Unpopular Opinion: Keijo!!!!!!!!! – The Magnum Op-ass of Sports Stories

keijo 2

I love Keijo.  Both the anime and the manga.  It is to date the best sports story I have ever followed and that will likely never change.  No doubt that sounds preposterous to most people, I mean it’s just a dumb ecchi show shoving ass and tits in your face constantly.  From what I’ve heard the anime bombed pretty hard and there is no doubt in my mind part of the anime’s failure lies in the perception of the show I detailed in the previous sentence.  There are of course other issues, most notably that it starts well into the story, skipping over the two exams, something many fans of the manga resent.  But I can’t help feeling like the main reason people who’ve never read the manga, which has to make up a larger audience base than fans of the manga, avoided Keijo because of how it was perceived; as dumb, trashy fanservice schlock that used a flimsy premise to get away with justifying itself.  That perception is so miserably wrong and the fact that it likely informs the mass opinion of the show is deeply frustrating because Keijo is so much more than it says on the tin.

Now in fairness it is also exactly what it says on the tin, there is a lot of fanservice, tits and especially ass is often shoved into the viewer’s face.  And all of this is justified by the premise, which contrary to popular belief is not in fact flimsy.  Keijo is, in my opinion, the most ingeniously conceived sport of all time, an argument I made in my last post on the subject and will make again here.  But before that point I want clarify a few things.  First off I will explicitly separate the manga and the anime in a few key areas but for the most part I’m going to be talking about them as one unified entity because I want to talk about Keijo in it’s entirety.  Secondly this is going to be long as shit because I have a lot of things I want to talk about.  And lastly this will get up to it’s tits in Keijo and since I will explain things in as much detail as I’m able, there will be spoilers everywhere.  Now that were clear on that let’s get going.

One thing I want to address right away is how things have changed since I wrote my prior review.  In that review I argued that the manga and the anime were of comparable quality largely based on the fact that, at the time, the manga’s ending was very abrupt.  Multiple sites listed chapter 86 as the final chapter of Keijo, and it remained that way for at least a week or two after the Keijo anime wrapped up, a chapter that cuts off right after Kaminashi won her match against Maya/Kaya, seriously the last panel was like her teammates throwing her into the air as a part of their victory celebrations it was jarringly abrupt.  Currently the  manga is now 147 chapters deep so that part of my earlier analysis is no longer valid.  The manga is now unquestionably better than the anime and if the show bombed as badly as I’m hearing then it will likely stay that way.  That said I will stand by my earlier stance that anime made some good edits to the manga, though it made some pretty bad ones too, and that the Maya/Kaya fight was far superior in the anime, which was huge because at the time that was THE final battle of series.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me lay out in simple terms why I think Keijo is the best sport ever conceived.  Ass and titties.  This may surprise you but I didn’t pick that phrase because I’m way into the fanservice, I am but that’s not the point.  I haven’t checked the data in years but I’m fairly confident in what I learned a couple Olympics ago, the most widely viewed women’s event was beach volleyball and it was first in viewership by an overwhelming margin.  This is not due to sex appeal alone but if everyone only watched for the athletic spectacle then the ratings should be less skewed in it’s favor.  Beach volleyball is fun to watch as a sport but it’s also a sport where we get to see women showing a lot of skin, and it has really good ratings.  Basically as the age old adage goes: sex sells.  This is important because one of the central conceits of Keijo is that the sport is so insanely profitable that talented athletes from all kinds of other sports come to Keijo specifically to make bank.  And evidence from reality supports that conceit via women’s beach volleyball.  This is indicative of one of Keijo’s greatest strengths as a story concept, the blending of grounded realism and insane shit you can only find in anime and manga.

