Fighting anime has been an integral part of the adventure and pushing conflicts forward, both for Shonen and Seinen stories. From fans who grew up with Ashita no Joe and Dragon Ball, to the Big 3 era of Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach, fighting anime has helped define the entire artform to generations of fans. Fast-paced, action-packed, and sometimes bloody, sometimes there is no choice but to battle it out in good old fights.
To put it simply, Fighting Anime involves a display of physical confrontation to address conflicts. It is also used to push the story forward. Figjhting anime includes various forms of brawling, martial arts, and combat with the use of weapons. In the wider sense, guns and mechas are involved – as long as they boil down to facing each other off.
“At least once in his life he’ll dream of becoming the strongest man alive.”
– Baki the grappler (2001 anime)
What is the Best Fighting Anime series?
Overall, HunterXHunter’s 2011 anime adaptation far takes the lead at 9.10. Its well-rounded shonen anime flow, expansive world that still remains to be seen, and fast-tracking its previous adaptation all helped cement its reputation. Furthermore, its repeated value on teamwork, values, and the importance of training has helped shape the genre.
It is closely followed by George Morikawa’s classic boxing series Hajime no Ippo with a MAL Score of 8.75. The story of Ippo Makunouchi, originally a very shy student who turns to boxing. The eternally-relatable underdog story, of not giving up and keeping grit and determination – a la Rocky Balboa – has allowed Ippo and the rest of the Kamogawa Boxing Gym to win the hearts of fans around the world.
Ranging from the technical martial arts lesson to the world-ending grandiosity, here are some of the best Fighting Anime to watch right now:
1. Hajime no Ippo (Fighting Spirit) (2000)
MAL Score: 8.75
This is a manga running since October 1989, and the anime starting in 2000. Hajime no Ippo is basically the Detective Conan of the sports genre. What sets Hajime no Ippo apart from most entries in this list is in its grounding to reality. It does not have supernatural elements. Also, Ippo does not stretch the limits of being a human such as those in Baki or Kengan Ashura.
For a series that has lasted this long, Hajime no Ippo has begun to offer bits of other genres. It has romance, a good dose of comedy, and some bits of slow slice-of-life in it. However, its main dish remains the action anime that its boxing matches give to it. Right from the start, with the Karate Kid-ish montage and how he started learning the boxing jab is cool. He had to catch ten falling leaves in rapid succession.
Lastly, as an action anime, it’s not always Ippo vs Anyone. It gives enough spotlight to other boxers in his stable, and in other countries. This makes the characters, even the opponents, human and relatable. Like in the real world, your boxing hero is the opponent to other people’s hero and vice versa.
As a well rounded, all is fair action anime, a quick Google search would reveal that some of the best fights in the series are not Ippo’s fights. It only goes to show how big the boxing world is. It also avoids painting Japan as the only world leader slash hero in the arena. Case in point, USA’s Bryan Hawk versus the Japanese Hawk, Takamura Mamoru. Another would be the fight between Antonio Guevara and Ippo Makunouchi.
2. Samurai Champloo (2004)
MAL Score: 8.50
We have tackled Samurai Champloo in the more specific Best Samurai Anime entry. As a fighting anime, you have to give props with its exceptionally choreographed fight scenes. It mostly displays the traditional formality of Jin as a samurai and the street-smarts and hip-hop-inspired style of Mugen. For fans looking for a great fighting anime, this Manglobe opus is definitely a must-watch.
Story-wise, the idyllic background of medieval Japan should make it appear slow and boring at times. However, the fight scenes explode (sometimes without warning) and take you for a refreshing ride. You don’t even have to go far to appreciate these dance-like encounters. In the first episode, both Mugen and Jin fight each other before agreeing to work together.
Of course, aside from Jin and Mugen and Fuu facing off the equivalent of thugs and armed goons in that period of Japan, there are still a lot of noteworthy opponents for the team. A personal favorite is the bridge battle between Jin and Sara, a spear-wielding assassin from the Shogunate.
More than the heavy hip-hop influence, it does feature resemblances of real-world events and persons of the period – such as references to Van Gogh, the Japanese ukiyo-e art movement, and more.
Lastly, the glaring anachronism works in its favor. Remember those scenic medieval Japan images? Set those to hip hop background music, complete with heavy disc scratches and beats that go well with the fast-paced action, we’ll recommend Samurai Champloo as a samurai or a fighting anime any day!
3. Baki the Grappler (2001)
MAL Score: 7.44
As a fan of the series, right up to where I think the manga currently is (Baki Dou), I’d say that Keisuke Itagaki relays his passion and his interests across to its readers. It.just.hits.home. For yet-to-be fans of his, Itagaki-sensei served in the land branch of the JSDF (Japanese Army) and practiced boxing and Kenpo, or Japanese martial arts. Perhaps being a real practitioner allowed him to visualize the tension, and even the less believable parts of the manga (for us) such as Baki’s shadow boxing with a giant mantis.
