Tenjo Tenge 9

Oh! great – Viz – 2012 – 22 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 17-18

This is the end of what I’ve read of Tenjo Tenge, so the last two volumes will be new stuff. Can’t wait! I’ve got both of them sitting on my desk right now.

Also, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this since I started reading the Viz edition, but volume 17 is one of my absolute favorites in the series. It has one of the very best fights, and it has Mayutsubo, who has my favorite of the Red Wing powers.

Now, we’ve spent volumes building up the members of the Juken Club, and if you’ll remember, all this stuff is building up to the tournament that the school holds to determine the new student council members. There’s no way this tournament wasn’t going to be awesome. There’s the whole Ultimate Immortal Evil thing still hanging over the story, and Maya is still out of commission, but things get a lot more fun here. We get introduced to the various clubs and the quirky personalities that run them, and we get a delightful return to trash talk. The other clubs aren’t a match for the Juken Club, but the Juken Club is still sad and small, and can be outsmarted easily. There’s a lot of funny stuff going on.

But the best part is Sugano’s fight. Sugano knows that there’s some bad stuff going down. He doesn’t know what, but he sees something infecting the strongest members of each club, and he knows if the strong Juken Club members were to fight the infected fighters, there’d be a repeat of what happened two years ago. So he volunteers to fight these pumped-up zombie monsters. And then we see just what an incredible badass Sugano is, after all those volumes of playing the fool. He’s a normal person, so he’s not the unstoppable monster that the rest of the Juken Club is. But he’s still really good when he fights normal people, and he trains hard to be a good boxer. The double entendres during his training are also fantastic, but the fight itself is beautiful. It’s elegant. Triumphant. In a series about fighting, it’s one of the very best, and there’s nothing over-the-top about it. He’s just very good.

Good enough that I re-read 17 volumes of Tenjho Tenge so that I could read it again. It’s still good.

Also good is Mayutsubo, who everyone calls a Witch. The infection that’s plaguing the strongest members of the clubs and turning them into zombies is actually a parasitic worm that she uses to control people. It’s a great power, and she’s also an awful person who is receiving protection from Sohaku’s goons, so she gets to stand sneering and taunting Aya while she does a major battle with Kabane. The Kabane fight is technically more impressive and puzzle-y than Sugano’s, but I still like the boxing match better. Sugano’s coming-from-nowhere victory was triumphant, and I don’t care what anybody says.

There’s also a big fight between the Takayanagi brothers brewing at the end of the volume. First, Tawara gets a turn, though. He’s just about as awesome as Sugano, and probably a better character, so that’s another good one.

Other than that, there are a lot of portents to the future. All the major stuff is starting to come together, and you can feel things gearing up for a big finish. I’m READY.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Tenjo Tenge 8 (omnibus ed.)

Oh! great – Viz – 2012 – 22 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 15-16

Again, I’m going to keep this short, because I’ve already talked about these volumes on here. One more volume (the school fighting tournament volume <3), and we'll have caught up to the CMX translation and new content in English. I cannot wait. The next volume is spectacular. This one… is a feudal Japan flashback, and… is a bit difficult to get through.

Again, this is my third trip through the series, and honestly, this flashback isn't that bad. It’s weakness is that too many characters are introduced at this point. The flashback deals with the ancestors of Aya and Masataka, along with two of their allies, Shojo and Kabane, members of the Red Feather family. They are trying to stop Sohaku, who is alive and well in this era, and on Sohaku’s side is Princess Sen, who has a special power that winds up being very key to the series. Sohaku is amassing power in Osaka Castle for nefarious purposes.

The Natsume and Takayanagi ancestors are fairly clearly against Sohaku, but there are some unfortunate cuts in the story leading up to an attack on him inside the castle that sometimes makes their allegiances ambiguous. Even after three times through, there was a moment every once in awhile where I was trying to figure out if maybe they weren’t attacking Sohaku, or one of them was a double agent, or they used to work for him and don’t anymore, or whatever. Some of the details are still a little ambiguous, and I’m sure reading through it again immediately would answer my questions, but honestly… I don’t care to. It’s not that important.

