
  • Crossover:
  • Dark Horse Victory: Gensai, the fighter who wasn't expected to make as big of an upset in the tournament as he did, ends up winning the whole thing. But the win itself was glossed over narrative-wise; it barely meant a thing, if at all.
  • Defeating the Cheating Opponent: The only foul in Kengan matches is using weapons. However, anything that makes through the check can be used with impunity, since doing otherwise would damage the Kengan Association's authority. Koji Kaburagi is abusing this loophole to eliminate promising fighters before they can become too much of a threat for others. Everyone knows he is using weapons, but he always manages to sneak them past the referee. During his fight against Ohma, Koji has his employer use The Mosquito (an audio file of a very loud and distracting high-pitch tone that only people within a certain biological age bracket can hear) to distract Ohma, use poison to take out his sight, and attempt to cripple him by stabbing him in the spine with a needle. Once Ohma figures out the employer's position and removes him from the equation, Ohma quickly overwhelms Koji fairly with his superior strength and skills.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: There are other, less major underground fighting tournaments, aside from the Kengan matches, such as "Death Fight," "Purgatory," and "Slaughter Coliseum." Then there's one called "Deadly Death Dead Die."
  • Determinator: Pretty much every self-identified fighter will not stop fighting no matter how injured they get or how many bones they break in proving themselves the strongest. They only go down when they either die or pass out. This is frequently deconstructed, however; Being willing to fight to the death for your art and your head held high is valiant, but a majority of the people who are willing to go that far over a fistfight are never particularly good people, if not outright deranged.
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: A major plot point in Omega during the Kengan Association's Showdown against the Purgatory. The matches are fought under the Purgatory rules, where fighters are disqualified if: 1) They kill their opponents, or 2) They fall out of the ring. Since the Kengan matches had no such rules, this puts their fighters in a disadvantage, and they've lost a number of matches despite overpowering their opponent.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: After assaulting him out of nowhere, Karura bluntly asks Ohma to have sex with her (in the middle of the room while other people were present) before adding that she wanted his babies. She does so every time she manages to catch him.
  • Dub Text: The English fan translation effort for the manga takes several liberties regarding certain fighter titles, also the way some characters speak, resulting in flashier names and characters speaking in accents, slang, and profanity more in common with native English media. With this acknowledged, Kengan does dive into some very arcane terms and Kanji even for native speakers, crisscrosses Kanji use between Japanese and Chinese on top of the usual Hiragana and Romaji affair within Japanese, and references a bunch of incredibly obscure (for a foreign audience) historical and martial arts references, so some things going Lost in Translation was inevitable in translating it at all.
  • Episode Zero: The Beginning: Kengan Ashura Zero serves as this.
  • Every Scar Has a Story: Before the finals, Ohma goes over the scars and damage he incurred throughout the series, all the way back to the gouge wounds Lihito gave him in his first major fight.
  • Eye Scream:
    • The fight between Muteba Gizenga and Meguro Masaki involves both opponents destroying each others eyes with eye pokes. This also how Muteba finally kills Meguro, poking him in the eye socket until it reaches the brain.
    • Hatsumi tries to gouge out Bando's left eye to take out his sense of distance and prevent him from using his whips. While the eye is bloodied, it isn’t destroyed, leaving Bando free to use them.
  • Faint in Shock: Played for laughs in Omega, where the usually composed Kaede goes limp and falls unconscious when she is unexpectedly approached by the supposedly dead Ohma.
  • Family Theme Naming: Several family members have similar-sounding names:
    • Yamashita's first name is Kazuo, and his second son is Yasuo.
    • Metsudo Katahara's son is named Retsudo.
    • Karura has a younger brother named Sarura.
  • Fanservice: There is plenty of fanservice for both guys and girls. Though the series focuses mainly on heavily muscled men fighting, the fanservice is particularly good for the girls.
