Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple Season 1 Part 1 (of 2) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, March 06, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kenichi wants to be good at karate, but he becomes so much more when he finds himself with a group of masters of varying martial arts.

What They Say
Yeah, Kenichi's a total wimp. He's always getting picked on and doesn't have a lot of friends to stick up for him. The guy needs motivation if he hopes to graduate in one piece.

Well, Miu's the perfect motivation. She's hot, she accepts him, and she just so happens to live at a dojo with six martial arts masters. You could say fate has led Kenichi to their door, or you could say he was just following the hottie. Either way, he's about to get whipped into serious shape.

If he can survive some hard-core training, he might survive another day at school. He might even score with Miu. Yeah, you could call Kenichi a wimp. But let's go with underdog instead.

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review!
Kenichi has a good pair of audio mixes on it and the English language track in particular is a surprise. The Japanese track is presented in its original stereo mix format encoded at 192kbps and it serves the material well. It’s a good forward soundstage mix with a fair bit of directionality across it that’s used in both dialogue and fight sequences. There isn’t a lot of depth but the show doesn’t really call for it either. The English language mix is done in 5.1 and is encoded at 448kbps. FUNimation hasn’t been as strong to use 5.1 mixes recently so it was surprising to see it with this show. It does make out with a bit better clarity in the placement of certain action moments, but it’s not a mix that I thought was really warranted over a stereo mix. Action shows do tend to make out better and there are some good moments to be had here, but it’s hardly a real selling point. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.

Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Kenichi has its thirteen episodes spread across two discs in a seven/six format that’s been pretty common for FUNimation season set releases. The show makes out pretty well since it’s a brightly colored show that’s all about the character action. While a lot of shows strive for realism, Kenichi is content in the classic form of an action high school comedy where it’s not doing its best to blend the foreground and backgrounds together. The transfer for this is overall pretty good as the colors maintain a mostly solid feel outside of a few areas of noise that’s noticeable, again usually in the skies or certain school interior colors, and there’s some line noise to be had during some of the panning sequences. There’s little that stands out badly here and it’s an appealing looking presentation overall, but not one that’s going to really shine because of the style of animation.

Kenichi is a rather nicely put together package as it’s got a lot of solid colors, deep colors that aren’t used often and it really uses the artwork available to very good effect. The front cover for the slipcover has a full color shot of Kenichi looking over his shoulder while behind him is a layout with three of the main teachers done in a filtered manner. There’s a whole “rising sun” angle going on here but with the muted reds and reversed design it looks quite nice. The back of the slipcover features some big word tagline material to draw you in as well as the main cute girl shot along the left. Toss in a few shots from the show along the bottom, an upbeat personal summary of the program and a good listing of what’s involved time wise and it’s a fun and engaging little package. The technical information is placed on the bottom of the slipcover which annoys me since it’s hard to read when shrink-wrapped.

Inside the slipcover we get a pair of equally good looking thinpak cases. The first volume has the artwork of Kenichi from the slipcover but with Miu in front of him. The second cover has the trio of teachers from the slipcover as well, this time in full color. Neither cover uses the white circle from the center so it has a bit of a darker look to it that works just as well. The back covers have the same red coloring but with the character artwork done as an outline underneath the episode numbers and episode titles. The reverse side of the covers is light with the same information on one side and a cute shot of the mouse from the dojo on the other in different positions.

The menu design for Kenichi is nice and straightforward as it uses the thinpak covers as the design basis. Each menu is set up like the cover for that respective volume where it has the character artwork and the deep reds behind them. The navigation is very simple since there is no top level episode selection and the first menu is very simple since there’s only three selections. Moving about is quite easy and everything flows well and loads quickly so it’s a very good menu in that sense and it does fit the show well enough, especially since it’s using the good cover artwork material. Like all FUNimation menus, it doesn’t read our players’ language presets and defaults to English language.

The only extras included are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which can be found on the second disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga Shij┼ Saiky┼ no Deshi Ken'ichi by Syun Matsuena, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is fifty episode series that goes back to the classic well of a young man who has to learn to fight. When we first started watching anime DVDs back in the late nineties, it seemed like this genre sort of dominated in a lot of ways, especially because of the number of short run OVAs that were coming out. In the time since, a lot of what was released tended to avoid this particular genre so we don't see too much in the way of fighting anime. Kenichi isn't one of the darker ones like Baki the Grappler nor is it quite as riveting and engaging as Fighting Spirit. Kenichi is all about the simple fun of fighting.