One of the reasons I specifically avoid a lot of sports anime is because a ton of them are underdog stories and I’ve seen a million of those.  I don’t want to see some skilled but fledgling team fight against their own weaknesses as they work their way up to the big tournament.  Sports shows share much of the same tone and characterization as shounen stories and I’ll take a shounen show over a sports story any day where underdog narratives are concerned because I value spectacle.  A lot.  So when I see a sports show I want to see high level competition more so than underdog struggles, not that underdogs winning a big fight through hard work, toughness and willpower can’t be fun, but for sports specifically I’m much more interested in high level play.  To that end Keijo is the ultimate sports concept, a sport made of so much money that National and even Olympic level athletes from all kinds of sports will willingly abandon their sport of choice to get a shot at that Keijo money.  This means the baseline of everyone competing in Keijo is really, really high, which results in great spectacle.  Spectacle made all the better by the inventiveness of the ass and tits combat on display, and that was not a joke in the slightest, the combat is incredibly creative.

This setup has a few great boons.  As described above it is totally believable and helps to ground a series which is also chock-full of crazy shit like a character who can use Giga Drill Breaker from Gurren Lagann… with her tits.  Additionally it is a veritable goldmine of creative variety, a bottomless well from which characters of all stripes can be drawn.  In Keijo all the fighters are put into three basic classes, Infighter, Outfighter and Counter.  Infighters are heavy hitters, Outfighters are quick fighters, and Counters excel at using their opponents’ power against them.  However within those three classes there is a ton of variety and room for specialization.  Sayaka and Rokudo Rin for example are both Outfighters with excellent speed and they share the same Ass Gattling technique (a series of super quick attacks with dat ass).  However they have very different strengths.  Sayaka is judo champion who was slated to compete in the Olympics and is notably stronger than most Outfighters, in fact in the beginning she’s got more power than the Infighter Kaminashi.  Rokudo is a runner and she has incredible lung capacity and endurance.  Which is why in a straight Ass Gattling battle Rokudo would win because she can use it endlessly while Sayaka will quickly become tired and out of breath.  Which is why Sayaka switches her main move to the K-acceleration, a move which relies on bursts of intense speed and power, to overcome Rokudo.  Because that technique plays to her strengths as a fighter with a lot of power for her size.

This kind of variety and the resulting plethora of foils, characters who mirror or are diametrically opposed to the main characters, is present throughout the entirety of Keijo.  Kaminashi, our leading lady is an especially fascinating case study where these naturally varying body types and skill sets are concerned because she fits in multiple classes.  She isn’t especially large, Infighters are typically the largest athletes competing.  She isn’t especially strong, which is the kind of the point her class.  She is remarkably good at dodging or keeping her balance when she takes a hit.  Kaminashi would be a great Counter and in practice she wins her first two practice Keijo battles (both happen in the same round but the opponents are very different) by way of Counter-style moves.  If not for the fact she can use her flexibility and gymnastics moves to build up phenomenal force for her special attack, the Vacuum Ass Cannon, there would be no reason to treat her as an Infighter at all.  But her technique is so rare and powerful that it’s practically a sin for her not to fight as an Infighter especially since it has the promise of being a great way to get money.  Which is especially important to Kaminashi as she is dirt poor and has been her whole life.

I know I’ve mixed in some information on techniques which isn’t applicable until the story starts but what I’ve been trying to illustrate over the last few paragraphs is Keijo’s baseline state as a sport.  It’s a tits and ass battle sport fought on a wide variety of arenas, I forgot to mention that above, filled to the brim with incredibly talented athletes who come from all kinds of backgrounds and have all kinds of body types, strengths and skill sets upon which they can create their own Keijo-specific techniques.  And this sport is able to draw from such a varied and consistently talented pool of players because it has all the money for reasons which we easily understand and which mirror trends in reality.  It’s fucking genius and we haven’t even gotten to the actual narrative and characters who populate it.  As far as I’m concerned Keijo has already surpassed any other sport by virtue of how well constructed it is at the conceptual level alone and when competing against other sports stories the match is Keijo’s to win or lose.

