TENJYOU TENGE (MANGA) by Oh! Great
alternate titles: Tenjho Tenge, Tenjou Tenge, Tenjo Tenge
genre: action.adventure. martial arts
– Serialised in Ultra Jump
– Number of books: 11 as of June 2004 (Japan)
– Licensed by DC/CMX
STORY: Toudou Gakuen looks like any other school from the outside. It maintained a mostly peaceful existence, with the exception of a large scale incident two years ago, until Nagi Souichiro and his best friend Bob Makihara arrive on scene, intending to “take over” the school. But they learn – Toudou’s not like any other school they’ve ever encountered. It is a school that was founded on martial arts and thus thrives on it, but is haunted by more demons than it cares to tell. Residing at Toudou are “groups” – establishments set up and run by students in order to promote their beliefs and expand their skills. The currents of rivalry that run between these groups is enough to take it down the school before Souichiro or Bob lay a finger on it. However, they have been living in mute harmony with tension building in between and just waiting for a reason to explode.
Meet Maya and Aya Natsume. Sisters and members of a very well known martial arts family. In fact, the most prominent fighters at Toudou come from well known fighting families. Both of distinctly different personalities, all four lives become intertwined when Maya is called upon by other students to stop Souichiro and Bob’s mindless beating up of their classmates. Easily defeating Souichiro, Maya remembers all too slow that she kicked Souichiro out the window right above the girls’ shower – where Aya is currently stationed. Well, as fate would have it, Souichiro (or Soichirou) falls right on Aya who promptly falls in love with him, much to Bob’s amusement, Maya’s consternation, and Masataka Takanayagi (an upper Jyuukenbu member)’s despair. Thus begins Tenjyou Tenge…and it gets a hell of a lot more complicated.
Tenjyou Tenge is a very unique and yet un-unique series. Most noticeably, perhaps, is the focus that is placed upon women fighting. While most martial arts series revolve almost completely around guys, here the males and females shoulder this burden almost equally. Even so, Aya and Maya are the two characters most people are probably going to relate to (if not just plain old notice) at first. Not just because of their overly large chests, but because of how wonderfully kickarse they can be. Well – Maya at least. Aya never quite loses her “stupid blonde” image…though she has black/brown hair. The story itself, when it’s not losing track of itself, is well told and played, but moves rather slowly. A single fight between can take up two whole chapters and doesn’t do too much for progression. But, with skill, Oh! Great still manages to incorporate substance into these fights. While the story might not progress with each fight, each character does.
The beauty of Tenjou Tenge lies in the artwork (female figures aside), though, and those times that Masataka’s narrative becomes poignant over fighting and so touching that you’ll want to cry. Maya’s fighting philosophies also contribute a lot to the story, though depending on what translation you’re reading, it might sound like a load of garbage/gobbledygook. But the introspectiveness that Oh! Great gives into the world of martial arts is beautiful as well and that is what sets this series apart from all those other “martial arts” series and what makes it just so great. Sadly, so far as plotline goes, it gets too complicated to understand with the existence of suddenly 7 or so organizations, not all school anymore, that all contain a billion more characters that really don’t make for any sort of fluid easy reading.
Tenjou Tenge isn’t recommended for anyone under 18. The graphic nature of both the sex scenes and violent fight scenes could be rather unsuitable for anyone under that age. There’s no getting around the fact that TenTen is centimeters away from hentai, as much as I recommend this series.
CHARACTERS: Like most series, there are a LOT more characters. Here we have our main ones…
– Masataka Takanayagi: The narrator of the series (and my favorite character). He’s used a lot as comic relief but his narrations are insightful, revealing, and really quite nice. He’s a skilled fighter who struggles under the shadow of his brother, but holds strong beliefs in something inside of himself that sets himself apart from his brother and everyone else, for that matter, that he doesn’t know but is searching for in his narration. He’s desparately in love with Aya (who SO doesn’t deserve him~! *pokes spoilers*). My wish is that Oh! Great finds some nice girl for him and that they’ll take him more seriously. He’s a great guy.
– Souichiro Nagi: The main character…as in the one who the story revolves around. He’s an annoying pain in the arse freshman whose only desire is to “be stronger” until he arrives at Toudou Gakuen and discovers that not only is there a lot more to martial arts than he thought but that he himself has a lot more in himself than he thought. It’s hinted that he likes Maya.
– Bob Makihara: Souichiro’s best friend. Though initially viewed by most everyone as some hulking idiot, Bob’s actually a very interesting guy with a lot of potential and premonition surrounding him. He doesn’t get too much of a role, though, past the guy who makes Souichiro think because Souichiro doesn’t know how.
– Aya Natsume: Maya’s younger sister. She’s a total ditz (and I really don’t like her) but a skilled fighter that still has a lot left to learn. Aya has mysterious powers that no one but her deceased brother fully understands. She’s also infatuated with Souichiro after the shower incident. She feels a lot in Maya’s shadow and is determined to be a strong fighter so that she can live up to her sister, “be worthy” of Souichiro, and then for different reasons later on.
– Maya Natsume: Captain of the Jyuukenbou Group and an extremely skilled fighter whom pretty much everyone looks up to (and my favorite after Masataka). Maya knows a lot more about everything than she lets on which is much to everyone’s annoyance. All her secrets are destructive, though, once they come out. However, Maya also has her weaknesses and those are always of horrific consequence to her. An unfortunate character, but a very cool one. She had a very close relationship to her brother and is Mitsuomi’s ex-girlfriend.
