Recently I decided to take a trip down memory lane and revisit an Anime series that I originally watched when I was studying abroad in Japan; History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi (Shijō Saikyō no Deshi Kenichi). The reason I find this series interesting is because underneath the cover of fan service and some flashy effects, there is actually a decent story.
The story begins with a focus on our main character Shirahama Kenichi, a lonely first year high school student who has trouble making friends and is bullied constantly. He longs to learn martial arts as a means to defend himself and the beliefs he wishes to uphold. One day while walking to school he meets a beautiful young girl named Furinji Miu. After seeking to defend her against the gangs of Ragnarok he learns that she is a master of mixed martial arts. She agree’s to take him to the dojo where her grandfather, Furinji Hayato, lives: Ryouzanpaku. Coincidentally this is also the home of several masters of marital arts: 100th Level Black Belt Shio Sakaki, Death God of the Muay Thai Underworld Apachai Hopachai, Master of all forms of Chinese Kempo Ma Kensei, the Philosophical Jyujitsu Master Kouetsuji Akisame , Master of the handling of all weapons Kouska Shigure.
Under their hellish (and comedic) tutelage Kenichi begins the train for martial arts. He eventually is able to overcome his first fight with a fellow classmate who bullies him in the karate club. However, upon this victory Kenichi comes to understand that people will want to challenge him constantly and from this point on he must train harder then ever to prepare for the ever increasing difficulty of the fights ahead of him.
Eventually, through intense training and the confidence gained from victories and the lessons learned from defeats Kenichi begins to gain new allies as people start to find against untamed violence and for the sake of wanting to be at peace. Eventually the Shinpaku Alliance is formed with former strong members of Ragnarok at its core. In the final showdown Kenichi must face down his old friend Asamiya Ryuto who because of a promise made between the two (and numerous psychological issues) has become the leader of Ragnarok and intent on destroying any person he deems weak. Their final fight is fierce and deadly by eventually Kenichi emerges the victor and a true testament that hard work can overcome talent in martial arts.
The anime stops at this point, but the manga continues on exploring the organization that Ryuto’s master, Ogata Ishinsai is a member of (Yami). As word begins to spread of this Strongest Disciple Kenichi, members of Yomi (Yami’s Disciple group) seek to kill Kenichi and take the title for themselves.
This series has many aspects that I like, for one it has an underlying love story that actually shows potential to be fulfilled, unlike many of these “implicit relationships” we see in Anime that dont ever actually manifest themselves. Especially later in the manga when Kenichi must fight to protect a sick Miu against a far superior opponent. Additionally, the aspect of a normal person working hellishly hard to fight on equal ground with those who have talent is something that I think many people can relate to. Many people have dreams, and sometimes they dont have the talent to accomplish through that alone, but many work hard to achieve their goal. Kenichi is told many times, in particular by his Masters, that he has no talent for martial arts and that the only way he can and will advance is through hard work and believing in himself.
The story flows pretty well throughout the anime with very few “filler” episodes in which nothing happens, aside from a couple fan service episodes that occur at random times throughout the series. I do like how near the end of the first story arc we find out that Ryuto, Kenichi, and Miu all met at one time long ago when they were young, it was a good way to give the final fight between Ryuto and Kenichi additional meeting, though frankly Ryuto clearly needs therapy.
I really do hope that at some point a decision is made to create a second season for the anime as after reading the manga for the time after the fight with Ryuto it is a something I would love to see, so far at this time I have seen as high as 194 volumes of Kenichi that have been scanned into English. I am up to 188 and I can say that the anime ended at volume 142ish which was roughly three volumes per episode which would only equate to about 17 episodes. So my thought is they could be waiting until the manga is deeper to release the second season, though there has been no mention.
In conclusion, Kenichi is a fine series so long as you are able to look past at some of its more cheesier aspects. Its a good story about how hard work, determination, and having your head on straight can help you do good things. I think its a series worth watching and I hope us fans of the series will be rewarded with a second series of animation in the near future.