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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ring ni Kakero's Supreme Superblows Part 1

Finally, to end this celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Ring ni Kakero, we take a look at an element that is likely one of the most influential: The superblows. Now, to be fair, the concept of named attacks was nothing new when RnK debuted. Various martial arts manga utilized such things, the idea giving attacks names existed before manga was even a thing due to the legendary Wong Fei-hung, and the idea of over-the-top signature moves was outright taken from Team Astro, which featured baseball techniques like the Giacobini Meteor Shower Swing, the Skylab Pitch, & the Andromeda Nebula Swing. What Kurumada made iconic was giving his characters' various superblows names that were not quite as literal, instead giving them larger than life names that evoked various feelings & ideas. After all, an uppercut is an uppercut, but naming an uppercut something like "God Dimension" & making it look like Apollon's opponent has been hit with the power of the Sun itself makes it look badass as all hell.

Therefore, here are my personal twelve favorite superblows in all of the original Ring ni Kakero manga. Unlike the prior list, however, I'm only going with the way the manga showcases them, because otherwise I'd have more than just twelve. The anime managed to take Black Shaft's Black Screw, Napoleon Baroa's Devil Propose, & Orpheus' Dead Symphony, which all looked a little plain in the manga, and make them look outstanding. Therefore, let's just stick with how Kurumada originally drew them.

Heart Break Cannon
We're starting off with a superblow that's admittedly simple, but is just as dangerous in real life as it is in the manga. When Jun Kenzaki stands to fight against Theseus of Team Greece in the final set of matches of the World Tournament, he only had so much opposition against him. Team Germany's Scorpion gave him a fight, but not even he could stand against the newly-debuted Galactica Mangum. In comparison, Theseus is something different, knowing exactly how to hit Kenzaki without a care for his well being & able to counter any punch at first. Once Kenzaki finds an opportunity he tries to fight back, but Theseus has the perfect move to stop him with... A heart punch. However, this isn't a measly little punch to the heart. Instead, this move is a cannon of a punch.

In real life, a punch in the chest in the general area of the heart can be very dangerous. Depending on where exactly the punch lands, when combined with a multitude of other factors (the amount of force used, the victim's state of body, etc.), a heart punch can cause cardiac arrest & possibly even death. I don't think punches to the heart are exactly banned in boxing, but I wouldn't be surprised if they are at least discouraged; accidents can happen, though. Theseus, however, most certainly aims with pinpoint accuracy for Kenzaki's heart when uses the Heart Break Cannon, and even uses the force of the blow to send Kenzak into the air, with the intent of having him land heart first onto the top of a steel ring post. It may be a simple concept, but the Heart Break Cannon not only sounds painful, but looks painful; just see the pain in Kenzaki's face when he's hit with it.

While I can't quite say if iconic & still running boxing series Hajime no Ippo has any direct influences from RnK, there is the fact that Eiji Date's "Sunday punch" (as special blows are called in that series) is the Heart Break Shot, which adds in a corkscrew rotation for added effect. Finally, Kurumada himself once had a drink at a bar in Ginza back in 2004 named the Heart Break Cannon. When something gets a mixed drink named after it, then you know that it made an impact.

Lightning Plasma
Masami Kurumada makes no attempt to hide the fact that Saint Seiya reuses concepts, character designs, & even some names from his prior works in new ways... It's just that most people don't know this, because only Seiya gets attention outside of Japan. Case in point is the superblow of Venus, one of the Twelve Gods of Greece (yes, Venus is a Roman goddess... Oops). One of the last of the Twelve for the World Jr. Union to fight, Venus combats Shadow Sousui in a rather short battle, to be honest. It starts off with Sousui getting the upper hand on Venus right away & hitting his superblow Shadow Raijinken... Only for that to be what Venus wanted all along, as his supeblow is the perfect counter for the Raijinken. Not just that, but it's also themed around lighting, which is admittedly odd since the goddess Venus has nothing to do with lightning.

Anyway, Lightning Plasma is a bit of a one-of-a-kind superblow in RnK in that it looks to be a kidney blow, focusing on catching the opponent off-guard. Venus first shows this by taking the Raijinken so that he can counter Sousui from above, letting gravity add extra power to his superblow. Unfortunately for Venus, his second attempt at hitting Sousui with Lightning Plasma ends in failure, as he's countered by a newly-debuting Shadow Ryukyokuha & Meiouken combo attack, but it's interesting that Venus tries to hit it a second time while on the ground, showing that his superblow isn't just an aerial assault. The image Kurumada makes to the blow is also a nice highlight, making it truly look like Venus summoned the power of plasma itself (which lightning is a form of) to destroy Sousui's side from above. Obviously, Kurumada liked the name itself, as he would reuse it in Saint Seiya as the signature attack for Leo Aiolia, where it appears as a massive series of random light-speed strikes that look like laser beams. Not just that, but Kurumada would make up for the use of a Roman deity name among Greek gods in Seiya, as Aphrodite (Venus' Greek equivalent) wound up being the name of the Pisces Gold Saint. Still, even though Lightning Plasma is known now primarily as Aiolia's main attack, I definitely find the original version of the move neat in its own right.

