History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi is a shounen anime about martial arts, with a dash of comedy. It's very cheesy and cliche at times. The plot is interesting, it features a weakling highschool freshman training up to be stronger so he can stand up to bullies and villians. Sounds very positive and all, but the execution could be improved. So many moments made me cringe and because this is a martial arts anime, many things are obviously exaggerated. One thing I must point out, the more this progresses, the more aspects of harem anime appear in this otherwise decent martial arts anime. There's nothing too outstanding about this anime, it's fairly predictable at times and therefore a bit boring at times. At certain points I felt regretful that I wasn't drinking for this anime. Towards the end however, the story really started to shine and that's the reason why anyone would want to watch this.
The animation quality isn't too great. Despite being made in 2006, it looks very aged and shoddy at times. While I was unable to find it in HD quality, I don't think higher resolution would have helped it look any better. The style wasn't too unique either. I feel like I've seen the main character a billion times before since the character designs are somewhat generic. However, the fighting style and choreography in the anime looks spectacular at times and kinda make up for the dodgy animation. However, at other times the fighting animation seems lazy and shoddy. The comedic facial expressions also add to the hilarity in some scenes which are actually funny. Not just facial expressions, there are also some funny motions and poses in this anime too, like when Kenichi wiggles like Jelly. However there are some aspects to the animation style which are unquestionably bad. Like Shigure's wierd eyebrows. While this isn't exactly an ecchi anime, there are things that seem a bit fan-servicey and most female characters have absurdly large breasts. The designs are a bit 'over-sexualised' to say the least and I swear there are jiggle physics. This is most noticeable in the intermission and first outro where Miu is wearing a tight spandex suit (or what looks like one). Of course, there is pervy shenanigans, mostly courtesy of a perverted/pedophillic (take your pick) character. This is somewhat characteristic of shounen anime, T&A appeals to young hormonal teenagers, thus they felt justified in its use. I'd argue otherwise. Overall, the animation is rather disappointing, even if it seems average at first.
The sound isn't terrible, nor is it outstanding. The intro music is okay, rather average in my eyes. The outro seems to be a bit more chilled out. However halfway through this 50 episode series, the intro and outros change. The second intro theme is pretty good and the second intro was a bit better too. None of the music was outstanding enough to warrant me getting the soundtrack. The background music was utilised somewhat well, serious slightly emotional music for the flashback scenes and whatnot. This anime is available in both English and Japanese audio. The dub is mostly okay, I found nothing to cringe about it. My only complaint is the 'Appa' noise often made by Apachai. I assume this was the same for the Japanese version and this quirk also got translated over to the English version. I hate it, personally. This anime also contains the occasional inappropriate language. The voice actor for Kenichi is Josh Grelle, who had roles as Armin from Attack on Titan and Tomohiko Kazami from Another. Miu's VA Carrie Savage also did the voices of Haruka Suzumiya from Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien, Satsuki Yumizuka from Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Nancy Makuhari from Read or Die and Rachel Boyd from Soul Eater. Honoka's VA Cherami Leigh did Elicia Hughes from FMA Brotherhood, Lunar from Seto No Hanayome (My Bride is a Mermaid), Asuna from SAO, Suzuka from Stein's Gate and many more. There are many more big names in voice acting in this anime that would take too long to list their roles, including J. Michael Tatum, Vic Mignogna and Colleen Clinkenbeard. Overall the sound is fairly decent.
The main character, Kenichi Shirahama. Looks average, power rating poor, grades low poor, popularity poor (rough quote from the anime itself). He's a nobody, a weakling bullied by others. But inside, he feels a strong sense of justice and righteousness. He wants to get stronger to protect the ones the weak and the ones he loves. He's your run of the mill shonen protagonist. But, boy can this kid take some punishment, he has to go through unrealistic and unfair training. He has no natural talent, yet he is able to improve his fighting skills as a disciple of multiple masters of the martial arts at the Ryuzanpaku dojo. He also has a sensitive side, shown by his participation in the gardening club. He has a crush on Miu Furinji, one that seems fruitless since Miu herself said they were no more than friends (FRIENDZONED! Ouch!). He even tries to peep on her, the hormonal pervert! One positive aspect of this character, is that he doesn't conform to the terrible high-school student protagonist trope in some ways. He actually has a family, even if it's a dysfuntional one. His mother is the typical unrealistic anime milf, his dad is an over-protective parent that loves to tote his beloved shotgun named Sebastian. But the worst is his little sister, Honoka. She hates it when Kenichi is hit on by girls like Miu and doesn't want her brother to be with any girl. While Kenichi is annoyingly generic at times, he is a complex character with strong positive beliefs. He has such charisma, that he even raises the morale of his masters, just by training at the dojo.
Miu Furinji could be said to be the female lead of this anime, an absurdly curvateous blonde high-school girl. As well as being the object of Kenichi's affections, she comes from a line of martial artists in particular her grandfather, whos power is rarely seen or needed. Once again, the situation of her parents is explained. Like her grandfather, she is unrealistically strong and agile, especially since she is a part of the gymnastics club. She completely wrecks Kenichi when they spar together. She's also rather two-faced, in school she acts like a model student and wears fake glasses and doesn't fight or show off her true power at all. Outside, she's a tough nut to crack. She's also a bit tsundere, since she denies having feelings for Kenichi, yet she gets competitive when other girls are after him. I personally hate this character.
