"Strength is not something you can't compare to other people."
Based on a popular manga from the Ultra Jump publication, Tenjho Tenge has finally seen release here in the states after some slight delay. The anime version of the violent manga has been toned down a tad, but that doesn't mean this release is a push over. Fans will still revel in the crunching bones, spraying blood and sexual innuendos provided here, there is just arguably less of each compared to the manga.
Being the new kid at a school is tough, but that's not going to stop freshmen Souichiro Nagi and Bob Makihara from trying to rule the Todo Academy. Before they can even take their first pop quiz they start busting skulls and breaking noses with anyone that happens to walk by. You see Todo Academy is a martial arts school where students learn academics as well as combat and Souichiro and Bob want to take it over.
Unfortunately for this dynamic duo, Masataka Takayanagi and Maya Natsume of the Juken Club get in their way. The Juken Club is a powerful group at the Academy who train to achieve higher status with chi and martial arts. Despite their professed superiority Souichiro and Bob soon get their asses handed to them and are dumbfounded as to why.
In a rather amusing moment Souichiro is sent flying into the girl's shower where Maya's sister Aya happens to be. A naked Aya professes her undying love for him and starts treating him like her betrothed. I feel this type of girl falling madly in love with guy at first sight plot is way over played in many anime, but despite that there are some quite amusing interactions between the two.
That's basically the way this entire show goes, there are a few fights, funny bits, partial nudity and a few things happen in each episode to advance the plot. Until some things are explained you'll be left scratching your head wondering why Aya is so easy, why Maya can change from a ten year old body into that of a playmate and why Souichiro is so obsessed with winning.
Since the driving focus of this anime is centered on fighting you can expect to see a lot of greatly choreographed and animated sequences. Things become even more interesting when the chi starts flying and the combat becomes supernatural. While the series may have a great sense of humor, it never becomes nonsensical and much of the show has a determined tone about it. I felt that really helped add some tension to the fight scenes since the characters themselves are taking it seriously.
Tenjho Tenge isn't by any means a masterpiece but this first volume certainly propels the premise of the series forward faster than most. I found all of the characters interesting and even though you don't learn an awful lot about them in this volume, their personalities come through greatly. The pacing feels a little off with this series so far though with a strong emphasis on fighting with a few slow bits tossed in to advance the plot. This style of story telling gives the show a feeling that it's loosely tied together by one event or another, but the tale that is here is interesting enough.
Each part of this volume follows the same story and continues from the very moment the previous left off. With so many anime that jump around in their plots, it's nice to see one that remains consistently streaming, at least so far. I'm looking forward to what this series has to offer, and while there are many clichés and the story is loosely tied together, the characters, fighting and premise are interesting enough to bring me back.
Tenjho Tenge is not surprisingly presented in 1.33:1 ratio full screen as is the case with most TV to DVD series. I really enjoyed the art direction of this show and the animation is top notch, you can tell that extra attention to detail was put into the fight scenes and it transfers beautifully to DVD format.
The images are very crisp and clean with only a couple minor snippets of pixilation that popped up on dark backgrounds. The colors are very vivid and each character seems to have their own palette. Overall this is a very nice and clean transfer with little to complain about.
Tenjho Tenge features two audio tracks: 2.0 English and 2.0 Japanese. While I am a fan of original language tracks with subtitles, the English Dubbing here was pretty good, something that not many series can say. The Japanese track feature comparable audio quality with accurately translated subtitles as far as I could tell after having watched the show with both tracks.
If you happen to be fluent in Japanese you'll be happy to know that you can shut the subtitles off, even though they start automatically with the language. I was a little disappointed that there was no 5.1 audio included, but even still the sound from this disc was good quality.
Uh oh! You know you're in for it when the only feature listed on the back of the packaging is "DVD BONUS: Non-Credit Opening". Unfortunately that's about all that is available on this disc aside from previews of Ikki Tousen, Tokyo Underground and Samurai Champloo. The "non-credit opening" is exactly as it sounds with the opening montage and theme song just without the credits getting in the way. This is about as barebones as it gets folks.
Tenjho Tenge is a series with a lot of promise and I thought this first volume was a lot of fun. The fights were amazing with no shortcuts in the animation process and a lot of fluid movements. It may not be as violent as the Japanese manga, but there is still a lot of gore. There may also not be much in the way of nudity, but the sexual innuendos, gratuitous cleavage and panty shots more than make up for it.
With several interesting characters and some great interactions, I found myself getting sucked in by the fourth episode. Unfortunately the pacing feels a little off at times with a constant shift from action to nothing and occasional plot advancements are dropped in to tie things together. We have the makings of a good show here; I only hope that future volumes flesh out the story and characters more. Recommended.
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