7 martial arts fantasy movies that pack the flavor of Shonen anime

There is no denying that shonen anime has a huge fan base around the world, and while they may always be looking for the next series to watch, they should also take a look at martial arts fantasy movies. Not only is there a common lineage there, but both genders also share many plot points.

Although the two media are different, they share a visual language that facilitates the transition from one to the other. So if you’re looking for something a little different to watch, these are some of the best martial arts fantasy movies that achieve that shonen feeling.

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Double world

Double world

Based on the popular Chinese MMORPG Zhengtu, Double world It was a hidden gem in the confusing film landscape of 2020. Although it was scheduled to hit theaters, it jumped online, which is good news for American audiences as it allowed many more people to see it. Directed by Teddy Chan, the film is set in an ancient Chinese fantasy world, where many warriors gather to participate in a grueling series of trials.

The film follows three competitors as their tangled lives and desires collide during testing. A visual treat, the movie is basically a live-action shonen tournament arc, complete with all the choreographed matches you’d expect. While he is criticized for not doing anything new with the concept, there is no denying that Double world It will keep you gripped from start to finish.

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Big trouble in little China

Big trouble in little China

This 1986 cult classic stars Kurt Russell as Jack Burton. When Burton’s friend, Wang Chi, discovers that a street gang has kidnapped her fiancĂ©, Burton attempts to rescue her. However, he quickly finds himself in the middle of a centuries-long war between two ancient warrior societies, each with its own warriors with magical powers.

Soon, Jack and a gang of misfits must venture underground in Chinatown on an action-packed quest to rescue Wang Chi’s fiancĂ©. While considered a flop, the film has become a cult classic, and its combination of magic, combat, and the fish-out-of-water hero is sure to appeal to fans of shonen anime.

The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity

The Yin-Yang Master

Released in late 2020, The Yin-Yang Master It was directed by Guo Jingming. When an evil serpent threatens to awaken once again, four masters have to venture to the imperial city to seal it off. However, this routine work quickly becomes strange as a series of mysterious murders take place. Demons appear and a twisted conspiracy begins to unfold that threatens to shake the city to the core.

The movie is beautifully shot and the characters are wonderfully made. The mystery at the center of the plot is gripping, and it also features some great world-building. Netflix bought the rights to the movie ahead of its release, which turned out to be a huge move, as this is a movie that international audiences of all stripes will adore.

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Zu: Warriors of Magic Mountain


Rightly considered a classic of the genre, Zu: Warriors of Magic Mountain It was directed by Tsui Hark. Follow Dik Ming Kei, a deserter from the army, who is hunted by vampires, only to be saved by an old master. However, when the Blood Devil attacks, Dik and a demon hunter’s student must go on a quest to find the swords necessary to slay the beast. The movie looks beautiful and had a huge influence on cinema, inspiring many different creatives. In fact, many series of shonen owe their existence to In order to excellent storytelling.

When it was released in the United States, the film was renamed To the warriors of time and featured an immersive sequence. This sequence implies that the film is a comatose dream of a modern fencing champion. Tsui Hark hated this as it was added without his permission, and thankfully later English releases omit it.

shaolin football

shaolin football

As long as Stephen Chow is involved, you can expect great things and shaolin football is no exception. While more modern than many other martial arts fantasy movies, this one is no less fantastic. Sing, a Shaolin monk, learns soccer and decides that this will be the best way to promote the Shaolin arts.

He recruits several of his former training partners and together they form a team and, using their Shaolin skills, attempt to win a tournament. shaolin football is a hilarious game that features all the over the top sports action the title suggests and features a ton of shonen tropes as the team overcomes their struggles and grows stronger.

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The ice man is coming


Launched in 1989, The ice man is coming fuses science fiction and historical fantasy to create a unique film. Follow Fong Sau-ching, a guard who is determined to track down the evil Feng San. But, when Feng San acquires the Black Jade Buddha, both he and Fong are thrown 300 years into the future. When Fong wakes up in the 80s, he must adjust to this new world and pursue his goal to return him to the past and pay for his crimes.

This mix of science fiction and fantasy is unique to the period, and the film would influence many later works. The warrior who has to adapt to a strange new world is something that many shonen anime have copied and built. Also, fans of fish-out-of-water comedy and lovers of intense fight scenes will love it! The ice man is coming.

The forbidden kingdom

Inspired by the classic novel Journey to the West, The forbidden kingdom It came out in 2008 to great fanfare, as it was the first film to co-star with action legends Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The story begins when the teenager Jason Tripitikas meets a mysterious staff in a store. However, when the store owner is shot, he tells Jason to return the staff to their owner. Things take an even more unexpected turn after Jason passes out, waking up in ancient China.

Jason is rescued by Lu Yan, a scholar who tells him about the war between the Monkey King and the Jade Warlord. However, the Monkey King was turned to stone and the Jade Warlord threw the staff into Jason’s world. Now, Jason must return the staff and free the Monkey King. Jason is a great protagonist of isekai, and the film contains all the action you would expect from a fantasy shonen narrative.

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