Now I expect it to lose for a lot of people.  Because of lot of people don’t want fanservice getting in the way of their sports story (it doesn’t in Keijo but whatever I get the complaint), some people just shy away from fanservice in general, some people will prefer a show about a more realistic sport or a sport they play and some people won’t like the characters and narrative, or maybe they’ll just like another story more.  I do not expect everyone to love Keijo, but what I hope I’ve shown is what merits the sport alone has, divorced from any other elements which a person may or may not like, and that it should be recognized for the excellent craftsmanship on display.  In a genre where most shows and manga just draw from existing sports and can focus solely on characters and narrative, Keijo has created an original sport that not only works as premise for a story but which would work fabulously in the real world as well.  This is just the foundation block of the story but it’s such a great foundation and I’m sad so many people will overlook this because they saw ‘ass and tits fanservice romp’ and checked out.

Ironically enough I came into Keijo like all the people I’ve been decrying, I started with the anime and the attitude that it was going to be so shameless and trashy that I just had to get a look at it.  Then the first episode was great and I checked out the manga and fell head over heels in love with it.  Most fans of Keijo will tell you the anime was bad because it skips the first major arc, the exam arc, which includes a lot of character for the two main girls Kaminashi and Sayaka.  They aren’t wrong but most of the focus appears to be on Sayaka because she develops more explicitly over the course of that arc.  However, while it was stunted, I think the anime got the main thrust of her character story across, that she was a judo champion born to a judo family who felt no passion for judo whatsoever and left against her family’s and even the nation’s wishes, abandoning the sport by throwing her Olympic qualifier match.  There are some great details in the manga that don’t make it into the anime, like how the person she threw the match to got crushed in the Olympics, lost her confidence and how friends of hers try to sabotage Sayaka during the exam as revenge, but honestly Kaminashi was the one who got screwed.

Kaminashi’s closest equivalent from another big name show is Natsu from Fairy Tail.  She appears incredibly stupid and she says stupid or blunt things all the time, but it’s consistently shown that she can be and is incredibly perceptive about things which she actually gives a shit about.  This is shown to an extent in the anime but a lot of subtle changes make Kaminashi looker much stupider and more underdog-ish than she does in the manga.  For example during the Sayaka-Rokudo fight in the anime Kaminashi is confused as to why Rokudo is beating Sayaka in the battle of seemingly equal Ass Gattlings and Kawai, which as a side note is a great name for that character as it’s one letter apart from both kawaii meaning cute and kowai meaning scary and she’s both, explains the endurance thing I detailed above.  In the manga, Non who is consistently depicted as air-headed and kind of out place amid all these other athletes is confused by why Sayaka is losing and Kaminashi is the one who explains it.  I feel this is an especially bad change because one of the key facets of Kaminashi’s character is that she’s far more dangerous than most give her credit for.  This is especially true early on as she’s one of the least famous characters but even in recent manga chapters she proves that she has a good head on her shoulders and can compete with fighters ranked well above her.

But to get away from anime-manga comparisons the point is that I’m a huge fan of Kaminashi and I like the characters in Keijo.  I think the mangaka has made some weird decisions regarding some characters and given how many there are it’s easy for some to fade into the background but on the whole I like them and I really like some of them.  None of the characters outright suck or piss me off.  Which means the story only improves from the impressive foundation laid for it.  This is true of both the anime and the manga though obviously more so for the manga because it’s the better version now.  I want you to keep this in mind whenever I criticize either the anime or the manga because I will and it might look inconsistent.  I think both versions made some bad decisions but I am very fond of Keijo and none of complaints are about things which break or ruin the series, just things I don’t get or disagree with.