And if the jumps between conversations taking place at the same time was a little bit confusing during the flashback, it is ridiculous impossible to interpret what is going on at the end of the flashback, when Aya starts perceiving the past and future in parallel. The outcome is clear, but what in God’s name is happening there is not. I mean… I knew what was going on, and I still couldn’t make sense of it. It sure does look cool, though.

In the present, Shojo and Kabane equivalents show up and present themselves to Aya first, then look as if they’re working with Mitsuomi. So… there’s that too, new characters in the present you have to memorize. Their role wasn’t quite clear to me until I read this through again.

The flashback is cool. The Natsume ancestor’s intentions are ambiguous throughout, and that’s part of the fun. And when everything is revealed, when she finally goes after Sohaku, that is a truly awesome moment in the series. But honestly, this is still the hardest section to read, at least for me. There’s a lot of stuff here that’s necessary to set up the end of the series, though, so we have to have it.

The next volume, though? Oh friend, that is the fighting tournament. It is fantastic. You’ll see.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Tenjo Tenge 7 (omnibus ed.)

Oh!great – Viz – 2012 – 22 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 13-14

I’m going to keep this short, because I’ve already talked about these on here. Mostly, I just like writing these omnibuses up as a head’s up that they’re still coming out. I love Tenjo Tenge, and this is a beautiful edition of it. It’s worth picking up, if over-the-top action series are your thing. This is a particularly good one.

Two volumes, two main things happen. One is that we see the extent of Nagi’s powers, and why his father has kidnapped him. Basically, what all this stuff has been leading up to. Nagi is being held against his will, and being forced to fight others and absorb their powers via the kotodama power of a martial artist sympathetic to Sohaku. It’s awful. He tries to escape, and the people he fights try to escape as well. Eventually, the Juken Club and Executive Council show up to bust the party up, though they don’t get very far. Notable in this part is Shizuru, a martial artist with strong legs. She’s kind of awful in a way that some of the female characters are in this series, but I always had a soft spot for her. She knows what she wants, and goes all out to get it. I often wonder if she appears at Todo later.

We also see what Sohaku was doing to Makiko, Nagi’s mother. It was really awful. Just… so sad. I felt even worse for her than I already did, and the woman has no arms and only one eye.

The second thing that happens is that Maya fights. We’ve only seen strong present-Maya fight once, really, when Emi broke her shoulder way back in volume… two, or whatever. She’s one of the strongest characters in the series, and I always thought it was annoying that she was kept out of commission for basically the entire run. But we see her fight here, and it is spectacular. Aya helps her, and sadly, it is not her powers alone that she fights with, but it is still fantastic.

Also, she gets a really badass line, one of my favorites in the series, after she is “killed,” then comes back with an attack. It’s something to the effect of her brother sending her back from the river Styx. I preferred the CMX translation of that line, actually, but it’s badass no matter how you say it.

Next volume is the boring medieval flashback. I’m… sorry.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Tenjo Tenge 6 (omnibus ed.)

Oh! great – Viz – 2012 – 22 volumes
this omnibus contains Japanese vols 11-12

Okay, so here’s where you have to start bearing with it, because things start to drift for a minute here. As much as I like the macho charisma thing this series has going for it, this is two volumes of the main characters fighting very powerful opponents, wondering if they can win, and pondering the nature of strength. As cool as the fight in volume 12 is (and it is very, very cool), it lasts the whole volume, and Masataka is much cooler when he doesn’t lose faith in himself and have to think about what makes him strong.

Granted, this is done as a reference to the flashback arc we just read. The metaphor is almost exactly the same as when Takayanagi the elder has to fight Shin and loses himself to fear. This fight also involves Bunshichi, who could sit and read the newspaper for an entire chapter and I’m sure it would still be entertaining. The effortless way he casually beats up the mecha-zombie that trounced the Juken Club is something to behold. But again, this casual fight goes on while he’s coaching Masataka not to repeat the past, and Masataka reflects on conversations he’s had on the topic, et cetera. Deep thoughts aren’t really the thing that Tenjho Tenge does best, but it’s still necessary, in this case, and I’m glad it was Masataka that had the crisis of faith moment.

