Kenichi wants nothing more than to grow strong in order to protect those around him. Fueling this chivalrous desire is the fact that throughout his entire life, he has been bullied by those bigger than him. In order to realize this dream, Kenichi enrolls in his high school’s karate club, only to be bullied by the stronger boys in the class. While staying late to practice his moves, Kenichi is harassed by the club’s reigning champ who gives our hero an ultimatum: return in a week to fight and, if he loses, he must quit the club. Licking his wounds, Kenichi happens upon a young girl named Miu being harassed by a bunch of thugs. Kenichi clumsily tries to defend her, but he is shocked to see Miu’s exemplary skill over the martial arts as she proceeds to knock the hooligans senseless. At the end of the fight, Kenichi follows the girl to her house – a dojo that is home to the world’s strongest warriors, who agree to train Kenichi to fight.
What makes Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple an entertaining series is the whirlwind tour of different martial arts styles. As Kenichi fights his way through the school’s army of bullies gunning for him, he must apply different forms of real world martial arts, from karate to muay thai boxing. As eager as our hero is to learn the art of fighting, he suffers through a wide number of hard knocks as his masters savagely train him with hilarious results. What I like about the series is that it’s not all about gratuitous martial arts. There’s a genuine message about standing up for one’s self against bullies and to apply martial arts in a defensive and constructive way. And because Kenichi undergoes thorough instruction, most of the lessons presented in the show could easily be applied to real life training. There’s a romantic angle in the series, as Kenichi’s friendship with Miu empowers him to do better and fight the urge to quit. Miu is a delightful character who is strong willed, but very sweet and selfless. Despite her prowess in combat, she is quick to praise Kenichi for his efforts.
Despite such an intense focus on combat, the anime is devoid of significant blood loss. Characters – especially Kenichi – get roughed up, certainly, but bruises are far more prevalent. Although Kenichi wants to protect people, especially Miu, he doesn’t let that get in the way of lecherous swings. That said, the show doesn’t actively put Kenichi into semi-sexual situations but uses them as moments of levity. While certain episodes show off Miu’s curvy form, it isn’t as over the top as, say, Sekirei: The Complete Series. In fact, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is more of a martial arts series than Sekirei, a show built around the premise of a city bracing for a massive battle royale that is sidelined in favor of nudity and panty shots.
Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is a delightful Karate Kid-style adventure that is a great fit for teens looking for martial arts fun.
Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple Season 1 & 2
directed by Hajime Kamegaki
1150 minutes, Number of Discs: 8, Season set
Company Age Rating: 15
Related to: Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple manga by Syun Matsuena