Kusanagi (officially rendered as KUSANAGI with no kanji), originally called Clone Kyo (クローンTemplate:Furigana, Kurōn Kyō), is a character from The King of Fighters series of fighting games developed by SNK. He was first introduced in The King of Fighters 2002 as a hidden character and potential mid-boss, while canonically re-introduced in The King of Fighters 2003 as a mandatory mid-boss. Due to Kyo's design changing, some of the developers desired the return of his old look. As a result, Kusanagi was added to the cast as a last minute decision. He is voiced by Mitsuo Iwata, who also voiced the striker character Syo Kirishima, and Masahiro Nonaka, who also voiced the original Kyo Kusanagi.
He was believed by many fans to have been originally created as a NESTS experiment due to a special intro he has with K9999. This introduction is, in fact, a homage to Akira, as K9999 and Kusanagi have the same voice actors as Tetsuo and Kaneda, respectively. In KOF 2002: Unlimited Match he is a Kyo clone created by NESTS. He shares an ending with the other two Kyo clones depicting the clones awakening in a destroyed NESTS facility.
His canon backstory in The King of Fighters 2003 reveals him to be a product of Chizuru Kagura's magic, used to test the strength of the tournament's contestants. His evil appearance is possibly due to the fact that he was created by Chizuru while under the control of Mukai (the leader of the KOF 2003 operation) and Botan (the puppeteer controlling Chizuru and Rose). Its unknown to where Kusanagi is after the events of 2003, since he did not appear in its sequel KOF XI.
His role in KOF Sky Stage and Neo Geo Heroes: Ultimate Shooting is similar to his 2003 counterpart, however he is sent by Chizuru to guard a certain area from any intruders such as the player. The player has to fight their way through Kusanagi in order to advance to the next level. He utilizes his moveset from previous games to launch projectiles or in some cases literal red flames at the player (even summoning white silhouette copies of himself to throw projectiles). His finisher is the Orochinagi which can send an entire wave of projectiles that can almost instantly kill the player's character.
Kusanagi lives only to fight and wants to find a strong fighter for him to test his skills. In KOF 2002, he has a special intro against characters that use weapons in battle such as Chang Koehan, Choi Bounge, Billy Kane and Whip (save for Mai Shiranui and Malin, whom he is unaware that they use hidden weapons): "Temee! Sude de shoubu shiyagare!" (You (bastard)! Fight me with your bare hands!), which is also taken even further in Unlimited Match when fighting against almost anyone who wields weapons; this is also another Akira reference. He enjoys battling pyrokinetic hand to hand combatants (including a weapon user, Mai), especially battling the original Kyo.
Similar to Kyo-1, he's serious at most times. He has special quotes against characters like Kyo, Iori, K', and K9999 in KOF 2002. It is possible that since he does not have the same voice as Kyo (until KOF Sky Stage, where he was voiced by Kyo's voice actor), they gave him the voice of Mitsuo Iwata to make him significantly different from his fellow clones as a unique doppelganger to Kyo.
- Pyrokinesis - Kusanagi has control over fire, but not immune to other types of fire he didn't create.
- Create Fire - Kusanagi can create fire from thin air.
- Fire Attacks - Kusanagi can deliver attacks of fire.
- Fire Projectiles - Kusanagi can fire a projectile of fire through the ground.
- Pillar of Fire - Kusanagi can create a powerful pillar made of fire.
- Fire Body - Kusanagi can put his own body on fire without burning himself.
He fights using a modified version of Kyo's original fighting style from KOF '95. Oddly though, he has an altered version of Kyo's Mu Shiki known as instead the Saishuu Kessen Ougi: Zero Shiki (Final Play-Off Secret Skill: Zero Method). Unlike the other two Kyo clones, the style/method theme naming of the three clans is consistent in Kusanagi's attacks, and his shared moves with the original Kyo tend to be the exact same with minor alterations in damage.
His new Desperation Move in 2002 UM is based on Syo Kirishima's striker attack and is known as 1999 Shiki: Kiri Homura (Method 1999: Mist Blaze), and parodies Domon Kasshu's line from G-Gundam. The method number also is a nod to KOF '99, the start of the NESTS saga, and was also Syo's debut as a striker (in this case KOF '99: Evolution; Syo and Kusanagi also have been both voiced by Mitsuo Iwata to drive the allusion home further).
Kusanagi was also given some of Kyo's techniques from KOF '97 and onward that were never seen in the classic moveset, such as the 910 Shiki: Nue Tsumi (Method 910: Nue Plucker) and its counter-based moves.
His preferred method of fighting is more focused on offense as seen in The King of Fighters 2003, where he aggressively keeps the player at bay with a number of attacks and will often use his Yami Barai projectile, thus making the player rely heavily on defense such as blocking, evasions, and parry based techniques. While his aggressive A.I in KOF 2003 makes him a worthy challenge as a mid-boss, it should be noted that he can be defeated if defense is used to the player's advantage. Defeating Kusanagi with a DM can access the route to fighting the actual final bosses of KOF 2003, Chizuru & Maki then Mukai. If the player simply defeats him without using a DM the final boss will end up being Aldeheid Bernstein who also fights agressively like Kusanagi except slightly overpowered.
- Esaka? - The King of Fighters 2002
- Esaka? 03 - The King of Fighters 2003
- Niritsuhaihan (Antinomy) ~Mutually Exclusive Dichotomy~ - The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match , KOF Sky Stage, Neo Geo Heroes: Ultimate Shooting
- The King of Fighters 2002 - hidden character and potential mid-boss
- The King of Fighters 2003 - hidden character and mid-boss
- The King of Fighters Neowave - hidden character (console versions only)
- The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match - potential mid-boss
- KOF Sky Stage - as a boss
- Neo Geo Heroes: Ultimate Shooting - as a boss
- KOF X Fatal Fury - As a Legend card
- Kimi wa Hero
- The King of Fighters Destiny
- The King of Fighters XIII - as an alternate color scheme for Kyo's classic outfit
Kusanagi in The King of Fighters 2002
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Kusanagi in The King of Fighters Neowave
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Kusanagi in The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match
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Kusanagi as a legend card in KOF X Fatal Fury
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Kusanagi from the KOF 2002 Manga
KOF 2002 UM Render
Brief first appearance in KOF 2003
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Kusanagi Win Quote Pose from KOF 2002
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KOF Skystage Model
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KOF 2002 illustration by Falcoon
The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match: Cloned Team
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Battle damaged (Skystage)
Artwork by Falcoon