A little earlier, we get to see the end of the fight with the Tsumuji heir, the entrance of a very dangerous man, and a fight with a girl named Madoka. The Tsumuji fight… hm. I almost want to say it ends how you would expect. There is, indeed, a victory for the good guys, and Tsumuji doesn’t kill Nagi. But once that happens, everything else sort of falls apart. Nagi’s mother shows up to contain his power. That doesn’t go well. Everyone has to visit the hospital, and Nagi is kidnapped by the aforementioned Bad Man.

This part sticks in my mind, and probably will forever, because of Nagi’s mother. She does the thing she does because she knows she has to, and sacrifices because of it. Waking up at the hospital and realizing what she lost, she gets another very terrible shock. She’s the one that makes this part hard to read. Tsumuji is gravely wounded, and Nagi is kidnapped, but Nagi’s mother. This is a pretty powerful scene.

With Nagi out of the picture, the fight with Madoka brings some focus back to Bob. He’s a bit frustrated at Maya’s insistence that he practice basics, and the executive council sees more potential in him still. Madoka is sent out as an F hitman to stop him before he figures out his full potential, but the fight only makes him realize just how awesome he is. He still doesn’t do very well, but for someone with no fancy powers and who hasn’t trained in a fancy dojo like Maya and Aya his entire life, he’s pretty fantastic in a fight. I can’t wait to see more of that.

And the fights are good, as always. Very good. But again, there’s an awful lot of sitting through philosophy of strength and destiny. Those are themes of the series, and we’ve been getting that all along, but it just feels particularly heavy-handed here.

The next volume or so will talk more about the Bad Man, and we’ll get another flashback. Unfortunately, said flashback is the worst part of the series, and I’m sorry for that. But I’ll gladly sit through it once again in order to read the Student Council Tournament again. Just know that’s waiting for you afterwards.

Tenjo Tenge 5 (omnibus ed.)

Oh! great – Viz – 2012 – 22 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 9-10

Ah, Tenjo Tenge. The great polarizer. It seems you either love this series or hate it, and admittedly, both sides have good reasons. But I love it, and I’m going to continue to savor these pre-timewarp volumes. Even this one, where something nasty happens to poor Enma.

But before that, we meet the last two members of the Juken Club. For real. Both of them are priceless. We’ve already got more warriors, macho and feminine, than we can handle, so the last two members are something special.

One of them is named Kurei. He is small, and does not fight. He’s really more on the intelligence and strategy side of things. The thing about Kurei is that he looks like an alien. He is drawn to look like an alien grey. The book can’t stop making jokes about this, and I don’t want it to, because they are always funny. This is my third time through Tenjo Tenge, and I’m still not tired of these Kurei jokes. He does bring something to the table, since he offers knowledge and gossip about opponents, but this always comes with a healthy joke along the lines of a crop circle appearing in his place, or something like that.

The other member is Kagesada Sugano. He and Maya are my hands-down favorite characters in the series. He’s the one that is referred to as “dirtbag” in the flashbacks, and was dragged into things simply as another member to pad out the Juken Club roster. In this book, his specialty is shielding himself behind a harem of tough ladies that fight for him. He’s a specialist at dirty tricks and fighting, something Nagi isn’t quite prepared for, but should be. Kagesada is hilarious, perhaps moreso than Kurei (his first scene is outright pornographic, even with the stupid joke that dodges the innuendo on the next page. I still love it). But Kagesada is also a great fighter, and he gets one of the best fights in the series later on.

The first volume here is a lot of training for Nagi and Aya, which is important in its way, and also introduces all but two of the old generals of the Takayanagi family (one is a notable exception, the other missing member is a Natsume). We also learn of some of the power dynamics of what’s going on, and about the F faction. All of this is important, but the second half contains the more interesting story.