  • Food Porn: Most of the fighters are huge Big Eaters due to their lifestyle and needing to maintain muscle mass, and a considerable amount of attention is brought to the food they eat, which is usually plates stacked to the point of overflowing with protein. One of the most recurring character profile elements is the character's favorite food, which is usually some dish or combination of dishes with hidden meanings to them (Liu Dongcheng, for example, coming from A House Divided between Taiwan and Guangzhou, who's favorite dishes are Oyster Omelets and Dongpo Pork, which are hometown classics of Taiwan and Guangzhou respectively).
  • Foreshadowing: Muteba being completely blind is foreshadowed twice: first, there are his Exotic Eye Designs that are completely white, which is usually a sign of blindness in animated media. The second is that when Meguro steps into the ring, Muteba identifies his heartbeat as the sign that Meguro is insane, and not the fact that Meguro is crying Tears of Blood. In hindsight, it makes sense that Muteba would identify the heartbeat, as he can't even see said Tears of Blood and he has superhuman hearing.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Most Kengan fighters are quite amicable towards each other outside their matches, and generally don't get caught up in the bitter political wars their employers are engaged in. This doesn't mean they'd go easy on each other when they do get to fight, nor would they swallow a loss without hoping to get even with their opponent someday.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: The Ho Yay subtext between the cast members is far more explicit in Yamashita's gender flipped dreamland. For example, female Setsuna wants to marry Mao, instead of being killed by "her", as the original does.
  • Gladiator Games:
    • Kengan Matches, events in which businessmen decide to settle their differences and market share not through court but through appointing fighters to win it all. These fights are very brutal and can end up with one fighter dead or seriously crippled, and, although there is a referee present, his presence is just for show- if a fighter is smart enough to cheat in a way that the referee and the audience can't blatantly notice, then all is fair.
    • There are several underground fighting rings mentioned in the series, and in Omega we are introduced to Purgatory, which is slightly safer for the fighters and run for pure entertainment value.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Despite their strength, the Kengan fighters tend to lack self-awareness.
    • Himuro derides Ren Nikaido for being a "playboy-type" despite being one of the biggest playboys in the series and mocks the match between Nikaido vs. Setsuna for being a Pretty Boy battle. His friends, Kaneda and Okubo, can only stare at him, speechless at his self-condemning remarks.
    • In the Omake, Julius and Nikaido tell each other to clothe up for winter, while both are still wearing next-to-nothing.
    • The Omake also has Kokomi criticize Dr. Hanafusa for having no other clothes besides his lab coat. Hanafusa points out that she only ever wears her nurse uniform.
    • During the Purgatory match, Okubo loudly wonders if Arashiyama is a cosplayer for wearing clogs to the match. Cue Misasa staring at his clown outfit.
  • Kill and Replace: The "Worm" has repeatedly attempted to infiltrate the Kengan Association by killing its member employees/fighters and assuming their identities.
  • Knight Templar: Seishu Akoya with his excessive brand of "justice".
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Alongside Bland-Name Product above, characters resembling Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald appearing in the Kengan Annihilation tournament.
  • Leitmotif: Except (so far) Wakatsuki and Murobuchi, whose fight was largely cut, each of the fighters have their own theme songs that play during their introductions at the start their matches.
  • Legacy Character: The title of Fang of Metsudo, which belongs to the strongest fighter in Metsudo Katahara's employ. Erioh Kure is the first and had that name even before Metsudo became chairman in the 50s, and Annihilation Tournament fighter Agito Kanoh is the fifth. Considering Metsudo's been Kengan Association chairman for fifty years, this speaks a lot to the Fangs' dominance and durability, with the Fourth Fang and personal bodyguard of old Metsudo, Masamichi Omori, defending his chairmanship in the last Annihilation Tournament fifteen years before the story beginning.
  • Lethal Joke Character: Most fighting manga treat combat styles done for sport or entertainment, like boxing or pro wrestling, as weak compared to more "practical" styles seen in modern MMA. In Ashura, the boxer and pro wrestler are both terrifying and two of the strongest entrants in the Annihilation Tournament, with the former almost stealing his opponent, The Dreaded Fang of Metsudo,'s soul and make him scared for his life.
