Tenjo Tenge 2 (omnibus ed.)
August 16, 2011
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.