Here we see the old and new Takayanagi ways in action, those that follow elder Dogen Takayanagi versus those who follow Mitsuomi Takayanagi. There’s a very powerful secret attack sealed at the Enmi temple, and the new Takayanagi followers want it. The temple is razed to the ground, and the heir seeks out Aya Natsume for help rescuing the head priestess, Enmi, who was taken prisoner in order to learn where the scroll was. The Enmi temple is one of the red feather/mystical branch families of the Takayanagi, and they specialize in terrifying illusions that confuse the opponent.

The meat of this fight is between Tsumuji and his father. Both are masters of the spear, but they have had a falling out and… family troubles, to put it lightly. Tsumuji augments his spear powers with robotic arms, and none of the fighters can get anywhere close to him due to all the spears and arms. They find a way, and defeat him, only to realize he has a red feather “magic” power too, and things get ugly when a group of red feather magic users get together.

Again, I’ve talked about this before, so I don’t want to get into much more depth. But I still love this series, and I still think the mix of good-looking art, well-drawn action, and increasingly cosmic motivation is a fantastic combination. I’m still quite pleased with the new Viz omnibus treatment, all the color pages and the fresh translation and whatnot, and couldn’t be happier that this is getting a second chance at life in English. I hope it’s finding its audience.

Tenjo Tenge 4

Oh! great – Viz – 2011 – 22 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 7-8

Oh, Shin Natsume. This omnibus contains Shin’s self-destruction, as well as the event that led to Mitsuomi becoming who he is today. And in a more fun turn of events, we also get to see part of one of the school tournaments, the ones that decide the new Student Council. The outcome should be fairly obvious, given the fact that Mitsuomi is the current president, but… the fact that him being president meant that things in the past had to go down as they did wasn’t something I had connected. Also, this early tournament isn’t nearly as fun as the one that comes up at the end of the series (mostly because Sugano’s fight in volume 17 is so fantastic), but it’s still pretty great to see the Juken Club handing defeats out to so many tough customers. And it’s fun to see Mitsuomi and Maya enjoying themselves, too.

If you’re tired of the flashback, don’t worry, because it ends at the beginning of volume eight. It was hard for me to get my bearings in the present again, simply because I had grown so attached to the characters in the flashback story. But a for-real duel between Aya and Maya brings things back in order pretty quickly, and the special training for the next big Student Council brawl starts after that. Nagi’s training in particular is something to look forward to, because his “full potential” hasn’t actually come up yet. That’s a story for the next volume, though.

There are two scenes in particular that are just… the best. One is a scene from the flashback where Mitsuomi shows up at the Natsume residence to beg Maya to let him help her keep Shin under control. As she considers taking Misuomi’s help, Shin appears behind Mitsuomi with a sword. Mitsuomi can’t see him. And Maya knows that she can’t get anyone else’s help without Shin killing them for taking her away from him. Oh! great lays the scene out perfectly. It’s very powerful. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

The second scene is the whole, lengthy swordfight between the Natsume sisters. It takes turns being sad, happy, looking like a serious fight and just exercise, and even who is winning when. And again, Oh! great has a talent for laying out action scenes and emotional moments to give them the biggest impact… not to mention that both combatants this time are beautiful women, which is something he clearly loves to illustrate. But this, too is a very moving scene. It won out over Shin’s last fight as my favorite in this book, and Shin’s last fight was also pretty great.

Trying to explain this, it is difficult to get across that it’s more than just a fighting manga. Yes, they brawl a lot, and most of what they do here is preparation for or fights in the school tournament. But the flashback fights in particular are packed with character history, and it’s hard not to appreciate both fights between Shin and Mitsuomi as exactly what they are – a friend trying to stop another friend from turning into a violent monster. And Mitsuomi loses the last fight, in more ways than one (again, not a spoiler, since we know the status of both Shin and Mitsuomi in the present).

One thing that still doesn’t quite make sense to me… Mitsuomi’s power is just puzzling. Why did a punch from Shin make him the perfect warrior in short bursts? That’s slightly outside the realms of believability for this series. Then again, we see two of the fights with Fu Chien here, and he only gets more ridiculous every time he comes back for more, so what can I say?