  • Logical Weakness: No matter how physically tough a fighter like Sekibayashi truly is, he still needs to breathe. Both Ohma and Muteba managed to knock him out by striking his windpipe and his heart, respectively.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Anyone with huge muscles. A particular shout-out goes to Julius Reinhold, along with Gensai, who has fingers hard enough to pierce stone.
    • Both Niko and Ohma when using the Adamantine Kata of the Niko Style, along with Agito when he reveals he has a similar ability.
  • Meaningful Background Event: At the end of Ashura, in Chapter 235, Okubo and Kaolan are having a chat after the tournament. In one panel, in the background of their conversation, we see Yoshizawa asking Hanafusa if he has a moment. Nothing else in their conversation is shown. This isn't elaborated on until over fifty chapters into Omega, where it is finally revealed that Yoshizawa was informing Hanafusa that somebody dropped off a box, a box containing a replacement heart for Ohma, and the reason for his survival.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Ohma Tokita can be translated as “Witching Hour”, Kazuo remarks that even Ohma's name is strong and links to the fact that before the Kengan Matches, Ohma wandered late at nights looking for a challenge.
    • More accurately, "Witching Hour" in Japanese is "ouma ga toki", but it sounded similar to Kazuo. It is later revealed that Ohma Tokita was named after Tokita Ward and Shichiohba, two fictional lawless zones of Tokyo. Ohma grew up on the border of these zones.
    • 滅堂, or Metsudo, contains the characters for "Overthrow/Destruction" and "Gathering/Hall". Depending how you read it, it can be translated as "Destroyer of the Order/Way", symbolizing his upstart beginnings and monolithic stranglehold over the Association, and the crumbling of that stability now that he's no longer Chairman and the previously established order of the Japanese underground is overturned.
    • "No gi" is a kind of grappling competition, namely one in which the fighters are lightly dressed (often down to shorts or tights) rather than clad in a normative gi (the suit used in Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu).
  • Mistaken for Badass: Kazuo gets this. Due to not understanding business jargon, he acts completely unconcerned when the director of Ohma's first opponent wants to make a very expensive bet on their fight, leading that director (who is specifically mentioned as being fairly smart) to believe he has Nerves of Steel. Later on, he accidentally hits Julius' head with a thrown can (he didn't even see the guy) just when he was about to break Sawada's legs. Nikaido gets convinced he is extremely skilled for doing that perfectly from a blind spot and later dodging his nearly invisible needle (he bowed at the exact right time to apologize for the can), while Julius is surprised that the guy managed to hit him without exuding any "bloodlust".
  • Mocky Mouse: Tochigi Destiny Land has a mascot consisting of a mouse with plate-like ears and pants with two buttons in the front named Mockey.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: Characters run the full gamut from extreme Nice Guy to full-on Hate Sink. The very nature of the Kengan Association means that every CEO involved is a Corrupt Corporate Executive, but the degree of said corruption also greatly varies.
  • Muscles Are Meaningful: Considering even the leanest of fighters still have very defined musculature, this is played straight in general. However, it is played completely straight and exemplified by Julius Reinhold. A literal walking mass of pure dense musculature, Julius completely tanked Sawada's strongest kick using only his trapezius muscle.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: From fighters to executives to Background characters, the manga is rife with blatant references to real-life businessmen, martial artists, and athletes.
    • Yukio Dazai, the head of Teito University, looks exactly like Japanese author Osamu Dazai, who committed suicide after several attempts, and has the last name of Yukio Mishima, who attempted to carry out a coup on the Japanese Imperial estate before committing ritual suicide. Sure enough, Yukio Dazai always carries a sword and is willing to die to atone over not stopping Yohei Bando when they were fellow med students.
    • An obvious caricature of infamous boxing promoter Don King can be seen in the audience commenting on boxing technique.
    • Word of God states that Gozo Murobuchi was modeled after the hammer-thrower Koji Murofushi.
