View Full Version : Martial Arts in Manga and Animé

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10-19-2011, 08:37 AM

http://freeka.deviantart.com/gallery/?offset=96#/d1bbv1hjudo project [/URL] by Freeka used with her kind permission. Please check out her cool art.

painting with a single hair, capturing something in an economy of masterful gestures

Paul Hornschemeier, artist and graphic novelist

Manga are Japanese comic books. Animé are cartoons made for television - it's short for animation. The timeline works something like this. Stories drawn for comics are serialized chapter by chapter in thick manga magazines with many other stories. Then if a story becomes popular the chapters are collected into a book - or series of books. And the most popular stories are also animated and broadcast on television as animé series. The most popular animé series have spin-off full-length feature movies. Movies of series like One Piece, Detective Conan and Doraemon are regularly released every year. Then the movies are often made into film comics - comic books closely based on the movies. Sometimes a popular animé is then even made into a live-action movie with real actors. Yatterman (2008) and Kaiji (2009) came from manga originally. For a successful manga franchise this cycle can become very profitable.

Martial arts manga and animé have always been popular in Japan. If we include all kakutougi or fighting manga then boxing manga were probably the first. Many of these martial arts manga are still popular after many years. Some have a special nostalgia for Japanese people. Many of them have an underlying theme of shugyo - hard and austere training that leads to success. These are a few of the most popular.

Ashita no Joe - Tomorrow's Joe - was released in 1968. It's about a boy who becomes a professional boxer. The story goes from his delinquent childhood through all his development to a champion. A live-action movie of Ashita no Joe was released in 2011 so it has been popular for four decades.

Hajime no Ippo - The First Step or Fighting Spirit in the USA - is a similar boxing story but much less dark. It dates from 1989. It's aimed at a young audience but it builds tension very well. The explanations of boxing techniques and training methods are very good.

Ore wa Teppei - I'm Teppei - dates from 1980. It's a manga about a young boy who is very talented at kendo. It's done in a comic way.

Yawara! - Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl - dates from 1986. There are mysterious parallels between the manga and real life. Ryoko Tamura - now Ryoko Tani - was only sixteen when she first competed in the Olympics. She became one of the most successful and popular judoka ever. Over five Olympics she won silver, silver, gold, gold and finally bronze. She is now a member of the upper house of the Japanese Diet. Her hairstyle was like the main character of the manga so she was called Yawara-chan.

Karate Baka Ichidai - A Karate-Crazy Life - is a manga very very loosely based on the life of Masutatsu Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin karate. It dates from 1970. As a manga it uses the slightly unusual technique of incorporating real people in the story. It also uses occasional live-action documentary shots of Kyokushin karate breaking and striking techiques. Three live-action movies starring Sonny Chiba were also made based on Karate Baka Ichidai. Mas Oyama was introduced to judo by Masahiko Kimura, the judo champion who fought Hélio Gracie. Oyama said that he was defeated only once in his life. By an old man called Chen, a tai chi chuan teacher. And Oyama apparently received menkyo kaiden - the highest level of licence - in aiki jujutsu from Kotaro Yoshida, one of the top students of Sokaku Takeda. These episodes are in

Monster is what's called a seinen manga. That is literally blue year manga. Check out my last column http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=20289]Indigo Blue for some background on the colour blue in Japanese. Seinen manga are aimed at young people in about their twenties or thirties. Monster has an intricate and mysterious plot and interesting characters. It was made into an animé series. It happened to be on one day and I was suddenly astonished to see an aikido sequence. One of the characters - Nina Fortner - is studying law at Heidelberg University. She is also studying aikido there. But in Monster the martial art - in this case aikido - is part of the character development and not the main theme of the manga.

So are any of these manga worth watching? Most of them are enjoyable but not really suitable for adults unless they have a specific interest in the featured martial art. Monster is the exception. It's quite a sophisticated thriller. And this probably all sounds as if I know a little too much about comics and Japanese otaku subculture. But that's only because I'm a parent in Japan.

And a very surprising thing for me is that the nicest and smoothest aikido I've ever seen on TV was not in an action movie or a crime drama series. It was in Monster. An animé.


wikipedia and other introductory background articles























Surreal interview with Paul Hornschemeier who wrote the epigraph at the top of the page including a cool adlibbed? haiku actually in 5-7-5 structure.


http://www.aikiweb.com/blogs/moon-in-the-water-19051/my blog on aikiweb[/URL]

© niall matthews 2011

Big picture URL:


Small picture URL


graham christian
10-19-2011, 10:22 PM
Hi Niall.
A nice intro for us old 'newbies'. Some of my friends have been trying to get me interested in Anime for ages. It's become a bit of a game. They will come up with things like 'Ah, I've found the one for you' and direct me to youtube etc.