It’s really, really worth checking out, though. If you enjoy fighting manga, this puts a lot of story behind all its brawls, and it’s hard not to like all the characters by this point in the series. Oh! great has a knack for being able to pack a lot of emotion into his story and really wrings all he can from the turning points in the plot. Plus, he’s a really, really great artist. I reviewed this content twice because I really, really think it’s worth picking up. Don’t miss the second chance, it’s got an especially nice package this time around!

Tenjo Tenge 3 (omnibus ed.)

Oh! great – Viz – 2011 – 22 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 5-6

I know I’m breaking my own rules by covering material I’ve already covered. But Tenjo Tenge is so good, and I’m just so happy it’s getting a second chance in such a nice format.

It is still completely uncensored, which is obvious by the sex scene that starts off the volume, along with all the color images that are various stages of naughty. All of it is in there, though.

This is the meat of the flashback story arc, and this is a big part of what makes this series so good. As I said, I think it’s a lot better than most fighting manga. Instead of fighting for noble causes, or to perfect one’s self for some greater good, the characters simply fight because they admire strength, and there’s a kind of purity to that. All of them look up to someone, and in the past, we find out that the someone is Shin. But unfortunately, Shin is a carrier of a supernatural ability, the “Dragon Eyes,” and when he is using his ceremonial sword, he literally turns into a crazy psychopath that not even his friends or sister want to be around.

There’s also the dangerously close relationship between Maya and Shin. Oh! great is surprisingly low-key about this (given how unsubtle he is about most anything else), and much is implied between the two, but not shown. I did like that this was a terrible, dangerous thing, and that both Shin and Maya recognized the destructive behavior in each of themselves and tried to stop it. Maya is less dangerous than Shin, but Shin is in a better place by the end of the volume.

Two of the key characters in this flashback arc are Mitsuomi and Bunshichi. Both are true friends to Shin, but Shin… just can’t. He can’t seem to bring himself to treat them as such, but part of Shin’s behavior is explained away by the end of the volume. Mitsuomi is scared stiff after seeing Shin “vent” on a group of students, and that his fear stops him from being an effective fighter is a plot point throughout. Bunshichi, however, isn’t afraid, and it’s Bunshichi, an untrained fighter with no special powers, who is the only one that wants to face off against Shin to stop him.

Shin, Mitsuomi, and Bunshichi are all interesting characters, and the story takes its time to develop them quite well. It goes a little over-the-top with some self-destructive metaphors for Shin, but other than that, the slow and very deliberate character development in what is otherwise a brawling manga makes this very much one of my favorites. It’s hard not to like the three boys and Maya, and each volume only brings you into the fold that much more. And I also like how low-key the romances are in this series (again, which seems unlikely given how tasteless other aspects of the series are, but it’s true). One romance that seems overt winds up being a sham, and actually, the female character is shamming two of the males. One realizes it, and one doesn’t and gets his heart broken. There’s the subtle, but very intense relationship between Shin and Maya, and one that’s just getting started between Maya and Mitsuomi. Again, a lot of the romance seems to be based on admiration, and not actually on falling in love, which is something else I love about this series.

If you’ve read this far and still don’t like it, the series is probably not for you. But this is definitely some of the best storytelling the series has to offer, and this is what made me fall in love with it. Do give it a try, I promise it’s more than it seems.

Tenjo Tenge 2 (omnibus ed.)

Oh! great – Viz – 2011 – 22 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 3-4

In this omnibus, all the important players are introduced, and you begin to see just what it is that makes this series special.

This covers a massive brawl that began at the end of volume two and runs all the way through volume three. The Student Council moves in on the Juken Club in a bowling alley to crush them before they can pose a threat. They are only marginally successful, and even then, it’s only because the president, Mitsuomi, is unstoppable. The fourth volume deals with the fallout from this fight, the attitudes of the freshmen Bob and Soichiro, and begins to tell the history of the Juken Club. That’s going to be going on for… a good long time to come. Buckle up.