Neo Bible
The world of the pros is where Ryuji & Kenzaki always dreamed of entering ever since the beginning of the story. In order to become World Bantamweight Champion, though, both of them would eventually learn of the roadblock that would stand in their way: The World Champion himself. Coming from the small country of Monaco, Jesus Christ is so overwhelmingly dominant over his opposition that his entire weight class is nicknamed "Jesus Weight". While Ryuji is fittingly shocked upon hearing word of Christ's apparent power, Kenzaki takes his upcoming opponent like he does anyone else, i.e. with bravado & self-assuredness. Hell, he doesn't even have a problem with challenging the champion after already having been bruised & scarred after an intense fight with Ishimatsu while on the way to the match. Unfortunately, Kenzaki realizes just how godlike Christ is upon first bell. Even with him trying to take the champ by surprise by rushing him before he can even take off his robe, Christ immediately responds with his superblow, the ever so fitting Neo Bible.

True to his biblical naming, Jesus Christ's superpowered left uppercut looks as though the Lord himself just delivered punishment upon his opponent. Christ stands above Kenzaki as though on high, with the lighting looking as if it emanates from his raised fist, clearing away the clouds that Kenzaki brought to him. Not just that, but this is the only superblow in the entire manga to be written with letters instead of katakana or kanji (& in all-caps, no less), helping give the superblow a real feeling of natural supremacy; this is the punch of a seemingly godlike human. Naturally, Kenzaki manages to get up from it, but a seeming second Neo Bible (it's not stated as much, but Christ's delivery looks identical) delivered to him during a series of blows that feel as though Genesis was being done upon him almost does Kenzaki in for good. Without a doubt, the Neo Bible is one of the most damaging superblows in Ring ni Kakero, and the imagery Kurumada drew to accompany it truly matches that feeling.

Special Cross Counter
I originally had Shinatora's (Special) Rolling Thunder in this list along with this entry, but I decided that having both would be kind of redundant, so you can think of this as a double entry if you want. Anyway, the (S)RT relies on Shinatora's quick speed in order to deliver a series of left straights to the opponent in rapid succession from the gut up to the face; Rolling Thunder uses three punches, while Special Rolling Thunder ups the ante to five. Combined with the "Miraculous Defense" that he's already known for, due to his fast footwork, and Kazuki Shinatora easily comes off as one of the best boxers in Team Golden Japan Jr. from a technical perspective. Also, the name "Rolling Thunder" is just always really sweet, though I can't find out how far back the term goes. Still, everything has a counter to it, and Helga from Team Germany made it his mission to figure out how to defeat all of Japan's superblows in time for the World Tournament. When it came to Shinatora's superblow, though, Helga came up with a simple solution.

The second of Team Germany's mysteriously bandaged boxers, Himmler wants nothing more than to makes Shinatora perform the SRT. When he does just that, Himmler strikes back with his superblow, the Special Cross Counter. Quite simply, Helga realized that the only way to beat the SRT was to simply react & punch faster than Shinatora, and that's what Himmler does. Each & every punch from Shinatora's SRT gets countered with a punch from Himmler's SCC, using the basic logic of countering a straight with a cross counter that prevents Shinatora from actually hitting Himmler. In that regard, wouldn't the SCC just be a single punch, since Shinatora wouldn't be able to punch again? Well, since the SRT comes out so fast, the punches just become like an unstoppable reflex from Shinatora, so cross countering only one punch wouldn't be enough; Himmler has to counter all five. Sadly, much like Helga's superblow counters in general, the stringently focused strategy doesn't take into consideration unlikely plans... Like if Shinatora was to aim for Himmler's fist instead. Still, the SCC alone makes Himmler the most memorable of Team Germany's bandaged boxers, and even in Ring ni Kakero 2 it's revealed that the SCC left permanent scars on Shinatora, not to mention the fact that the Himmler of the new generation evolved his predecessor's reversal to its most extreme level: The SCC∞. Yes, it's as crazy as it sounds.

