Review for Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple Part 2
It may have taken its sweet time in getting here, but now that it has, Manga Entertainment aren’t hanging about in getting Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple onto shop shelves. Barely a couple of months have passed since the release of Season 1, and we’re already wrapping things up with Season 2. Kenichi’s first season turned out to be quite an agreeable show, almost a parody of the usual shonen tropes of levelling up through training, and succeeding through superior willpower. It has lots of fun sending up the usual character tropes, and it always remembers to dial back the drama and emphasise the comedy. I had a great time watching season 1 and have been looking forward to the show’s conclusion. Let’s see if it can maintain its comic credentials.
Kenichi Shirahama wants to be stronger. He’s a high school student who is at the bottom of the pecking order in school; the most bullied and most picked on boy there. His heart’s in the right place, and he has all the self-help books you can think of to help him stand up to his foes. Of course he doesn’t realise that turning pages is no aid to building muscle, and no shortcut to growing a spine. But the books do inadvertently set him on the right path, when absorbed in a tome he bumps into transfer student Miu Furinji, and winds up flat on his back for his trouble. Miu is strong, seriously strong, and well able to take care of herself. She’s also kind-hearted and takes pity on Kenichi, and quickly befriends him. She also invites him over to her place. Her place just happens to be the unconventional Ryozanpaku dojo, where a group of the toughest and most skilled martial artists train with Miu’s grandfather, and under whose tutelage she’s become adept as well. Now Kenichi can get the training he needs to stand up to the bullies, but this training turns out to be worse than any punishment any bully has handed out to him, and he doesn’t realise that once he’s able to stand up for himself, he’ll have started down a path from which there is no return.
The concluding 24 episodes of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple are presented across four discs from Manga Entertainment.
27. Hard vs. Soft! Once-in-a-Lifetime Quarrel Between Brothers!
28. Here Comes the Shock Troop Commander! Battle Royal at the Restaurant!
29. The Fearsome Siegfried! Prelude to Destruction!
30. The Results of Training! Align Forward Half!
31. Honoka Will Help You!
32. Honoka’s in Danger! Loki’s Plot!
33. Strike Kenichi! Fists do the Talking!
34. Don’t Give In! The Words Left By a Loved One!
35. There’s No One in Our Way! Now is the Time to Settle the Fight!
36. Miu vs. Renka! The Love Triangle Creates a Storm!
37. Dangerous Trap! Let’s Have Some Sumo Chanko Stew Together!
38. Cute Kitten! Hand to Hand Battle Among Women!
39. Shigure’s Personal... Lesson
40. The Place the Promise was Made! Everything Started Here!
41. Terror of the Sphere of Control! A Dragon Descends!
42. Elder’s Super Express! Do-or-Die Secluded Tour in the Mountains
43. Limiter! Invitation to the World of Bloodshed!
44. Collapse of the Shinpaku Federation! The Crazy Fist Stealthily Approaches!
45. The Decisive Attack! Kisara Dances!
46. Farewell! A Determined Niijima Joins the Fray!
47. The Weakness of the Genius! Effort Surpasses Talent!
48. Showdown between the Leaders! The Man with the Legendary Spear!
49. The Mightiest Transformation! The Ryozanpaku Rhythm!
50. The Mightiest Disciple, Kenichi!
Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple Season 2 gets a 4:3 regular transfer, but for some bizarre reason, given that Season 1 was native PAL, this time the discs get NTSC-PAL standards conversions. There is a hint of ghosting and the video quality is a little softer, and pans and scrolls are a tad more uneven. Kenichi is a somewhat simplistic anime, with bright, colourful and simple character and world designs, and animation more limited compared to what we are now used to. It almost feels like a show from the late 1990s instead of the 2006 vintage that it is. Having said that, the action scenes come across with impact, and the intent of the story is always conveyed. Despite the episode per disc count, Kenichi also comes through with little in the way of compression artefacts, and it’s all a very pleasant watch.
Episode 28 for some reason gets afflicted with a rather extreme judder, while episode 38 sees a drastic drop in animation quality, cutting back on the frame rate significantly, and with characters drifting so far off model that they may be in another anime altogether.
You get the choice of DD 5.1 English and DD 2.0 Japanese, with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track, as is the norm for a Funimation sourced title. It’s a fairly standard comedy action show, and that is evident in the run of the mill, if enthusiastic voice actor performances, both in the English and the Japanese versions, the latter of which I stuck with through the episodes. The music suits the story well, and the action comes across adequately enough given the quality of the show. I gave the English dub a quick try and found it to be quite watchable, with the voice cast suited to their roles. The subtitles are accurately timed, but do have more than their fair share of typos in. It isn’t detrimental to the show though. A bigger bugbear I had with this series was the placement of the layer changes on each disc, always in the middle of a scene, never between episodes.
All four discs get static menus and also jacket pictures for compatible players. The only extras are on disc 4, the textless opening sequence, and two textless closings.
I suppose a good old ditto is in order here. Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple Season 2 picks up where season 1 leaves off, delivering more comedy hi-jinks as the most unlikely martial artist around gets some serious training from the toughest masters going. He learns his skills just in time to face up against the next batch of mean and skilled delinquents, all while promoting a philosophy of peace and friendliness, usually perverted by his ‘best’ friend Haruo Niijima. The emphasis is always on the comedy, and even when the fights are at their most brutal, the anime never loses its light touch and sense of ridicule. It’s great fun, and its episodes are a relaxing way to while away those 20 minute chunks of free time.
Take a look at my review of Season 1 to see what Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple is about, as it’s just as valid here. I have to admit that the second season didn’t quite appeal to me as much as the first, although it’s down to fine distinctions. A very small part of it would be the absence of Kenichi’s parents in this collection of episodes, as they always provided great comic relief in the first. But most of it is down to the direction and the climax of the story.
The problem here is that we’ve gone well and truly past the point where Kenichi was the hopeless incompetent, somehow scratching by on what he had gleaned from his teachers at Ryozanpaku. Now he is a competent martial artist. More than that, we’ve passed the point where it was all about physical skill and ‘real life’ fighting techniques. We’re now into the realm of chi, of special moves, and of unleashing super powers like a Street Fighter II character. That pretty quickly kills the gag in Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple, and in many way makes it like any other shonen fighting show.
The second thing is that we get to see the repetitive nature of the fights, with each new Ragnarok member challenging Kenichi, Kenichi delivering a beat down, and the Ragnarok member seeing the error of his or her ways, and switching sides to Kenichi and his friends instead. It’s a constant theme through these episodes and gets laughable by the end.
It is a fine distinction, but Season 1 of Kenichi earned itself a lot of goodwill, and that carries through to this collection of episodes, especially as it still manages to keep those comic moments and stand alone episodes that deliver comedy rather than the increasingly tedious narrative. And when all is said and done, a shonen action show does need a multi-episode spanning battle sequence to raise the blood, and invoke a little fist-pumping at a vicarious victory or two. In that respect, Kenichi delivers just what it is supposed to. All in all, Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple is a disposable bit of silliness, but with its comic emphasis, and its larger than life characters, it’s a bit of nonsense that I can see myself making a lot of time for.