And there’s a lot of fighting. And yes, a lot of clothes explode off bodies, both men and women. And yes, they’re only fighting for “a greater cause,” or perhaps “to better themselves” or “for what they believe in.” And it’s all kinds of hokey. But the thing I like best about this series, and the thing that I think makes it better than most fighting manga, are the character relationships. It picks up this volume, but it gets much better as it goes along. Oh! great spends a lot of time developing his characters, and they are all important to each other in some way or other. There’s a really understated love triangle going on through these volumes. I’m not entirely sure how he downplays it the way he does, because there are all sorts of terrible jokes about how Masataka is in love with Aya, and Aya makes no secret of her love for Soichiro. But Aya seems sure that Maya is falling for Soichiro, too. And Soichiro makes it known in the most heroic way possible that he is completely in love with Maya. The big, bad Mitsuomi is also in love with Maya. And maybe Maya is in love with Soichiro. Or maybe she still has feelings for Mitsuomi. Or maybe she can’t get out from behind her older brother.

All of this is part of the story. It’s not really romantic. But it is important, and I love that a lot of the cause and effect in this series is based on what you will or will not do for someone (regardless of the reason), and how striving to be the best often comes from admiration and emulation, rather than the need to protect. In a particularly memorable scene, rather than rushing in and protecting Maya as she was getting beat up, Shin and Mitsuomi stand by and let her take the beating, though they both want badly to intervene. It’s her fight, and it would be a blow to her pride to protect her. Soichiro seems to want to get strong because of Maya, because he admires her a great deal.

There will be more to talk about later, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

And in case I don’t talk about this enough, I love Oh! great’s artwork. His faces are a little childish for my taste, but it kind of works in this series, where everyone is striving for maturity. The clothing for all the characters is well-chosen (except Mitsuomi, who wears godawful outfits), the fights and action scenes are always very dynamic, and all the characters have unique and very interesting designs. He also puts a lot of detail into just about everything, including the backgrounds. And I love all the color illustrations that get included in these omnibuses. It’s obvious he was once a porn artist, since he lavishes so much attention on certain parts of the female anatomy, and seems to sneak panty shots into every page, but that’s also part of its charm.

The uncensored edition is kind of shocking compared to the CMX edition. The CMX editions of volumes 3-4 were missing some of the color illustrations (especially the cover of volume 3, a color poster-style illustration of a topless Aya with her back to the camera, and an illustration of Maya wearing a fairly inflammatory shirt). Some of the chapter illustrations were altered, and… uh, Emi isn’t wearing a shirt in the first chapter. There’s plenty of other stuff. I was comparing the translations this time through as well, and both have their own flavor, I like different things about them. I like the more fatalistic tone of the CMX translation, but the slightly more innuendo-laden speech patterns in the Viz editions make more sense in the context of the series. Especially Bunshichi. He’s great.

I do love the Shin flashback we’re about to see. Shin’s a fun and very tragic character. This is my third read-through, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to catch more of what happened to him, because I’m not remembering his role very well. Also, I think next volume will introduce the other two members of the Juken Club, and we’ll also get to see more Bunshichi. All of these things are very important. Keep reading.

I really do hope more people are giving the series a try with these omnibuses. It’s worth it, and as of this volume, you’ll begin to see what makes this great.

Tenjo Tenge 1 (omnibus ed.)

Oh! great – Viz – 2011 – 22 volumes
this omnibus contains vols 1-2

I won’t lie: I love Tenjo Tenge to pieces, and I was super-excited to hear that Viz licensed it. It was in my top 5 series to be rescued from CMX. It’s got a terrible reputation for having rather graphic art and themes (which means that some only see it as fanbait manga) and being censored (which means that people who read fanbait manga won’t buy it), but it’s a really fantastic story with great art. I’ve read through my CMX volumes two or three times, and I almost never re-read series. It breaks my heart that more people didn’t read it when CMX published it.

