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Context

Kyo Kusanagi (no relation to Major Kusanagi, except for the mythological reference) is kind of the lynch pin of his universe.

He rose to prominence as the main character of SNK’s flagship fighting game series The King of Fighters.

However, like other leading characters that came before him, he was soon overshadowed by later newcomers. But he still represents an edgy hip J-pop youth.

He occupies the niche of the Cool Japanese Young Male Lead, and is an ace martial artist with fire powers.

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Background

  • Real Name: Kyo Kusanagi.
  • Other Aliases: The Scion of Flames, The greatest King of Fighters to ever live.
  • Known Relatives: Saishu Kusanagi (father), Shizuka Kusanagi (mother), Souji Kusanagi (cousin), Aoi Kusanagi (cousin), Kyo-1 (clone), Kyo-2 (clone), K’ (has Kyo’s DNA), Krizalid (has Kyo’s DNA), K9999 (has Kyo’s DNA).
  • Group Affiliation: Japan Team aka Hero Team aka Kyo Team, Three Sacred Treasures Team.
  • Height: 5’11″ (1.80m). Weight: 165 lbs. (75 Kg.).
  • Eyes: Brown. Hair: Brown.

Powers and Abilities

Kyo fights using the familial unarmed combat style, kenpō  unarmed forms, and his ancestral control over fire.

In early games he was your standard Ken/Ryu clone. With a projectile, an uppercut, and one or two other specials along with good speed and power. He followed the template for your standard fighting game character.

However, this was not to remain so. SNK, no doubt, wanted their new golden boy to stand out from the crowd. So he was radically changed in his third outing.

Grasscutter

Kusanagi-san became a combo rushdown character. In 1996, that was pretty fancy in a fighting game. Did I say “fancy”? What I really meant to say was “revolutionary”. He was the very first character to have follow-up variable combo moves. It was years before these became more widespread, and they’re still not common.

Kyo works best up close and personal. But he has a few moves to help him close the distance and assist with setting up his combos. Gone are the days of spamming projectiles – as the only real reach his flames now have is during his supers.

All in all, it there’s a pretty steep learning curve on his combos and how to use his moves. But he’s very rewarding if one can do so.

Kyo Kusanagi (King of Fighters)

History

This is the story of the greatest King of Fighters that ever lived…

Kyo’s story actually starts about 1800 years before he was born. Or at least his clan’s story does.

A powerful Orochi demon god was threatening to destroy the world, but the Kusanagi Clan (the sword that seals) and the Yagami Clan (the shield that holds) banded together. Along with mystics from the Yata Clan they were able to seal off the demon.

However as in most ancient tales this merely served as a warning. For the demon was not done with them yet.

Aftermath of the war against the Orochi

The Kusanagis rose to prominence. They claimed most of the glory due to their flashy red flames.

Meanwhile the Yagamis — whose powers were more defensive, less spectacular — grew jealous. As their clan had born a brunt of the losses, they decided to harness some of the Orochi’s power as a reward. They were unaware that the demon king himself had manipulated them into doing so.

This triggered an all-out war between the clans – and led to them slaughtering each other.

The Kusanagi Clan came out on top. The remaining few descendents of the Yagami’s were scattered to the winds.

But their conflict wasn’t finished. Nor had either seen the last of the mighty Orochi – as such turmoil would continue to this day.

Kyo Kusanagi (King of Fighters) portrait

King of Fighters ’94

Despite being the sole heir to the mighty Kusanagi Clan, Kyo had always been a bit of a troublemaker. He frequently neglected his training sessions.

Nevertheless, he was a skilled and talented martial artist in his own right. And he could wield the red Kusanagi flames, making him a force to be reckoned with.

In 1994, a worldwide “King of Fighters” tournament was announced. His father Saisyu persuaded him to enter the tryouts for the Japan Team. This could bring honor to their clan, and hopefully help Kyo find a bit more purpose in the martial arts.

King of Fighters ’94 (continued)

Kyo proved that he was a world-class martial artist. He rose through the tournament, winning fight after fight without much effort.

His first real challenge would come in the form of a giant judo champion Goro Daimon. Kyo had a hard time putting him down.

After the match, Daimon-san explained that he had once trained beside Kyo’s father. He promised to win his next match so that Kusanagi and Daimon could once again fight side by side on Japan’s three-man team.

Kyo’s next bout would prove more electrifying. He faced off against Benimaru Nikaido, another fighter from a prominent family. Mr. Nikaido believed that he was the best at everything and would stop at nothing to prove it.

