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Manga / Kenji

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Kenji Gou is an average kid in the neighborhood, healthy and sometimes fights bullies on the behalf of his oft-bullied friend Taichi Ichimura. His mother worries about him constantly, but his grandfather Kyotaro Gou taught him martial arts anyway. He grew up into a peaceable, overall Nice Guy who loves kung-fu. However, one day his grandfather went to China and have yet to return. Fearing for the old man's life, the young lad embarked in a journey to find him.

Kenji (拳児) is a manga series written by Ryuchi Matsuda and illustrated by Yoshihide Fujiwara. It was serialized in Shogakukan's Shōnen Sunday from 1988 to 1992, totaling 21 volumes.


Tropes appearing in Kenji:

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: When a bunch of drunks started bragging about the strength of the martial arts from the Henan province to Daniu’s father upon hearing that he was from Meng village. He replied by insulting their martial arts leading one to challenge him to a fight.
  • Ancient Conspiracy/Brotherhood of Funny Hats: The Union leans more towards the latter, since they are by no means malicious or scheming (they have a set of their own codes and rule of conduct, even). A character describes them as "A way for a bunch of old men to keep tabs with and help each other."
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Loads, but the most glaring (and unrepentant) are Li Shuwen and Tony Tan.
  • World of Badass: This trope, however, is played with at best if not outright subverted. Kenji met a lot of badasses, but he only did so because he was actively seeking them. There are a few non-badass people too like Tony Chen, but their on-screen time are meager at best.
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  • Biker Babe: Akira eventually races bikes.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Tony Tan arrived in time to save Tony Chen from New York thugs and had a short chat with him.
  • Blood Brothers: Tony Tan has one in America, named Tony Chen. Kenji becomes this to a number of people as he became a member of The Union.
    • Kyotaro to Yi Shunyu, a farmer and Bajiquan practitioner. Later their respective grandsons, Kenji and Daniu, as well.
  • Bruce Lee Clone: One of Yan Da-Wang's retainers, Bobby, is trying to be one in the Hong Kong arc.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Since Kenji constantly learns Kung-fu throughout the series, names of a particular move is often mentioned by the teacher as they are performed. Some opponents also do this while gloating.
  • The Cavalry: Shaolin monks later show up to help Kenji & Co against Yecha Wu's big band of Mooks.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late:
    • Subverted. Ma Dayuan and his friends rushed to dueling place of Kenji and Tony but when they arrived the duel is almost over. They are in time to save Kenji from drowning, though.
    • Subverted with Ma Dayuan again. He rushed to village where Tony used to stay but Tony have already gone when he arrived. If he wins, Tony's bad deeds will end. Yet if he loses, he will be one of Tony's victims. He claims he doesn't if he will win or not.
  • Chaste Hero: While he has at least two girls pining for his attention, his quest to find his grandfather (and then to fight Tony Tan) is solely in his focus.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Generally, what skills Kenji picked up in his tutelage will be used at some later point, but there are two prominent one:
    • We first see Kenji learning elbow-strikes from his grandfather. It is Kenji's elbow strike that (presumably) finished Tony Tan and threw him down a ravine.
    • Kyotaro and Kenji met Sohachi Takayama and his star junior pupil Takeshi Hotta in Kyotaro's village in the early part of the manga. Sohachi demonstrated a kick he learned in India, while Kyotaro demonstrated a strong palm strike that sends leaf raining down from the same tree. The same palm-strike was again witnessed by Sohachi towards the end of the series, but this time it's demonstrated by Kenji. It is also the beginning of Kenji's recovery from his biggest Heroic BSoD.
  • Cool Old Guy: Many. The Union is essentially a Cool Old Guy Secret Society.
  • Cruel Mercy: As punishment for Kenji repeatedly sneaking out at night to go talk to the Shaolin temples guardian Wulei, Zhuchi punished him by making him stay with Wulei for three months. There hasn’t been a single person who had the resolve to stay Wulei for very long.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The film director in the Hong Kong arc is probably the greatest example. He looks like a run-the-mill film director at first, but when his stuntmen started to riot and attacked bystanders (Kenji and co.), he singlehandedly subdued all of them with the help of a staff.
    • Daojie later nearly killed Yecha Wu with a bearhug. He was previously the least talented martial artist in the setting.
