Tenjho Tenge vol 2 - The Battle Bowl

UK Distributor:  MVM (DVD Only)

BBFC Certificate:  15

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  19.99

Episodes:  5-8 (of 13)

Audio Options:  English 2.0; Japanese 2.0

Subtitles:  English

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


It's strange when a company are releasing two similar series at near enough the same time, as MVM are doing with Tenjho Tenge and Battle Vixens.  Both feature epic martial arts battles between attractive teens, both are pretty pervy with plenty of semi-nudity, both focus on destiny and have supernatural elements.  But it is certain that out of the two, Tenjho Tenge is the better title.

The reason is that Tenjho Tenge appears to have a plot.

After the pummelling they received last time Souichiro Nagi and Bob Makihara have both gone to a training camp with the Juuken Club.  Souichiro has been coming on in leaps and bounds under Maya Natsumi's tutelage, leaving his partner Bob behind in terms of skill and power.  In an attempt to take a break from the training regime, Maya takes them all ten-pin bowling, but the executive council decides that this is the perfect opportunity to destroy them whilst their guard is down.  The members of the Juuken club may be blissfully unaware of the impending battle, but they have their own issues to take care of.  Aya Natsumi is starting to worry about how close her older sister is getting to Souichiro, Bob is worrying about his own lack of strength and Takayanagi is angry about his unrequited love for Aya.  With these problems bubbling under the surface you can imagine that the sudden arrival of all of the executive council's chief executioners and a horde of lackeys doesn't do a lot to improve their mood.  There are more problems on the horizon too, Aya has a terrifying power and it's beginning to manifest, but there is also the most dangerous fighter of all to contend with - the deadly president of the executive council himself...

On the surface Tenjho Tenge doesn't appear to be very original - fighting schoolkids who all look far older than they should be, lots of action, huge breasts... we've seen it all before but it hints at much more depth than any of its peers.  There's a sense of intrigue, a sense of a highly dramatic storyline still to be uncovered, a lot of questions to be answered about the characters' pasts.  Tenjho Tenge vol 2 is pretty much one big fight, but there is enough drama to ensure it doesn't just devolve into Dragonball Z-style repetition.  The action scenes are fast and frenetic as always, also containing a level of brutality you don't really expect - arms are broken, people end up in hospital, characters are seriously injured.  It is unusual to have consequence in fighting anime, but Tenjho Tenge has it.

However, don't expect gritty, realistic scrapping.  It is mystical martial arts all the way, special techniques, secret powers, the works.  The drama is upped this time round though, events do take a really dark turn and this it's what sets it apart from its peers.  The characters are torn by their own secret fears and frustrations, Bob's fear that his girlfriend Chiaki is suffering because of his weakness vies with Aya's despair at Souichiro and Maya's growing attraction.  There is some insight given into Souichiro's childhood, as well as family trouble for Takayanagi and it becomes apparent that Maya has some really dark secrets in her past.  There is a nice cliffhanger at the end of the volume too, setting up an impressive confrontation for next time round.

I can't say that Tenjho Tenge vol 2 is groundbreaking, or indeed amazing, but it keeps the pace and enjoyment from volume 1, and steps up a gear too.  There's nothing that original about a group of schoolkids beating seven shades of crap out of each other, evil student hierarchy, or 16 year olds who look about 25, but the underlying darkness of the series is fresh and doesn't rely on shocks to get its point across.  It's this dark side and a surprising amount of depth that cements the series at the top of its genre, even if that genre isn't exactly anime's strongest.  It's not earth shattering, but it's enjoyable and more intriguing than it has any right to be, if you buy one fighting schoolkids series then this is the one to get.


Last time we had trailers and a textless opening sequence, this time it's trailers and a textless closing sequence.  Not exactly variation...


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