Best Martial Arts Anime Shows & Movies
In a world where high school students have magical powers and wear neon hair, can martial arts exist in anime?
Well, of course! From sword fights in medieval Japan to hand-to-hand combat, the diverse forms of martial arts abound. So my goal is to find animes that highlight this art form in the best possible way by making it part of the show. With that in mind, here are some top picks for great Martial Arts Anime:
- Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan (Samurai X)
It’s a classic work of art in my book — anime or not. In fact, the live-action movie adaptations turned out much better than expected. Whether it’s the prequel OVA (Trust and Betrayal), the concluding OVA (Reflection), or the sprawling 94-episode series, you’re guaranteed to witness some of the best moments from this legendary franchise for years come! Who can’t love that Kenshin can beat up enemies with his reverse blade katana? Kaoru has kenjutsu sword training from her father, so she is no slouch either! Aoshi and Hajime have mastered their swords: Kodachi & Katana, respectively, while Sanosuke was most likely just picked on at school.
2. Sword of the Stranger
The best anime movie is Sword of the Stranger for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t compromise its story to create stunning set pieces and clever cinematography, but it also presents a clear-cut story with an interesting protagonist who has an oath not to use his sword. The film features many scenes where this samurai fights without using any weapons at all — just hand-to-hand combat or whatever he can find to defend himself from enemies that are coming at him every which way possible; yet there’s still plenty of gore! This balance between violence and empathy makes me think about my second favorite pick: Noein, as they share these senses of guilt and redemption during their journey throughout time periods revisiting memories long past.
For one, it’s from White Fox. Second, it lacks all the head tilts prevalent in Shaft anime like Monogatari and Bakemono no Ko. Instead, Katanagatari is pretty much Sword Fights: The Anime. But here’s why I love this show so much —
a guy literally uses a fighting style where he has to use his own body like a sword! That’s right—Shichika Yasuri is both the weapon and the weapon wielder (like how dogs hold their own leash). Plus, its unique visual look–half Western/ half Japanese styles–makes for an interesting mashup of looks.
4. Seirei no Moribito (Moribito – Guardian of the Spirit)
Seirei no Moribito is an adaptation of a novel, specifically the first entry in Nahoko Uehashi’s book series. It may be short at just 26 episodes long, but it features weapons-based martial arts that are some of the best we have seen since Kurozuka. There isn’t much other anime out there with spear fighting as prominent as Seirei no Moribito, which makes Balsa Yonsa one fearsome woman who will stop at nothing to protect those she loves – even if they do not. Notes think so themselves! As for graphics? Well, Production I.G was behind this 2007 release, meaning that although you can tell it’s from about 10 years ago already due to outdated animation techniques (more on screens), these are older.
5. Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Kenichi (Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple)
I’ve seen many martial arts anime, and there are some I like better than Kenichi. But what sets it apart is the earnestness with which Kenichi studies his art—the series goes on for 50 episodes as he trains more diligently to become stronger. You get to watch him grow from being an out-of-shape schoolboy into someone who can handle himself in the battle against much bigger opponents! And while other shows let their main characters coast by because they have no real challenge, that never feels true here: you know all along that any time could be the one when our hero finally stumbles at last or falls after triumphing so many times before.
6. Grappler Baki (Baki the Grappler)
When I first started watching Baki the Grappler, it was a little unnerving. The characters are all these muscle-bound fighters with menacing eyes that have detailed muscles and tattoos. It’s kind of creepy to watch but also pretty cool because they’re so muscular!
The theme is about being the best fighter in this world–Baki won’t stop for anyone or anything less than what he deserves, which makes him seem like an underdog at times when battling opponents who look way more muscled up from one opponent before them (but you know better). Yet, there are moments where even if we don’t see his brawns enough to be intimidated by how strong someone looks, their heart quakes once again as soon.
7. Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star)
As you may have already noticed, my list contains quite a lot of old anime.
I can’t deny the aesthetic allure of animes from decades ago since they remind me of simpler times when I was starting to discover what it meant for something to be good or bad and that art often reflected either one very well.
But there’s no denying how much better recent iterations are as animation goes with new techniques being developed every year. Plus, drawing styles change over time, so some older titles will always look more dated than others due to the era in which those were made, while newer ones tend not to suffer this fate until further down the line after many years pass by without any major changes in style trends on top.
I did say that Basilisk is Naruto for adults, but that doesn’t mean the latter is bad — far from it.
The main story of this shonen anime has ended after what felt like a thousand filler arcs, and with good reason: The show achieved so much in its time on air. It not only became one of the “big three” alongside One Piece and Bleach to date; More importantly, it showed us something we had never seen before – an anime about martial arts (specifical ninjutsu). And then some watched because they were curious about how Rock Lee could be anything other than a punching bag when he seemed destined by fate or genetics since birth to die young…
Naruto has something for everyone. If you are a fan of Dragon Ball, there is plenty to enjoy on this show with kickboxing and boxing scenes that will make your heart go pitter-patter.
9. Basilisk: Kouga Ninpou Chou
Forget about the 2018 sequel called Basilisk: Ouka Ninpouchou. Even if its warriors had special abilities, the original series felt realistic — it was like Naruto for adults! Its first episode was excellent, setting the tone for the rest of the show: Two clans fighting to the death. But what made this anime truly unforgettable were all those tragic deaths that could be seen coming from a mile away but still managed to shock you as they unfolded on screen in front of your eyes. You’ll never expect how each individual dies. While some are more affecting than others (I won’t spoil anything), I can safely say there wasn’t any emotionless moment throughout these battles royales done right, which featured tons of exhilarating.
Shigurui is a violent, brutal anime series that will leave you screaming and begging for more. Following two unlikely combatants in the path of bloodshed that’s set out before them from their first meeting to final battle, this 2009 show takes on themes like death and what it means to be alive while managing extraordinarily detailed scenes with no qualms about blood or gore. It may not have any flashy effects such as those found within Elfen Lied or Higurashi’s When They Cry. However, Shigurui still manages an intense plotline where both fighters are pitted against each other using real swords instead of wooden ones – one has only one arm while the other is blind. Definitely worth watching!
If there’s one thing I found most appealing about this movie, it was the cinematography. The style is different from what you would find in a typical sword fight scene — scenes of decapitations and gut-spilling linger with viewers more than usual because they are shot at a slow pace. It feels like everyone involved took their time to get everything just right, which sets each death up for maximum emotional impact (sadness or anger). Definitely not your average action sequence!