Everything hinges on events from ten years ago that Kenichi can't remember; Perhaps he promised to marry Ryuto?
What They Say
Kenichi's a lot tougher than he used to be - living in a dojo with six martial arts masters will do that to you. But thanks to his reputation as a skilled fighter, the guy's got more problems than ever.
The goons in Ragnarok are gunning for him in a big way, especially the gang's leaders: the Eight Fists, a dangerously unpredictable crew known to play dirty. Luckily, Kenichi's got allies like Miu by his side. She's as tough as she is hot, and even if he still hasn't scored with the blonde brawler, her very presence makes Kenichi train harder to be the best. Yeah, he's come a long way - but Kenichi's fight to be the mightiest disciple isn't over yet.
Contains episodes 39-50.
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 twelve episodes spread across two discs in a six/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 a strong action pose seen from the side while behind him in softer shades of red you have three of his peers that he's fighting against in this set. 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 having a serious looking Miu 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 seventh 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. Both of these essentially take what we saw on the earlier sets and uses the same kind of things but just different outfits and such. 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)
With the second half of the second season, the series is brought up to episode fifty and essentially closes out the first full arc of the show. Unlike some of the previous sets and batches of episodes, this one focuses mostly on the main fight that's been the central goal of the series to date and that's a showdown with Ragnarok. There are a few lead-up events at the start of this set that places things where they need to be, but by and large the set is focused on a couple of fights that are spread across a large chunk of the twelve episodes here. Because of its focus, we lose a little bit of the charm from the earlier sets and it tries to make up for it by showing us how Kenichi has grown.
Kenichi's training is still a good part of the focus and he's continuing to do very well with the diverse level he's getting from all of his masters. What changes in this set is that he's starting to reach a new wall to climb and it's a big enough one that the Elder has actually decided to train Kenichi. This is a significant change as he hasn't taken on a disciple in the longest time and we learn that the first planned student for the dojo was someone who ended up being refused because he was on the wrong path. A man named Ogata, he was focused more on violence and victory through the acquisition of his skills, seeking power more than protection of the weak, that the elder and others refused to train him. This is a fairly simple background story that makes its way into the larger narrative nicely, but is something I wish was woven into the show a lot earlier and more subtly. But that's not this show after all.
Where the show worried me in this part of the season is when it started to explore some of the larger back story that hasn't been seen all that much. Kenichi and Miu have been slowly getting a little bit closer and are even holding hands without realizing the importance of it, at least from Kenichi's point of view. The two of them have been going through a part of town neither has been in for an age and Kenichi suddenly realizes that he's got some strong memories from the time ten years ago when he was much smaller returning. That the two met together all those years isn't a surprise and you're really expecting it to start going down the path of a promised marriage that was forgotten since Kenichi is pretty dense at times.
When the First Great Fist, Ryuto, shows up, it takes a bit more of an unusual turn as we learn that he was friends with Kenichi when they were small and had quite the blow-up just ten years prior as well. Everything is revealed slowly as the three of them start to remember what really happened back then and it's really just kind of silly, but it fits with some of the more mundane outlandish things that have been brought about in the show. Such as the various masters who are all outlandish in their own way yet are fairly mundane stereotypes for the most part. When we get the final truth, as there are different shades of it presented for awhile s each remembers different parts and remembers them differently, it's pretty laughable that everything in the whole series has really been built up because of this. That Ragnarok exists and that Ryuto went through so much training and difficulty because of such a trivial thing is really just jaw dropping at first.
All of it does lead into the final big battle as Ryuto has decided that the Shinpaku Federation no longer amuses him. With his number two, Berserker, brought into play, the stakes get raised nicely as the members of the Federation start getting taken out while Kenichi is off on his training. There are a number of old grudges that get dealt with and some past issues resolved, such as dealing with Kisara and her problems with the older sister she idolized and the younger members of the group that were following her before she left. There's a big push to highlight the differences between Ragnarok and Shinpaku by being overly dramatic about the bonds of friendship and how it's changed things between them. And it plays well with the way that so much changed once people got to know Kenichi and how his presence influenced how they interact with others and the paths their lives suddenly took.
One of the big draws to the final set and the series in general is the fighting aspect of it. We've seen the continual growth of Kenichi over it as he's dealt with so many different masters who have been training him and he's encountered a variety of opponents. There hasn't been a single approach used here and the focus has been about diversity in order for Kenichi to find his path, both in terms of the kinds of martial arts he's using and the way he's going to use them. As it shifts to the final arc, the opponents start becoming more powerful and more focused, though not for the best of reasons. There's an intensity there that we've seen shades of before but not to this level. The culmination of what Kenichi has gone through is given some really good moments to shine which makes it pretty worthwhile. Ryuto takes the cake with what he goes through but it was also very good to see all of the masters get involved as well.
The final set of the series lacks a bit of the magic of the first ones because it's a bit less about the smaller challenges Kenichi has to face and more about the big ones. And one really long awkward flashback sequence that explains what Ryuto's problem is. Most of the episodes this time around also have a bit of recap at the start of each which drains some of the energy when watched as a full set rather than bit by bit. That everything is cleared up by the end of it and that they set it up so that this feels like a good conclusion to the opening story while still offering plenty of potential for more is just an added bonus. It's essentially a given at this point that we won't see any more of this in anime form, though the manga is still running and has nearly forty-volumes worth of material, but I'm definitely glad this series performed well. It surprised me a lot by being fun and simple with its action and comedy. It's got a certain charm that works really well and came at a time when there was a void for this kind of series. Definitely a chance title that paid of well.
Features Japanese 2.0 Language 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.
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