He’s also the dad of the Beastars creator. That speaks volumes.
As for Baki, it has a serious lack of eye candy characters to favor realism (sorry fujoshi friends). However, it does little to dull Itagaki-sensei’s work. The sheer technicality of his artwork, as well as the faithful animation since 2001 has made Baki synonymous with fighting anime. One feature in the anime, and realistically stretched in the manga, is shadowboxing. For most of us who aren’t as physically-inclined, it looks like hogwash.
However, I asked a few friends practicing MMA what they think about Baki’s shadowboxing, with one of them noting how Baki’s intense shadowboxing session with a praying mantis is a display of the highest levels of concentration. Compare it to losing yourself listening to music, watching movies, or sitting beside your crush – but action.
As a fighting anime, its styles vary from mental testing the waters, to graceful execution of techniques, down to outright brawl. Also, it offers a good slice of romance with Baki and Kozue, as teenagers figuring out how to proceed and handle their developing relationship. Appealing to the primal sense in humans, Kozue has her own way of being a strong woman for the “strongest creature” candidate.
4. One Punch Man (2015)
MAL Score: 8.58
Most of the jokes are usually added to a series to make it more lively. However, in a rare case such as One Punch Man, the joke becomes the central theme of the series and surprisingly works. While its premise initially appears much like a parody of the superhero genre, if not the entire fighting anime, its world-building tells us that there’s a lot more than just the titular One Punch Man.
Most of the fun watching this series is in the elaborate introduction and attacks of the enemies, often ending in the anticlimactic one punch from “hero for fun” Saitama.
Its story is faced with a serious problem: all the enemies he faced are defeated with just one punch. In a world of heroes constantly facing threats from demons, aliens, monsters, and more, Saitama rises through the ranks slowly. Together with him is a 19-year-old android Genos, who admires him and wants to be as strong as him.
Also, though the anime still lags behind the manga and the webcomic, it’s good to watch it as is. However, it we could spoil a bit about what the future holds for One Punch Man, the top hero and even God is set to appear anytime soon.
Perhaps one of the first, and still the funniest parts of One Punch Man, is he looks like a parody character of Madarame Ikkaku from Bleach, which brings us to…
5. Bleach (2004)
MAL Score: 7.80
Tite Kubo’s modern classic shonen, it has stood shoulders to shoulders with Naruto and One Piece to complete Shounen Jump’s big three at one point. While Ichigo becoming all races in the series has started dividing fans, we can’t deny the impact this action anime had all over the world.
It follows then high schooler Ichigo Kurosaki who became a substitute Soul Reaper, kicking off his adventures involving different races and organizations. He faces off with the Soul Society to save Rukia, later faces Aizen’s Arrancars and Espadas, and finally the upcoming Thousand-Year Blood War. While manga readers have known the last arc for a couple of years now, we believe that will this definitely draw the audience it had during the height of its popularity.
In its defense, Bleach manages to salvage its spiraling story with the cooler fights and increasing odds in the battle. Who could forget the cool AF reveal of the Gotei 13 captains and the concept of Bankai? I think it was one of the highest points in the series, until the fight with the Espadas were brought to life, not to mention the surpreise death and not of Sousuke Aizen.
Yeah, all in all Bleach sits well at the list of mainstream action anime that deserves to sit with the best. From well-animated swordfights to visually impressive effects (Hyorinmaru, Senbonzakura I’m looking at you), it offers a thrill that has been among the gold standards of the fighting anime genre.
Also, Tite Kubo works on a Bleach spinoff, Burn the Witch. Set in the same universe, it features witches and dragons and other elements of western fantasy. However, being released in a movie format makes it feel incomplete. We. Need. More.
6. Hunter X Hunter (2011)
MAL Score: 9:10 (2011 Series), 8.42 (1999 Series), 8.22 (Greed Island OVA)
First, let us settle a decades-old debate, the title is actually read as “Hunter Hunter.” This anime from Yoshihiro Togashi (the same dude who gave us Yuu Yuu Hakusho) has been a timeless classic for its fight scenes, expansive world-building, and character development. However, it has also gained notoriety for its hiatus, putting the manga in a number of long and unpredictable hiatuses over the years. In this problem, however, the HXH fanbase (our team included) remains dedicated and patient, waiting for the story to continue.
Of course, everyone knows Gon and his quest to find his father, who is a famous Hunter. In fact, Ging Freecs has brought to light the longstanding issue of anime fathers being missing in action – take Minato Namikaze, Monkey D. Dragon, or even Isshin Kurosaki. Ging is among the original missing dads, gone before it was cool.
Also, the Genei Ryodan remains one of the best villain groups in anime. Fight me. A group of misfits who have risen together, creating a well-rounded group of thieves and assassins. From Uvogin’s brute force to Shalnark’s wits, from Feitan’s interrogation tactics to Kortopi’s counterfeiting skills, this is a group that you know will thrive well in the real world.