Benimaru could manipulate electricity, so as their next bout raged both flame and sparks filled their arena. But eventually Kyo once again emerged victorious.

Beni would later claim that Kyo got lucky. He became his rival, vowing to defeat Kusanagi on the world stage to prove that he was the best.

King of Fighters ’94 (continued)

The team did far better than they were initially expected to. The clear favourites had been:

  • The Kyokugenryu Team from Art of Fighting fame who were representing Mexico.
  • The Hungry Wolves Team from Fatal Fury. Representing Italy despite not a single person coming from that country.

(Even stranger, Robert from the Kyokugenryu Team was actually from Italy but chose to fight for Mexico. None of this made any sense. In the next outing repping countries was ditched).

At any rate Kyo and his team managed to advance to the finals. He even beat Terry’s Hungry Wolf Team. Which was a huge upset, considering Terry had formerly been the King of Fighters Champion.

The tournament is won… or is it

After that the team received a message telling them to prepare for their final battle with the host of the tournament.

While the team was preparing, the locker room was suddenly filled with gas incapacitating them.

The group woke up aboard the Black Noah airship. They were greeted by their host infamous cartel boss Rugal Bernstein. Rugal ran a colossal international mob and was considered the world’s most dangerous and wanted man. But he had grown bored with always being the best, so he had organized the tournament to entertain himself against strong fighters.

The trio could only look on at Rugal’s house of horrors. He had a habit of bronzing fighters whom he had defeated and turning them into statues.

Not wanting to share their fate they attacked the crime lord. But it became clear early on that they were no match for him. Rugal easily swept aside Benimaru and Goro, incapacitating them.

Kyo Kusanagi (King of Fighters) with black vest and pants

Kyo vs. Rugal

As the fighting raged Kyo noticed an unconscious figure in the corner. He realized that it was his father Saisyu, who had done some investigating of his own before the tournament. This had led him to confront Rugal – only to be knocked out.

It was within that instant that Kyo knew what was at stake. Not only would he and his teammates loses their lives and wind up as macabre trophies, but so would his beloved father and mentor.

With renewed vigor Kyo fought on. He managed to summon an unprecedented Kusanagi flame, which was enough to finally defeat the villain.

Rugal was shocked at being defeated by such a young challenger. But like all supervillains he had a nefarious back up plan. Bernstein triggered his ship’s self-destruct mechanism to take the heroes down with him rather than face justice.

Kyo and his comrades barely made it off the ship before it exploded and crashed into the ocean. But even after the harrowing experience they would live to fight another day as there would be plenty more challenges yet to come.

King of Fighters ’95

Another year passed and yet another KoF Tournament was announced. This time the invitations were signed only as “R”.. Rugal was thought to have perished in the previous tournament, so who could it be? Only one way to find out.

Kyo and his team once again fought their way through the ranks, but this year came with an added twist. Iori Yagami, the sole survivor of his clan, was out to settle a centuries-old grudge by killing Kyo. Kyo bravely promised to meet him in the finals – as they were in separate brackets.

Predictably things didn’t go as planned. Kyo and his team were once again gassed while preparing for their final battle with Iori’s Rival Team. Iori, for reasons then unknown, started vomiting blood. He went berserk and soundly thrashed both his teammates.

Bare-chested Kyo Kusanagi in the bathroom (SNK King of Fighters)

Rugal’s riotous return

Kyo and his team were taken aboard the Black Noah II to once again face Rugal. But this time the crime lord had an extra surprise. Before they could fight him, they would have to battle their way past Saisyu Kusanagi. Who had been kidnapped and brainwashed.

Kyo prevailed. Right before he lost consciousness, Saisyu told his son to beat Rugal and avenge him.

The team once again fought the evil overlord, but this time was different. Rugal was even more powerful than before, and he had a creepy glow in his cybernetic eye. He thoroughly mopped the floor with all three of them. Kyo was unable to hurt him with his flames.

As Rugal was about to strike the killing blow he doubled over in pain. It seemed as if his own body had suddenly turned against him.

This once again triggered the self-destruct mechanism aboard his ship. Much like the previous year, the team barely made it out in time.

King of Fighters ’96

Not long after, Kyo was challenged by a hulking figure in strange clothing. Kusanagi had a bad feeling about this, but he none the less accepted.

As the match began a mysterious howling wind began to blow. This new challenger could control the air and he used that ability to utterly pummel Kyo.

