Fun fact: I accidentally thought this was an adaptation of Senran Kagura and boy, what a mistake that was!
The Kengan Ashura is a battle royale, where large heads of companies settle their differences via combat. Instead of the backstabbing and chaos that arose from the climb to power during the Tokugawa era, a tradition has been passed on that companies battle in other ways. While there is still competing on the market, any large purchase or deal that might bring two competitors to a harsh standstill is instead settled via the Kengan Ashura tournament. Each side picks a fighter, and the fighters battle it out, sometimes to the death. Whoever’s representative wins the fight gets to pick the rules of the financial deal that follows. It’s a ‘bloodless’ way for multinational companies to settle their score.
Caught up in this is Yamashita, an aging salaryman who is constantly used to being pushed around. When he is brought on by his boss, Hideki, to be the overseer of the company’s new fighter, Ohma, his life is thrown into a spiral. He is at the very heart, a cowardly man. He is unused to violence, even if he does fantasize about it, and is quick to become fearful and apologize. He is unlike the cold, ruthless people that frequent the world of this deadly tournament, and so he stands out a lot. Primarily, he is characterized by his flaws, well aware of his cowardice. That doesn’t really change over the course of the series, but he does seem to be getting braver. A hilarious running joke is when he unintentionally avoids danger, and because nobody thinks that a normal person would be here, they assume he’s far more perceptive than he actually is. One thing he does have going for him is hope in Ohma (even beyond the financial ruin that would await him if he loses), and his want to see Ohma be alright in the end. While he’d much rather be a normal person, fearful and greedy, Ohma’s almost pure and straightforward presence and his ability to let Ohma’s wants be, bring them closer together. They’re good partners in crime, as unlikely as they are.
As for Ohma himself, he is the main star of the series, even if he isn’t the series viewpoint. He has a kind of purity to him; a want to fight and only fight, a straightforward desire for revenge, extreme bluntness. He is a bull in a china shop, barely respecting the rules of the tournament and only wanting to fight for his own needs. At the same time, that’s somewhat endearing, in a world where backstabbing and betrayal are constant. He doesn’t care for wagers or money and is very minimalist, preferring to keep to himself unless a fight breaks out. This makes him fairly hard to manipulate, but he does constantly want one thing: a good match. Ohma lives for the ring, and luckily, the convoluted, almost fantasy, combat scenes are probably the highlight of the show.
While there is a backdrop of more privileged society ruling from behind the scenes, this show isn’t trying to say anything deep. The most engaging part is the fights, in essence, we are spectators of the tournament as well. I’m the type of person that prefers some meaning in their media, but I don’t really think that’s necessary here. The show isn’t trying to make a grand statement about morality or manipulation, despite the parodies of Japanese corporations popping up constantly. There’s something underhanded going on, but that’s not really the point of the series.
There’s definitely going to be another season, for sure. There’s a lot of plot points that haven’t come into fruition: Yamashita and his son, Ohma’s revenge and fight against Kiryu, what the foundation is actually planning, and what happens when a new chairman is chosen. The manga that the series is based off seems to be completed, so it shouldn’t be too hard to pull another season since there’s no need to wait for updates. All things considering, I’d say it deserves another one because at the very least I’m curious as to what would happen! I’m not terribly invested in the series, but it definitely hooked me enough to want more, or at least enough to go out and read the manga.
And yet, despite the fact that this series is basically giant buff men punching each other season one, I surprisingly had a good time with it? it’s not saying anything particularly substantial, but it is enjoyable. The 3D animation here is surprisingly watchable, and usually, that’s a downside for me. Sometimes, it’s just fun to see a bunch of dudes wail on each other. If you need some mindless and violent entertainment, I’d say give this one a go.