    • One chapter begins with a flashback to a balding older man who could once kill bulls with his karate. His appearance and feats mirror the founder of Kyokushin karate, Mas Oyama.
    • Sekibayashi's wrestling mentor Hiroshi Babadozan had the same impressive physique and distinctive jaw as legendary Japanese professional wrestler Antonio Inoki, even though his name is taken from Rikidozan.
    • The president of Motor Head Motors bears a distinct resemblance to Lemmy Kilmister.
    • Throughout the manga there have been the appearances of Presidents Mobama, Frump and Petin.
    • The boss of Tochigi Destiny Land is a clear stand-in for Michael Eisner, one of the more controversial people to ever be in charge of Disney.
  • No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me: The second to last chapter of Zero is about an unnamed man struggling to survive in post-World War II Tokyo. After he manages to bluff his way past a Kure Clan member, it's revealed at the end of the chapter that this is the backstory of a young Katahara Metsudo.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Done by multiple characters when asserting their dominance. Notable ones are Kure Raian's annihilation of Mokichi Robinson and Muteba Gizenga's destruction of Meguro Masaki.
  • Not Afraid to Die:
    • Despite his great enjoyment in the act of killing, Meguro Masaki died in an equally satisfied manner, going out with a huge grin on his face.
      Upon dying: Ahhhh... that was fun...
    • As a child, Ohma Tokita. After being beaten almost to a pulp by Jiro Ando, Ohma flung them both out of a multi-story high window, with Ando noting the unnerving lack of fear in Ohma's eyes.
  • Not Just a Tournament: Both the Kengan Annihilation Tournament in Ashura and the Kengan Association vs. Purgatory matches puts a lot more at stake than the fighters' personal desire to prove himself the strongest of them all.
    • The main purpose of the Annihilation Tournament is to decide the new Chairman of the Kengan Association, and the fighters are merely pawns for their sponsor to achieve that goal. There are plenty of backdoor dealings, with the companies trying to rig the matches to their favor (e.g. forcing rivaling companies to withdraw from the competition); at one point, one of the participants decides to forgo the Tournament altogether and try to seize the Chairman's seat by force.
    • Kengan Association vs. Purgatory isn't just a fighting competition to determine which "team" has better players. Still, it puts the entire existence of both organizations at stake, as the losing side will be absorbed into the winning side. Complicating things further is the involvement of The Worm, who has infiltrated into both the Kengan Association and Purgatory for motives that have yet to be revealed.
  • Not So Similar: When Ryo Inaba's employer likens Meguro Masaki and Muteba Gizenga to him by calling them assassins, Inaba says that he was nothing like them as assassins don't kill without a reason.
  • Oh, Crap!: Kenzo's reaction when he sees the policemen and the mob outside of his home are all Kure Clan.
    • During their fight, Ohma redirects all of Wakatsuki's colossal strength back into him with a Demonsbane, sending him sailing across the arena. With his last few breaths, Ohma comments that not even Wakatsuki could withstand a blow like that. Cue Wakatsuki sitting up like a slasher villain, leaving Ohma looking outright fearful for one of the few times in the series. Thankfully, Wakatsuki is in no condition to fight.
  • One-Steve Limit: Defied. There are two characters whose first names are Ryo; Ryo Inaba and Ryo Himuro. There's also multiple people who are named Niko Tokita, those being Ohma's master Niko and the "Other" Niko.
  • Professional Killer: There are lots of mercenaries and assassins competing in the tournament, including Ryo Inaba, Raian Kure, and Gensai Kuroki.
  • Pro Wrestling Is Real: The story is very aware of kayfabe, as are most of the characters, who treat the idea of fighting Jun Sekibayashi with actual martial arts as a joke. Sekibayashi enjoys playing up his pro wrestler imagery, including refusing to block in combat and assuming silly personas in the ring. However, he is also very happy to show his opponents that, scripted or not, he is still in extremely good shape and has a great deal of fighting skill. With his skills as an actor, he's very capable of Obfuscating Stupidity. Another pro wrestler on Jun's team, Jose Kanzaki, demonstrates a far more agile, luchador-like style of wrestling (also in a real, no-rules fight), which proves to be just as effective as Jun's.