For the sake of getting it out of the way let’s do the manga vs anime comparison now.  The anime’s like an 8, it’s a good time and tells a full arc that functions as it’s own story.  I agree that the anime skipping the exams was disappointing but it was also practical.  Most arcs of Keijo last about 3 episodes and there occasional bits that fill time in-between arcs.  This means if the anime had covered both of the two exams plus the first few chapters and the gap between the exams they would end up with 8 or 9 episodes.  To fill 12 they would either have to bloat the episodes they had or end in the middle of the school training.  Both are bad options.   Keijo is pretty tightly paced, it crams in as much as it can from the manga in the time it’s given while still leaving time for the major battles to feel fleshed out and satisfying.  Slowing that pacing down could be done but it probably leave more episodes feeling boring or at least more boring stretches.  Ending in the middle of school would anti-climactic as fuck though so that’s not really a viable option either.  It’s an awkward position to be put in and I think the anime skipping ahead so that it could cover all of the school stuff and finish on the climactic East-West war battles was a good idea.  Or at least it would have been if the anime hadn’t bombed.

The anime also made a number of smart edits to the source material and some shit ones.  One of better ones was keeping Kaminashi in the UTM all time when was forced to wear it, whereas it came off frequently in the manga, I felt that it added a lot more character and made it seem like Kaminashi worked harder.  One of the worst edits was having the Kaminashi vs Fujisaki battle end with both fighters sliding around the circular ring super fast, that looked shit and it was probably the part of manga the anime adapted worst.  The most noticeable improvement the anime makes to the manga though is in the Maya/Kaya fight, the final battle of the East-West War.  In the manga not enough is done to distinguish Maya from her alter ego Kaya and Maya regains control of herself so quickly that it seemed like having split personalities is more of a cheap gimmick to draw out the fight than anything else.  The anime brings that fight to life.  Maya and Kaya have different voices and hair colors, their attacks have different lighting effects and very different sound effects and the anime really sells Kaya as this unrestrained brutal side of the quite and largely defensive Maya and because the Kaya part of the fight takes half an episode of anime it feels fleshed out compared to the thirty seconds it took to read in the manga.

Back when the Maya/Kaya fight was the conclusion I would’ve pegged both the anime and manga as 8s and called it a day.  Now that the manga has continued to other great fights it has reached 10/10 status, but I still remember the anime edition of the Maya/Kaya fight and I struggle not to include that version when I think about Keijo.  Because I have a lot to say about the story in both forms and like both, it’s difficult for me separate them when thinking about Keijo unless I’m specifically looking at what they did differently.  Now let’s look at the manga only problems.

I just said the manga was a 10/10 and that may baffle you.  That’s ok because you aren’t me and don’t necessarily know my thoughts but Keijo is the only sports story I spend a lot of time thinking about.  Even good stuff like Kuroko no Basket which I marathoned the shit out of are shows I don’t love to the point of constantly obsessing over them.  Keijo is a a show I constantly obsess over and I’d like to think that by now I don’t to need any “not just for the fanservice” jokes or lines because that’s clearly not the only thing going in this show nor is it even my primary interest in the show.  I mean if all wanted was fanservice I’d be writing about how High School DxD or HOTD were the best anime of all time and I totally should write about those two for fun, but that’s not why I’m here, not really.  With that in mind let the nitpicking commence.

One of the manga’s problems is it’s got a bunch of characters and concepts which just don’t go anywhere.  For example there’s Kaminashi’s childhood friend who wants to fuck her, the male Keijo engineers, the hints of a shitty love triangle between the childhood friend, Kaminashi and this male-tsundere engineer.  But that’s minor shit.  The decisions which really bother are regarding Ooshima and Naka.  Ooshima is the less important of the two so let’s start with her.  Ooshima is this big volleyball player and National level athlete and she becomes friends with Sayaka and Kaminashi during the 2nd exam and she’s featured pretty heavily during that arc and she shows up for a few minor scenes in the school arc.  She’s an Infighter who’s main advantage is her size and the power that comes with it and she losses all relevance in the manga after she loses during the class advancement battle to Vajrass girl (I don’t remember her name but her technique is Vajrass aka Ass of Vajra, basically taking hard ass to a literal extreme).  Why cut her there?  Vajrass girl is not that important, she may be one Setouchi’s, the school, top ten fighters but that just means she will fight in the East-West War.  She has a mannish character design and sort of rough, ascetic Buddhist slant to her character.  But outside of her technique and design she’s utterly unmemorable and barely relevant to the story.

