Reviewby Patrick King, May 23rd 2006
DVD 6: Round 6
The sixth volume of Tenjho Tenge finds our two main protagonists, Bob Makihara and Souichiro Nagi, seeking out revenge against the school's Enforcement Group for Maya Natsume's dismissal from Todo Academy. They realize that they're absolutely no match for Bunshichi Tawara, a man who once defeated the Natsume sisters' now-deceased brother Shin. More significant than Souichiro and Bob's hopeless assault against their superiors, however, is Souichiro's surprising declaration of love for Maya. It's quite possible that the Enforcement Group's punishment will be nothing compared to Aya's reaction when she hears confirmation of her beloved's crush on her older sister. Is this the beginning of the end of the Juken club?
The first thing most notice about Tenjho Tenge is how pretty it is. Studio MadHouse makes fine use of digital anime production techniques, resulting in a sharp, colorful, and generally well-illustrated experience. Adding more to the show's allure, naturally, is the unusually attractive cast. Well, unusual for reality, at least. This is anime, after all. The show's animation quality is just as impressive as the beauty of its stars, with particular detail going exactly where it belongs – in the fight scenes. Even with the lion's share of frames being allocated to the action sequences, it seems as though there was plenty of money left in the budget to keep the rest of the show moving fluidly.
It's no shock to learn that the show's blatant sex appeal plays a large role in generating most viewers' initial feelings of attraction for Tenjho Tenge. The manga on which it's based was written by Oh Great!, an author who isn't afraid to flavor his works with wonton sex and violence. Though it has been toned down significantly from the original source material, it retains most of the flirty spirit of its predecessor. Thankfully, it's not nearly as sanitized as the controversial English adaptation of the book – a release not worth mentioning beyond the assertion that the TV series does a far better job of adjusting the series for the more sensitive eyes of a mainstream audience.
There may not be as much nudity as there was in the manga, but there's plenty of blood, fan service, and - the most welcome hallmark of a truly mature series – just as much of a real plot once things get going. Despite the presence of cheesecake panty shots, bouncing breasts, and muscle-bound hunks, there is indeed a dramatic story woven between the eye candy.
In fact, the story becomes particularly interesting within this disc. We learn more about the past events which set the stage for the current situation via flashback sequences that are pivotal to appreciating the rest of the tale. By the time this portion of the story is over, viewers will realize that a bunch of relatively standard characters have slowly become people boasting personalities of surprising depth. Those who originally picked up the release because of the cuties within may be pleased to discover they now have a legitimate reason to keep on watching the show. Not that all anime viewing must be justified, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have additional ammo when presenting something like Tenjho Tenge to a significant other. While it may remain somewhat of a guilty pleasure, it's not nearly as light on content as it could've been.
As usual, on the subject of voice acting, viewers' mileage may vary. The Japanese track sounded convincing enough for a shonen fighting series. For the dub, Aya's English voice may be a little too squeaky for some viewers to stomach. Sadly, the show loses much of its sincerity in English. It is possible that some dialogue is simply better left in Japanese. Certain phrases just don't translate well, stumbling across the fine line between serious and corny all too easily. Luckily, fans of dubs probably won't mind, and fans of the original language version won't even hear the dub, so it's not too much of an issue. It's great to be able to pick one's own poison when choosing audio tracks. If more video game publishers would follow the same trend, the world would be a better place!
The show's opening theme song is one of the most amusing tunes ever used for an anime series. It's hard to knock something called “Bomb A Head! V” playing while the main characters breakdance to the beat. The end theme isn't nearly as special, but the fact that it's a J-pop love song performed by Aya might bump up its place in the hearts of fans of the perky young heroine. In-show music isn't special enough to warrant purchase of the soundtrack, though it is an acceptable mix of fun songs for lighthearted moments and dramatic symphonic compositions when they're required. However, if the opening tune is on the disc, it would be worth it to pick up a few copies to dole out to close friends. Yes, it's that entertaining.
On the subject of extras…well…the box is nice. Anything featuring a major character lounging in pimpish glory is admirable enough, and at least some of the discs come with a clear plastic reproduction of the cover art, though it's likely limited to only the first run of disc pressings. That's pretty much it. Seeing as there're only three episodes on the disc, it's hard to wonder why the rest of the DVD isn't filled with an hour of random trailers, or perhaps a loop of some of the characters jumping up and down. In the show's defense, it does have a lower than average MSRP, and that should assuage hurt feelings for those who might accuse it of not offering enough value.
Fans of other series focused on martial arts should find plenty to enjoy in Tenjho Tenge. It is especially satisfying to learn that underneath the show's shiny exterior, there's a solid foundation of intriguing story to follow. Bonus material may be thin, but its lower price point is an acceptable tradeoff for a leaner release. On the flipside, for those who care not a whit for the plot, there are some really hot guys and gals bouncing around and occasionally knocking the stuffing out of each other. What more could one ask for in a series?
Story : B+
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : B
+ Very good-looking show; surprising depth for a fighting series; good balance of humor and drama.
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