The great thing about the 2011 series is that it fast-tracked the story arcs covered by the 1999 series to give focus on the Chimera Ant Arc. As a fighting anime, HunterXHunter repeatedly shows how kids like Gon and Killua face enemies introduced as out of their depth. From escaping the Genei Ryodan in Yorknew City to defeating Razor in Greed Island, there is something always creative with its resolutions. Also, it introduces the strong cards early on, instead of the traditional new arc = stronger villain story pattern.
7. Kengan Ashura (2019)
MAL Score: 7.47
Kengan Ashura might feel a lot similar to Baki, with Netflix bringing its first season to the world in 2019. It follows Tokita Ohma, a street fighter in it for the thrill. He was scouted by a large company to fight on their behalf. He then joins these Kengan matches, where Japanese enterprises pick a representative fighter to settle disputes and gamble on assets. Nogi Group created a company just to allow him to fight, handled by Yamashita Kazuo, average salaryman for the group
First of all, for fans who love conventional anime, Kengan Ashura might come as a surprise. It looks like 2D anime brought to life using 3D CGI technology. Aside from the weird first impression, I think it gives a video game cutscene feel. In comparison, I think it’s similar to Yami Shibai in terms of animation style. Its fight scenes are detailed blow-by-blow for most of the time. It also illustrates how different martial arts styles fare against each other. A personal favorite, the sumo wrestling and pro-wrestling match between Kiozan Takeru and Jun Sekibayashi. We are still waiting on how the Kengan Annihilation Tournament unfolds in the anime. And we’re catching up to the manga).
Treat yourself to a fight between one of the top seeds, the Thai God of War, versus a frail-looking opponent who will be known as The Giant Killer below:
Kengan Ashura’s Take on the New World Order
Kengan Ashura, however, adds a conspiracy flavor to its storyline. This makes the story more interesting by adding a bigger layer of deceit and strategies to the fighting, instead of just proving who is the strongest among them. More than the martial artists themselves, there is the notion of a cabal of the richest and most powerful men settling matters in the most primitive of ways: fighting.
Even its intro explains how the Japanese had their own version of the gladiator matches. However, fighters here fight for enterprises, not just for entertainment. It even begs the question of freedom, as despite the goals and aspirations of the fighters, they are ultimately pawns for the extremely wealthy.
Lastly, Kazuo Yamashita, the old and frail old man is given his own chance to shine. He is a fish out of the water, an ordinary employee in the world of martial artists and multinational CEOs. However, the people behind the manga has gifted him with a secret ability. Keep your eye peeled for his uncanny talent, and hope that it is completely uncovered as in the manga. The keyword here is Kengan, which translates to “The Fist Eye.”
8. Megalo Box (2018)
MAL Score: 7.92
Every once in a while, classic stories are reimagined for a newer generation of audiences. It takes a life of its own and becomes an anime for the ages. This is the case for the hidden gem Megalo Box. Made for the 50th anniversary of the legendary boxing series Ashita no Joe, Megalo Box is Real Steel meets Cowboy Bebop.
Megalo Box is set in a futuristic Japan where the people are divided into licensed citizens living in a progressive city while unlicensed citizens live in the slum on its outskirts. The main character, Junk Dog, is an underground boxer – here called Megalo Boxing. Aside from slugging each other on the ring, boxers wear gear that augments their fighting abilities. Think mechanical exoskeletons for boxing. It follows his effort to rise to the top, with the help of a fake ID and a weird gimmick in this futuristic battle.
Who knew that sparks flying, gears spinning, and pistons pumping are a great addition to Hajime no Ippo-type of action? This is Megalo Box, keeping its underdog story straight and simple, it allows you to “live the moment” and enjoy the mecha boxing encounters. It keeps you rooting for the gritty-looking and aptly-named Junk Dog, stacking the odds against him with poor gear and fights he’s asked to throw.
For a 13-episode series, it goes as fast as it comes. He fights in the largest tournament, Megalonia, under a fake ID and gets to fight the top players in the game. As a fighting anime, it strongly implies that it is still the boxer wearing the gear that makes all the difference. I think it’s a homage to how Joe in Ashita fought against all odds.
9. Keijo!!!!!!!! (2016)
MAL Score: 7.03
Keijo is a rare entry in this list, and even in the fighting anime genre. It centers around a fictional sport, yes, but the amount of action and physicality in this series convinced us that it should be included in this article.
In an alternate world, there is a popular women-only sport known as “Keijo.” Conducted over platforms floating in the water, swimsuit wearing ladies fight to incapacitate or send their enemies overboard. However, to do so, they can only hit each other using their breasts and their buttocks! With attacks like “Butt Cannon” and “Sure Kill Butt Guillotine,” this 12-episode (plus 6 OVAs) sports slash fighting anime needs no more introduction.