Kusanagi came to in the hospital, surrounded by concerned friends and family. They urged him to get some rest and recover from his wounds, but Kyo would have none of it. He knew what he had to do.

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Training montage

Defying everyone’s advice he painfully rose out of bed, walked outside and started training. He knew full well that he was destined to face this mysterious challenger again – and that his current fighting style wasn’t going to cut it. He had to develop ways to push through his opponent’s wind.

(This is the in-universe rationale for Kyo’s gameplay becoming based on variable follow-up combos).

During the 1996 KoF tournament, Kyo’s team easily reached the finale. But before he could have their showdown with Iori’s team, Kyo was challenged by the mysterious host of the tournament. Who turned out to be an alluring woman.

As they fought he could feel a familiar air about her, but couldn’t quite place it. She revealed herself to be Chizuru Kagura, heir to the Yata Clan. Those were the mystics who had helped the Kusanagi and Yagami Clans seal the Orochi demons centuries ago.

Demon winds

She revealed that only the Kusanagi and Yagami united could defeat the unholy power of the returned Orochi. But before she could finish her story the stadium was ripped apart by an inexplicable tornado. The true antagonist stepped forward to reveal himself.

The stranger who had beaten up Kyo earlier introduced himself as Goenitz, one of the four heavenly kings of the Orochi. All of the other fighters were either unconscious or unable to reach the center ring, due to tornado damage. So it was up to Kyo to face the threat alone.

While Kyo’s new style was a huge improvement, it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to stand up to Goenitz’s wind powers.

Then things went from bad to worse as Iori stepped out of the shadows and into the fray. Goenitz bellowed that Iori was indeed a Yagami. And would therefore serve the Orochi to help him dispose of Kyo.

However, Iori angrily proclaimed that he would serve no master, and that only he had the right to slay Kyo. Thus, Kusanagi and Yagami once again joined forces and fought the Orochi.

The pair emerged victorious, but were separated at the end of the battle. So their showdown would have to wait for another day.

Kyo Kusanagi (King of Fighters) with gray leather jacket and jeans

King of Fighters ’97

Obsessed fanboy Shingo Yabuki started following Kyo around to emulate him. At first Kyo told him to get lost, but he ultimately relented. Kusanagi allowed Yabuki to hang around and do the grunt work and favors. Even including buying him lunch. All for a chance to watch his man-crush in action.

Before the 1997 KoF tournament, Kyo had nightmares about fighting an invincible shadow monster. Convinced that they were tied to the upcoming tournament, he led his team forward to the finals.

But before the final match could begin, Leona (of the Ikari Warrior Team), Ryuji Yamazaki and the previously unseen Iori went berserk. Furthermore, the New Face Team, that had washed out early in the tournament, suddenly acquired magical powers and went on a rampage.

These were all descendants of the cursed Orochi bloodline and thus bound to the demon king.

Riot of the blood

It took all the remaining fighters to subdue the berserkers. By the end very few were left standing. Kyo then watched in horror as Yashiro Nanase and Shermie, both of the New Face Team, killed themselves to transfer their power into their remaining teammate Chris.

This was finally enough energy for Orochi to physically manifest on Earth. He set about his mission to destroy all humans.

Kyo was now the only fighter left standing, and clearly no match for the demon god. But as all seemed lost Iori came to his aid. Through his immense strength of will he had broken free of Orochi control.

As the pair started to gain the upper hand, Orochi tried to regain control over Iori. Desperate, Yagami grabbed hold of his former master. This gave Kusanagi an opening, to channel all his power into a killing blow.

The explosion seemingly vaporized all three. No trace of them was found anywhere in the rubble.

Kyo Kusanagi taking a train in the evening (King of Fighters art)

King of Fighters ’98

This game was a non-canon dream match. It has no bearing on the story at large.

However, during this time Kyo had been kidnapped by the NEST Cartel, the next antagonist in the series. They kept him sedated while they harvested his DNA to make clones. Or empower others with Kusanagi magical heritage.

Kyo eventually broke free of the facility. But the traumatic experience had left him with partial amnesia. He thus didn’t immediately contact friends and family.

King of Fighters ’99

Both Kyo and Iori participated… as did several Kyo clones.

Kusanagi and his doubles were mere single entries, and had little impact. Beyond confusing onlookers with various Kyo vs. Kyo matches.

But K’, one of the NEST experiments that had received DNA from Kyo, won the championship with his team. They could thus challenge one of the Cartel bosses, Krizalid.

They were victorious, and the tournament was concluded for the year.