    • Omega also seeds the return of shoot wrestling after its original flop in the 70s, as "pro wrestling but with even fewer holds barred" is a natural fit for the Kenganverse.
  • Psycho for Hire: Several characters fit, but Meguro Masaki is the craziest. He can barely even be called an assassin so much as a rabid animal that his "employer", Hayami, lets loose on people he doesn't like.
  • Rated M for Manly: This centers around the titular Kengan tournament, where a bunch of musclebound men beat the shit out of each other in cool and badass ways. It says something when some of the fights who lose in their first fights are still people who can smash apart trucks as a warm-up routine.
  • Red Baron: All of the fighters in the series have at least one fear-inspiring nickname. Later down the road, with many Kengan Matches under his belt, Ohma gets nicknamed "Ashura", a vicious fighting demon. This comes from an Association filled with vicious fighters, so Ohma became a demon among demons.
  • Running Gag: Despite the lack of proper continuity in the 4-Koma strips, their gags tend to follow a particular pattern.
    • The 4 idiots (Lihito, Okubo, Himuro, and Kaneda) never fail to get lost/stranded in the wilderness whenever they go on trips. They even lampshade it, saying that this has practically become a tradition.
    • Lihito and Okubo getting arrested due to their drunken hijinks. Yamashita comments that the pair gets into trouble a lot.
    • Ren Nikaido's increasingly perverted choice of fashion, and Cai's inability to stop him from going out in public with it.
    • King Rama's continued inability to go "Incognito", due to his lack of understanding that commoners don't normally indulge in his usual Conspicuous Consumption.
    • Ohma's preoccupation with the setsubun causes him to link every other Japanese festival with soybean throwing.
      Yamashita: "How long are you going to keep dragging setsubun out?!"
  • Seen It All: Downplayed example in Omega Chapter 96, where Alan Wu being torn in half by Raian reduces the Purgatory referee and the audience to shocked silence and horror, while the Kengan commentators, while shaken continue commenting because sudden brutal deaths tend happen in their tournaments.
  • Serial Killer:
    • Yohei Bando is considered the worst serial killer in Japan's history. Bad enough to warrant the death penalty, though he survived every attempt to execute him.
    • Meguro Masaki and Muteba Gizenga are also perceived as serial killers (and not merely mercenaries) due to their excessively bloody histories and high body counts.
  • Shared Universe: How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?, Yabako Sandrovich's episodic weight lifting manga, is connected to this series. It features many character cameos from Kengan, even those from characters who have already died in the story; and one of the leading girls is Shion Soryuin's little sister and the cast goes to/works at the Koyo Academy, where she is chairman.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Meguro Masaki's tongue lolling was inspired by Venom.
    • Ohma's fight against Lihito takes place in the Makunouchi Building.
    • One of the bars that members of the Kure Clan like to visit is called Red Rum.
    • In the first chapter of Omega Kazuo starts listing all the different underground fighting groups out there, and casually mentions that there's even one being run out of Tokyo Dome.
    • Several panels where Inaba is featured tend to zoom into his eye, glaring past his hair similarly to the posters of The Grudge and The Ring.
  • Slasher Smile: Many of the fighters sport these when they're on the offensive or about to stage a massive comeback. Conversely, it's dangerous not to be wary of the high-level characters who don't indulge in this.
  • So Last Season: The Removal technique, which unleashes a certain percentage of unrestrained muscle power, made Raian one of the favorites to win the tournament in Ashura. By Omega, two other clans are shown to also have the eugenic training to reliably have fighters unleash their muscle power to a 100%. They usually get mangled by Strong and Skilled users of the Removal or dispatched within seconds by an armed opponent. One of them, even lampshade Removal, is just a number.
  • Spell My Name With An S: The series' title can be either Kengan Ashura or Kengan Asura. The official Japanese print romanizes it as Kengan Ashura.