But isn’t Keijo just another fan serving anime? I don’t think so, at least not as much as other anime. For fighting anime fans such as those in Baki, Kengan Ashura, and One Piece at times, Keijo fits in one key visual aspect. Remember those signature moves? With the freeze frames and the name of the attack in Japanese plastered across the screen? Yeah, Keijo does that too. Also, while attacks are limited to chests, hips, and butts, it animates such with the same fluidity as you’d find in other fighting anime, even sparing effort to visualize their impacts.
To simply put it out there, Keijo is a visualization of a lot of dreams. We have dreamed of finding One Piece, or collecting the seven Dragon Balls. Sure, we had the phony Death Notes, but no one has ever come close to achieving realism as Keijo almost did. In 2017, Portuguese fans were already planning a real-life Keijo league. It already has a proof of concept and has gone so far as to start scouting actual teams and players. Here is a cause we can all unite under!
10. One Piece (1999)
MAL Score: 8.51
One Piece is the surviving member of the Big 3 set that included Bleach and Naruto (which have concluded already). After 20 years of the anime, it still manages to surprise fans and show no sign of ever slowing down. Aside from intimidating newcomers with its tall episode list, here is why you should watch One Piece.
As we have previously covered before in our Best Adventure Anime list, One Piece has grown into a one-stop-shop for most anime recommendations. In a world where pirates roam the seas, we see Monkey D. Luffy, a man who believes that the Pirate King is the one who enjoys the most freedom in the world. He is joined by his trusty nakama, each given with distinct roles and character development opportunities over the course of the series.
Luffy isn’t overpowered nor does he just power up magically. However, it has been noted a couple of times how he is a battle genius – strategizing in the middle of life and death situations. Additionally, while it is largely supernatural thanks to the Devil Fruit powers, it still sticks to its established rules. There are a number of good fights in One Piece. Aside from the grandiose Marineford War, one of the best fight scenes I saw here is Luffy vs Usopp during the Water 7 arc. It highlighted Usopp’s conviction and potential as a human character amidst monsters like Zoro and Sanji.
Lastly, its ongoing Wano Arc is a Samurai Anime fan’s dream come true, from the adapted visuals to the classical story of ronin (masterless samurai) avenges their master’s death. If it feels familiar, it is the plot for 47 Ronin, a Japanese historical event adapted into countless media.
11. Ben-to (2011)
MAL Score: 7.28
Not all entries in this list are serious, as Keijo should’ve told you. Another fighting anime in the heart of craziness, Ben-To is a food inspired battle series you must see. However, it’s not Shokugeki no Soma or Cooking Master Boy. In Ben-To, they literally fight over food.
It follows Yoh Satou, an innocent student who fell prey to one of the Bento Brawls. These are all-out, free-for-all battles for half-priced packed meals, or bento. He is later invited to a club solely dedicated to these nightly battles for discounted food, and trains so he can get a Ben-To for himself.
The first great thing about this fighting anime series is that it feels like a formal tournament. All participants, for example, must wait until the God of Discounts – or the supermarket employee who puts the discount stickers on the bentos – finishes his tasks and returns to the break room. Also, participants in the battle only take one bento, not to be greedy to other fighters.
While the rules are clear and mostly respected, the actual Bento Brawls are large and chaotic events where only the strong and the cunning get to fill their stomachs. Its fight scenes are relaxing to watch and as Anime News Network puts it, doesn’t strain your brain. Its story is also simple and straightforward. As a fighting anime, it takes the classic conflict of strong-eats-weak and puts it into a mundane setting like a supermarket. It is a good break if you’re looking for light fighting anime to pass the time.
12. Ikki Tousen (Battle Vixens) (2003)
MAL Score: 6.45
Known as Battle Vixens in the North American region, Ikki Tousen is one of the countless adaptations and reinterpretations of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms – and serves to be among the most memorable in present memory. Finding a way to send the Chinese classic to a highschool setting.
The souls of heroes from the late Han era (think Dynasty Warriors characters) are encased in sacred jewels. How they ended up in the modern times, in their current users remains unknown. However, the fighters who wear these magatama jewels earn the strength and the fate of the souls within. Ikki Tousen follows the brewing war between seven rival schools in Japan’s Kanto region.
A classic from the early 2000s, Ikki Tousen has well choreographed martial arts fight scenes. I think this fact is only surpassed by its generous amounts of fanservice and a lot of plotting in and out most of the schools. Story-wise, it is also not fast-paced nor is it actually action-packed, giving time between character interactions. It seems to follow the story of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, giving enough time for politics and personal interests to play out.
Lastly, the fan service in Ikki Tousen is legendary. For all you kids growing up back at the turn of the millennium, the generous helping of underpants and other parts definitely took our minds off the increasingly complex inter-school war at play. All in all, it’s not the purest entry here but it’s definitely worth the trip back to this old-school fighting anime.
