I didn't know that manga writer/artist Oh!Great's (the pen name for Ito ?gure) high school fight manga Tenjo Tenge ran for 12 years, only recently ending its run in 2010. I wonder where it can and will go, given that its lead characters--Souichiro, Bob, and Aya--are all first-year high school students and that 12 years is a long time to be a freshman. All three of the characters, members of the Juken martial arts club at Toudou Academy, want to be stronger, to master their respective fighting styles for their own personal reasons. Maybe in the grand scheme of things a decade isn't enough time to master a particular fighting skill or hit such a broad target as becoming stronger, but they seem to be off to a good start in the first and second volumes presented here in Viz's Full Contact Edition.

The series might be a love-it-or-hate-it prospect for most readers, with its mix of elaborate martial arts, supernatural portents, graphic violence, and nearly as graphic nudity. It's a martial arts exploitation story in comic form. Those last sentences may have already sent some readers out to pre-order their copy of this volume, which is presented uncut in the wake of the Teen-rated editions released by the recently-folded CMX imprint.

For those of you who might still be on the fence about picking this volume up when it's released, and who are of age to pick up M-rated titles, I'll say that in spite of its pretty gnarly content, it's got an engaging story that moves along very quickly. The characters are all types, with Souichiro being the hothead with a heart of gold, Aya a ditz with deep reserves of ability and backbone, and Bob, the stoic outsider who's always there for his best friend. However, these characters are caught up in a plot that establishes an air of mystery for its them and their circumstances, tells you just enough to keep it intriguing, and never allows fights to go on longer than necessary (a pitfall of many fight-based manga titles). There are actually several parallel mysteries going on in the story, including the nature of Souichiro's power as well as the reason for the continued domination of the Executive Council over Toudou Academy and the root of their animosity towards the tiny Juken club. Read More...

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