The Viz edition of this series is really nice. An omnibus treatment is really the way to go, especially since the English edition was only 4 volumes from the end. This book contains volumes 1-2 of the original. The cover is that of volume two, and the art to volume one’s cover (which was the controversial due to the logo covering the panty shot on the CMX edition) is included in the plentiful color pages. Each volume of Tenjo Tenge in Japan comes with a double-sided poster, a double-page color title spread, an additional color page, and a color illustration on the table of contents. All of those color pages are included in the Viz edition, in front of volume one, then again in the middle of the book for the stuff included with volume two. The volume two poster isn’t a poster, but is included as a single page illustration for the Aya image, and a double-page illustration for the Maya image. Part of me thinks that Oh! great may insist that these color pages are included, since they were part of the CMX edition all the way to the end, and I can’t imagine that the series was making enough money to justify the extra cost. The book is manga-oversized, the trim size is consistent with the larger-size Viz Signature line.

And nothing is censored. At all. Fanboys, put your money where your mouth is.

The uncensored artwork… is what it is. Oh! great started his career by drawing porn manga, and it’s obvious in his style. All the girls have massive breasts, and there are several scenes that lapse into porn manga mode. Chiaki, Bob’s girlfriend, is raped in a despicable attempt to teach Bob and Soichiro a lesson about acting out in school. It’s a graphic scene, but nowhere near as graphic as it would be in a porn manga, to be fair. And also, to be fair, it was talked down a lot, with Chiaki swearing up and down that she wasn’t actually raped. It’s still a very graphic scene. Later, while talking to Aya in a hot spring during a training camp, Chiaki begins feeling Aya up, sucking on her nipple and giving her kisses. Within the first chapter, Soichiro crashes through the roof of the girls’ shower and lands on a naked Aya (directly in her crotch, actually), who begins making out with him. There are what feels like dozens of panty shots per chapter.

It’s more graphic than a shounen/seinen manga (it straddles the two, in my opinion), but nowhere near as graphic as real porn manga. I’ve read Oh! great’s porn manga, simply because I liked Tenjo Tenge so much, and I was curious. There’s stuff in there that still gives me nightmares.

I know that doesn’t sound like the makings of the fantastic series I promised, but the fanservice mostly disappears (really!) after a few volumes, as if one Oh! great proved the story could stand on its own, he was allowed to stop doing it. Once you aren’t distracted by girls getting their panties ripped off, you can see that Oh! great’s attention to his female character’s appearance works really well in a series like this. All the girls are beautiful, the characters (male and female) all have a distinctive look and much attention is paid to the clothing they wear. The settings are also detailed and nice-looking. About the only failing I see in this first volume is that, occasionally, when someone lands a punch or strike during a fight, there’s a panel where it’s hard to tell just what is happening, but it doesn’t bother me that much since, really, someone is just being hit very hard. Otherwise, his fight scenes are also really well-drawn, with lithe characters jumping around and landing the occasional powerful punch. You can tell he plays a lot of fighting games.

The story? It takes awhile to get going. Compared to what I love about the series, the first two volumes are simply exposition, and it does get much better when the lengthy flashbacks start. We meet newcomers to Todo Academy, Bob and Soichiro, and we learn that they love to fight. Fortunately, Todo Academy is a school founded on fighting, and they see plenty of action. On their first day, after all their cocky challenges, they are beaten soundly by Maya Natsume, the president of the tiny Juken Club. Meanwhile, her sister, Aya, falls in love with Soichiro at first sight. Unfortunately, Masataka, another Juken Club member, falls in love with Aya at first sight and begins sulking over her crush on Soichiro. Soichiro wants nothing to do with Aya, but Masataka beats him up out of jealousy later when Soichiro provokes him into fighting. All the fighting gets the attention of the Student Executive Council, who punishes Soichiro and Bob by burning Bob’s bike, raping his girlfriend, then beating the crap out of Soichiro and Bob. Maya gets revenge for them, but sobered by the sound beating and enraged by the line that was crossed, Bob and Soichiro join the Juken Club and begin training to beat the Executive Council. The second volume is mostly training and, later, a full-out brawl in a bowling alley between members of the Executive Council and Juken Club.

