Martial arts anime (or manga, depending on where you’re from) has been a Japanese animation genre that has been around almost as long as anime itself. Throughout the years, it’s a genre that provided a plethora of memorable characters, stories, and quotes that have become a staple of Japanese pop ure.
Martial arts in anime are often used as a vehicle to teach an important life lesson or as a metaphor for overcoming adversity. While the story is often flimsy at times, and the characters lack development, the fight scenes are always fun to watch. After all, the human body is one of the greatest wonders of the world.
In this list, we’ll be looking at the best martial arts anime of all time – those that combine great action, storylines, and characters to create something truly unforgettable martial arts fight scenes.
The list is in no particular order.
The story of Ranma 1/2 is a romantic comedy manga written by Rumiko Takahashi. It was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Sunday from November 1987 to May 1996; the individual chapters were published in 34 tankōbon volumes. The manga tells the story of a teenage martial artist, Ranma Saotome, who is trained to be a man among men: a man who is well rounded in virtually every martial arts style.
“Ranma ½” is a rare anime that combines comedy, action, martial arts, and a romantic plot in nearly equal measure. The series may seem outlandish, but it’s never unbelievable. The characters are all interesting, and the situations they find themselves in are unique and entertaining.
Dragon Ball Super
Dragon Ball Super is an anime series based on the popular manga series of the same name by Akira Toriyama that began airing in Japan on July 5, 2015. It is the first new Dragon Ball anime to be released in eighteen years, following the final episode of the Dragon Ball GT anime series in 1997. This is the first series produced by Toei Animation as part of the Dragon Ball media franchise, collectively known as the Dragon Ball saga.
Dragon Ball Super knows how to channel the flow of energy into powerful forms of attack and defense! It’s truly an excellent experience for any martial arts enthusiast.
Afro Samurai is a 2007 Japanese anime series directed by Takashi Okazaki and produced by Aniplex and Gonzo. The anime, like the manga, is a revenge story set in a fictional feudal Japan. The main character is Afro, an Afro-sporting ronin who uses an airtight metal samurai helmet to combat his foes with his Hanzo sword. The series focuses on the consequences of the title character’s actions, and how it affects him and the people around him.
Afro Samurai has one of the best martial arts scenes in anime. If you’re a fan of anime, Afro Samurai is a must-watch. With a different approach to character design, action scenes, and storytelling, Afro Samurai is refreshing. It’s an anime you can’t miss.
Fairy Tail is an adventure fantasy action manga series written and illustrated by Hiro Mashima. It has been serialized in Weekly Shōnen Magazine since August 2, 2006. It has been published in tankōbon format in Japan by Kodansha. The story follows Natsu Dragneel, a member of the famous wizards’ guild Fairy Tail, as he searches the fictional world of Earth-land for the dragon Igneel.
It is a show that has no limit on what it can do, and I love it for that reason. Besides the characters and the storyline, my favorite thing about Fairy Tail is the fighting styles. It has a little bit of everything. So many styles and techniques. Some are ancient, some are crazy, and some are just plain cool. There are no better fighting scenes than those seen in Fairy Tail.
Fist Of North Star
Fist of the North Star is an anime series based on the manga series of the same name by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara. The show was released in Japan in 1983 by Toei Animation, lasting until 1986, spanning 95 episodes.
The story follows Kenshiro. A master of Hokuto Shinken, a martial arts style that uses pressure points to destroy opponents. The series Fist of the North Star made him one of the most loved characters in anime history.
You’ve got to give a lot of credit to a show that can grab your attention in the first episode. Fist Of North Star did that for me. It’s surprising that I love it so much because it certainly isn’t my usual type of show. But the perfect combination of Sci-Fi and Martial Arts is what got me hooked, and I’m sure it will do the same for you.
Sword Of The Stranger
The film follows Kotaro, a boy who is hunted by a group of Ming swordsmen for a sinister purpose. Among the group is a fearsome Western fighter named Luo-Lang, whose only desire is to find a worthy opponent. Kotaro and his dog find “Nanashi,” a nameless ronin whose aggressive past has led him to forbid drawing his sword again. When the Ming warriors clash with a feudal lord, a proud general, and monks divided between faith and survival, the reason behind the Ming group’s mission forges a bond between Nanashi, Kotaro, and his dog Tobimaru.