    • Grandpa Li Zhangdian turned out to be an expert martial artist. His ancestor has wisdom to not let others know if one practice martial arts. Combined with Big Ego, Hidden Depths because he took credit of winning duel against Zhang Mengyan.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Daoniu's father vs. mysterious man who use body slam. Daoniu's father who only learned martial art for a short time didn't have a chance.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Kenji and Inoue strolled and peeked at people who trains kungfu there even when strictly prohibited. This earned Kenji rivalry with Tony Tan and in which Kenji almost get expelled (from a delinquent school) and later, almost lost his life at Volume 20.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Discussed when Kenji informed Dainu that his father’s opponent might have a son of his own and if he managed to kill him that son would probably want to take revenge.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Many characters, or less accurately, few parts of Chinese people in general, and older generations ofmartial artists in particular. Started with corrupt Manchu dynasty, to Japanese occupation, which culminates Cultural Revolution. This is the reason many martial artists are still hiding themselves.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: A few times. Most prominent in the 20th tankoubon, since defeating Ma Da-Yuan not only earns his friendship, but also Kenji's tutelage in the Xinyiliuhequan.
  • Doorstopper: In Indonesian, at least. 21 volumes of around 200 pages, which roughly equals 4200 pages of manga.
  • Entitled Bastard: When Kenji and Daizu went to Chuzu An to see the Monk Wulei’s secret training. When caught they ran away so they wouldn’t get in trouble. Then when he caught up to them Daizu attacked him so he wouldn’t be expelled from the temple. Wulei himself put it best
    Wulei: You entered a stranger’s house without permission and then attacked him for no reason. You guys are impolite.
  • Expy: Junko reminds a lot of Chi Chi given that she wants her son to get into a good school and is exasperated by the fact that all he seems to think about is martial arts.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Tankoubon 21 details the life of Li Shuwen and another practitioner of Bajiquan Wuzhong.
  • Freudian Excuse: Some characters have it.
    • Tony Tan was separated from his parents when he was small because of war in South East Asianote . Later he arrived in Singapore by ship and lives without any relative. Zhang Ren-zhong even hinted he was a nice kid but turn into Jerkass because of his harsh life.
    • Zhang Mengyan's father was captured at Cultural Revolution and lost his life when he tried to escape from jail.
    • Li Shuwen was ganged by disciples of rival school.
  • Heir to the Dojo: Several, but the most prominent is Liu Yun-Chiao, Li Shuwen's last pupil.
  • Heroic BSoD: Kenji has several, but his biggest one is towards the very end of the series, when he thought he had killed Tony Tan.
  • Implausible Deniability: Averted when Kenji went to Danzuo village to explain that he was only looking for his grandpa. The person who opened the door recognized him which would only be possible if he was the one who snuck into Meng village to look through his things. They didn’t even try to deny it.
  • Insistent Terminology: Akira refers her family as Tekiya instead of Yakuza. Granted, her family doesn't do bad things like drugs or prostitution.
  • Instant Expert: Rather subverted and lampshaded, even. Liu Yun-Chiang stated that he does not dump all of that he knows upon Kenji hoping that Kenji will be one of these; rather, he does it so Kenji can develop sufficient countermeasures in case he encounters a martial artist using that style.
    • Tony Tan, on the other hand, seeks to be one in his quest to beat the everliving lights out of Kenji.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The drunk who killed Daniu’s father; all he and his friends did was brag that they felt that the martial arts styles where they lived where stronger then those of the Hebei and then challenged him to a fight when he retaliated by insulting the Hanan Provice’ martial arts. While it was a horrible thing to beat an obviously untrained man to death Dainu’s father was the one who escalated it to that point and then tried to back down once challenged.
  • Large and in Charge: Yan Da-Wang is the straightest example, although he is better-versed in throwing weapons than close combat. Liu Yun-Chiao is also fairly tall.
  • Martial Medic: Kyoutaro, who treats Kenji's injuries during his childhood with Chinese medicine, noting that he's "still much better than your average doctor." Su Yu-Ching also mentioned that in Taiwan most martial arts teacher can practice excellent traditional medicine, because they should be able to treat their own pupils in case of accidents and such.
  • My Kung Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: Generally, Kenji is the guy doing it.
  • Never Found the Body: Tony Tan after the final battle.
  • Nice Guy: Kenji, Kenji, Kenji. He only snaps twice throughout the series, once when Tony raided his school and once again when he learns that Kyotaro might have been killed by the Ya Sha Ow gang. Some other people can also be classified under this trope.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Kenji saves Akira from rival gang biker so he get
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The Kyotaro vs Wukong duel is mainly offscreen, but Kyotaro describes it as the most intense fight of his lifetime. And it lasted a whole day.