13. Fist of the North Star (Hokuto no Ken) (1984)
MAL Score: 7.99
You know an anime has achieved legendary status when it has been referenced in other, later works. The same works for action anime. Whenever you hear someone scream a high-pitch “Atatatatatata,” it can only reference one of two things. One is Bruce Lee, and the other is Kenshiro – the main character from Fist of the North Star. Also the timeless meme, “Omae wa mou shindeiru,” also Kenshiro.
Fist of the North starts with a rather straightforward plot: good-natured man betrayed and left for dead, with his fiancée stolen from him by a rival. As he journeys across the world, he defends the weak from the abusive gangs and villains scattered across its expansive Mad Max style world. Using his secret assassination technique, he defeats and kills enemies before they even know it. It often ends in some spectacular gory explosion, as best as the 80s could deliver.
The retrieve the fiancée story is only the first arc, with the story evolving to encompass something greater. It actually sees Kenshiro turn into the world savior at one point. Also, it has a post-apocalyptic background. Mixed with the cheesy martial arts of the 70s and the 80s, it has helped define an era in anime.
For an anime that has been referenced by Baki the Grappler, to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (Stone Ocean), to Great Teacher Onizuka, and even Food Wars, definitely every anime fan has to see where it all comes from. The next time you see a seven-star scar pattern, an “atatatata” scream, or someone uttering “omae wa mou shindeiru,” you’ll understand the reference. We’re not kidding, see Onizuka channel his inner Kenshiro below.
14. Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple (2006)
MAL Score: 8.11
Disclaimer for Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is that its original 2006 anime has 50 episodes, plus OVAs. Now that it’s out of the way, it’s time to see what makes Kenichi a great fighting anime worth binge-watching next. For fans looking for a (mostly) lighthearted story with intense fighting scenes, this is a good entry to start with.
The story focuses on the titular Kenichi Shirahama, a high school student who has been suffering from bullying. He befriends the transfer student Miu Fuurinji, granddaughter to martial arts master Hayato Fuurinji, who soon trains Kenichi with the help of other martial arts masters in their dojo. After learning martial arts, he becomes the target of various organizations that either wants to recruit or simply defeat him. It follows his adventures to become “the mightiest disciple,” as well as his developing relationship with Miu.
As history’s strongest disciple, Kenichi faces different martial arts training – from Karate, to Muay Thai, Kenpo, to the use of weapons. It has a feel similar to Baki, where both the training and the actual fights are fun to watch. Furthermore, Kenichi has something that makes it relatable: the fact how Kenichi starts off as being bullied and berated at his school. His disposition, and later his strongest ability (according to the masters), is in his positive outlook. Despite the suffering, he still lacks killer intent and remains compassionate and polite. While the real world leads most victims to lose their way, we can only hope at one point to be like Kenichi – plus maybe the ability to seriously kick some ass. His first major enemies, Ragnarok, are bullies. Basically, Kenichi is an idealized ray of light for people who had the same experience.
15. The God of High School (2020)
MAL Score: 7.09
Yes, “The God of High School” is originally Korean. It is based on a manhwa (Korean manga, if you will) of the same name. It’s great that they retained the Korean names in the anime adaptation. Fans of the original work could easily enjoy the on-screen version. Plus MAPPA animated this series. They also did Yuri on Ice, Inuyashiki, and Jujutsu Kaisen. In short, there shouldn’t be any questions visually.
A simple plot, expansive world-building, and explosive fight scenes – The God of High School (TGOHS) easily make one of the best entries on this fighting list. Protagonist Jin Mori joins the titular tournament. This GOH tourney brings all South Korean high schoolers to be a part of a three-man team to compete in the World Tournament. Winners of the GOH battle gets his wish fulfilled by the organizers. It’s that simple.
As the series progresses, however, its connection to the Demon Realm and Heavenly Realm is revealed. With an updated (and improved) take on the Yuu Yuu Hakusho world-building, and with Dragon Ball-quality powers in the fights, TGOHS is an action-packed fighting anime you’d finish in a day or two. Fighters in the series are later revealed to have borrowed powers or real identities from famous mythological and historical creatures. Humans get powers from Sun Wukong, to the Kyuubi (Gumiho in Korean, Naruto references not included), to Lu Bu. In the webcomic, we even find Longinus (as in the Spear of Longinus dude) in one of the characters.
It also sports the unabashedly outright comedy antics, with offers a brief break from the intense action this series has to offer. Also, whoever thought of the 8-bit commercial break transition in the first episode deserves a raise.
16. Ranma ½ (1989)
MAL Score: 7.76
One of the old-school fighting anime, Ranma ½ is a successful mix of slice of life, romance, and comedy, in addition to its martial arts sequences. It has a pretty nifty mechanics in its Jusenkyo springs. These springs “curse” characters to swap with whatever creature drowned in the lake. This premise gave rise to half-panda, half-cat, half-pig, and the half-woman characters that further make it interesting to watch.
