Parts That Define
I believe that most of us possess a default number of things that lurk in the back of our mind constantly and whenever we are being idle, they surface in order to give our brain something to work with. These things defines us, they show us what we like, are passionate about and create an image of us that we would like to share with the world. Personally, I have a slight idea of the things that keep floating in my head most of the time when I lay idle, one of them being the subject of martial arts.
A Pervasive Passion
I cannot explain from a pragmatic perspective why martial arts struck me so profoundly outside of just saying they were cool or badass. Even now, after almost 20 or more years since I received my first dose of martial art cinematography I remain nostalgic of those times, finding myself kicking furniture or at least thinking about it. One explanation even remotely meaningful would be my reputation of frailty, unlike those from the movies who became stronger due to the introduction of martial arts through which they overcame weakness and became stronger. The idea of martial arts was portrayed as a means to and end, a way through which an individual could better themselves on a physical but also mental plane. Reaching this conclusion took some time but after years of watching, reading and talking with people about the subject I still do not know why it resonated with me to such a degree. Today I consider the subject a part of myself and it has managed to infiltrate all the forms of content consumed, allowing me to develop a certain theoretical “expertise” on the subject. One of the forms of media that combined itself with this passion of mine is manga, throwing myself on a path to seek every manga in existence that would contain within its pages the subject of martial arts and so, I want to share with you some of those titles.
1. History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi
I believe this to be the first manga and/or anime that I happened to lay my eyes on and think that this is the perfect martial arts manga. It introduces the reader to a certain kid called Kenichi who despite being a weakling, goes against his fear in order to protect a girl from some attackers. In doing so, he opens a door to a world never thought possible and becomes a denizen of this world in spite of some daunting circumstances. Surrounded by martial art masters, he is chosen to become their disciple and thus his life in hell takes shape. Against all odds, he tramples down every hurdle with sheer will and with the assistance of his masters, manages to gain strength beyond his wildest dreams. The owner of a very strong sense of justice, he defeats his enemies whom become his friends, whom in return help him further his story. The multitude of characters contained within the pages of this story are amazingly well portrayed, each with their own ideals, personalities and values that shape them into entities you will definitely become attached to throughout the story. Art is exquisite and despite being a little on the extreme side when it comes to human anatomy, it does its job really well, helping the martial art aspect gain a clear vision of the dynamics between characters during their fight scenes. Definitely worth a try if you’re seeking a well made manga, plus it has been finished for awhile so the story is laying there, waiting to be read so yeah, go ahead.
2. Karate Shokoushi Kohinata Minoru
Numerous mangas mention martial arts in their description simply due to having a few fight scenes or a character that practices some form of fighting style which generally has nothing to do with real martial arts. This title is a pure bred when it comes to its contents of martial art material, depicting the life of an ex-gymnast who gets dragged into practicing Kaburagi Ryu Karate, a style similar to that of Kyokushin Karate created by Masutastu Ooyama. Saved by a mysterious practitioner of Karate, said individual sees the MC being bullied and decides to drag him back to his dojo and make a real man out of him. This starts his journey in the world of martial art world, where he will taste bitter defeat and develop relationships along the way all while growing himself into a fighter of the highest class. The aesthetic of the artwork is incredibly clean and the fluidity of the dynamic from page to page is easy to comprehend. The cast is filled with characters that possess a high level of charisma to whom attachment will not prove difficult. It offers a glimpse into the world of organized official fights, depicting owners and members that get recruited to represent said organizations and the connection between small dojos and the big stage. The manga itself has been finished for quite some time but only recently have the english translations been able to catch up to the finished work. It definitely is worth a try but I say this about all these mangas so in the end it depends on you.