Cyclone Maelstrom
Another superblow from the Twelve Gods, and this time it's from one of the strongest members. The final member of the Twelve before the almighty Zeus himself, "Sea God" Poseidon is Ryuji's first opponent, & makes no hesitation is trying to take out the Japan Jr. Champion with his superblow. Calling upon both the power of the South Pacific/Indian Ocean equivalent to what others call a hurricane or typhoon & the inescapable force of a oceanic whirlpool, Poseidon's Cyclone Maelstrom not only has a name that honestly just rolls off of the tongue, but the image showcasing it visually represents its strength well. The swirling vortices in the background, the impact lines for effect, and Ryuji's dead-eyed reaction upon being hit all help make Poseidon's special take on a left cross just look lovely & forceful.

Sadly, this is really the only time Poseidon actually manages to deliver his superblow as intended. Whether it's due to the first hints of Zeus' "true form" interrupting the bout shortly, or due to Ryuji trying to perfectly nail down his Boomerang Teleios for the first time, Poseidon tries about another two times to hit his foe with the Cyclone Maelstrom, but never succeeds. At least in between all of these moments are signs of an actual boxing match, with Poseidon throwing plenty of regular punches to help soften Ryuji up for another (undelivered) superblow. Unfortunately for him, though, once Ryuji successfully delivers the Teleios it's down for the count for Poseidon, but at least he managed to make the absolute best with his single superblow delivery.

Speaking of the Teleios...

Boomerang Teleios
Ending Part 1 is the final form of Ryuji's series of Boomerang superblows. While he managed to get by early on well enough with his Right Straight, which ended up being a kind of signature punch for the rest of the series, Ryuji's sister Kiku knew that her little brother needed something more; he needed a punch that could properly finish a fight. Therefore, she started teaching him how to deliver a sharp left hook, & quickly it became obvious that Ryuji's hook held devastating power behind it, and she named it the Boomerang Hook (due to how a boomerang hooks around when thrown). Eventually, Ryuji would learn that his Boomerang Hook was actually meant to be delivered as a corkscrew blow (created by "Kid" McCoy), and through further refinement became the Boomerang Square. The centripetal force delivered by the Square's corkscrew motion would often result in Ryuji's foes being spun around, if not simply launched with extreme force. For a good example of this elsewhere, look at Dudley's Corkscrew Cross from Super Street Fighter IV, as it's a direct reference to the Boomerang Square. Therefore, where else could Kurumada take the Boomerang? Well, I honestly can't quite explain it fully, but I can at least make an educated guess... Plus, it just looks really sweet.

After some final training at the Shadow Tower before fighting the Twelve Gods, Ryuji completes his left hook superblow into its final form: Boomerang Teleios. Using the Greek word for "finished" or "perfect", the blow itself isn't any different from its predecessors by being a powerful left hook in nature. Since Ryuji didn't have the chance to test it out, though, it requires a few tries to properly deliver, and Kurumada likewise didn't seem to have a proper image in mind when he debuted it. Originally, the imagery used with the Teleios is rather simple, showing Ryuji throwing his left hook & the opponent keeling over or being blown away; it's a "shortly after moment of impact" image. Kurumada also gives it the sound effect of "FIRE", which looks cool but otherwise doesn't add much to it. Not too long into the Ashura Chapter, though, Kurumada changes the imagery shown with the Teleios, instead relying on the photocopier for effect. Here, the "FIRE" sound effect is gone, and instead of a single image, Kurumada instead shows the image multiple times across a splash page, giving the effect of the image rotating into place. What makes this style of imagery work best is that this allowed Kurumada to vary how the Teleios looks. The first time, for example, has the image of Ryuji hitting Seiga rotate across the splash page from right to left. Another example has the image split out in four, from the center to each corner. Finally, we have the most iconic image style, where it spirals out from the center. As for what it represents, I like to think of it as the Boomerang Teleios not simply delivering centripetal force on the opponent's body, like the Square does, but rather it delivers that force on the opponent's entire essence; every fiber of the foe's being is being spiraled away.

Regardless of what it actually represents (which I'm sure the manga properly describes at one point, but a lack of translation hampers me here), there's no doubt that the Boomerang Teleios remains one of the most interesting attacks ever drawn in an action manga; there truly is nothing else like it, I'd say.
This brings an end to Part 1 of this list of my favorite superblows in Ring ni Kakero. That being said, this isn't a KO punch, so check back at the end of the month for Part 2, where we cover more of the best.


  1. Well, about Venus, Kurumada is somewhat notable for turning mostly-known-as female names into male ones. Gee, I just remember there was a bit of a polemic with Next Dimension's most recent chapter where some funs were arguing about whether Gestault's horse - the past saggitarius saint - who was apparently fused with his horse was male or female because the name was "Tanya".

  2. Thank you for mentioning it: Kurumada-Sensei laid the foundations of what is known as Shonen; but nobody recognizes him, among other things, because he was dismissed from Shueisha and because they always preferred to highlight other works and their contributions to the genre. Thank you for honoring someone whose work changed my life.

    A Faithful Warrior of the Goddess Athena.