– Shin Natsume: Maya and Aya’s older brother who possessed powers so terrifying that they eventually destroyed his world and were the cause of his destruction. He was a fierce rival of Mitsuomi’s and played a large part of Toudou Gakuen’s history and stands as a large part of the reason why Toudou is the way it is today.
– Mitsuomi Takanayagi: Leader of Jyuukenbu’s main rival group (The Enforcement Group as it is called) and Masataka’s older brother. He is disconnected from the Takanayagi family for his past actions, which he does not regret, and belittles Masataka while pushing him onwards silently. He has a very cold exterior but when he’s surprised or pleased, you know. An extremely strong fighter, he was the main rival of Shin before Shin died. (A small note on his and Maya’s past relationship: Evidence throughout the series suggests that they’re still in love with each other but don’t want to admit it, especially because of things that happened between their families in the past. Regardless, they make a really good pair…)
ART: The art is simply amazing, though in the beginning it was inconsistent, but it has turned into something truly spectacular. Take Miwa Shirow (Dogs) perspective art, toss in some Kazuya Minekura (Gensoumaden Saiyuki) brutality, a little Rumina Takahashi fighting artistry, CLAMP shoujo and lyrical technology, Ken Akamatsu boy appeal, GTO crassness, and some random hentai artist (I don’t know any…see?) (or…um…I don’t like that last note’s wording…), mix it all together, and there you get TenTen art. It’s a little bit of everything in Oh! Great’s flowy lines and balletic fights. Sure there’s a lot of snotty noses and sweaty bodies; typical bold shounen line shading (that personally, being a big image person, I don’t like.), and general harshness, but then there’s the gorgeous pairings of hard steel with flowing movements. Everything’s graphic, yes…VERY graphic, but my favorites would have to be the ones where perpective is mixed with flowing-ness and violence. Basically when any of the girls are fighting…as long as they’re not naked. As much as a lot of TenTen’s followers are there for the nudity and super-curvy figures, the true art of TenTen is in its fight scenes involving a guy and a girl in a lot of clothing. The way that Oh!Great displays the physics of everything (especially hair when it comes to Aya, Maya, and Madoka) is beautiful beyond words. You boys can have your fanservice, hulking steroid injected bodies, and bloody noses…I’m all for everything else. (Reminds me of the story that Onii-chan told me of how Kaitou saw him looking at TenTen art once – which, note, is NOT always super reavealing or anything – and thought he was looking at hentai. hehehee…)
PERSONAL THOUGHTS (SPOILER-IFIC): First off, Masataka belongs with Madoka, for those who have read book 11 and 12. Not only do they match in personalities and such, but Masataka needs a girl (because after you do “in the end” predictable/suspicious pairings – Maya + Mitsuomi, Aya + Souichiro, Bob + his nympho girlfriend – poor Masataka’s left alone.) and they make a cute couple too. Second off, Mitsuomi needs a new wardrobe…and he needs to get back together with Maya. Aya needs to stop whining and being so Souichiro obssessed and Bob…Bob’s Bob. He’s cool that way.
It took an unbelievably long time for me to get into this series. Only this year did I begin reading it, but I first encountered TenTen art two years ago. Maybe three. I found it gorgeous but thought that the fanservice was excessive. And I still do. The first book was ok, but due to sporadic translations and my then-lack of BitTorrent, I had to skip to book 9 or so. Definitely not the way to go. Though I understood everything, the graphic and fanservice level had been upped 20 times and it was shocking. I wonder how DC is going to get all this past authorities. At my sister’s advice, I restarted my reading of the series from book two this time and perhaps unsurprisingly, I was addicted. The story drew me in completely and it just keeps getting better and better…if not a bit repetitive sometimes. The weird “power move” names, garbly explanations about inner power and such, and fanservice still annoy me and once in a while I feel that the need to please those boys destroys a perfectly fine drawing or scene. Like when Madoka slices off all her clothes so that she can move more freely. It was necessary I suppose but honestly…All that Aya revealing is a pain too. Makes me detest her even more. (I know I know…I’m conservative. Sorry.)
The graphic nature of the fight scenes still disturbs me as well (when Souichiro’s mom loses her other arm to Souichiro’s “Dragon Fist”…ugh *shudder*. It LITERALLY ribbons into pieces.), but now that Masataka got to kick some serious arse in chapters 70-74, I am a fully confirmed TenTen addict. It’s an awesome series if you can stand it and understand it. Go check it out.
CMX EIDITION EDIT: Despite the disclaimer on the very last page of the book, claiming that Oh!Great sanctified the edits in order for it to be “accessible to a wider American audience”, there is no getting past the fact that the edits are extremely obvious. The giant “LEAP” splashed over Aya’s panties as she jumps over Masataka is so blatantly strategically placed that it’s ridiculous and funny, even. Same goes for the underclothes drawn on Bob’s girlfriend Chiaki and the famous shower scene. If they were going to edit this stuff, couldn’t they have at least put some effort into it?
For me, personally, the English version lost a lot of its original feel. And it’s not just the images. Though dialogue is surprisingly intact, almost word for word in some of Masataka’s narrative, which is wonderful (suggestive language has been softened, of course), scenes where 2 characters are wibbling about how “strong” someone else is presents an almost typical shounen “strong- stronger-strongest!!” setup which threatens to bring TenTen down to the level of DBZ-type action serieses. Which it is not. And should never been seen as.
CMX should’ve just left the images as they were, shrink wrapped and stuck a warning: 18+ label on it. Doing so mau almost deem it as hentai, but if what’s out on the market now is what’s going to be bestowed upon a series as great as this, then a shrink wrapped fate would serve it better than it losing its personality for sake of censorship.