Title: Tenjo Tenge
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 1 omnibus (contains volumes 1 and 2 of 22), $17.99
Vintage: 1997 by Shueisha in Japan, this version June 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, martial arts, romance
Previously published and heavily edited by CMX (DC Comics’ now defunct manga publishing branch), the action packed Tenjo Tenge is one of the first titles to have been rescued from obscurity. Why they picked this particular title, I don’t know; there are better titles still in limbo out there. This first volume gives readers only the most basic set up of the overall plot, so it didn’t make much sense to me. Hopefully things will be explained in more depth soon. Obviously I don’t expect them to give it all away at the start, but these people are fighting rather viciously, and I have no idea why other than some sort of clichéd grudge. I’ll go ahead and say that I didn’t like it in the slightest, if that wasn’t obvious already, but I always try to give everything a fair assessment so readers can decide on their own whether or not it’s for them.
It’s a new school year at Todo High, and the Juken Club, a martial arts fighting club, has a new member. The club is small, represented mostly by the generally unassuming but incredibly strong Takayanagi, and the pint-sized Maya Natsume. Now, Maya’s younger sister, Aya Natsume, is joining the club, and her sword skills would put most anyone to shame. However, her real talent doesn’t lie in physical fighting, but in a special power passed through her family line known as the Dragon’s Eye (which allows her to see into the past, present, and future). The school year starts out like normal, until two transfer students arrive and start beating up everyone in sight. Soichiro Nagi and Bob Makihara like to test and prove their strength, and have every intention of ruling over the school, until Maya arrives to put them in their place. Maya, who typically stays in a child form to conserve her ki, is in reality a rather busty young woman of incredible strength, and quickly deals with Nagi…who flies through the air and lands on a freshly showered (and still naked, of course) Aya. Aya, based on an old tradition in the Natsume family, immediately declares that Nagi will be her husband, and sets about trying to win his heart. Unfortunately, he appears to have eyes for someone else. It’s too bad, really, because poor Takayanagi fell head over heels in love with Aya at first sight, and now she’s obsessed with the new guy. Not content with the beating he received from Maya, Nagi goes after Takayanagi next, and receives a brutal thrashing. Mistakenly believing that Nagi and Bob are members of the Juken Club or somehow connected to Maya, a member of the school’s Executive Council, the sadistic Ryuzaki, decides to dole out some heavy punishment for the havoc they wreaked at the school (mostly he doles out punishment to Bob, for some reason, destroying his motorcycle and attacking his girlfriend). Defeated and humiliated, and desperately wanting revenge, Nagi and Bob go to the Juken Club for training so they can become stronger. Defying the Executive Council, Maya agrees to take them in and train them. The training is rigorous, but their hard work pays off quickly, and Nagi in particular starts opening to powers he never knew he had. The Executive Council isn’t about to sit idly by, however. When the gang lets their guard down with a relaxing game of bowling, Saga Mask leads his minions into a surprise attack. Three of the council’s most powerful Executioners split up the group and launch vicious attacks. The skilled knife thrower Emi Isuzu ambushes Maya in the restroom, Aya is ambushed by master staff wielder Tagami in a stair well, Takayanagi sends Nagi and Bob away while he deals with an entire group of council minions, and Nagi runs smack into expert wrestler Saga Mask on his way to help Maya and Aya while Bob rushes to protect Chiaki (his girlfriend).
To sum up: The school is run by the Executive Council, and Maya’s Juken Club flies in the face of their strict rules, so they’re in a constant battle with each other. There’s some back story to that, that is very briefly (and mostly confusingly) touched upon, so as far as the first volume goes, they’re just beating the shit out of each other because they want to fight. There is a sense that the Executive Council is tyrannical, and that the Juken Club provides a balance; though it seems Maya wants to take them down altogether.
Wow. OK, I knew this was sort of a perverted series, filled with lots of fan service. I went in expecting that. What I didn’t expect was violent rape. Torching a guy’s motorcycle is one thing; raping his girl is an entirely different and unnecessary thing. Surely there were other ways to prove that Ryuzaki is an evil bastard (since apparently torching someone’s possessions isn’t enough). The series is quite a bit darker than I was expecting, given the mostly bright and, erm, asset heavy images I have seen. It’s no wonder it was so heavily edited originally. The series is quite obviously not meant for someone with my tastes. I could hardly turn a page without an eyeful of boobs or fleshy panty shots, and it’s hard for me to take anything like that even remotely seriously. Maybe I’m not supposed to. But surely there’s some merit here, otherwise Viz wouldn’t have rescued it from the now defunct CMX, right? You would think so, but it’s hard to find. Really hard to find. Beyond your typical fighting manga, which do tend to have some depth of story somehow, even if it’s equally nonsensical as Tenjo Tenge. The entire purpose of this series seems to be Oh!great exercising his ability to draw cool looking fight scenes, large breasts, and panty shots that leave very little to the imagination. The story itself revolves around a bunch of characters who just want to fight all the time. Every once in a while it gets a little serious, as characters search for their reason for fighting (which saves the book from being totally directionless), or a person they want to protect. So at least there’s that. Or you could just watch Aya’s boobs get progressively larger throughout the volume (I swear they doubled in size somewhere along the way). Oh, I did find one positive thing after all – the art. Everything is well drawn, and the character faces and expressions are clear. The characters’ clothing, when worn, is well designed, if often impractical (that’s nothing new). And lots of long, flowy hair, especially when it’s darkly inked or heavily toned, is not an easy feat. The action scenes are easy to interpret, and the characters (particularly the males) have well defined, and surprisingly natural looking muscle tone. Viz’s version also includes sixteen beautifully printed color pages.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.