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple revolves around a young high school student named Kenichi. Kenichi is your basic good guy who isn't all that exceptional. He's a decent student but he likes spending his time working on the school garden where he maintains all the plants. He's also very interested in the karate club and has joined there but has run into a lot of real problems. The school has a lot of very good members in it and there are the bullying types who don't want someone like Kenichi dragging them down. So they organize a match to take place in a week where the loser will leave the club graciously and without a problem.

Kenichi is intent on winning but he knows he has no chance. A little luck falls his way however in the form of Miu, a very reserved looked new transfer student. Miu's got the whole librarian type look down pat with the hair pulled back and the big glasses and she's very studious. Through chance, the two become something of friends and Kenichi learns that she's actually a high skilled martial artist as she takes on some thugs that are causing problems. Kenichi is in love for a couple of different reasons but the whole situation has her taking him back to where she lives. As it turns out, she lives with her grandfather who is a martial artist mater himself. And even more interesting is that the dojo location, Ryozanpaku, has several other martial artist masters living there.

The series takes on a pretty obvious approach once the basic building blocks are there, which happens within the first episode. The various masters in the dojo don't really take him on as a disciple, but they all begin offering him small bits of training and advice on how to deal with his karate match and then the eventual other opponents that crop up as he becomes more well known. His fame is amusing as he's becoming infamous for being a delinquent even though that's the farthest thing that he is. Kenichi doesn't want to get into these fights but they keep seeking him out and he keeps getting more and more involved with the dojo masters since he also wants to protect Miu. That's amusing in itself since she's such a good martial artist herself.

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple as a whole is admittedly rather predictable. Kenichi is quite adept at the things he's taught and he picks it up fast, but it's also that his instructors are simply that good at showing him things in the right way. Coincidences abound of course as what they teach him is what he needs to learn, but they also make sure that he learns to fail as well which is a nice touch. There's also the larger storyline shaping up in which there's a number of groups that are working towards being the best of the fighters out there and a group called Ragnarok is alternately trying to recruit Kenichi and destroy him because of his skill. That all of this happens rather quickly is the weak link in the show as Kenichi does get to be too good too fast.

Over the thirteen episodes here, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple takes the young man through a number of fights and various opponents while also building up Miu nicely and introducing a couple of recurring characters. There's a sweet school girl who likes Kenichi and is trying to get to know him but he's oblivious because he's interested in Miu. There's his false friend Nijima who just wants to push Kenichi into more fights for more data and other less than clear reasons. There's also a really good opponent that is brought in towards the end named Takeda who is better developed than most of his opponents in the rest of the series. And the various dojo masters get their time as well but they're mostly comedic effect with some very nice heart to them as well.

In terms of style, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has a good clean look to it but it's one that has a very mainstream kind of appeal to it. Brightly colored and without a lot in the way of blending to make it look realistic, it has that kind of simple design to it that keeps it bouncy and fluid. It's not trying to look like a show like Bleach but has more of the Naruto kind of glossy feel to it. The character designs aren't highly detailed but they're cleanly done and they all stand out well without looking like other characters instantly. The fight sequences are rather well done and they do take time here and there to showcase the actual motions of the events instead of just rushing through it. The series has a good consistent look to it with very little in the way of quirky character designs which is a really big positive in my book.

In Summary:
I can imagine not liking a show like this even five years ago. Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is a straightforward piece where a young man finds himself in a situation where he has to deal with  bullies and discovers that there's far more to himself than he ever imagined. Kenichi is the good kid character who is gifted and has a lot of luck in the people he meets. But with that good heart and a sense of justice on his side, he's able to cope, adapt and try to grow into something better without realizing it. Like a lot of sports shows, it's very inspirational in its tone and that helps it a lot as opposed to a standard fighting show. Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple isn't a great work but I found it to be a fun show that kept me entertained and wanting to see what Kenichi was going to learn next and how the relationships change. Hopefully FUNimation will do well enough with their first season license and will bring out the second half as it's off to a decent start and is a nice change of pace from a lot of what they're releasing at the moment.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 320
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kenichi