To those who might’ve forgotten it already, Ranma ½ begins its story with the arranged marriage between the titular Ranma (who turns into a girl when doused with cold water) with Akane. Since their fathers are former classmates and fellow martial arts masters, their daily life is filled with bouts. While their relationship develops over time, its growing roster of characters makes it more troublesome.
As a fighting anime – all jokes and fanservice aside – it has a variety of styles in delivering these sequences. There are times when it uses those quick, flashy exchanges. Also, there are times when it animates their moves clearly. Think Avatar, The Last Airbender, but with 90s anime graphics.
If we’d compare it with its contemporaries, its closely similar to Yaiba in terms of being a family-friendly comedy series. There are, however, rare moments when they address the romance at the core of it all. Also, plus points for a variety of strong and strong-willed women in the series. For an anime that ran in the 90s, all of the Tendo sisters are open-minded and progressive, with Akane being a formidable fighter herself.
17. Virtua Fighter (1995)
MAL Score: 7.10
As a video game title, “Virtua Fighter by Sega is the first 3D fighting game, appearing on Arcade and Sega Saturn in the early 90s. While it has fallen far behind Street Fighter, Tekken, and even Mortal Kombat as a fighting franchise, it has left us with another gem – an anime adaptation from late 1995 to mid-1996.
It follows Japanese martial artist Akira Yuki who, after being overconfident in his skill, was no longer able to see the eight stars of heaven – an indicator of his virtue as a fighter (get it, huh?). Aside from regaining what he lost, he soon finds friends such as Jacky Bryant, Pai Chan, Lion, and more. They later find themselves against a sinister organization to save Jacky’s sister from being used in the development of the ultimate fighting machine (like Combot or Mokujin, but evil).
It has been a personal example of a technical and traditional fighting anime. Story-wise, it employs the classic pursuit of enlightenment through intense training of one’s body and mind. Technically speaking, and here is where we broke a chair trying to emulate them, is in its “special moves.” This is especially visible in Akira Yuki’s Hakkyoku-ken style. A narrator explains how that particular move is done, with 2D wire models simulating the dummy or target for the move. It was just so cool back then.
Of course, different characters from different countries practicing different forms of martial arts is awesome. It has the token old master character, a well-built forest man wrestler-type, a Ken Masters/ Johnny Cage type of character, and more. Since these characters were more fleshed in the later games, an updated anime would be great.
Also, props for the opening theme: “Wild Vision” by Kohji Hayashi.
18. Akame Ga Kill! (2014)
MAL Score: 7.53
This is not for the faint-hearted. There, we said it. Also, there are significant differences between anime and manga (as most of them do). While the anime adaptation for Akame ga Kill! Is complete and wraps up by itself, there are events in the manga that uh… we think are more blood-curling, if not outright not permissible for TV.
In Akame ga Kill! We are introduced to Tatsumi, who went to the Capital with his two other friends in order to raise funds for their village. Skip traumatic parts and spoilers, he is introduced to Night Raid – a group of assassins who eliminate people doing harm to others and ultimately, overthrow the government. He trains and becomes an owner of a “Teigu,” or Imperial Arms, unique and magical weapons that cold turn the tide of war. Think of them as the innocence of D-gray man.
Among anime fans, Akame ga Kill! has earned quite the reputation – putting it together with Another, Future Diary, or even School Days in terms of brutal moments (we’ll write about it later). One undeniable fact, however, is that it is a badass fighting anime. More than just brawling about, it offers a great example of the fighter and the weapon working together to turn disadvantages in their favor. From weapons such as an absurdly giant scissor, a one-touch-kill sword, to armor-types like Incursio, there is plenty of material for visually impressive fights to draw from, and the anime does just that.
Once you see the Episode 1 upset, you’ll soon understand how fights in Akame ga Kill! are basically everything-goes, life-or-death encounters. It doesn’t simply throw goons and villains their way, each being a fighter that can take out the hero you’re stanning. Good luck.
19. Dragon Ball Super (2015)
MAL Score: 7.42
To make it more relatable to our younger readers, we’re going with Dragon Ball Super. Its stories and arcs are mostly focused on fighting. Previous Dragon Ball series (Z and GT, to be exact) have stories almost slice-of-life-like such as the hunt for the titular Dragon Balls and Goku basically wandering out. Dragon Ball Super, safe to say, is more action-packed and is a fitting entry for this fighting anime list.
It’s not all mindless fighting though, Dragon Ball Super actually picks off the story where the Majin Buu saga ended. It starts with the appearance of the God of Destruction, Beerus, who is looking for the prophesized Super Saiyan God who is, surprise surprise, Goku. However, it includes five more Saiyans to activate. They are soon introduced to a tournament among the seven universes, with the reward being planet-sized versions of the Dragon Balls from the previous story arcs.
Need we explain this? If you grew up watching Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT, this is basically the distilled version. Super Saiyans taken to a whole new level, intense fights one after the other, it is Toriyama’s masterpiece for the new age. More than just the insane scale of the fights on this series, it’s the progress and how DB Super manages to still one up its previous episodes.