The reason why it stands out from the crowd is the martial arts fight scenes. It is often compared to the other great martial arts anime of the past and has been hailed as equal. The final fight scene just might be the best sword fight scene in all of anime.
It’s beautifully drawn and choreographed and with an exciting dynamic between the two fighters.
Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple
Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Syun Matsuena.
Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is an exciting Japanese manga series about an average high school student named Kenichi Shirahama who is on the quest to become the “Mightiest Disciple” at the fictional martial arts school known as Ryozanpaku. Over the years, the school has been the place where the world’s greatest martial artists come to hone their talents and skills.
There’s a reason why the martial arts in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple are so popular. It’s because they’re based on real martial arts. In fact, the anime is based on a manga (Japanese comic) by Syun Matsuena inspired by a real-life martial arts class taught by a man named Kenichi Miyamoto.
Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x Hunter was a dark fantasy action manga series written and illustrated by Yoshihiro Togashi. It was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump from March 3, 1998, to March 29, 2011. The story follows a young Hunter named Gon Freecss, who discovers that his previously thought to be no longer living father is, in fact, alive. Not only is he alive, but he is also a famous Hunter, a professional traveler who specializes in finding rare treasures, exploring unknown lands, and hunting down dangerous individuals. Gon then decides that in order to meet his father, he needs to be a professional hunter.
The battle scenes in Hunter x Hunter are some of the best in anime. EVER. When you compare them to many of the other shows with martial arts currently airing, you’ll see that HxH separates itself from the level of detail and realism that goes into the action scenes. And this is one of the reasons why I think that Hunter x Hunter is a fantastic show.
Rurouni Kenshin: Samurai X
This movie is based on the popular manga comic book series, which tells the story of a swordsman named Himura Kenshin, haunted by his bloody past. He walks the road of a self-professed wanderer searching for atonement for the losses of life he once committed as an assassin. He is joined by Kaoru, a young woman who was rescued by him after being almost took the life of by robbers.
Rurouni Kenshin: Samurai X has the best martial arts fight scenes in anime. In an age of fighting styles, swordplay, and good versus evil battle, the Rurouni Kenshin series is a classic. With a truly gifted cast and a good versus evil story, the series is an anime must-watch.
Baki The Grappler
Baki the Grappler is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Keisuke Itagaki. The series follows the adventures of Baki Hanma as he trains with his father in the martial art of Hanma-ryū and contends with several enemies who use the fighting techniques of various martial arts styles. The series was first serialized in Weekly Shōnen Champion from 1994 to 1999.
After an 18 year hiatus, Netflix premiered the third season of Baki The Grappler with over-the-top martial arts scenes. The show features a ton of martial arts styles, with some that are based on real martial arts styles.
Some of the fight scenes are hand to hand, and some are fought with weapons.
Since the Edo periods of Japan, gladiator arenas exist in certain areas. In these arenas, wealthy business owners and merchants hire gladiators to fight in unarmed combat where the winner takes all. Tokita Ohma, nicknamed “Ashura,” joins these arenas and devastates his opponents. His spectacular ability to crush his enemies catches the big business owners’ attention, including the Nogi Group CEO, Nogi Hideki.
Kengan Ashura showcases a fair amount of more unique martial arts like the Myanmar lethwei and Bartitsu and more popular styles such as boxing and Judo.
Kengan Ashura also shows case some fictional styles such as Niko style and ballet fighting but all of those fictional martial arts take inspiration from the real ones and uses actual techniques that make it a must-watch for any martial arts fan.
Hajime No Ippo
Hajime no Ippo (Fighting Spirit) is a Japanese boxing manga series written and illustrated by Jyoji Morikawa. It has been serialized in Weekly Shōnen Magazine from 1989 to 2008, with the chapters collected into 88 tankōbon volumes to date. The story follows Ippo Makunouchi, a high school student in Japan, who decides to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a professional boxer one day.
Hajime No Ippo has one of the most accurate boxing displays you will ever find in anime and on TV. The writer Jyoji Morikawa is actually a real-life boxer and owns a boxing gym in Japan.
Every technique, training method, and strategy is accurate, although super exaggerated for the dramatic flare.
The show also references some of the most famous real-world boxers like Mike Tyson and Jack Dempsey. The show has great fight scenes and animations, all bundled with an inspiring story of Ippo Makunouchi.