Bullies can make the life of an average student a living hell. What can a weakling high schooler do against such thugs? Well if you are me you can flee in terror, become a social recluse and stay indoors playing video games (where you can safely live out the digital fantasy of pummelling any hoodlums who give you trouble.) Thankfully the titular protagonist of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple decides to take a more proactive approach concerning the tormentors based at his after school karate club. Kenichi challenges the bullies to a duel, but to avoid the pounding of a lifetime he’ll have to toughen up first.
With that in mind Kenichi enrols at the Ryozanpaku Dojo, partially to learn some fighting moves from the dojo’s instructors (and partially to get closer to the hot transfer student who happens to reside there.) As the old adage goes – no pain no gain. The gruelling workouts Kenichi is subjected to make a beat down by bullies seem like a tickle fest in comparison. Thankfully the training regime yields results, with Kenichi emerging victorious when he eventually clashes with the muscle heads giving him aggro. Unfortunately things spiral out of control from there when schoolyard rumours begin to circulate proclaiming that Kenichi is now a badass. The gossip reaches the ears of a street gang that decides that Kenichi should join their ranks and they are unwilling to take no for an answer.
Collection one of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple contains a whopping twenty-six episodes, spread across four DVDs. The set follows Kenichi as he squares off against the Eight Fists of Ragnarok gang, who he normally vanquishes using a new technique he conveniently learned earlier on in the episode. As to be expected, from a show marketed at male teens, the stories aren’t exactly deep focusing instead on action. There’s little in the way of character growth, despite claims by the cast that Kenichi has matured ever since he began to receive coaching. In my eyes he remains a snivelling coward by the time episode twenty-six rolls along, although he does manage to temporarily overcome his fears whenever delinquents target his friends.
What makes Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple more watchable than other similar shows would have to be the comedy. This normally comes in the form of the torturous exercises Kenichi is forced to endure, along with the series’ colourful cast of characters. Kenichi’s various masters are an odd bunch that include a pervert who specializes in Chinese martial arts and a Thai kick boxer who is unable to show any restraint (often resulting in poor Kenichi being launched up into the stratosphere by a furious uppercut whenever the two spar.) Other minor characters that made me chuckle include Kenichi’s manipulative classmate Haruo who looks like the devil due to his forked tongue and pointed ears. I also laughed whenever Kenichi’s old man was on screen. He has a habit of transforming from a gentleman to a gun-totting loon (who has christened his shotgun Sebastian.)
As far as a rating goes I would give Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple four stars. Even if it isn’t anything out of this world I found it to be more fun than your typical shonen show as it doesn’t treat itself too seriously. In terms of weaknesses the only things I disliked would have to be Kenichi’s whinging, which can get annoying at times, and the series’ visual look. Like with many long running animes the budget gets stretched thin resulting in some animation shortcuts (such as an over use of still images) and some parts were the quality of the artwork noticeably dips. Even so I think Kenichi is worth watching for anyone who appreciates over the top martial arts action or comedic high school capers. It’s recommended viewing for days when you cut yourself away from human contact and stay at home to avoid those meanies from school (insert painful high school flashbacks.)