Kenichi’s life continues to be full of challenges as he moves in with his masters – and Miu.
What They Say
When we last saw Kenichi, he was making the transition from wimp to warrior... Okay, maybe not warrior, but he was definitely taking steps to man up.
Well, the world is starting to notice, which is good and bad. On the plus side, he's making friends and getting more respect. In the minus column, his rep is growing faster than his skills, which is tricky now that every thug in town wants to test his new techniques. That means between street brawls and trying to score with Miu, Kenichi still has to hang tough with the six martial arts masters. Lucky for him, the training is getting more tense - because before Kenichi can finally stand tall, he'll have to beat his fiercest opponent yet!
Contains episodes 14-26.
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 in his gi where he has a serious look while behind him in softer shades of red you have some of his masters. 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 third volume has the artwork of Kenichi from the slipcover but with Miu behind 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 are 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 and include both the first and second versions of each.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second half of the first “season” of Kenichi brings us another thirteen episodes of light and fairly fun martial arts action. The first half of the season proved to be cute and entertaining but mostly light and filled with standard inspirational rhetoric and ideas, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s a bit racier in a few areas than one might expect – especially an old timer like myself – but it follows a lot of the traditional devices a series like this usually employs. I liked what I saw of the setup and introduction even if it was predictable and hardly mind blowing. It provided me with simple entertainment and that’s what it sets out to do.
Because this is the second of four parts of the series of fifty episodes overall, the segment of episodes here is one where it’s past the initial setup and is mostly moving things into place and getting us a better view of the characters and the situation. It’s not to say there’s no progress here, because there is, but rather they spend a bit more time on some basic silliness for awhile. That means pointless episodes where they go to the beach or other various forms of training that have Kenichi being roughed over by the various masters. There’s fun to be had with this since there’s always the little moments where Kenichi is trying to get closer to Miu and the various masters often use this as a method to get him some additional training. When Kenichi learns there’s a hot spring on the property for example, the traps he has to face to get there really do help him learn a lot of things about himself and his abilities. It’s entirely predictable but there’s still that edge of fun to it that allows it to work.
There are two main arcs to this set that take up a good bit of time and lay some more groundwork for the second half. The first is the growing presence of the Ragnarok folks in the form of the two new Fists that are rising up in the ranks. Kisara continues to be something of an aggressive presence and she’s got it in for Miu pretty hard and knows she has to smack Kenichi around in order for that to actually happen. The other new Fist, the sixth one, is darker and more mysterious as he plays by the rules of the organization whereas Kisara doesn’t. Both have their own approaches to it and use very different methods which at least changes things up a bit. Kisara is a bit more blunt in it as she has her group of lackey’s that get involved in everything as they try to act big and take down others after that fact or by using numbers. Ukita and Takeda in particular suffer their wrath because of the payback that’s owed to Takeda for leaving the organization. There’s some good moments with this but mostly it’s done to
illustrate the growing presence of Ragnarok within the school fighting scene.
The other arc that populates a number of episodes in this set revolves around Niijima and his plans for global domination using both Miu and Kenichi. Niijima is a really odd character and you’d really swear he was an alien of sorts with how he comes across during a lot of this show. His motivations are a bit unclear for all of it, but he’s a master of manipulation (at least in his mind) and of information collection and that lets him play a long and strange game. He wants Miu for himself the most though as he sees her as his best method of reaching real power as well as being able to put the various Masters under his service when he discovers them. But he also needs to do a few other things to make this happen, namely moving Kenichi out of the realm of interest for her and for him as well. There’s some plausible ways to do this since Izumi of the gardening club really has an interest in him and I have to admit that the two make a much cuter and more interesting couple than Kenichi and Miu. So watching Izumi taking a slightly bigger role as the events move forward was welcome since it adds a bit more of non-fighting characteristic to the series.
The major change of this series is that Kenichi is really getting serious about his training. He’s got the sense of righteousness and justice on his side and the kind of personality that will defend others, which makes him ideal for the kind of philosophy that the various masters employ themselves. But to make the leap to really becoming a disciple rather than just training and trying to figure out what he wants, he has to move in with them at the dojo and really undergo serious training. That’s scary on one level but really scary on another because it puts him very close to Miu and he really wants that since he’s so into her. But it poses other problems since living together would create awkward school situations and it could push him into a friend category all too quickly. The show plays it kind of loose, especially with his parents, but it’s cute to see the way it slowly changes the dynamic with other people who learn of it.
Honestly, I don’t have high expectations for this series. It’s very simple fighting/action/comedy series that plays to the obvious angles and with some basic clean and colorful character designs within a real world setting. There isn’t anything here that really feels unique or new but it does it competently and is the kind of show that surely shows up every season in one form or another. It’s not bad, it’s not great, but it’s almost something of a comfort show in seeing it. You know what to expect, you won’t be challenged and you’ll have some laughs along the way. There are some good messages to be found here about perseverance, doing what’s right and sticking to something while working through the challenges. Kenichi is a decent inspirational character and we’re seeing the results of that inspiration in others, slowly but surely. This set builds on the first nicely, advances things a bit and shows us what’s in store for the second half, which hopefully FUNimation will follow through with since this set ends in an awkward place.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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.