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The first rule of Kenichi is: big eyes and kick ass. Matt Kamen punches in…

In the real world, mastering a martial art takes years of devotion. All require a harsh physical regimen that pushes the body to the limit. Of course, we’re dealing with the world of anime, so we have a sneaking suspicion that Kenichi Shirahama might be able to go from shy, quiet bookworm to martial arts prodigy in a matter of weeks. All it takes to send him on the path to becoming Chuck Norris’ worst nightmare is falling for the new girl in class after he sees her single-handedly demolishing a group of thugs.

Luckily, Miu Furinji is an all-star martial artist, grand-daughter to the founder of the Ryozanpaku Dojo. Unlike most martial arts academies, Ryozanpaku (or in Chinese “Liang Shan Po”…) has the undisputed masters of several disciplines housed under one roof. Kenichi realises that it’s the perfect place for him to start his education. Unfortunately, he’s not much of fighter, and only Akisame Koetsuji – a champion of Aikijujitsu – is willing to train him. Starting at the very bottom, Kenichi must earn the trust and respect of the others through hard work and training, proving his sincerity and commitment. Kenichi’s simple desires have to take a back-burner, as the Ragnarok organisation targets him, viewing him as either a potential recruit or a future rival.

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The series uses Ryozanpaku and Ragnarok to present two opposing philosophies surrounding martial arts — fighters who channel rage or serenity. Each faction gives a face to the arguments of martial arts being used to dominate or defend others – a debate that Kenichi finds himself forced to consider throughout his training. As he takes on tougher opponents, he has to question whether he’s still out to shield his friends and family, or just pursuing strength for strength’s sake.

Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple is the creation of Syun Matsuena, a Tokyo-born manga artist whose work is heavily inspired by earlier boy’s action and tournament comics such as Fist of the North Star. The Kenichi manga, published in Shonen Sunday magazine since 2002, was actually his second attempt at the story, having earlier produced a rougher version titled Fight! Ryozanpaku! in 1999. Not content with mere print success, Matsuena has spent the last three years writing, animating and directing the original anime movie Technique Traveller. A CGI effort set in a lush fantasy world, it’s set to follow a girl named Tekuni as she tries to become a fighting master, while avoiding being caught up in a war.

But why wait for that? You can get an appreciation for Matsuena’s sense of incredible action and breaking-point martial arts Kenichi, The Mightiest Disciple, right now!

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple Complete Collection (episodes 1-50) is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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