"Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple" Stops Dead in the Path of the Warrior
At least in its animated form, Kenichi‘s run as the mightiest disciple comes to its end in the Season 2 Part 2 set. But while the series definitely covers his growth as a student, in no way does it show his final paths, or show the student becoming a master. It’s annoying to not get a real ending, but it is to be expected, since the series continues in comic form after the last episode.
The plot arc in this set takes him into the forest to train with Miu’s grandfather and head of Ryozanpaku. But while he is finding a way to survive off nuts, and with wits in low supply, Ragnarok comes down on his erstwhile allies, the Shinpaku Alliance. This cuts short his training, and we never actually see its outcome. Meanwhile, the final villain of the series appears to be in more episode openings than actual episodes, and any attempts to explain his character come off as forced; seriously, his reason for going ultimately evil is a gumball machine trade, a false win, and then training under a fallen ally of the masters? He’s not even really tricked down the path of evil, he’s shoved and prodded down it by the writers to come up with some sort of end boss.
The only real sense of finality to the last episodes comes courtesy of an admittedly impressive show of the various skills that Kenichi has learned. In a rather interesting fight, Kenichi swaps between the skills (and the personalities) of the various masters he’s trained under; in one second, he’s barroom brawling, the next he’s slicing like his hands are swords, and so forth. Kenichi has had an undefined fighting style throughout the series, occasionally using a certain master’s teachings to get past a certain problem, but this fight shows his true strength: he’s a student of all disciples, and pretty darn good at each. The swap-up confounds his opponent, which leads to the battle going into pretty droll Dragonball Z-ripoff territory, but until this point, it’s an interesting visual, creative, and even audible (he mimics their speech patterns) fight.
The final volume brings no extras to the series, continuing the trend set by the previous three volumes. No final episode commentary, no preview of where the plot goes after the animation ends, or anything else.
Kenichi has had an entertaining run in animated form, but it easily could have been better. The animation didn’t stand out, the voice acting was only functional, and the plot dragged on too many times and felt like it didn’t reach plot points that could have gotten covered. There’s no real end to the series, and fifty episodes in, it feels like it was a wasted trip; Kenichi didn’t get the girl that started his journey down this path of martial arts, and all villains at the end of the path seem forced. Much like Negima!, the first run just seems like a practice run; a second try could really get a good story out there. But unlike Negima!, there’s no real hook to see if it could be better.
Kenichi ends the series with a Double K.O. Some good fights were had, but at the end, everything cancels out.