Anime Impressions: Tenjho Tenge (Episodes 1-24)

I should warn the prospective reader that there’s definitely SPOILERs here! I consider myself spoiler proof. After all, if it’s ruined just by someone telling you what happens, then it couldn’t have been very good to begin with, right? However, there are plenty of people out there who’d be very angry if they read on only to find a series spoiled for them. So here’s the warning…read at your own risk.

In the fan made movie/parody “This Is Otakudom,” a redubbed Gendou (from Evangelion) accuses American executives in the anime industry of taking well thought out, plot driven anime and turning it “into Pokemon.” Tenjho Tenge suffers the same fate of many anime from as far back as Kimba the White Lion to as recently as Naruto and Bleach. Only it didn’t need American CEO’s to dumb it down. The Japanese did that themselves.

Tenjho Tenge is based on a “seinen” manga, meant to be enjoyed by men in their late twenties to forties. It features quite a few bondage/rape (or near rape) scenes and plenty of violent, bloody fights. The manga is still going, and the anime is faithful up until the eighth volume.

It takes place in a high school devoted to keeping the martial arts in the classroom….literally. This school is controlled by a violent student council known as the Enforcers, who themselves are opposed by the Juuken Club, lead by Maya Natsume. When Nagi Souichiro and Bob Makihara show up and start causing trouble, Maya allows them to join her club. Maya’s younger sister, Aya, immediately falls for Nagi and announces her intentions to be his wife. This is a problem because another member of the club, Masataka Takayanagi, has fallen for Aya. Things get complicated when Nagi falls for Maya during his training lessons. Then Masataka’s older brother Mitsoumi, the leader of the deadly Enforcers, shows up and asks Maya to return to his side. A large chunk of the plot surrounds the back story of Maya and Aya’s older brother, Shin Natsume, a strong warrior who is ultimately consumed by his own uncontrollable power and murdered by the woman who loved him. Aya begins to show signs of this power known as the Dragon Eye, which allows her to see into the past and future. Will she succumb to it as well?

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This could have been a really great show, or at least more entertaining, if only they had edited it a little better. I don’t mind the rape being edited out, but for a fighting anime, it could have been much more violent. The fanservice, which is present in both the manga and anime, is distracting, even if it is toned down compared to other 2000 anime series like Ikki Tousen.

Tenjho Tenge and other anime filled with female warriors and fan service are “Man-ame” taken to it’s logical extreme. Since the mid-90’s, anime geared towards men, had evolved (or perhaps devolved) into anime based off of fighting games. Fatal Fury, Tekken, and Battle Arena Toshinden all featured masterful fighters with rippling muscles and busty femme fatals, and practically no plot at all. Anime made after 2000, attempted to reintroduce plot lines while retaining the violence and boobs. The problem with the Tenge anime is that the back gorund story isn’t concise enough. We’re left wondering for several episodes when the plot will return to the present, dire, situation. Why are our heroes sitting around listening to stories instead of going out and fighting Mitsoumi?

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Although the back story does provide a lot of needed info about Shin and the formation of the Juuken club, the five or six episodes it takes to tell it, could have been edited down to two or, at most, three. We learn a lot of useless crap like relationships that don’t go anywhere and characters that don’t really do anything. What we don’t learn until the final episode, is the extent of the Takayanagi family’s power. We know that a couple of lesser families do their dirty work, including whoring out one of their women to be Mitsoumi’s girlfriend. However it is later revealed that twelve families support the Takayanagi family. Half of these fight using traditional weapons and half fight using energy (ki). Any other information about the significance of these familial relations is relegated to the manga, and perhaps the two episode OVA, which I have yet to see. At least some of that time spent on the sub plot could have been used to further the actual story about defeating Mitsoumi. What we got was a lot of chitter chatter, a bunch of distracting fan service, and a few fights.

One of the few things that kept me watching this was Maya. I like her character a lot, as she is able to control her energy and change into a chibi form of herself.

Maya (chibi-form):

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Maya (Full-Form):

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She’s also the strongest fighter, next to Mitsoumi. Plus she refuses his charms:

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Well….kind of…..But then it’s not like we actually see them hook up. This is about as edgy as the anime gets. It’s one of those shows that, unlike the manga, doesn’t deliver on what it promises. Where the original source material gives us sex scenes bordering on hentai and violence to churn the stomach, the anime throws jiggling juggernauts at us and unrealistic blood that would make ketchup seem like a better idea, if this were live action. Ladies and gentlemen this is how you turn a tiger into a pussycat.

-Originally posted at Anime Impressions Windows Live blog, then ported to Blogger 12-21-2007


About romeomoon

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an Associates of Science and Art and a Bachelors of Science and Art. I'm the creative lead of the Lounge L33ts podcast, a regular guest on An Unearthly Podcast, write anime reviews and short stories, and create artwork in both digital and traditional media. I am a full time staffer for the Geek.Kon convention in Madison, WI. I am also an avid player of Massive Multiplayer Online Games and live stream various MMORPGs.
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