Comics or Manga about tournament fighting?
May 7, 2008 3:53 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend comic-books or manga that feature tournament-fighting or gladiator-fighting as the central setting/plot?

Basically, I am looking for comics and manga that have stories that are similar to movies like Bloodsport, Karate Kid, the Rocky movies, Gladiator, etc...

...ideally they would feature an aspiring fighter and their quest to win the tournament or escape their slavery or some-such.

I am primarily looking for books that have this idea as the central concept to the entire title... i.e. I am not so interested in the fact that maybe there is an issue of X-Men that features a boxing match.

Planet Hulk is an okay match as it is collected as a TPB... but not a perfect match b/c it isn't really as focused on gladiator fighting as the synopsis makes it sound.
posted by robotdog to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I haven't read Fighting Spirit/Hajime no Ippo, but it's a well-known boxing manga. A good (and very well-drawn) British boxing comic named The Fists of Danny Pyke ran in Eagle in the early 80s, but I don't know if it's been collected into a TPB or similar.
posted by martinrebas at 4:25 AM on May 7, 2008

The end of the original run of the Thunderbolts comic from Marvel focused on underground tournament fighting. It was actually pretty good, but too radical a shift from the main comic and died on the vine before the stories ever got resolved.

There are also Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter comic books, if that's of any help.
posted by Shepherd at 4:52 AM on May 7, 2008

Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight?
posted by Del Chimney at 4:55 AM on May 7, 2008

The closest thing to Rocky from Marvel is probably the silly but enjoyable Marvel Two-In-One annual #7.

It doesn't seem like The Fists of Danny Pyke was ever collected, but it's exactly what you're looking for. It might be possible to find back issues of Eagle (the relaunched version from 1982) somewhere -- apparently TFODP was serialised in issues 79-93.

I suppose there's Dragon Ball, too, if that counts.
posted by martinrebas at 5:04 AM on May 7, 2008

There's an entire genre of manga referred to as "tournament-fighter", where a central band of characters spend most of the series fighting villains (or each other) in single combat. The most popular of these would be Naruto, One Piece, Dragonball, Bleach, Ruroni Kenshin, Getbackers, ie anything ever produced by Shounen Jump magazine.

If you're looking for a tournament specifically, YuYu Hakusho's main plot lines revolve around martial-arts tournaments. Dragonball (regular, not Z) as well features an annual martial arts tournament that features into its plotlines, though not as centrally as YuYu.
posted by Ndwright at 5:50 AM on May 7, 2008

A recent manga, Deadman Wonderland might interest you. It follows a boy sent to prison where inmates with special powers are forced to fight in underground gladiatorial matches. The loser must give up a randomly selected body part. It hasn't been licensed for America yet but you can find English scans easily with Google.

Gantz is another manga where teams of players are recruited for missions to fight aliens, monsters, etc. Players are individually scored based on performance, and can use points to buy their freedom or revive a dead player.
posted by Amaterasu at 6:04 AM on May 7, 2008

Battle Royale seems similar to what you're looking for. The "tournament" isn't at all as organized as gladiatorial fighting would be, but the premise is definitely the same.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:32 AM on May 7, 2008

posted by PenDevil at 6:49 AM on May 7, 2008

I may be remembering this poorly, but it seemed to me that Ranma 1/2 almost always involved some huge fighting challenge or tournament, sometimes gladiator-style (on ice skates!). Other than that it was mostly girl (and boy) drama and whimsical cuteness.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 7:06 AM on May 7, 2008

(Probably some are a bit dated)
There's a lot of these. If you're looking for something like Rocky, there's the classic "Ashita no Joe" (it still make people, myself included, well up with tears and blubber like a ten-year-old with a scraped knee whenever someone brings up the "white ash" speech).

"Baki the Grappler" is also a famous one.

"Kinnukuman" might fit once the storyline changes a bit.

"Hareluya II Boy" is that "figher becoming the best," storyline (, but not necessarily centered in any sport or organized tournament, but street-fighting and school gang fights.

"Yuyu Hakusho" has the main character dying before his time and goes through challenges and tasks in the spirit world (lots of fighting) to prove his worth so he can be reincarnated in the human world. Then the story continues with him working as a demon detective for the Spirit World (so more fights and powers revealed, though not in tournament style).

Another old classic, though it's a more absurdist comedy rather than Rocky or Bloodsport-esque, is "Sugoi-yo Masaru San." It introduces the Sexy Commando fighting style and eventually leads up to the Sexy Commando Club actually participating in a Sexy Commando fighting tournament.

That's all I can remember off the top of my head as far as original anime/manga series. But there's also plenty of manga/anime that are adapted videogame storybooks. There are a lot with different versions. I've seen several King of Fighters comics as well as a Virtua Fighter cartoon series in my days (others include Battle Arena Toshinden, Street Fighter...and so on and so forth).

Hermitosis: Ranma 1/2 did have a lot of fighting in it, particularly a lot of Ranma having to fight jealous girls or boys that think that his girl or boy versions are dating himself. The more tournament-style fights came from when Ranma would get officially challenged to a fight. For example when Kodachi Kuno challenges girl Ranma to match with real audiences to stake her claim on boy Ranma.

But there was theatrical release of Ranma 1/2 where the gang goes on a boating trip only to end up at weird mysterious island and after the girls get kidnapped, he enters his girl version self in a tournament to win the hand of a fickle mystical prince of the island in marriage to rescue them (oh, and get some of the mystical water so he doesn't switch between boy and girl anymore of course).
posted by kkokkodalk at 10:11 AM on May 7, 2008

If giant robots are your bag, you may wish to check out G Gundam. All of the countries have a giant robot to represent them in an international tournament.
posted by phredgreen at 1:38 PM on May 7, 2008

Adding to the manga/anime list: Noritaka. Japanese kid learns kickboxing then fights his way thru a laundry list of other martial arts in various matches.

Maybe too indirect, but Fist of North Star? It's not about a tournament per se, but one plot point over the long term is about proving your supremacy using mystical martial arts.
posted by shortfuse at 6:39 PM on May 7, 2008

The last few months of "The Immortal Iron Fist" (Marvel) have involved an incredibly well-written and highly stylized tournament-style battle between several other-worldly fighters, all fighting in a neutral dimension.
posted by Detuned Radio at 6:46 PM on May 7, 2008

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