Also, shifting alliances and unexpected spotlights further make this a great watch. If you’ve seen Goku and Frieza team up in a last-minute effort to defeat Jiren, you’d wonder how far they’ve gotten, considering they’ve fought each other to the death over the years.
20. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 3: Stardust Crusaders Season 2 (2015)
MAL Score: 8.45
To be fair, all Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, or JJBA, that has been adapted on-screen are all good fighting anime. We have decided to pick JJBA 3: Stardust Season 2 because of its crescendo of tension and more fights, plus the unwelcome yet inevitable deaths of some of its characters.
Stardust Crusaders is best known for introducing the concept of Stands. The (often) humanoid manifestations of their power have helped establish JoJo and all following arcs for this unique power system. The second season is known as the Egypt Arc, when the Joestar group has arrived in the African nation. Here they face Dio’s strongest soldiers, most of their Stands corresponding to the Ennead of the Egyptian mythology.
Though a fighting anime, not all fights here are solved with violence, although enemies that cross the main JoJo – Jotaro Kujo – end up beaten. Without spoiling, I hope, a good intellectual bout and a break from the beatups is when Jotaro and his grandfather, Joseph Joestar (JoJo also) fought against Terence T. D’Arby. Of course, the highlight of this entry to our list is in fighting – and JoJo damn well delivers! Aside from its radio drama-esque narration of intents and motives, it features some of the most thrilling fight scenes. It jumps from fights decided by speed and strength to those concluded by wits and strategies.
As a post-note, I’d strongly recommend watching all JJBA starting from Phantom Blood. As a post-post-note, also take note of its strong opening videos. Most of them, such as those in Battle Tendency (Part 2) and Vento Aureo (Part 5) change the OP appropriately based on the progress of the story. Their ending themes, however, are mostly pop culture treats to help you chill down after its intense episodes.
Note to self: Never underestimate a main character, even if he is at its infant stage.
21. Naruto (1999)
MAL Score: 7.91
The quintessential ninja anime for the new generation. Surely we can not talk about One Piece and Bleach and not include what must have the best fights among the Shonen Jump Big 3. Ninja techniques, which dictate fights in Naruto, are mostly divided into three kinds. Ninjutsu uses their innate energies to manipulate the elements; Genjutsu are illusion techniques; and Taijutsu is hand-to-hand combat. Now that we laid that out, let’s go on a short refresher course.
The titular Naruto is an outcast in his village, hosting the sealed 9 tailed fox Kyuubi in his body. He is the physical reminder of the tragedy the village suffered as Kyuubi rampaged before being sealed. Therefore, he strives to be acknowledged by the village, setting out to be the Hokage (Village leader). The anime, and its sequel, Naruto: Shippuuden, details his adventures. A real zero to hero story indeed, and a glorious one at that.
Being a fighting anime, Naruto gives ample exposure to different styles and techniques. making it one of the best animes ever (aside from the flashback parade part, sorry not sorry). To give a great example, watch every time Rock Lee fights. Seriously, he is the epitome of “hard work beats talent if talent does not work hard.”
22. Mutsu Enmei Ryuu Gaiden: Shura no Toki (Time of Shura) (2004)
MAL Score: 7.58
We have tackled Mutsu Enmei Ryuu Gaiden as a part of our Samurai Anime series. However, in a fast-changing world, different generations of martial artists make a name for themselves. Usually, they cross paths with prominent warriors of their respective timelines.
It follows three different men from the Mutsu Clan, masters of a legendary martial art technique called the Mutsu Enmei-Ryu. This unarmed fighting technique can supposedly defeat anyone, even armed opponents. Like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure of martial arts, it starts with Yakumo, then his son Takato, and his grandson Izumi.
Despite being a fictional martial arts technique, the Mutsu guys have earned praise from anime fans and martial artists alike. Seriously, how does this series keep staying under people’s radars? Its story flows smoothly, with an easily digestible transition of fun and light scenes to the heavier ones. The climax comes during Takato’s time because here is where the series’ tournament arc takes place. From Yuu Yuu Hakusho to Jujutsu Kaisen, tournaments never really go out of style. While he initially doesn’t want to join the tournament, he ends up in it and fights Jubei Yagyuu – like one of the most popular samurai in literature. Ever.
However, this is not just technical martial arts and a neverending list of people getting kicked in the head. We’re not joking. The head kick count is way off the charts for this one. Also, there is no established villain here. Like in Baki, these are warriors – each with their own convictions and motivations – meeting each other, by fate.
23. Jujutsu Kaisen (2020)
MAL Score: 8.55
The new fighting anime that’s taking the world by storm. Jujutsu Kaisen brings something new to the table filled with samurais, ninjas, pirates, and whatnots – sorcerers. However, it does not go all magicky and colorful and stuff, taking a darker and more serious tone with its premise. Lastly, MAPPA absolutely killed it with this one.