King of Fighters 2000

Once again Kyo joined as a single entry.

He was largely swept aside in favor of K’ and his team who would go on to defeat the final boss – Clone Zero.

King of Fighters 2001

Kyo reunited with his old teammates Benimaru and Goro. The tournament required four-person teams so Shingo, now a capable fighter in his own right, joined.

The team returned to prominence and had an impressive showing. But once again K’ and his team came in first place. They were the ones to confront final boss Igniz.

Kyo’s team likely placed second. But the grudge match between Kyo and Iori’s teams was not to be as they were in separate brackets.

King of Fighters 2002

Another non-canon dream match with no bearing on the story.

Curiously enough this game had an evil Kyo as the sub boss. And it brought back Rugal as the final villain.

King of Fighters Another Day and Maximum Impact series

(This was SNK’s foray into the burgeoning 3D fighter market. By all accounts they were pretty decent games, but after releasing two games and the Regulation A update, SNK had financial woes. This killed this series, and there are currently no plans for new instalments).

Kyo participates in these single-entry tournaments. But the focus was on some of the newly introduced cast.

In Another Day, anime short tie-ins show Kyo fighting K’ and team, then the Ikari Warriors. The Ikari Warriors had two objectives:

  1. Bring back their AWOL teammate Whip. They were unsuccessful at as she didn’t want to come back, and K’ and team were able to fend them off.
  2. Hunt down some of the remaining Kyo clones.

This also failed as they had received false intel. The Kyo that they confronted was the original. They and Kyo shared a laugh (and quite possibly a drink) after the dust had settled.

(This was the last mention of Kyo’s clones, and that storyline was dropped. Besides history has proven that clone stories don’t always make for the best plot elements for beloved characters).

As for the tournament it’s implied that Kyo won a few fights. Then got bored and went home to his girlfriend, Yuki, whom he had been unable to contact during the matches.

So, not much of a splash in this outing for a former KoF champion.

Kyo's outfits gallery (King of Fighters)

King of Fighters 2003

Mysterious group Those From the Past (a.k.a. Those from a Distant Land) stole and broke the Orochi seal, causing chaos. Their intentions were unclear, and they weren’t clearly identified.

Kyo, Iori, and Chizuru were all single entries in this game. They thus didn’t have much of an impact on the storyline. There were hints that they would assembled as the Three Sacred Treasures and kick all kinds of ass, but that didn’t come to pass. The storyline is honestly kind of a mess.

Once again, we see an evil version of Kyo act as a mid-boss. It was reportedly brought to life by Chizuru’s Yata Mirror, used by her dead sister Maki. Maki had been slain by Goenitz years prior, but a corrupted version of her was brought back to wreak havoc.

The tournament doesn’t really reach a satisfactory conclusion. Ash betrayed his teammates and hit Chizuru from behind, leaving her hospitalized. He then stole the Mirror and bailed, which ended the tournament.

King of Fighters XI

Kyo and Iori finally put their differences aside. Then recruited Shingo to be their third man.

This outing also had a confusing soup of a plot. But it doesn’t seem like Kyo and company had a major impact on the story.

King of Fighters XII

SNK suddenly announced that they were ditching the Atomiswave technology in favor of the more popular Taito Type X2. So this game was essentially released as a beta version to recoup costs, with a limited roster.

It was therefore labeled noncanon. Kyo was a playable character though…

Kyo Kusanagi (King of Fighters) black leather jacket jeans burning finger

King of Fighters XIII

Kyo was all set to participate with his ’94 teammates Benimaru and Goro. But this was not to be.

Ash triggered Iori’s Riot of the Blood, and he savagely beat Kyo.

Ash then stole the sacred Yagami shield, and its power to wield the purple Orochi flames. From there he only needed to destroy the Kusanagi’s sacred sword to once again free the Orochi.

But in this time of need Elizabeth Blanctorche stepped forward. Along with Duo Long and Shen Loo, two of Ash’s former teammates that he had betrayed.

It was revealed that Ash had actually been a childhood friend of Elizabeth’s. He was raised in the same mansion until it was burnt to the ground.

As to Those From The Past, they were actually demons with time manipulation powers, allied to the Orochi.

Ash had coveted their power for himself. But Elizabeth, the last descendant of guardians against such a threat, was able to stop him and the rest of Those from the Past.

King of Fighters XIV

KoF had been huge business. Russian oligarch Antov stepped forward as the new host. But of course it was hijacked by some demons or some such.

