Japanese Title: Tenjou Tenge
Related: Tenjou Tenge: The Ultimate Fight (OVA – included in review)
Similar: KenIchi: The Mightiest Disciple
Watched in: Japanese & English
Genre: Martial Arts Action Ecchi
Length: 24 episodes & 2 OVA
- Some cool action if you don’t think too much about it.
- Aya is incredibly annoying. Moments that are taken too seriously usually involve her.
- Inconsistent lore for the chi, powers, etc. and useless backstory to the school.
- Several idiotic character designs.
- Forced character expositions, only to leave their arc forgotten halfway.
- Incomplete, even with the “concluding” OVA.
Tenjou Tenge takes place in a martial arts school where of various fighting styles compete against each other with their Bruce Lee-ripped bodies. The story starts with knuckleheads Nagi and Bob, thinking they are the toughest guys around and pick a fight day one, only to get stomped by Natsume, a sexy woman who can shrink to chibi size at will and is captain of the Jyukenbo club. To make matters worse, Aya, younger sister of Natsume, joins the school and through a mishap in the showers, she falls on top of and in love with Nagi, declaring them engaged. It isn’t long before the new members of the Jyukenbo club attract the attention of the student council, who want to destroy them.
What you need to know about that narrative setup is just how irrelevant it is. Halfway through the series, the story switches to a flashback involving Natsume’s dead older brother and his best friend, the current student council president, and their falling out. This lasts the remainder of the series with all but two of the present characters cast aside. Tenjou Tenge can’t seem to decide who should be the protagonist. First, you get the impression that it’s Nagi, then Aya for a moment, before Masataka (council president’s younger brother) is hinted as the one with the hidden growth, but Natsume has the most screen time and she’s important in the flashbacks. So who will it be?
Much of Tenjou Tenge’s enjoyment comes from its parody nature. In similar martial arts anime like Ikki Tousen, I find it impossible not to laugh at the stupidity of it all because they expect us to take punches that tear clothes off seriously. Thankfully, Tenjou limits this to twice (if I recall) and it doesn’t try to sell us on the idea that martial arts makes the world go round. However, there are still problems – many of them. Whenever Aya is involved, it takes itself seriously, especially with the love at first sight…thing that amounts to nothing, despite how important she tells us it is. What a waste of time. Almost every genre cliché comes from her and she becomes irrelevant with the flashbacks, so why even include her in the first place? Then there is the dictatorial student council. Where are the adults who teach them? The plot tries to explain where the powers come from and how chi works and all that, but before it can finish, we need to change protagonists.
I got the impression that the writers never looked back on their work before submitting for print. They start one story, and then get a new idea, changing the narrative to fit that. Hang on! New idea! We must change everything again to accommodate. But wait. Still not settled, we have another idea! Yay…
To cap matters, the story doesn’t end with the series. An OVA titled ‘The Ultimate Fight’ follows, and guess what? Go on – guess. It has no ultimate fight in it. The entire OVA is padding to lead you on to another incomplete finish. You know, I may have just wasted your time…
Art – Medium
The art is standard for anime, though as a fighting anime, the animation is quite good during the action scenes. Shame about some of the character design.
Sound – Medium
Voice work is fine in both languages, though with a lot of Japanese words, it may bother you in English. I got used to it after a few episodes – the dialogue and plot aren’t important enough to care.
Story – Low
Tenjou Tenge does try to inject a plot among the action. Still could have put more effort into the lore and not forget half the character arcs midway through.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: For martial arts fans only. Tenjou Tenge is at the very least entertaining, but the lack of effort put into the lore and characters, never mind the unfinished state, makes this an anime of narrow appeal.
Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)