Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple – Collection Two (Episodes 27-50) (Cert 15)
4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 589 minutes approx.
Once the frivolity of the opening filler episodes are out of the way, this second volume of this action comedy series charting the rise of Kenichi Shirahama from nobody to martial arts hero wastes little time in resuming his bitter and violent feud between the powerful Ragnarok group, home to the deadly Eight Fists. And with twenty four episodes to get through there is a lot of ground to cover.
Without wishing to spoil anything, the First Fist Odin and Kenichi have something of a history together dating right back to their junior days, but only one of them can remember that far back – and you can guess which one that would be. And to make this amnesia even worse, Miu, the F-Cup fighter who took Kenichi under her wing at her grandfather’s dojo Ryōzanpaku, is also a figure from Kenichi’s past. How he could have forgotten her once the story is revealed makes one wonder at what point did the writers have the idea of connecting these characters by their pasts and at what point they would resolve it because this whole scenario reeks of throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. Indeed, once the catalyst for the whole Ragnorak vs Ryōzanpaku feud is finally revealed in the final episode, I fear feet may end up being put through TV screens in a display of violent objection for such a flimsy revelation.
The basic framework of the plot hasn’t changed much since the previous release, with many fighters getting their backsides handed to them by Kenichi, only to have a new found respect for his skills, and join his side against Ragnorak. When these deserters start to come from Ragnorak then the animosity towards Kenichi runs deeper and to say the titular protagonist is left fighting for his life is an understatement. For example, the last Ragnorak fighter our hero earned a hard fought victory over at the end of volume one, Hermit, turns out to be his schoolmate Tanimoto, which changes nothing for the Sixth Fist, as he bides his time for a rematch. The Fourth Fist, Loki, devises a plan to get Kenichi’s attention by kidnapping his younger sister Honoka, thus forcing the return bout against Hermit, which is where Odin makes his first appearance.
This being a comedy anime the fearsome fighters that make up Ragnorak’s Eight Fists are a mixture of eccentric types (Siegfried, who lives for his love of music) or straight ahead brutes (Berserker, a dim witted but devastating bulldozer of a man), which undermines their knee trembling threat somewhat. As we know from last time the line-up on Ryōzanpaku’s sides is equally bonkers, with a passing new addition in the form of Renka Ma, the formidable daughter of pervy Chinese master Kensei Ma, who enters into a brief (read: one filler episode) clash with Miu over the affections of Kenichi. Speaking of Miu, she and sworn Ragnorak enemy Kisara Nanjō – who bestowed upon Miu the less than lustrous sobriquet of “Cow Tits” – resume their feud only to have Kisara show that it is okay for the females to switch sides too. And yes, their clothes get ripped off when they fight.
Haruo Niijima is still on hand to cause chaos for Kenichi by stirring up trouble with Ragnorak via his public bragging about his group’s greatness and false advertising of the membership line up. Amazing, the alien faced slimeball manages to engender some kind of loyalty from the various people and fighters he encounters, which of course comes in very handy during times of need, and of course pays dividends for Kenichi when he finds himself slightly out numbered.
As we enter the final arc, this show decides to pay tribute to the many shonen adventures it was no doubt influenced by when Kenichi is whisked away by Miu’s grandfather Hayato Fūrinji for some intensive training to learn a super new skill. The cause of this is when Odin displays supernatural powers, depicted by a steaming, coloured aura emitting from his intense gurning body, evocative of the power ups as seen on Bleach, Naruto and Dragonball Z. This is naturally coupled with Kenichi’s need for offering protection as his purpose for fighting, a common motive in anime. After avoiding all of these clichés for so long, it feels a little bit of shame for such conventions to be adhered to this late in the game but as the finale was nigh, it can be excused as a safe way to explain Kenichi’s inevitable victory in the climactic final showdown.
Despite having come glaring niggles and cavils here and there, it is quite hard to dislike Kenichi overall. Fifty episodes was always going to be an ambitious episode count to fulfil, and while the ideas clearly run up at the three-quarter mark, leaving the way for repetition, eked out battles scenes, time consuming silliness and equally time consuming recaps at the start of the episodes (one lasts over SIX minutes!), the challenge was met head on and handled very well. Even when diverting for filler episodes some action is guaranteed and if that isn’t applicable then expect full blown manic comedy to tickle your funny bone. It’s hardly subtle stuff (come on, “cow tits”??) but there is something infectious in the childlike antics of hulking Muay Thai brute Apachai Hopachai or the stoic “approach everything with violence” of weapons goddess Shigure Kōsaka that should raise a giggle even from the most hardened misery guts.
Signs of creative fatigue may show up in the latter quarter of its run where familiar anime habits are picked up but honestly, the best compliment I can pay Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple is that it has no delusions of grandeur and makes it’s manifesto to deliver a hugely fun and entertainingly endearing show abundantly clear from the onset. Job done I’d say!
English Language 5.1 Surround Sound
Japanese Language Stereo
Disc 4 only:
Textless Opening – “Yahoo”
Textless Closing 1 – “Run Over”
Textless Closing 2 – “Kokoro Kara no Message”
Rating – ****
Man In Black