- Episodes : 47
- Genre : Adventure, Historical, Sports, Martial Arts
- Airing Date : October 3, 1973 – September 25, 1974
- Studios : A Production
Karate Baka Ichidai Introduction
Based on the manga by Ikki Kajiwara, Jirou Tsunoda, and Jouya Kagemaru, is an anime based on one of history’s most influential Karate practitioners, Mas Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin, meaning “The Ultimate Truth.” While the original manga uses Mas Oyama’s name, the anime version to Karate Baka Ichidai changes the main character’s name to Ken Asuka. However, the anime largely uses Oyama’s biography in order to share how Karate was able to spread internationally thanks to Sousai Oyama.
What We Liked About Karate Baka Ichidai
If you want an anime that realistically portrays Karate, then Karate Baka Ichidai is the anime you’re looking for. Nothing is at all exaggerated and tells a unique story of not just Karate, but what Japan was going through between the end of the war and the start of its economic dominance.
3. It Helped Inspire Street Fighter
As some of you may (or may not) know, Karate Baka Ichidai actually serves as one of the inspirations to Street Fighter, most notably with Ryu. Just like Ryu, Asuka travels around the world, faces numerous challenges, goes on training journeys, and feels like his quest to become stronger is never over. When you see this anime, you see all the qualities Ryu and Asuka have in common.
2. It’s Universally Educational
Asuka’s and Oyama’s real lives share numerous parallels. For example, they start their martial arts training in children while working as farmers in Manchuria, from a Chinese family friend. Then as the anime starts, Asuka’s situation is that of Oyama’s where they’re both training to be fighter pilots, and by the time they complete their training, the war is over. Through this anime, audiences can see what Japan was like right after the war when they surrendered. They were reduced to being a third world country, and Asuka is pissed he has no path in life other than getting into fights. After killing a man in a fight and learning he had a family, Asuka tries to make amends for it. And there are stories that the real life Oyama did something similar.
He then trains in seclusion in the mountains to forgive himself and during his isolation, Oyama/Asuka reads Eiji Yoshikawa’s books on Miyamoto Musashi as inspiration. Shortly after, you see throughout Oyama/Asuka’s journey of how they evolve as martial artists, as people, and how Japanese society rebuilds itself from the end of the war, to mid way into the era of disco. Plus, the anime also portrays one of Oyama’s most famous exploits, defeating a bull in combat! In addition, every time Asuka or another character uses an actual karate technique, the anime cuts to actual live action footage of the move in practice by a karate practitioner, or by Sousai Oyama himself. For example, you know that one scene in the original Karate Kid of Mr. Miyagi chopping the beer bottles? You’ll get an actual clip of Oyama doing the same thing in this anime!
1. You Get to See Real Life Martial Arts Figures
Just like how the original manga uses Oyama’s name, the anime and manga also portray other real life martial arts figures. For example, there is a character based on one of Japan’s most famous post-World War II’s Judo practitioners, Masahiko Kimura. Though his name is used in the manga, the anime does change his name. Just like Kimura, the Judo practitioner that Asuka befriends in this anime later makes a full life transition to pro wrestling. Speaking of pro wrestling, fans get to see the Great Togo, one of Hawaii’s greatest wrestlers, and the father of Japanese Pro Wrestling himself, Rikidozan. When his character is introduced, his finishing move was called the Karate Chop. However, Asuka makes the correction that his move is really a Harite from sumo, which Rikidozan tried to pursue prior to becoming a pro wrestler (be sure to check out an actual wrestling bout with Rikidozan and Kimura on YouTube).
1. The Manga is Better!
The only reason to skip the anime is simply to read the manga instead. This anime is entertaining, but has too many unnecessary changes, and when it ends, it doesn’t give the true ending of the manga. As stated earlier, Karate Baka Ichidai was a major inspiration to Street Fighter in terms of Ryu. But in the final arc of the manga, he faces a Muay Thai fighter who wears an eye patch, just like Sagat! We know a lot of anime titles are guilty of not living up to the manga, and Karate Baka Ichidai is probably one of those titles where we say not skip it altogether, just skip the anime and read the manga instead.
If you’re a martial arts enthusiast, most notably with Kyokushin Karate, then this is an anime for you to appreciate. As some of you may (or may not know) there are many practitioners of the art. For example, action star Dolph Lundgren is a third degree black belt in Kyokushin, and was a European champ (in addition to having many degrees in engineering). So if you try to challenge him - if you die, you die! In addition, 3-time UFC Champion Georges St. Pierre happens to be a black belt in Kyokushin as well. Last, many K-1 Kickboxing competitors and champions alike all have black belts in the art. So, if you want to see an anime that is inspirational and gives you a piece of history, then watch Karate Baka Ichidai, and most definitely read the manga! OSSU!