Fight scenes are the heart and soul of a great action shounen manga. Sure, the story itself needs to be equally as good, but more often than not, a manga can get away with a simple story as long as it has amazing fighting sequences. And when it comes to action shounen manga, other than sword fights, the most common ones have to be fist fights. And that is the focus of this list. However, before we get to the list, let's talk about some caveats first.
First of all, every manga that is mentioned in this list has already received an official English translation. There's no doubt that there are tons of great action manga that haven't come to this side of the pond yet, but for now, we'll focus on what we can actually read. Second of all, there will be some minor spoilers up ahead, so read with caution.
With that out of the way, these are 5 of the best fist fights that have ever graced the world of manga.
5. Monkey D. Luffy vs Charlotte Katakuri (One Piece)
Luffy is no stranger to fighting against someone who is way stronger than him. That being said, his fight against Katakuri of the Big Mom pirates is definitely one of his most unique and memorable fights yet. The reason is simply because Katakuri is one of the most intelligent fighters that Luffy has ever fought.
First of all, Katakuri's mochi power can perfectly mimic Luffy's rubber power. From Luffy's Gatling gun, Elephant Gun, and even his Gear 4th, Katakuri can perfectly counter all of them with eerily similar punches. To make matters worse, Katakuri's Armament Haki and Observation Haki are also way more advanced than Luffy's to the point that he can get a glimpse into the future. Not to mention Katakuri has awakened his Devil Fruit's power as well.
Add to that Katakuri's calm and collected nature, and we get one of the most overwhelming fights for Luffy. The only reason why Luffy gets his win is because Katakuri underestimates him in the early stages of the fight, and he also takes his time throughout the whole fight, which allows Luffy to fall back and recover some of his strength. If Katakuri seriously went after Luffy with killing intent right from the start, the fight would certainly have had a different outcome.
4. Garou vs Bang (One-Punch Man)
S Class Hero "Silver Fang" Bang is the creator of a martial art called "Water Stream Rock Smashing Fist", while "Hero Hunter" Garou is Bang's strongest disciple yet. As the name implies, Water Stream Rock Smashing Fist is a martial art that focuses on free-flowing hand movements that are perfect for multi-directional attacks and counter attacks.
There are two instances throughout the series where Bang fights against Garou. The first one is at the start of the Monster Association Arc, where Garou is absolutely crushed by Bang. Garou tries to mix in other kinds of attacks alongside his Water Stream technique, but none of them work against Bang's much more refined technique.
The second fight happens at the end of the Monster Association Arc. This time around, Garou has undergone a monsterization process and gained a tremendous increase in power. Bang is overwhelmed when faced against Garou's Water Stream technique that is vastly different from his own. However, Bang manages to deliver the finishing blow that brings Garou down, at the cost of every last bit of energy in his body.
3. Levius Cromwell vs A.J. Langdon (Levius)
In a world where steam is the main source of energy for everyday life, Levius is an athlete who competes in Mechanical Martial Arts (MMA) with his steam-powered prosthetic right arm. It is the final day of the promotional bout where the winner will be promoted into the rank of Grade I.
Levius has mixed feelings about his opponent, A.J. Langdon. On one hand, A.J. is the one who brutally defeated Levius' rival, Hugo. On the other hand, A.J. is also a girl who is under control of the sinister Amethyst Corporation, who asked for Levius's help the last time they faced each other.
The fight itself is beautifully rendered by Haruhisa Nakata's illustrations. Every punch looks so heavy, while every steam outburst looks so powerful and dangerous. The intensity of the fight keeps on escalating to the point that it no longer looks like any other MMA fight.
The more both fighters trade devastating blows, the better they understand each other. The more Levius wants to free A.J. from her cage, even if it means losing his life in the process, the more we get sucked into their deadly dance. This is one of the most beautiful fist fights that has ever graced the world of manga, not only due to its art, but also due to the tragic nature of the fight itself, and its significance to the overall story.
2. Kitano Ken vs Fujimi Rain (Sun Ken Rock)
Sun Ken Rock is the story of Kitano Ken, a Japanese man who rises to the top of the South Korean underworld for the sake of his first love, Yoshizawa Yumin. At this point in the story, there is only one entity left that’s preventing Ken from attaining the highest seat of Korean organized crime - the White Dragon Clan that is led by Yumin's father.
Standing in front of Ken is the strongest fighter from the White Dragon Clan, Fujimi Rain. Rain has served as the right hand man of the leader of the Yoshizawa family for years, and he is Yumin's first love. Not only that, but Rain also looks and fights in a similar way to Ken. So in a way, it’s like Ken is fighting another version of himself.
Boichi is a master in drawing human anatomy. As such, every jab, hook, and uppercut looks like an actual man moving through the static pages. As a matter of fact, witnessing this entire fighting sequence is akin to watching a movie, rather than reading a book. That is how stellar the illustration work is.
Ken vs Rain is the last major turning point in the story. That is why the decisions that are taken during this fight forever change the lives of the people present in the room, for better or worse.
1. Tokita Ohma vs Kuroki Gensai (Kengan Ashura)
In Kengan Asura, whenever two big companies are competing against each other over the same issues, they will pick a fighter to represent themselves and let them fight in what's called a Kengan fight, and the winner takes all.
Once in a blue moon, the Kengan Annihilation Tournament is held to decide who will be the next head of the Kengan Association. Representing Yamashita Trading Co. is a man who has won countless Kengan matches and is widely regarded as the Ashura, Tokita Ohma.
This is the final match, and Ohma has suffered so many life-threatening wounds due to all of the previous fights. His opponent, on the other hand, is Kuroki Gensai, a monster that is regarded as the deadliest assassin in history.
Gensai has also suffered some battle damage from his previous fights, but not to the same level as Ohma. Ohma realizes how dangerous it is for him to fight right now, but as a fighter, his pride forces him to soldier on. The result is one of the most brutal fights ever drawn in manga.
We as readers know that there is no way for Ohma to survive in a fight against someone like Kuroki in his current condition. But we can't help but support him every time he launches forward and lands some devastating punches on Kuroki.
However, despite all of its thrilling and over-the-top action sequences, Yabako-sensei still grounds his story in reality and he is as ruthless as his characters. As such, in this final fight of the series, Tokita Ohma loses in the most brutal way possible. And we as readers feel his pain and regrets in our bones.
Whether it is a comical fight such as Luffy vs Katakuri, or a brutal brawl such as Tokita Ohma vs Kuroki Gensai, there is something alluring and deeply emotional in a fist fight between two characters who are ready to throw out their lives. If done correctly, a fight can move the story forward, develop a character, and leave a long-lasting impression on the readers. Every entry in this list manages to do just that.
That being said, these are not the only great fist fights in manga. So if you know any other fist fights that you think deserve to be on this list, then don't hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section below.