Tenjho Tenge (Japan 2003?)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/9/06

Contains 26 episodes

Souichiro and Bob are two street fighters who have crushed 99 schools with their fighting skills, but their 100th school turns out to be an entirely different story. Todo Academy ends up being an institution built to revive the old martial arts, and it contains many students with truly terrifying powers. The primary club of interest is the Juken Club, which is run by Maya Natsume and has Maya's younger sister Aya and an unassuming boy named Masataka as members. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, Aya ends up offering herself to Souichiro in marriage when he unwittingly sees her naked. He wants nothing to do with her, but her devotion is relentless. This naturally breaks Masataka's heart, as he's madly in love with Aya, and thus the typical love triangle is formed.

At its core, the series is a "fighting school" story, so each episode focuses around a single fight between two opposing individuals or groups. The combat sequences are superb, but even though it takes the material seriously, it can't help but throw in a bunch of sexual fluff in the form of giant breasts, panty shots, and large helpings of nudity. Thankfully it's not nearly as awful as "Ikki Tousen" (2003), but it's still disappointing. In this day and age are there ANY anime shows that DON'T feature ridiculously huge boobs and gratuitous panty shots? I find it all rather disturbing and depressing. Now don't get me wrong, I can appreciate a well realized panty shot as much as anyone, but when it becomes the entire reason for a scene, it loses its novelty and impact. But it's not just the giant jubblies and shameless panty flashing that left a bitter taste. I think the biggest problem with "Tenjho Tenge" (as well as most anime that I've seen in the last ten years) is that none of the characters are likable, and no effort is made to endear them to the audience. Masataka and Bob are the only remotely likable characters, but they're clearly only taking up space in the background. It sickens me that Souichiro is the main character, as he's an obnoxious arrogant asshole who I have no sympathy for. I would have really liked Aya, except that her somewhat air-headed personality and blind devotion to Souichiro is utterly annoying. While the art direction and animation is very good, the female character design is rather unattractive, making Aya even more difficult to connect with, which is unfortunate since the camera spends so much time ogling her.

Curiously, the series radically shifts its focus every 3-4 episodes and nearly half of the series is a flashback to events that happened two years earlier. After establishing Souichiro as the main character in the first couple of episodes, he effectively disappears until the very end of series. It turns out that Maya is the one to watch, and "Tenjho Tenge" is really all about her. Her scenes are a joy to watch and she can really back up her tough chick persona. Annoyingly, as Souichiro re-enters the picture and the stage is set for his ultimate showdown, the series ends with no closure whatsoever. What a letdown.