Some manga can fly under the radar. Some can be sleeper hits. And then some can exist for years, start and end and no one seems to even notice. That is the case with today’s piece of work. After the cut let’s dive into the series Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple.
I don’t make that comment from the title card lightly. Kenichi very much feels like something from an entirely different era of anime and manga, back when the battle shonen series was at the pinnacle of popularity that is now owned by Isekai. I don’t think anyone remembers that it existed, but it did. It was a serialized fighting-fanservice manga that ran for twelve years from 2002 to 2014.
Twelve years! For comparison. Bleach ran for fourteen years, Naruto for fifteen and One Piece (currently) at twenty. Kenichi wasn’t a short-lived series, nor was it a flash in the pan. It even outlived Rurouni Kenshin (5 years), and Yu Yu Hakusho (4 years) This was a long-running successful manga which is becoming rarer and rarer each passing year, but yet no one talks about it.
Is it because of the quality or the story? Honestly, I don’t think so. Kenichi isn’t a trailblazer by any means, but the story is decent enough. Starring our lead Kenichi Shirahama, the story follows him as he finds himself roped into training at the legendary Ryozanpaku Dojo, home of several eccentric masters of different martial arts. With a large cast that all stand out in their own ways and plenty of bare-knuckle action, Kenichi doesn’t do anything wrong, but it also doesn’t do anything really to put itself out there. The story arcs are brisk and to the point, allowing the reader to see Kenichi grow from a neurotic weakling to a slightly less neurotic fighter. Seeing him incorporate so many different martial arts into one fluid fighting style is also a really cool idea, and it works very well in the early arcs when Kenichi is still trying to find his feet.
In terms of Fanservice, Kenichi delivers quite a good helping of that as well. Boobs and butts are commonplace, and the female lead Miu Furinji (Miu and Mio are getting to be way too fucking common of names) and her extremely skintight and extremely rippable spandex suit always deliver. Series regular Shigure also does much in this regard thanks to everpresent upskirt shots of her thong, as does a recurring and strong cast of supporting female characters. While the manga was criticized in later chapters for leaning too much on this element, I always found that it helped make Kenichi stand out from just being another “me too!” battle manga from a decade where it was rampant.
The only weird thing I can say about Kenichi is it’s ending which is one of the most abrupt conclusions in history. Out of nowhere, the series is pretty much just over and with little of the fanfare and epicness that usually comes from long-running series. Like Bleach before it, it reeks of being canceled before the author could end it on his own terms which is a shame because again..this thing ran for twelve years.
And honestly…that’s all I can say about Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Sorry guys, but I read this about four years ago and I honestly can’t find much else to talk about. It’s a pretty decent battle manga with enough boobs and butts to never make things a slog. It’s so strange that something like this lasted for over a decade yet has no staying power among the anime fandom. It just was a thing that sort of happened and no one seemed to care when it was gone. I think I might go back and read this again sometime, just to remind myself of how good (or bad) it turned out to be. I remember having a lot of fun reading it all those years ago and I think another look might be in the cards.