[ CONTAINS SPOILERS ]
I thought I would really like this title, if only because, despite the cliché shounen recipe, I felt really engaged with what was going on in the daily lives of the main cast. Despite everything coming together as expected, their strong personalities clashing, their struggles and buttheading, all felt really cool to tag along with. This is what really shines in the series: not a complicated plot with interesting twists, but the relationship they develop throughout the beatings and conflicts, as friends.
I do not think you'll feel like you've wasted your time after or while reading this. There's most definitely enough to have a good time here, following how your characters grow and how they cope with dangerous situations to become stronger. I did not notice much "sudden power-ups" throughout it either; that is also to imply, the road to become the strongest disciple, albeit being a repetitive task by nature, still feels engaging to read for every character involved.
Kenichi definitely is very fun. However, the series degenerates heavily past the later points, where all this "building up" we've been accompanying is supposed to be the force to unravel the conflicting feelings between the Light/Dark side and... Well, it absolutely isn't. Not even close.
Like I said, the whole setting blatantly cliché. This is OK up to some degree because you're watching those teenagers grow to become their own role model through martial arts, which feels like will inevitably culminate into a big clash with the mafia at the end... And so it is. However, for how long this series was run and how well the whole journey was played, I was led to expect way more than what it came to be.
It feels like some elements, like the Ukita love triangle, were put there just for the sake of having an extra flavor (not good flavor, mind you) added to the story. There were all sorts of annoying moments to get through, between the same old love quarrels repeating over and over, to the dragged-out fights with the same feel to it as any other. At some point those fights meant nothing more as "something I need to get through to reach the end". It also felt like the toll of facing death and coping with losses eventually became nothing more than a justification for "how far I need to go to protect everything", with no psychological or emotional moment to accompany it.
That stretched out to the point were, at the final showdown, when the Yomi Martial Arts Alliance was swayed to the "righteous" side (if only to justify turning over the tide), I didn't even bat an eye. I was already wasted and disappointed with how blandly everything was being dragged on up to that point, so I felt more and more anxious to rush to the finish and be done with it.
Right off the gate, there's also this strong motivation behind how Kenichi wants to grow as a man and develop his feelings for Miu. This has some excitement development towards the middle, where they finally get to know each other more, but DO NOT GET YOUR HOPES UP. This whole notion gets more and more lost as time goes on, and in it's place we get filler fights between random characters and side-stories which won't amount to anything.
Miu's clan conflicts are simply a disturb in place to add more content to the chapters; her parent, which is supposed to be this confusing "shadowed" character, doesn't get proper time to have his side explained; her mother turns out to be some sort of clan heir who dies and her tragedy is more important than she is. Miu herself is written out to be very confused and insecure of what to make out of her life and family; however, in the end, her character does not represent all this turmoil and the strong resolve she had been building up along her friends.
The ending was most definitely weak, perhaps the weakest I've ever seen. I don't know if the author intended to try to please everyone or what, but it felt so damn fake and artificial, I don't even want to remember it.
Do I ever want to read Kenichi again? With how tightly the story is tied to the fights, and how bland all the fighting becomes, to go through all that again to have an ending with missing gaps and underdeveloped moments... I don't think so; but the fun parts were really fun, so maybe? I really liked the Ryouzanpaku's sensei and a fair share of happy moments while reading. Despite the shortcomings, I was left lingering with a good feeling towards the happy moments I had.
Here are some miscellaneous opinions I had while reading it
- Ma Renka felt like an annoying pushover character which merely existed for the purpose of having a love competition
- It is implied that Shigure also likes Kenichi somewhat, but it is never touched upon
- Miu's past revelations didn't feel emotional at all, it should have been cooked more
- The ending was filled with pages and pages of a battle which didn't amount to anything and had no convictions behind it
- Only Shigure and Ma Kensei were fun towards the end, all the rest felt lacking in meaningful contribution to the reading
And lastly, but not least
- Siegfried is best girl