It sounds like just a shallow fighting manga, and right now, it is. But there are several nice touches even in the first couple volumes. There is some romance mixed into the story, and I love that the characters tend to fall in love out of a sense of admiration. Masataka falls for Aya as soon as he sees her, not because she’s beautiful, but because she’s fantastic at the sword exercises he sees her doing (and I suppose being beautiful helps). Soichiro slowly begins to fall in love with Maya Natsume, but again, it’s less because she’s beautiful and more because she’s a genuine martial arts master with a lot to teach. Love out of admiration fits the series well, since all the characters are constantly striving for a personal best. This is completely overshadowed by the ridiculous relationship between Aya and Soichiro, however, which is far less understated than the others. Aya falls in love with Soichiro because of an old family rule that states the first man to see the flesh of a Natsume woman is their intended, and of course this triggers when Soichiro falls through the roof of the shower and sees Aya naked. Aya also constantly forces herself on Soichiro, talking and thinking of little else. Bah. It took me a long time to warm up to Aya Natsume after these first couple volumes.

After the initial set-up, we begin flashbacks that develop the characters and the history between the Executive Council and the Juken Club. That’s when things really start to get good, I promise. These first couple volumes are still necessary reading, and a pretty decent fighting/action manga in the meantime. But it gets much better and slightly less skeevy in the future.

Also, there’s some asides that point to Soichiro as the main character of the series. Maya and Aya dominate much of the story, but I think the real main character is Masataka. It takes a long time for that to become more obvious, though. Bear with me.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Tenjho Tenge 18

Oh! great – CMX – 2009 – 20+ volumes

I reviewed this for the the weekly installment of Manga Minis over at Manga Recon so you can check out the review over there.  There were actually two installments this week, and the other one is worth checking out too, since it’s got both the goodness of Hikaru no Go and the badness of B.O.D.Y.

If I haven’t said it enough, I love this series.  I love almost everything about it.  I especially love that the plot has recovered from the incoherent mess of that flashback arc and seems to be shaping all that happened there into actual, applicable lessons that are surprisingly deep and remarkably coherent and connected to the story for something that started out as a fighting manga with a lot of gigantic breasts.

As per usual, I’m a little lost and need to re-read from the beginning, but even without my memories of the 5,000 characters in the families and what went on during that flashback, I can tell that all the themes that the story is reaching for right now aren’t the usual shallow BS that manga series usually try to pull out and use superficially without connecting them well to the story.  The themes of trying to break out of destiny and completing one’s life and final battles and all that usual garbage make a lot of sense in Tenjho Tenge since we have been sitting through nothing but flashbacks for 18 volumes waiting for the spring tournament to start.  I mean, most series try to pull this off with a flashback that lasts a chapter or two that outlines a tragic backstory.  Tenjho Tenge?  Epic flashbacks and lots and lots of hints that bad things will happen unless whatever is about to go down is stopped, so therefore we have to break out of all these things that have been setting themselves up for the past few years/centuries/whatever.  Makes sense to me.

I like Oh! great’s sense of humor a lot, too.  There’s still lots of goofiness to break up the fights and whatnot, and the jokes aren’t so bad.  They aren’t laugh-out-loud funny, but they are still much appreciated after a totally serious fight where someone forms armor out of dust particles.

Also, is it just that I’ve been away from the series for too long, or do the characters look more baby-faced in this volume?  I really am going to have to re-read this from the beginning.  I will take great pleasure in doing so, too.  Even with the baby faces, Oh! great’s art is still absolutely gorgeous, some of the best I’ve seen in a fighting manga.  Really.  He’s great.

I laughed really hard at a gag strip in the back where Oh! great meets Hirohiko Araki and mentions that he looks way young, and that the rumors about him putting on a vampire mask and becoming immortal must be true.  I also like that he admits in the fourth panel that the strip served no point except to brag.

Also, I think this is the beginning of the end.  Bunshichi drags Maya up to where the Executive Committee is gathered, and it looks like Masataka and Soichiro will follow shortly.  The rest of the Juken Club doesn’t matter so much (except for Aya), but I’m sure there’s reasons in the story that they’ll show up later, too.  I think this will be the final battle, and I am very much looking forward to it.

Also, Masataka is the strongest?  MASATAKA?!  I am more than ready for whatever that means.


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