Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has become a rather popular title in FUNimation's lineup since it was released in the States last year. In Japan the manga has been going strong since 2002 and the anime wrapped up with 50 episodes over the course of two seasons. If success on both sides of the pond doesn't tell you something, then you're just not paying attention. This is a fun anime with a lot of personality and it's atitle that should be on most everyone's watch list; fighting anime fan or not.
The first season has already been released by FUNimation and to date 26 out of the 50 episodes have been dubbed. Today we're looking at the first half of the second season, and it's safe to say the second year doesn't miss a step!
Kenichi is a fighting anime in its truest form. The show takes a meager offering of a boy and whips him into shape as one of the fiercest men around. At least that's what the masters of the Ryozanpaku Dojo intend to do. To say that Kenichi doesn't really fit the mold would be an understatement, but it's funny what a kid will do to get the girl...and keep from getting his butt kicked. The road to becoming a karate master isn't going to be easy. Thankfully Kenichi seems to have the chops for it and with this installment we follow more of his journey.
In the first season of the show we met Kenichi, Miu, and the whacky masters at Ryozanpaku. At first Kenichi was a glutton for punishment, but gradually over the course of some episodes he began to show his promise. He rose in ranks, learned more skills, and began to crush on Miu which was only natural. The show followed a certain pattern that saw Kenichi learn a new skill and be put to the test by some thug or another. The most interesting thing came about with a rival gang of sorts called Ragnarok that was led by a girl named Kisara. It was enough to draw the first season to a satisfying close, and the second season picks up with Ragnarok still being an issue.
This time around the show doesn't really miss a beat and it's virtually identical to the adventures seen in the first season. Kenichi and Miu must face members of Ragnarok and there are several episodic bouts against others who want to stand up and test their abilities. A fighter known as the Hermit comes around a few times in this installment, as do Loki, Thor, and Siegfried. There's some kidnapping afoot as well and naturally it's up to Kenichi to save Niijima somewhere along the way.
To say that the story in Kenichi is somewhat muted would be an understatement. Sometimes it seems that a cohesive, long-lasting plot plays second fiddle to the slapstick humor and expressive characters. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but it does leave the show feeling a little imbalanced in some respects. If you don't mind episodic content and familiar storylines mixed with plenty of laughs then this second season will be right up your alley. Then again, if you haven't seen the first season there's pretty much no point in checking this one out.
As a franchise Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is very entertaining. It's irreverent and cliché, but there's a certain charm to that. Who doesn't love seeing the underdog rise above the rest and save the day? That's Kenichi for you, and when he's teamed up with Miu the show sizzles. Not every episode in the show is worthwhile, but there's more than enough quality here to make it an easy recommendation. I appreciate the involvement of the Ragnarok characters in this season and hope they continue to push the limits of the show's heroes.
Originally released in 2006, it's really no surprise that Kenichi is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. It's a shame though, because this is a show that would have definitely benefited from an anamorphic widescreen presentation. The artwork is attractive and bright, and comes across quite nicely on DVD. FUNimation's transfer is decent as well with an all around solid showing, though thirteen episodes on two discs doesn't give the compression rate a lot of room for breathing. There are some artifacts here and there, and you'll spot some grain at times. Interlacing isn't entirely predominant, but it's visible every now and then as well. Overall this is a decent looking show with a fine enough transfer, but it's nothing that's going to leave you with a strong impression.
The sound quality for Kenichi is pretty good as well, and in all honesty it comes across slightly better than the video. For audio tracks we have a Japanese 2.0 stereo selection, which is decent in the technical sense, but it's nowhere near as nice as the English 5.1 surround. FUNimation took advantage of this show's excessive amount of action and offered up a track that packs a little punch. It's nothing that's going to give your system a run for its money, but it does create a nice sense of immersion during key moments of the show. The dubbing tracks are both very good as well, with the English and Japanese voiceover teams performing admirably.
Some trailers and textless animation are all you're going to find on this release for the first part of Kenichi's second season.
It may not be a masterpiece by anyone's definition, but Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is a solid fighting anime with plenty of charm. Each episode of the show pops with energy and an off-the-wall sense of humor. The same holds true for the second season of the series, though I dare say the show's episodic nature and formula are beginning to grow a little stale. Folks who enjoyed the first season will want to pick this collection up, but newcomers will want to go back to the first release before digging in. Recommended.
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