Saisyu Kusanagi (草薙 柴舟, Kusanagi Saishū) is a character who debuted in The King of Fighters '94 as a victim in Rugal's gallery of defeated fighters. He appears as a mid-boss in The King of Fighters '95 and becomes a regular character for the first time in The King of Fighters '98. He was originally meant to have died in KOF '94, but was added in at the last minute of developing stages for KOF '95.
Introduced in The King of Fighters '94, Saisyu Kusanagi (Kyo Kusanagi's father) is the current patriarch of the Kusanagi bloodline and master of the sacred flame. Unlike his son, he dons an old fashioned style Kusanagi clan outfit and utilizes more basic traditional martial arts techniques. In 1994, Saisyu embarked on a quest to challenge fighters from around the world. Kyo and his teammates (Benimaru Nikaido and Goro Daimon) learn of his demise just before the final match in KOF '94. Saisyu apparently challenged Rugal Bernstein and is beaten badly, it is implied that he allegedly later succumbed to the injuries he sustained before the finals.
However in The King of Fighters '95 it is eventually revealed that Kusanagi survived, was then brainwashed by Rugal's secretary Vice in order to compete as a mid-boss in the semi-final round. He is supposedly defeated by his son Kyo and his teammates. Upon his second defeat, Saisyu goes in to self-exile, only to resurface again in (a non-canon event) The King of Fighters '98.
In The King of Fighters 2001, he appears before a distraught Shingo Yabuki (Kyo's student) and tutors him in the traditional methods of the Kusanagi Martial-Arts style, as seen in the Japan Team's ending.
Saisyu had originally intended to meet each member of Japan Team personally and check to see if their strength declined before making this request. However, at a glance, he was convinced that he had worried for nothing. He hands them the invitation and requests them to enter so they can help the newcomers.. Saisyu confirms that with Tung on the team, the students will make it to the finals. He then informs them about a new threat which will cause untold chaos.
Saisyu Kusanagi is simply an older, more mellow version of his son Kyo. Regardless, he is just as arrogant and cocky as Kyo; like father, like son. This is quite evident based upon his attitude and body language during several win-poses; where he either laughs abrputly after winning a match (i.e. not taking the bout seriously), nonchalantly scratches his beard or generally seems uninvolved...or bored by rubbing his abdominal muscles in a laxidasical show of bravado.
The only characters that seem to make him even remotely contrary are Rugal (who defeated him back in KOF '94) and seemingly to a lesser extent Kyo (his savior, who subsquently also defeated him a year later in KOF '95). Ironically enough he seems to harbor no indication of resentment or ill-will in the slightest towards Vice (one of Rugal's secretaries; a dominatrix who indulges in sadism), she brainwashed him in KOF '95. Vice visibly holds Saisyu with contempt during their pre-fight scene due to his strong resistance giving her notable difficulty, by pointing at him and spitting. However, he assumes his fighting stance and never acknowledges her insulting behavior.
- Pyrokinesis: Due to his Kusanagi heritage, Saisyu can control fire. He can create fire from thin air, create fire balls, deliver punches of fire, create pillars of fire and put his own body on fire. He is not immune to other types of fire. He cannot control other fires that he didn't create.
Saisyu is a master of the Kusanagi martial arts, an ancient empty handed system that incorporates fire based attacks and kenpō. He uses the basic form of the Kusanagi style, his arsenal is simple yet effective, akin to Kyo's original take on the style prior to '96 (as Saisyu still uses the Yami Barai); oddly enough, Saisyu's original technique, Tsumugari (All-Eyes Reaper), makes use of Kyo's Aragami technique as its initial blow. Likewise, in KOF XIV, Kyo himself likely has his Yaegaki Climax DM follow a similar motion to the SDM Tsumugari in its vein (with the former actually being a Reverse Method version of Tsumugari).
Most of Shingo's (Kyo's "apprentice") animations are shared with Saisyu's, as both use the more basic principles of the Kusanagi style. Saisyu even tutors Shingo himself at some point to further hone the style.
- Hall, Bass and Melody - The King of Fighters '95
- In Spite of One's Age - The King of Fighters '98, R-2
- Toshimitsu Arai - The King of Fighters series ('95, '94 Rebout, Kyo)
- Keiichiro Sakagi - The King of Fighters series (98, 2000, Neowave)
- Toshiharu Nakanishi - The King of Fighters movie (Japanese voice)
- Haruo Yamagishi - The King of Fighters: Destiny
Live Action Actors
- The King of Fighters '95 - Sub Boss
- The King of Fighters '98
- The King of Fighters R-2
- The King of Fighters 2000 - As a Maniac Striker for Kyo
- The King of Fighters Neowave
- The King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match
- The King of Fighters '94: Rebout
- The King of Fighters (pachinko) - event character
- The King of Fighters R-1
- The King of Fighters Mobile R-2
- The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match Online
- The King of Fighters Destiny (Game)
- The King of Fighters All Star
- The King of Fighters M: Fighting Stars Assembly
- The King of Fighters '94 - in the Japan Team's story
- The King of Fighters '96 - in Chizuru's stage
- The King of Fighters 2001 - during the Japan Team's ending
- The King of Fighters 2003 - mentioned in Japan Team's ending
- The King of Fighters XII - mentioned in Kyo's sidestory
- The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match - background cameo in the Japan High School stage
- KOF: Maximum Impact 2 - background cameo (Neo Geo Land Stage); Kyo Kusanagi's Normal Outfit-Variation F, makes Kyo look like a younger Saisyu
- The King of Fighters XIV - in the Japan Team story, and mentioned in China Team story intro
- Early artwork shows Saisyu and Kyo having the Kusanagi symbol on their foreheads. The idea was referenced in one of the KOF Manhua's.
- In Neo-Geo Freak 1998, the characters in KOF '98 have their own interviews. Here are Saisyu's response to the questions.https://archive.org/details/Neo-Geo_Freak_1998-08_Geibunsha_JP/page/n35
- What is your aspiration in this competition? - "Well ... aspire ... I'm going to show the essence of Kusanagi style old martial art to my son. Sharpness of technology, power is still alive! I will make you feel the severity of battle now!"
- Who would you like to fight the most? - "I don't know who it is, but I heard there's a guy who imitates my old martial arts … I want to fight him."
- Who would you like to team up with? / Who would you not like to team up with? - "Uh … Well … someone who seems to be right with me … Yeah … it seems Mr. Takuma would suit me well."
- What is "KOF" for you? - "... reminds me of painful memories …! However, I will put an end to those painful memories through this tournament."
- Finally, please give a word to your fans. - "Do not fall … you will write on fire dust!"
- Interestingly, despite the fact that his Kamukakari (Divine Consult) is a special move, it can be reversed/countered by Blue Mary's Head Buster, a move that normal counters only normals and command normals.