Chronologically, this is the most recent work I have read and very much like all the others, it tackles multiple martial art styles within its pages, doing an incredible job at drawing dynamics between opponents engaged in fight. What makes this work stand out when compared to the rest of the works I have read before, is the martial art style practiced by the main character called Capoeira. There really isn’t a lot of media out there portraying this fighting style to their consumers, the only sources that I recall being a Marc Dacascos movie and some fight scenes that involved Lateef Crowder, one of the biggest public images of Capoeira. In order for the author to provide accurate information regarding the art itself, he ventured to Brazil if I recall correctly, in order to practice and surround himself with the culture and history that gave birth to such an elusive martial art. This dedication in tandem with the beautiful art gives birth to a unique read. Unlike most other mangas, the MC of this manga is represented by a female which again, stands out and some might be deterred by this fact. I have grown attached to the many characters as their interactions stem many breathtaking moments throughout, increasing attachment and immersion. The story itself is quite tragic and is very rooted into the underground aspect of the life in Brazil, showing the reader how unfair life can get for those living in Brazil. The MC is another victim of this universe, forced to fight against her will in order to become strong and win against a family she does not even know. Pushed to the limit she shows an unbreakable fighting spirit, growing with each fight, mastering her art and honoring those that help her along the way. With Capoeira as her only weapon, she tempers her body against all manners of styles and opponents, emerging triumphant despite impossible odds. A read that is still being serialized, I fully recommend this one as well if you want something similar to Kenichi but a tad more realistic like Minoru.
Old and long since finished, I recall being nostalgic when it was brought to an end. Compared to others mentioned prior, this is probably the most instructional manga I have ever read as far as martial arts go. Its setting being the streets of a town from Japan, it is far darker and pulls the reader into a world that anyone can live in, be it them involved in martial arts or not. The subject of bullying is almost a cliche in all of these mangas and despite it being the same here, the execution is so unique it doesn’t even matter anymore. The MC is a victim, humiliated and deprived of a normal school life by his classmates flirts with the idea of suicide and forgive my memory if as I don”t clearly recall how everything went. All in all, he lives to become someone known as the Thug Hunter, dealing vigilante justice using skills he learns from fighters he meets along the way, using a mixed array of techniques resembling what we all know as MMA today. Judo, Karate and Kickboxing are the main arts he encounters along the way, building his own style that in end got him the moniker of Thug Hunter. The artwork is rather unique as far as human expression is concerned due to the characters having a predilection towards distress presented in their eyes, showcasing the psychological facets portrayed by the artist. The subject of it being instructional is definitely what made it special to me since the artist draws diagrams in order to show how certain moves are executed, helping the reader understand the mechanics behind every move. This is something that can be seen in most of this authors works though this is the only one that contains martial arts. The story is heavily reliant on night life and the events that place under the cover of night between delinquents, drug dealers and other atrocities you would never want to experience. No longer wishing to be a victim, the MC decides to build himself into a stronger self through physical exercise and martial arts. He gets in contact with various practitioners and asks them to relay to him some knowledge about their respective arts. A work of art in my opinion, it definitely deserves a read from those looking for something with a darker vibe to the martial art genre.
To be honest, I consider this manga to be an acquired taste as the biggest deterrent is the artwork which for me in a setting like is of higher importance. In spite of this, I went through it all and found it to be quite a good read. If you ignore the rather quirky artwork and focus on the story you will find yourself enjoying it thoroughly due to the MC and the history he unravels about the martial art he practices. Featuring martial arts of chinese descent, you could say Kung Fu is the name of the game. Using Bajiquan, the main character ventures on a journey to find, I believe his uncle or grandfather, (read this a long time ago so I forgot, forgive me). Through his adventures he encounters a wide array of martial artists, some of which are actual people turned into characters and through the use of Bajiquan he builds relationships, some peaceful and some otherwise. I must say that fans of Kung Fu and chinese martial arts will definitely enjoy this work because of how detailed it is with its fight scenes, showcasing real techniques developed within a specific style. The author takes a deep plunge into the history of the founder of Bajiquan, dedicating many chapters to his life in order to engage the reader further into the world of this art. I found it to be unique and memorable but because of the artwork I don’t consider it a favorite of mine but the case may be different for you, the reader.
These titles are just a few that I have read along the way but they are one of the best mangas when it comes to martial being the main focus. There are others that are as centered around the subject but I will keep those for another time. Until then, hope you will enjoy the recommendations made, and if you want more just ask in the comments. Also, if you’ve already read these, tell me what you thought of them in comments, I am actually curious to see what people think of them. Have a great day and you know where to find me.