Why not just have Ooshima take her place?  You could even have Ooshima learn the Vajrass during the training arc between the class advancement battles and the East-West War.  Ooshima was never really a major character even we saw her a lot but at least she has a personality, a clear backstory, a history with the leading ladies and I remember her goddamn name.  I mean Vajrass girl’s most memorable scene is the class advancement battle, which is better in the anime anyway cause she beats out the two Infighters before losing to Non the airhead with a soft ass and arguably the best Counter we know whereas in the manga she loses to Non right away then Non just sort of wins off-screen.  I just don’t see the point of having two irrelevant characters when you could just combine them into one minor character.  Yes the Vajrass has a Buddhist component that isn’t in character for Ooshima but just have her learn it from a monk during the training arc, I mean they go to Kyoto for training why not just include a grizzled old monk guy who teaches her how to toughen herself up and she creates the Vajrass.  I mean Aoba Kazane uses a pyramid shaped ass technique that comes with ridiculous dodging which she describes as Egyptian sorcery (she stole the technique by feeling up a mummy’s ass because she can copy the techniques of any butt she touches) and one girl in a recent chapter uses Ass Incense she got from the African side of the of family to create illusions and basically turn feral so it’s not like having a monk teach Ooshima about body hardening would be too weird or out of place for Keijo.

This problem is only exacerbated when it comes to Naka.  Naka is one of the most interesting characters in the Keijo manga.  Something I forgot to mention while describing how Keijo makes bank is that it’s a gambling sport, so legally speaking all the combatants have to be adults.  They don’t do much with this in the anime and it doesn’t even play that big a role in the manga with one glaring exception, Naka.  Naka is a mom and it’s unclear exactly how old she is though you’d expect low 20’s to low 30’s.  Naka is also a former delinquent bike gang leader who despite her kind and motherly demeanor can get mean, and scare and roast the shit out of anyone she doesn’t like.  In addition to being one of the most interesting characters by way of being older and having a complicated past and life Naka is notable because for a while she has the biggest titties in the show and they are her weapon of choice, whereas most Keijo players focus more heavily on their ass as their primary weapon.  She was also present in the first exam as minor character and was a major character during the second exam.  Why the fuck did they cut her from the manga?

It’s weird.  They just have her marry an engineer and cut her from the story entirely.  Poof, she’s gone.  What I have to wonder is why?  There’s plenty of room for her in the story.  One of Setouchi’s top 10 is so ill defined and unused I don’t remember her name or her technique, I just know that she losses immediately to the twins in the East-West War, why not just give her spot to Naka?  More importantly during the Funabashi arc, especially the final battle, wouldn’t it have made more sense Naka to end up in the final round fighting with Kaminashi against the Funabashi fighters ganging up on them?  Naka clearly has the attitude and toughness that would compel and allow her to throw down on a gang of girls who trick and team up on outsiders and the leader of the Funabashi group is Don Kosugi, who like Naka has huge tits and fights with them almost exclusively.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense to cut Kazane’s Egyptian sorcery bullshit and have Naka fight Don Kosugi, before losing a tit battle thus giving Naka a reason to either retire or train harder and get better, before Kaminashi finishes the fight?  She even would’ve been good to feature during the class advancement battles, because she could have been required to fight Kogatana, who uses boob iaijutsu (sword drawing techniques), and they could have had Naka’s boob volume overcome the boob-draw and get her into the top 10.  So what gives?