Kenichi's five martial arts masters at Ryuzanpaku are Akisame Kouetsuji the master of Jiujitsu, Apachai Hopachai the master of Muay Boran and Muay Thai, Shio Sakaki the master of Karate, Kensei Ma the master of Kenpo and Shigure Kousaka the master of weapons. There is also Hayato Furinji, Miu's grandfather, the guy who owns the place. They are all unrealistically strong and unbeatable. Akisame is a doctor of sorts and owns a clinic where he heasls injuries, mostly those from fighting. This works to the dojo's advantage since challengers to the dojo must pay a fee and then they pay medical fees when they inevitably get defeated and healed at Akisame's clinic. Akisame is also a very smart and thoughtful individual, he is kind towards Kenichi in his own way. Did I mention his sweet trimmed moustache and ghostly eyes? He is also very artistic and makes statues and scriptures. Sakaki has bad habits like drinking and gambling and acts like a badass bodyguard. Apachai has no control over his strength when training Kenichi and is the gentle giant trope. He's rather dumb and soft, he plays with children and animals. Shigure is yet another big-boobed woman, yet silent and creepy. She is rarely seen training Kenichi and has a small mouse as a companion and she has those stupid, wierd eyebrows. Possibly the most bland and boring of the regular characters, even though she was designed to be that way.
Kensei is the most interesting of the masters however. At first he seems like a pervert/pedophile who's always trying to take dodgy pictures of chicks and is often found reading porn. Later it turns out he has an interesting past and family life. He ran away from his family, his dojo and 1000's of disciplles in China to live a peaceful life at Ryuzanpaku. That and his deliquent older brother. But get this, he has a big-breasted daughter, Renka, the same age as Kenichi and Miu. Makes you wonder how this guy can perv on girls the same age as his own kid. Once again, this big-boobed girl is a love interest, turning the previous love triangle into more of a harem. Renka is still a bit tsundere as she initially treats Kenichi like dirt, always saying mean things about him, yet she fancies him deep down. Kensei wears a hat, is short and has a nice moustache. A real shame, Kensei could have been a cool character.
Among Kenichi's friends is the one girl in this anime who doesn't have big boobs. Izumi Yuka is the sweet nerdy girl trope, who has a crush on Kenichi and isn't tsundere about it, unlike the other girls. She seems to be the only other member of the gardening club too. Haruo Nijima is the supposedly alien wierdo friend of Kenichi, who at times seems like he's bullying Kenichi. This guy is just evil, he has his own interests in mind and uses Kenichi for his own gains. He often hypes up Kenichi's fights, over-exaggerating his wins to make Kenichi look scary. He's pretty stupid too.
There are so many other characters in this anime, especially the antagonists since they have deep story. To say much about those in Ragnarok, would be spoilery. They aren't exactly completely evil, some of them are rather realistic characters, since we find out their reasons join a crooked group such as Ragnarok. These villians are some of the best characters in this anime, especially the boxer Takeda, Natsu Tanimoto and the earliest of the major villians Kisara Nanjo.
The story goes that weakling Kenichi Shirahama is constantly being bullied and called names just for being himself. Starting high-school, he joins the karate club where he becomes the other club members' punch bag. Meeting with and making friends with Miu Fuurinji, he ends up undergoing ridiculous training at the Ryuzanpaku dojo where Miu lives. The unfair, unrealistic and down-right dangerous training he goes through, both enthuses the masters at the dojo and makes Kenichi stronger. Trouble is brewing behind the scenes however, with the gang of hoodlums known as Ragnarok, noticing Kenichi's strength and constantly attacking him and trying to recruit him into their band of goons. The martial arts appears to be so damn realistic, these techniques sound like they are genuine martial arts techniques. That must be commended, if not for the research, then for creating realistic martial arts.
Some of the story is very predictable, its so damn cliche and cheesy at times. It has quite a bit of decent comedy, not always funny, but it made me laugh on occasion. At one moment, I was reminded of my first taste of this anime. A funny scene that made me nostalgic for a top ten funny scenes in anime video I watched ages ago. Maybe it isn't worthy of the top ten, but it was funny nonetheless. It is also rather long and contrived, 50 episodes makes it rather stretched out. A disappointment then? Not entirely. The overall plot winds and turns, introducing new characters and events. The interesting characters are given much backstory through flashbacks and the like. It isn't exactly a simple good guys versus bad guys story either. One of the hidden themes of the story is the yin-yang sign. It symbolises the story and characters here rather well. There is both good and evil in the universe and both are intertwined. Each individual has aspects of both within them. To put it simply, the more this anime progresses, the less black and white the it seems. Deep down it's rather complex, with story that intertwines. I love this serious aspect of the anime, even if it requires thinking and effort to uncover it. The plot really picks up towards the end and I'm happy to say that this anime features a complete and conclusive story.
Unfortunately there is one little blemish on the surprisingly good story. As the story progresses, more and more female characters of Kenichi's age appear. And they all appear to have an interest in him. This means one thing: a harem. Something I absolutely despise, especially since harem plotlines are terrible and usually lack conclusions. Just like it does here. Why, add such a terrible subplot. Romance my arse, of course it goes SPOILER< nowhere >SPOILER. Thankfully it takes a backseat for most of the anime.
So the story has both it's advantages and disadvantages. Such as shame, since the good bits were very good, but they were brought down by occasionally cheesy and predictable plot progression. Thankfully, the overall plot makes up for some of the BS.
I'm glad I got to the end of this one instead of dropping it at 3 episodes like I originally had. If you really like shonen anime, martial arts and don't mind a sometimes predictable plot, then this anime is for you. I wouldn't recommend this anime for everyone though. It often annoyed me and was also rather boring at times. It ain't perfect and since it's so long, it takes some time for the plot to get to the interesting bits. I would normally say to give it time, but it needs so long. The overall plot is the best bit of this anime and it takes time to get to the good part. Good news, is that it actually concludes in a satisfactory manner. Those who watch it nonetheless, are likely to be the target audience and would enjoy it a lot.
Family-friendliness Rating: 2/5 Occasional inappropriate language, over-sexualised character designs and perverted antics (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 7/10 (higher is better)