Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 320 minutes
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now
Kenichi: Fists of fury, heart of a wimp.
It takes confidence and bravery to stand up to a person who is not only bigger than you but has rippling muscles that you know are put to good use when said person is so used to brawling. For years, Kenichi was the type of kid who ran away from a fight or was too frightened to even raise a fist to the point that his classmates call him “Weak Knees” Kenichi. Then something had changed that soon his this still frightened lad going up against the toughest brawlers in town in Part One of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Season 1.
Spanning the series’ first 13 episodes, Kenichi introduces us to a young man whose first day of High school turn out to be a lifechanging event for this wimpy youth. He’s also not only late for the first day of school but he’s also close-lined by a cute girl named Miu who acted out of instinct when Kenichi ran too close to her. When he gets to class, he’s surprised to find out that the new transfer student is Miu who takes a seat not far from him. He is even surprised when the girl says she wants to be his friend.
Kenichi has also always loved the martial arts seeing as he carries a number of books on the subjects and is a member of the Karate Club … or, to put it more accurate, he’s a human punching bag for the club. It isn’t until he pisses off the club’s strongest freshman that he knows he’s in trouble. To top it all off, as he’s walking home he witnesses street punks harassing Miu. Summoning what little courage he has, Kenichi stands up to them only to be the one that Miu rescues instead. As fate would have it, Miu is not only adept in the martial arts but she lives in the Ryozanpaku dojo run by her grandfather and five other martial arts masters.
Offering to train him for a fee, Kenichi becomes the dojo’s only disciple under the tutelage of Master Akisame who says he’ll take it easy on Kenichi but has the poor guy going through brutal exercises that include Kenichi pulling Akisame on a rope tied to a tire. Feeling that the lessons are more scary than the big guy that challenged him, Kenichi learns a few moves from Miu and actually wins the fight and humiliate his opponent. It is after his victory that Kenichi becomes the target of other opponents that include the referee of his first fight as well as a gang called Ragnarok.
To take on his new challengers and the gang thugs whose leader wants to meet him, Kenichi trains with the other masters that include the huge child-like Apachai (master of kick boxing), Kensei (a perverted master of the Chinese martial arts) as well as Shigure (a sexy female master of weapons). More importantly, Kenichi is reluctantly trained by Sakaki who packs quite a mean punch and is a more suitable instructor. While each master relishes in taking Kenichi’s training to it’s fullest until the boy is running for his life or – when Apachai trains him – near death.
Back in school, though, more challengers appear and Kenichi, who still doesn’t want to fight and hides in his Gardening Club, uses the lessons he learned from the different masters. Each opponent brings their own set of skills and Kenichi, recalling each master’s lessons, uses what he learned against them. In one instance, he is challenged by a former professional boxer named Takeda. Taking two of Kenichi’s classmates as hostages, the young kid faces off against him with moves that are sure to defeat a boxer. While the training plays a role in him winning fights, it’s Kenichi’s determination to use martial arts to defend weaker people makes him courageous enough to go up against these foes. It’s even enough to impress Takeda.
In the final episodes of the 13-episode set, one of Ragnarok’s top lieutenants, a big fellow named Shinnosuke, looks for Kenichi and makes him a most interesting proposition. Still, Kenichi might be a bit of a coward at times but he has a real sense of justice that has an old rival coming to his aid when things look grim.
The series contains some decent fighting sequences thanks, in part, to director Hajime Kamegaki (who directed Naruto: Shippuden The Movie). What makes Kenichi such a fun anime series is its sense of humor that is aimed at the martial arts masters who are hilarious. Even Kenichi’s family, most especially his father (who summons his shotgun when he smells trouble), are funny. There’s also a love story here, although it seems a little one-sided seeing and Miu only sees Kenichi as just a friend.
Kenichi, Season 1: Part One, not only delivers quite an entertaining punch but it also makes the fighting action just as fun to watch. The heart of the series is its sense of humor as well as the underdog that much rather tend to a garden than take on a gang of thugs. He’s the kid that doesn’t have the courage to tell a pretty girl that he’s interested in her but has the guts to face a former pro boxer. Kenichi, we are cheering you on and happily awaiting Part Two of this series.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
“Weak Knees” Kenichi is the kid you would least suspect of being able to stand up to street thugs and gang members and it isn’t until he meets a girl named Miu and her unusual household of martial arts masters. Becoming a disciple of the arts, Kenichi must try to survive tough opponents wishing to test their fighting abilities but also survive the training itself.
VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The animation might be a bit by-the-numbers but it does look good on DVD and the fighting sequences are adequate enough to represent the different fighting forms.
AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The English dub voice cast actually does a great job and the original Japanese voices are a delight if you prefer to watch the episodes the way they were meant to be seen. Top that off with a decent soundtrack and you can’t go wrong.
A few trailers here and clean opening and closing songs there and that about covers the extras in this two-disc set.
The first part of Season 1 of Kenichi is a well-paced anime series that’s loads of fun to watch despite the feeling you’ve seen this type of series before. It’s always a treat when the main character is a likeable underdog and you will happily cheer Kenichi’s attempt to keep from getting pulverized by street gangs and overly enthusiastic martial arts masters.