Kyo rejoined the classic Japan Team. But he and other previous leads have been pushed aside for Shun’ei and his Chinese Hero Team – who are now the main protagonists.

King of Fighters XV

This game has been set to be released on February 17th, 2022.

Kyo was of course one of the earliest characters to be confirmed. So we’ll most likely be seeing a lot more of him.

Kyo Kusanagi (King of Fighters) white leather jacket fingerless gloves

Description

Kyo is a handsome young Japanese man. Early on, he typically wears a black outfit that looks similar to a sleeveless black school uniform complete with black fighting gloves and a bandana.

In later years he started wearing a white leather jacket with black trim and his family emblem on the back (a blazing disc).

Quotes

“That’s it ? Well I’m not angry, just disappointed.”

“Burn in the fury of my flames, you worthless weakling.”

“Resistance is flammable. No one can snuff my flame !”

“It’s all experience. Fight on, dude !”

“Victory was predestined. I’m not in your bush league.”

“This ain’t what a real battlefield should be !”

DC Heroes RPG

Kyo Kusanagi

Dex: 08 Str: 04 Bod: 05
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 07
Inf: 06 Aur: 06 Spi: 08
Init: 023 HP: 090

Powers:

Adrenaline Surge: 05, Flame Being: 04, Flame Project: 08, Jumping: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Adrenaline Surge only works with Flame Project and Martial Artist.
  • Flame Project has a Range of Touch, unless Pushed – which gives it a Range of 00 during that Phase.
  • Flame Being cannot be used while taking a Dice Action.

Skills:

Acrobatics: 04, Artist (Guitarist): 03, Martial Artist: 12, Vehicles (Land): 04

Advantages:

Attractive, Iron Nerves, Languages (Japanese), Popularity, Schtick (Pain Tolerance (Medium), Stance Assessment, Wound Rejection).

Connections:

Benimaru Nikaido (High), Athena Asamiya (High), Shingo Yabuki (High), Goro Daimon (High), Terry Bogard (High), Saishu Kusanagi (High), Chizuru Kagura (High), K’ (Low), Maxima (Low), Iori Yagami (Low), Alba Meira (Low).

Drawbacks:

Enemy (Orochi bloodline).

Motivation:

Responsibility of Power.

Occupation:

Student and heir to the Kusanagi clan.

Wealth:

008


Design Notes

Kyo is stated to write poetry. But it isn’t that good, so he’s likely doing so Unskilled.


Kyo-1 clone

Kyo has gone through several stages of improvement. These are best represented by the clones that NEST produced, since these were incomplete copies.

NEST later achieved far more success by implanting some of the Kusanagi DNA in other already living hosts rather than start from scratch.

Kyo-1 is essentially Kyo from ’94-‘95, before Goenitz thrashed him.

Dex: 08 Str: 04 Bod: 05
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 07
Inf: 06 Aur: 06 Spi: 08
Init: 023 HP: 000

Powers:

Adrenaline Surge: 03, Flame Being: 04, Flame Projection: 05, Jumping: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Adrenaline Surge only works with Flame Project.
  • Flame Project is Diminishing and has to be channelled through the ground.
  • Flame Being prevents taking any other Action during that Phase.

Skills:

Acrobatics: 04, Martial Artist: 10

Advantages:

Attractive, Iron Nerves, Languages (Japanese), Schtick (Stance Assessment).

Drawbacks:

Age (young), MIH (original Kyo).


2003 mid-boss Ky clone

Same stats as above, but with 80 Hero Points.


Kyo-2 clone

The second Kyo clone resembles Kyo from ’96-‘97. No ranged attacks, but he can use his flames for devastating close combat. He also has a few jump maneuvers for mobility.

Dex: 08 Str: 04 Bod: 05
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 07
Inf: 06 Aur: 06 Spi: 08
Init: 023 HP: 080

Powers:

Adrenaline Surge: 03, Flame Being: 04, Flame Project: 08, Jumping: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Adrenaline Surge only works with Flame Project and Martial Artist.
  • Flame Project has a Range of Touch.
  • Flame Being cannot be used consecutively from Phase to Phase.

Skills:

Acrobatics: 04, Martial Artist: 11

Advantages:

Attractive, Iron Nerves, Languages (Japanese), Schtick (Stance Assessment).

Drawbacks:

Age (young), MIH (original Kyo).

Writeups.org writer avatar Tom Eilers

By Tom Eilers.

Source of Character: King of Fighters video games.

Helper(s): Darci, SNK wiki  .