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"Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple" Anime’s Mightiest Hero… Or Not

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Kenichi is back to his studies at the Ryozanpaku dojo, training under his various masters and trying not to die in the process. He’s still chasing after Miu, the “milk cow” girl that everyone at school is envious of. She continues to help Kenichi with his training, all while dealing with the Ragnarok gang trying to rule the school and their city. Additionally, they get a chance to do the requisite beach episode.

The first batch of episodes of Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple were surprisingly good. There was no true insanity, outside of that inherent to a martial arts training show. (Guys throwing statues around is nothing compared to sword fighting against ghosts, or whatever goes on in Bleach.) That semi-realism makes it a little more connectable, which works well when combined with the unrequited love-story of Kenichi, who is naturally interested in the natural blonde. Sure, you’ve got the masters that do everything from hang from the ceiling in ninja attire to run across the fences in town carrying young ones, but at the end of the day, it’s nothing more insane than a Welcome to the NHK.

The episodes are balanced between episodic training or hijinks and the continuing advances of Ragnarok on Kenichi and Miu. One episode is about the Ryozanpaku group going to their own island (in their own boat, powered by Kenichi’s own strength) to both help Kenichi train and conquer some of his fears, while another is about Ryozanpaku planning to destroy Miu’s big day as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. The episodes themselves are likewise balanced between a few minutes dedicated to the rather-realistic fighting (outside of the insane training that Kenichi goes through) leading to, or interrupted by, someone calling Miu a “milk cow” or one of the masters trying to get a picture of someone in a revealing outfit.

Any complaints I have about the actual show boil down to its not actually knowing what it wants to be, and the balancing act mentioned above is prime evidence of that. It can either be a goofy comedy show with some humorous fighting elements, like a Kung Fu Hustle or Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, or it could be a serious martial arts gang war, such as any number of classic Bruce Lee movies. As it stands, it almost comes off like Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Sure, there’s a turf war going on, but given the cast of characters, you honestly can’t take it seriously. Kenichi might be seriously worried about his friends, but when you see him being piledrived into the ocean by a friendly old man in a man-thong episodes before, there goes a little bit of the serious drama. When one episode features Miu having to have her mentors fake being her parents like any number of 80s sitcoms, and later puts her in a street fight with the main female of the rival organization, it’s almost like if Cheech Marin did a crime drama, or the guy from House was in some British comedies.

… wait, they did?

It’s not that the show doesn’t function well; when it does drama, it does it well, and when it does comedy, likewise. Yet, you walk away from it feeling as if you watched two different shows with the same cast. A Reno 911 and COPS crossover, as it were.

The two-disc set features 13 episodes, with good audio and video. Nothing to complain about, which makes me wonder about the justification of the three-episode discs that we were used to years ago. The dub cast is as good as it was in the previous set. Extras are non-existent, like with many recent FUNimation two-disc sets. While I appreciate having fewer releases, with each covering more episodes, having the extras boiled down to textless songs and trailers almost offends the concept of “extras”.

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is definitely worth a watch. Much like how Miu doesn’t know what she wants, the series doesn’t know what it wants. But it’s entertaining for the ride, much like aimlessly driving.

Episodes included on Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple Season 1 Part 2:
Episodes 14-26