It reminds me of computer games when a few years back my son said similar things about them and aleays was met with 'Nah, I'm not into them things.' He took it as a challenge and proceeded to get me games 'just to try' on his console. Didn't work, found them boring. Then he started bringing me football games and martial arts games. Didn't work, found them boring.

Then one day while he was out I found one I quite liked, I was surprised. So would play it when I got the chance, secretly I might add, as I didn't want him to think he'd won. Then game was called zelda.

One day when the coast was clear I proceeded to play the game and theres a part where this voice says 'hey listen!' On hearing this my door burst open and there he was saying Gotcha!

So far the same has applied to anime, tried 'bleach' recently if that counts but got bored. But now you've inspired me to try Monster. Mmmm. maybe that's the one?


10-20-2011, 06:31 AM
Niall, how did you miss Usagi Yojimbo?

Cliff Judge
10-20-2011, 09:07 AM
Why no love for Takehiko Inoue's Vagabond? (http://http://www.amazon.com/Vagabond-Vol-VIZBIG-Takehiko-Inoue/dp/1421520540/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319123155&sr=1-10) It is really one of the best comic books of any nation or genre of all time.

10-21-2011, 10:48 AM
Thanks Graham. Bleach (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleach_(manga)) on wikipedia. I was impressed by the synchronicity of that other thread.

Thanks for the ideas Mary and Cliff. I wanted to introduce a few of the manga and animé that had modern martial arts - gendai budo - as their central themes. Monster is a mystery but it has scenes in an aikido dojo. But that was only a starting point and I hope there will be some more suggestions for cool ones.

Vagabond (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagabond_(manga)) is a really popular series about Miyamoto Musashi and Usagi Yojimbo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usagi_Yojimbo) is about Miyamoto Usagi. Usagi means rabbit...


Chris Li
10-21-2011, 11:57 AM
And of course, the manga version of the life of Morihei Ueshiba:




Gerardo Torres
10-21-2011, 12:14 PM
Why no love for Takehiko Inoue's Vagabond? (http://http://www.amazon.com/Vagabond-Vol-VIZBIG-Takehiko-Inoue/dp/1421520540/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319123155&sr=1-10) It is really one of the best comic books of any nation or genre of all time.
Big fan here! I love Vagabond's stunning drawing style and fun characterization of historical figures. The visualizations of sword fights are the best I've seen.

A few other martial-arts /action ones:

子連れ狼 Kozure Ōkami / Lone Wolf and Cub
A canonical manga. Lots of sword-fighting and bushido references.

半蔵の門 Hanzō no Mon / Hanzo's Gate / Path of the Assassin
Same authors as Lone Wolf and Cub. Interesting and fun take on ninjutsu and Tokugawa history.

シグルイ Shigurui / Death Frenzy
The most disturbing manga I've seen. Shows the "ugly" side of one brutal koryu. There's also an anime version that is a work of visual art. Don't try the "nagare boshi" technique lol

Gerardo Torres
10-21-2011, 12:20 PM
I was a big fan of this anime as a kid:

キックの鬼 - kick no oni
About famous kickboxer Tadashi Sawamura

I believe there's also a manga version.

10-21-2011, 12:25 PM
what about Samurai Jack? :D

10-21-2011, 08:43 PM
Thanks Phi. Yeah the concept sounds good. David Carradine in Kung Fu plus time travel. I don't know how popular it is in Japan.

Long ago in a distant land, I, Aku, the shape-shifting Master of Darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil! But a foolish Samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose me. Before the final blow was struck, I tore open a portal in time and flung him into the future, where my evil is law! Now the fool seeks to return to the past, and undo the future that is Aku!

Thanks for those too Gerardo.

10-21-2011, 08:51 PM
It's worth mentioning music too. The Monster ending theme (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qUtPttl5vg) is a moody song by David Sylvian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Sylvian). He was the lead singer in Japan, a glam/art rock New Romantic band in the 80s. You can hear the David Bowie and Bryan Ferry influence. Some animé have very good songs.

10-26-2011, 07:22 AM
Such a fantastic article!
I request permission to use this, if it is alright
150% Credit to you ;)

10-28-2011, 10:56 AM
Thanks Jesse, that's a nice comment. Sure you are very welcome to use it. If possible can you include somewhere a link back to this page on aikiweb.


Ethan Weisgard
02-21-2012, 07:57 AM
The Japanese manga series (by Taketomi Tomo) called Evil Heart's central theme is Aikido. It is about a young boy suffering from the effects of his violent upbringing finding help through Aikido, as taught by a Canadian man called Daniel. It has a deep story line as well as great depictions of Aikido. It is only in Japanese but can be found on-line on Mangafox for reading. Highly recommendable.
In aiki,
Ethan Weisgard

Chris Li
02-21-2012, 08:17 AM
I put up a few scans from "Ueshiba Morihei Monogatari", if anybody's interested: