Nagi Souichirou and Bob Makihara arrive at Juudou high seeking a brawl, and face little challenge until they meet up with Natsume Maya, who proceeds to hand them both their asses in a matter of seconds. The force of the blow sends Souichiro out the window, falling on top of a naked and showering Aya (Maya's younger sister), who -- since he saw her naked -- proclaims herself as his wife. (Or was it fiancee. It's been a while since I watched that part.)
Impressed with the level of challenge, they join Maya's school to start training in an effort to get stronger, which brings them under the scrutiny of the Enforcers. Naturally, trouble follows.
Well, Tenjou Tenge is, if nothing else, quite an interesting show.
Starting off with perhaps one of the dumbest opening songs I have ever had the privilege of hearing (complete with poppish boy-band-style dancing by the main characters of the show) you are thrown into what can't be designated as anything but a testosterone-laden brawlfest with a large side order of boobs. And I do mean large.
In this very beginning, we find ourselves in the company of Souichiro and Bob, two loudmouth idiots who raid a school in seek of a brawl, and find themselves on the receiving end of Maya's can of whoop-ass. At this point, you would probably be forgiven for thinking that Tenjou Tenge is nothing but a no-brainer, a double helping of male wish fulfillment.
And you would be... oh, about 30% right. But then, Tenjou Tenge is actually a bit more than its own first impression.
For a good six or seven episodes (it's been a while since I watched the first 15 or 16 episodes, so bear with me), we are basically taken on a huge rumble and introduced to the main antagonists of the show, the Enforcers. It's through them that we learn more about the various characters. For instance Maya's dead brother, killed by the head of the Enforcers, Takayanagi Mitsuomi.
It's this subplot that leads us into the first problem Tenjou Tenge has. The story about the main cast's past is quite extensive, but practically turns the last 2/3rds of the series into one gigantic flashback (with a short smoke-break in the middle). This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but the problem is that the beginning of the show has already informed us of the outcome. The first part of the flashback is mostly about Maya's dead brother Shin, and how he slowly goes crazy. Again, it would have made for good drama, had it not lasted for SIX FULL EPISODES. It is, in fact, the meandering pace of the first flashback arch that eventually turned me away from the series for a long, long time.
However, over the last couple of days, I finally gathered up the remaining interest I had for this show and watched the rest (save for the last two episodes, which were unviewable for me.) After a return to the present, storywise, where nothing of importance really happened, the story once again returned to the past. (Though thankfully in a far more interesting manner this time, not to mention indepth.)
So, to sum things up, Tenjou Tenge is approximately 40% relentless and brutal violence and 60% rather dark and dreary drama with conspiracies thrown in to spice things up. True, both Souichiro and Bob are a couple of idiots that know nothing but starting trouble. (They even say so themselves in one of the later episodes.) Also, Aya is, to put it bluntly, a ditz. Thankfully, the rest of the cast actually make most of the show work, especially Bunshichi, who actually IS quite more than meets the eye. Apart for being dramatical at times, Tenjou Tenge has a bad habit of making grand expositions at times, maybe too grand for its genre. Later on, it also gets fairly unsettling. It's not a nice show by any stretch of the imagination. It's no Violence Jack, but some of the things going on in there will make you wince.
In the end, Tenjou Tenge is a decent title. It might take a little endurance to make it through the first flashback the first time you see it, but the action and the suspense will make up for that. The art is decent enough, though somewhat exaggerated in regard to the girls and their attributes. The animation is actually quite good, especially when it captures the various styles of fighting, like Bob's capoeira or Takayanagi Masataka's lightly Jeet-kune-do inspired style. If you're just looking for violence, Tenjou Tenge will deliver. (Will it ever...) If you're looking for a good story to go with it, Tenjou Tenge ALSO delivers, actually. It's not high-class stuff, but it gets the job done without making the whole show feel like some low-brow action B-flick.
By the way, do note that Tenjou Tenge doesn't exactly END after its 24 episode run. It's followed by a two episode OAV, which doesn't provide the show with an ending either. Does this mean that Tenjou Tenge will continue in the future? Who knows?
Certainly interesting, but very trying on the patience near the middle. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Strictly for adults. Not for the fanservice, but for the brutality of the fights. It starts out bad enough, with people being beaten into a literally example of a bloody pulp. Later, the show takes a turn for the worse, with people being stabbed, dismembered and bleeding all over the place. Handle with care.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Partial (22/24)
Tenjou Tenge © 2004 Oh! Great / Shueisha / avex / Geneon USA
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