Honestly it’s not even like my nitpicks are about Keijo being badly written.  Some of that stuff is unimportant and goes nowhere but nothing I’ve spent the last couple paragraphs whining about breaks the story.  They just represent missed opportunities and I don’t understand why you’d miss those opportunities.  I have no idea if these decisions came from the author, an editor, someone on the business end of things or some combination thereof.  I also have no idea if it’s just because the story wasn’t carefully planned out and characters were discarded before anyone involved knew what to do with them.  It just bugs me because it seems like a waste, especially where Naka is concerned.   Another minor issue I have is that a few characters seem to fly in the face of the high level athlete thing I mentioned.  Non in particular is weird because she’s characterized as clumsy, which you’d think that would preclude her from competing even if no one can beat her soft ass counter.  I like Non and I still think it’s weird.

Anyway let’s cut back to one of Keijo’s strengths, creative combat.  Back towards the top I spent a while talking about the realistic elements of Keijo and those will still be relevant here but this is mostly about the crazy shit.  As a result of the varying backgrounds and skill sets everyone has their special techniques which make them standout and a lot of these techniques are either insane or are borderline superpowers.  That’s not to say there aren’t grounded techniques, Butt on Titan for example is a basic bum rush, pun intended, from a really fat character.  Most of the techniques though are either flat out ridiculous or are based on realistic ideas and then taken to unrealistic extremes.  Sayaka’s K-acceleration for example is based on actual physics, but I’ve yet to meet someone who goes from really fast to borderline teleportation fast just by giving themselves a wedgie.  I’m not complaining mind, I think Keijo strikes a great balance between having elements grounded in reality to make the show make enough sense while also including enough crazy shit to make it over-the-top and fun.  It helps that a number of special attacks are great references like Shoryucans, Giga Tit Breaker, Butt on Titan and Gate of Bootylon, which incidentally was better animated in the Keijo anime than the Gate of Babylon was in UBW.

Keijo is perfect aware of how silly it is and can allows itself to be silly in earnest and not take itself too seriously.  This is good because sometimes shows can’t even get that right.  But the fact Keijo does this while also incorporating realistic elements to excellent effect almost makes me wonder how people can even consider this just a dumb fanservice show.  I mean I know why, they judged the book by it’s cover or a plot synopsis and then looked down their noses at it without digging into the glorious genius that is Keijo.  And that’s not entirely their fault but it does frustrate me some as a big fucking fan to see how underappreciated this series is for shallow reasons.

Anyway back to the action.  The tits and ass action of Keijo is excellent.  There are tons of creative tactics, attacks, super-moves, and arenas to spice up any match.  The arenas range from simple discs to discs covered in mud or water to giant jungle gyms to fucking Edo castles and Spanish galleys.  There are a ton of different kinds of techniques with plenty of fighters choosing techniques which affect the mind.  The physical stuff covers everything you can think of.  I’m not kidding, Kawai has a style that uses precision strikes to key areas to drop her opponents borrowing pages from boxing and wrestling, I dare you to question Keijo’s creativity.  Tactics also play a large role not just in battle but also in developing techniques.  Kogatana just went through an arc where her boobs were suffering damage from overuse and Kaminashi straight up invents a technique for her based on sword-stealing, which I’ve seen in enough anime to wonder if it’s an actual thing in kendo/kenjutsu or if anime is yanking my chain on this one.

I could easily keep going into more and more detail but honestly unless someone wants to talk to me about Keijo, and if you do please a comment cause I will be on that shit, I think I’m done here.  Given that this is about the length of an average 5 page college essay I think I’ve communicated what Keijo has to offer, what aspects of it’s construction are good and why I think Keijo is legit the best sports story I’ve ever seen.  If you made it this far I’d love it if you say something in a comment, even a ‘I think you’re totally wrong because…’ because I would to debate or discuss specific scenes or trends in detail but I’m running out of steam for this particular post.  Thanks for reading, I hope yo liked it and I’ll see you in the next one.

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