Business deals are usually made through meetings and contracts; but in the world of Kengan Ashura, businesses resort to other means to make their decisions: by hiring gladiators. Yabako Sandrovich's Kengan Ashura depicts a world brimming with action, violence, and martial arts—one where powerful gladiators have fought in grand arenas since the Edo Period to settle the disputes of wealthy businesses and merchants. Ouma Tokita, who is nicknamed "The Ashura," is a fighter trying to prove himself as the strongest. Hideki Nogi, a member of the Nogi Group, hires Ouma to fight for him and makes Kazuo Yamashita, an average middle-aged man, his manager. The duo is thrown into fights facilitated by the Kengan Association. Their journey will be full of ruthless battles with other fighters aiming for the same goal. Do they have what it takes to be the best? [Written by MAL Rewrite]
The Kengan Ashura anime is the most disappointing thing I’ve seen all year. I love the manga, it’s one of the best martial arts stories and I wrote an entire review on how cool it is. I’ve been wary of the anime adaptation ever since I saw the first trailer and realized it was going to be in CGI. Being a Kengan Ashura, I felt obligated to watch it but I set my expectations extremely low. apparently, those expectations weren’t low enough because I am still baffled at how awful this show is.
The most glaring problem with the anime is the CGI animation. While not the worst CGI that I’ve seen, it’s far from what I’d call good. Character models are clunky and stiff, the attacks lack impact. The CGI does a poor job of emulating the beautiful art of the manga. The fight choreography is terrible, the camera is all over the place, never knowing what to focus on. At best it’s uninspired and at worst it’s just disorientating. It doesn’t feel like it’s ever taking advantage of the fact that it’s CGI. The anime tries its best to replicate the exaggerated and detailed facial expressions characters have and it often falls flat. Sometimes they look fine but other time it just doesn’t look right on a 3d model. The presentation of some of the techniques used by the characters is just abysmal. Raian’s Removal and Ohma’s Advance look ridiculous in the anime. Something about the way they glow is just off. There some 2d scenes during flashbacks, which are mostly still images with very limited animation. They’re not great but they look better than CGI. The switching between the 2d and CGI scenes can be quite jarring at times.
The CGI is bad, but the real problem with the Kengan Ashura anime is the story. I’ve already talked at length about how good the story is in my review for the manga. It’s a simple story but well thought out and executed. The anime somehow completely butchers it. The anime adapts 73 chapters from the manga, not counting the extra chapters. Obviously, a plethora of stuff was cut to make it fit into twelve episodes. Entire subplots and characters are just gone, it’s a mess. For example, the anime just skips the second major fight of the series and jumps right to the third fight. I’m astounded that they would skip a fight, in a series all about fighting. The character that Ohma fights against is also important to a later subplot, so of course, that entire subplot was axed. I think the baffling change is the absence of Yamashita’s secretary Kushida Rin. She’s an integral part of the story and she just doesn’t show up at all. They even cut some vital character development for Yamashita. He’s more a comedic relief character than anything else in the anime. It’s upsetting because he’s one of the most well-developed characters in the series. The side characters suffer the most from the cut content. There are a lot of good character interactions that give good characterization and flesh out character relationships between side characters and most of them were cut. Because of this you’re never really given a good feel for or reason to care about characters other than Ohma and Yamashita. The most these characters get is a flashback during their fight. The manga excelled at fleshing out all the characters and the anime seems focused on getting to the next fight as quickly as possible. Another bizarre change is that in the manga there’s a character named Adam Dudley, a fighter from Texas. He’s a rude and vulgar man with “FUCK” engraved on his teeth. Oddly enough this was changed to “DAMN” in the anime. It’s a minor change but it feels unnecessary. He’s still just as foul-mouthed as he was before, so why change it at all?
If there’s one positive thing I can say about the anime, it’s that the music is pretty decent. The opening song is good, even if the visuals of the opening leave a lot to be desired. The ending song is terrible, the rap does not complement the series at all. The background music does its best at trying to get the audience hyped for the fights and would succeed if not for the fights themselves didn’t look so bad. The voice actors are fantastic for the most part Daisuke Namikawa is absolutely perfect as Kiryu Setsuna, he gives the best performance in the show.
Quite simply Kegan Ashura is a bad adaptation of a brilliant manga. The visuals and all the cut scenes are just horrid. It’s an insult to both Daromeon’s art and Sandrovich’s storytelling. The manga was full of passion for martial arts, and I didn’t feel any passion for martial arts or even love for the source material in the anime. It’s such a hollow and soulless adaptation, and it’s unlikely there’ll ever be a proper adaptation. I’d advise anyone who was put off by the anime’s visuals or story to try and give the manga a shot, it’s a far better experience.