If you're looking for a show that helps get out all of that nasty aggression at the end of the day then Tenjho Tenge may just be the ticket for you. The anime based on the exceedingly violent manga has been running long for some time now. The animated version is significantly toned down in terms of blood and guts and stuff but don't let that fool you; this is a hardnosed series akin to Baki the Grappler (though a little more supernatural).
Tenjho Tenge focuses on a school known as the Todo Academy, though it has nothing to do with the Wizard of Oz, I assure you. This facility in particular is a place where students not only learn about life but also join martial arts clubs in order to become stronger fighters. Nearly everybody is part of a faction of warriors and one in particular, the Juken Club, is considered by many to be the strongest of them all.
Things were fine at the school until Souichiro and Bob showed up as newcomers and started to ruffle some feathers. They became a part of the Juken Club to become stronger and joined the ranks with Takayanagi, Aya and Maya. Takayanagi is the younger brother of the leader of the executive council, while Aya and Maya are insanely busty sisters with a penchant for utilizing magic. Maya is able to transform from an adult body into a younger version of herself and Aya can summon forth a power known as the Dragon Eye.
One thing that Tenjho Tenge has been doing for quite a few volumes now is ping-ponging back and forth between flashbacks and present time. When it's not showing Maya and the current Juken Club it's telling the tale about her past (from 2 years ago) and all about how Shin came to be the murderous psychopath he's remembered for. Other characters like Bunshichi and Mitsuomi are also included in her jaded past so if you're a fan of the show there's a lot of background to have fleshed out.
The last volume included a meek three episodes that did little to further the enjoyment of the show. A tournament got under way to choose the next Executive Council though some sinister plots were unfolding as well. Shin was basically forced into unleashing his Dragon Eye power and he did so with murderous force and intent. He went toe to toe with Mitsuomi and put the green haired guy in the hospital. Needless to say that didn't do much for their friendship. Then again he impaled Bunshichi repeatedly with a sword yet they were still on decent terms afterwards. For a guy who wears an eye-patch with a Nazi symbol and tries to murder his friends he sure does instill a decent sense of loyalty.
In the final volume things pick up basically right where they left off though Mitsuomi is fighting Shin for the presidency of the Executive Council. The fight changes as the flow of battle progresses and eventually the Dragon Eye power is released. Someone of importance gets in the way of a Takayanagi family technique and the event leads up to Shin's death. We knew that was coming eventually though so it's not really surprising.
After that Mitsuomi is declared the winner; which again is something we already knew going in. In a bizarre plot twist though he green haired goon overthrows his family and succeeds his father in the process. It's a weird twist of betrayal that really came out of nowhere and for the most part goes unexplained. After that we are taken back to present time where we haven't been for the better part of about six episodes. Needless to say the effect is a little disorienting since it's been months from the last time we saw Souichiro and friends.
To make matters worse the series throws in a couple of random off the wall visual gags that just don't fit into the mechanics of the show. I'm sorry but with a series that attempts to take itself seriously you can't have a character fart and expel a thick cloud of green gas unless you want it to be completely out of place. The same also happens when young Takayanagi shatters into bits when he's near Aya and has a dream about premature ejaculation. It just doesn't fit into the show and to be fair the humor never really did anything more than create a rift in atmosphere.
As things come to a close Tenjho Tenge feels disjointed and confused. The time shifting, bizarre onset of visual gags, and lack of rhyme and reason just leave the show feeling like it's not cohesive. There are some nice throwbacks to the history we learned from the series but it's little more than a way to tie everything together. Like the manner in which Geneon released the series it winds up feeling befuddled in the end. Maybe I would have appreciated it more if the releases weren't stringed along but the way everything was handled the ending feels like it was rushed and lack proper thought.
Tenjho Tenge is presented with the 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratio that it was originally broadcast with. The images are very crisp and clean with only a couple minor snippets of pixilation that popped up on dark backgrounds. There are also a few points where some aliasing is noticeable, but the colors are very vivid and the transfer is very clean otherwise. I wish we had an anamorphic presentation for this series but alas, some things were never meant to be.
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. 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. There was a fair amount of directionality to the audio, but it wasn't anything revolutionary for a stereo track. I was a little disappointed that there was no 5.1 audio included, but even still the sound from this disc was good quality.
Hey look, a textless ending animation and some previews. If there is any consistency in Tenjho Tenge is that the extra features for the series have sucked.
Since the show began Tenjho Tenge has had many ups and downs. Most of these have been attributed to the way the DVDs were handled and the fact that the episodes are stretched out across eight volumes. Because of this frantic and ill-planned manner of handling the series the closure here just isn't satisfactory. Yes there are four episodes on this disc but the way the show goes from two volumes of nothing but history into the present in the blink is very disorienting. Once we get back into the present and we hook up with these characters again the change in atmosphere and twisted sense of humor just don't match what we've come to expect to date. This is an example of a show that started out fairly strong and just got weaker as it went on.
Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!