  • Strong Flesh, Weak Steel: This seems to be one of the marks of a truly strong fighter
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Kiryu probably has the most dramatic reality check in the series in the Kengan Annihilation Tournament. Despite having an unresolved rivalry with Ohma, practicing an esoteric and anatomy-shattering martial art, having his Super Mode and inventing numerous new techniques on the fly, he loses handily in the second round to the fundamentally superior Gensai Kuroki, not in an epic grudge match in the finals to Ohma.
    • In Omega, Haruo's still overweight despite training under Sekibayashi due to overeating on the meals he's given and occasionally slacking off to play video games. While Haruo has recovered his niceties and warrior spirit, he did spend years indulging in vices, and that will still take time for him to get over them regardless of his desire to improve himself.
    • Koga is The Protagonist, has The Gift for martial arts, and spent half a year intensely training to be ready for the Kengan vs Purgatory tournament. Except a few months of training isn't enough to get on the level of fighters who have years of experience under their belt. On top of this, he gets injured fighting against multiple armed opponents just a month before the tournament, which is not enough time to fully recover from multiple stab wounds and deep lacerations. Even Koga admits that he is both too injured and too inexperienced to participate and bows out of the tournament.
  • Take That!: In chapter 84, as part of Yoshinari Karo's introduction to the ring, one of his feats mentioned is sinking a ship belonging to the environmentalist group "Sea Chepherd" and capturing Paul Manson, an "international terrorist." This references the real-life Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its founder, Paul Watson. Let's just say that the SSCS and Japan have some bad blood.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: When the Kengan Association is under the threat of being devoured by Purgatory, the previously opposing factions within the group are forced to get over their differences and work together to remain afloat. This is exploited by Hayami, who agrees to help Nogi with the stipulation that he gets to become Deputy Chairman if the fighter he sends wins his round.
  • Totally Not a Criminal Front: Yamashita Trading Company is founded by Nogi as a shell company so his clique could enter more fighters in the Annihilation Tournament. In Omega, it secretly serves as a branch of the Kengan Association that registers and hires out fighters. Koga's friend is immediately able to identify it as fishy because it's the only business on the list of Kengan participants that produce nothing. Kazuo immediately admits the business is a front when Koga confronts him.
  • Tournament Arc: The vast majority of Ashura is dedicated to the Kengan Annihilation Tournament, which decides the next chairman of the Kengan Association. Omega also features a lengthy 13 vs. 13 tournament to decide the outcome of a merger between the Kengan Association and rival underground fight organization Purgatory.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Ohma and Raian when both activate their similar yet respected abilities as they both become extremely aggressive and act more like wild animals than human beings.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: As part of a Running Gag, every time a character appears onscreen for the first time in a chapter, their name and affiliation are listed. This includes Kazuo and Ohma, the main characters of the series. Notably, this works quite well, due to the large cast.
  • Wham Shot: In Chapter 50 of Kengan Omega, Kazuo had been surrounded by Xia Ji and the other members of the Worm, while Koga is left fighting five other assassins. Just before Kazuo is executed, he is saved by Raian... Only to also reveal that he didn't come alone, with a shot of Ohma Tokita from the back, in one of the few colored pages of the series.
  • Worf Effect: Lihito slowly becomes this after his first fight with Ohma Tokita, losing nearly every battle against named characters from that point forward despite his continued growth in strength and skill.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In a flashback extra chapter, "The Wrecker" Jiro Ando had no qualms using lethal force against a pre-pubescent Ohma, beating the child bloody. Unfortunately for Ando, kid Ohma was Not Afraid to Die.
  • Younger Than They Look: Several fighters still in their early twenties look far older than that. The group themselves lampshades it.
    Cosmo: Are these people really my age?
    Nezu: (about Kiozan) Motherfucker looks like that, and he's younger than me?
    Kiozan: (about Nezu) This son of a bitch is in his 20s? You gotta be kidding me.

Alternative Title(s): Kengan Asura