  • Old Master: Several, but the most prominent are Li Shuwen (in his later years, around the time he mentored Liu Yun-Chiao) and Kyotaro Gou, Kenji's grandfather and first teacher.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Yin Dongxian aka Daniu (big cow).
  • The Rival: The most prominent one is Tony Tan to Kenji. Kenji has several other, more friendly rivals.
    • Tony Tan to Johnny in HK and probably more as he is Hot-Blooded.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Kenji's father is very tolerant to hijinks which tend to happen to Kenji. Kenji's teacher and school principal also let him study at their school after Tony Tan raided their school. To some extent, Union members and various elders whom Kenji meets in his Journey for accepting Kenji as one of their own and let him learn some of their arts.
    • The monks at the shaolin temple. Despite Kenji losing his introduction letter they let him stay there once he provided proof that Jin-lao did recommend him. The head monk was aware that he was sneaking out every night and only punished him upon being told that doing nothing would provide a bad example.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Wukong was killed by his subordinates who oppose the disbandment of Yasha Wang and return to right path.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Most notably two individuals, Liu Yun-Chiao and Yecha Wu/Fifth Yasha.
  • Scenery Porn: Yoshihide Fujiwara draws detailed scenery shots, although the tankoubon format limits the porniness.
  • Serious Business: Entering The Union. In Kenji's case, it is made even more serious since he's a Japanese entering the essentially all-Chinese organization.
  • Sore Loser: 3 years ago, a martial arts championship in Tainan which Tian and Huang’s team participated in. Unhappy with a decision, Tian protested to the referee and was promptly rejected. So, he attacked the referee right inside the arena. While the chaos subsided thanks to the security guards later that night Tian and his friends broke into the referee’s house and beat him senseless. It soon became a police matter, but because of Huang’s father’s influence, the case was dismissed.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Due to the translator for the Indonesian translation using a different Chinese dialect, Chinese names in the translation can be quite different from usual. For example, Li Shuwen is rendered as Lie Syo Bun in this translation.
    • Yasha Ow / Yecha Ow / Yasha Wang, take your pick.
    • Tinjau Lok or Tennyuraku.
  • Sue Donym: Kyotaro goes by as "Gang Xia" in China. It's how part of his name's Kanji (the "Gou" and "Kyo") is read in Chinese.
  • Taking You with Me: Tony Tan attempts this, falling down a ravine while his meteor hammer snagging Kenji's wrist.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: One of Kenji's later principles, enforced to him in the time he was in Shaolin Temple.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Hinted at by Zhan Ren Zhong. The old man revealed that he was once offered membership in a Hong Bang society, and that Tony knew of him from the leader of that society in Singapore.
    • The Union has a lot of power and basically has an overall feel of a Triad society. Su Yu-Ching even called Tony Chen 'the New York gangster' in jest.
    • Yan Da-Wang's wing of The Union is notably shadier than the rest, as he is on the forefront of the clash between The Union and rival Hong Kong gangs.
    • The Yecha Wang gang is a crude form of a Triad. It fits the stereotype for run-the-mill Hong Kong-style gang, doesn't help that they had eight leaders, each with massive ego.
  • Training Montage: Kenji has a few of those in his training.
  • Waif-Fu: The manga explains that muscles don't always make the better martial artist. In fact, many strong martial artists (Li Shuwen, Su Yu-Ching, Kenji) are small, wiry guys.
  • Walking the Earth: Kenji traverses Taiwan, Hong Kong (still under British rule at the time), and Northern China in search of his grandfather Kyotaro Goh; Kyotaro, on the other hand, went to China first to look for the man who saved him in World War 2 and the teacher who taught him Bajiquan, but later changed purposes to avenging the demise of the former man's son.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: Reversed. Kenji learns a kung-fu technique from Zhang Ren Zhong to aid him in washing the dishes. Kenji keeps breaking them, though.
  • Weapon of Choice:
    • Tony Tan has Meteor Hammer. Later Johnny in HK revealed he also learnt how to use it after his many encounters with Tony.
    • Yong Hua in HK chooses coins as she is hidden weapons practitioner.
    • Bajiquan learners in general have to learn spears in order to be advance in rank.
  • Zerg Rush: Yecha Wu used this tactic to overwhelm Kenji & Co. near the end of the Shaolin arc.