Jujutsu Kaisen, literally Sorcery Fight, establishes the concept that all living things have Cursed Energy. This is fed by negative emotions and leads to the creation of curses. Enter Yuji Itadori, a normal person who was caught up when a cursed talisman in their school started attracting monsters. As a last-ditch effort, he swallowed the cursed talisman – a finger of the cursed being known as Sukuna – and obtains unbelievable power. However, he has been sentenced to death for harboring the creature inside him.
A Crescendo of Tension and Action
Its fights are not as simple as people throwing magic spells at each other. More accurately, they mostly engage in close-range fights with blows being augmented by their cursed energy. While there are long-range fighters in this 2020 anime, it only adds to the rich recipe in this series originally created by Gege Akutami. Also, while this anime is still ongoing, it has dropped a number of bombs that make the weekly wait worth it for millions of its fans worldwide.
Also, for a mainstream hit, it doesn’t shy away from gore. Starting with swallowing a demon finger, Jujutsu Kaisen only ramps up the volume of flying parts and world-shifting spells. Watching it in high-quality is a visually amazing experience.
All in all, Jujutsu Kaisen spares no effort in becoming the next big hit. Now that it’s at the Kyoto Goodwill Event, we finally get to see Yuji Itadori, Aoi Todou, and Satoru Gojou go all out. Now, fans are hoping whether it will go long like Naruto or Boku no Hero Academia or brief and in a blaze of glory like Death Note or Kimetsu no Yaiba. Either way, it’s a great fighting anime that will definitely help define the genre for years to come.
24. Mobile Fighter G Gundam (1994)
MAL Score: 7.56
The Gundam franchise has become a pillar for the entire mecha anime genre. However, it has mostly tackled the gritty realities of war. Presenting characters that learn and develop that are both realistic and relatable, countless Gundam series have grounded themselves as classics. That is half of its enduring appeal, and the other, admit it, is the kickass robot designs. From the now-iconic RX-78 to the craziness of the Psycho Zaku and the Unicorn Gundams, mobile suits have become a consistent part of every man’s dreams (aside from waifus).
Then comes Mobile Fighter G Gundam.
Understandably, it has its own timeline – Future Century – in the very, very expansive Gundam universe. The countries as we know them have left Earth and now thrive in separate space colonies. To settle their conflicts, these neo colonies hold a Gundam Fight once every four years – like a mecha Olympics. Neo Japan’s representative and the legendary “King of Hearts, Domon Kasshu joins the robot rumble to track down his fugitive brother. The brother in question stole the aptly-named Devil Gundam, leaving their scientist parents to be “arrested” in cryogenic sleep.
It’s So Bad, It’s Good
And all goes out the window! Every country, one Gundam. They fight for survival and for the honor of their nation. Dragon-themed, fire-breathing bot for China? Check. A large fighting windmill for Holland? Check. A Pharaoh Gundam for Egypt? Check check check! Aside from the United Nations parade of robots, the fight scenes are surprisingly basic and it’s at a stage that quitting the series is impossible. G Gundam does not follow the strategic firepower and large-scale war arrangements you’d find in other entries in this franchise. There are kung fu, boxing, weapons, and the old-school brawl until one gives out. And whereas other Mobile Suit dramas explore the political and ethical repercussions of war, G Gundam returns to the timeless shonen values of love and friendship overcoming all obstacles.
Say what you want but G Gundam is campy and simple and has been its calling card ever since. In a long-standing franchise, admit that a lot of them have become meh, simply forgettable. By throwing all sense and story and morality out the window, Gundam G has established itself as a unique mecha and fighting anime.
25. Seven Deadly Sins (2014)
MAL Score: 7.88
First of all, the MAL Score that is placed here is for the first season of the anime only, but we will be covering as far as the fourth season. Weirdly, this series does not just go with the basic season numbers, giving each installment a title of its own. Starting with Seven Deadly Sins, followed by Signs of the Holy War, Revival of the Commandments, and Wrath of the Gods. The fifth season, Dragon Judgment, is still ongoing.
The Seven Deadly Sins starts with Elizabeth Liones, the third queen of their kingdom, in her search for the titular knights. The seven knights were charged with a heinous crime ten years ago, and have been scattered across the kingdom. She first found, by chance, the captain of the sins Meliodas. First introduced as the small, perverted owner of a bar on the back of a giant pig. Later on, we know more about them, as well as the Seven Deadly Sins – the most dangerous fugitives of the kingdom.
Before anything else, props to the unique mind of Nakaba Suzuki. The sins of each knight is revealed over the course of the series. Each of them turns out to be heart-rending “sins” that each of them committed before Meliodas enlisted them to join his elite squad. Even the idea of Holy Knights, being more like powered jerks, is counterintuitive. These twists make the story and the setting interesting. Also, most of the name, and even the setting, is largely inspired by Arthurian Lore and legends.
That being said, if you’re into Medieval Knights and riveting fights, Seven Deadly Sins is a good entry to get hooked on.