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Review – Tenken

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TenkenTenken is a beautiful Japanese Manga graphic novel that caught my eye at this year’s New York Comic Con.  Written and illustrated by Yumiko Shirai the story draws heavily from the Shinto religion and Japanese folk tales and traditions.  This is a graphic novel ten years in the making and it shows.

The world has been annihilated and an evil bestial deity must be appeased.  Saki, a young girl, trying to escape destiny, finds refuge in an unusual and rough line of work.  But she has been chosen for an unthinkable role; a princess must be sacrificed to the monster Yamatano-Orochi at the 50 year Tenken Festival.  Can Manaka, the man who is in love with her, follow her into this abyss to save her from fate; only to discover the dark secret of the ceremony?

Winner of the prestigious Japan Media Festival Arts Award this stunning work of graphical fiction takes the reader into a whole new realm.  Combining Japanese mythology in a post apocalyptic setting this book presents a new style of Japanese manga.

The winner of the Japan Media Festival Arts Award, the story is just stunning to look at.  With a typical manga style that flows into dream like black and white paintings, I lingered on the pages.

The story draws heavily from Japanese culture and religion and I’ll admit between that and the right to left reading at times I was a bit confused.  But, that’s not a bad thing.  I still understood what was going on and appreciated it.  In it’s core this is a tale of birth, death and rebirth, in both people and a nation.

I’m really enjoyed the graphic novel and I’m sure someone who either knows Japanese culture or the Shinto religion will appreciate it even more.

Overall I loved the graphic novel.  It caught my eye for a reason at NYCC, and I’m so glad there was follow up post the convention, because I had a chance to try out something new.  This isn’t necessarily the first manga I’ve enjoyed, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.  I can understand why it’s been lavished with awards, it’s a definite buy.

Plot: Drawn heavily from the Shinto religion and Japanese culture Shirai weaves a beautiful tale steeped in Japanese mythology, but at the same time pretty accessible for those who are new.  There’s something mysterious, but at the same time familiar.  The tale is about birth, death and rebirth, truly focusing on cycles.  This is a modern day myth and something I want to see more of.  Rating: 9

Art: Beautiful is the only thing I can say about the art.  The manga style flows into painted black and white scenes representing dreams and they look mystical.  It’s just amazing to look at, and the visuals are striking and a pleasure to look at.  While I’m familiar with “manga style” this brought out something I’ve never seen and want to see more of.  Just stunning.  Rating: 10

Overall: The two knocks I have about the comic are both my issues.  I’m not familiar with reading manga and at times was confused in what direction I had to read in and am unfamiliar with the Shinto religion.  But the graphic novel is beautiful and rich.  A great manga to check out for those who want something other than the kiddie stuff.  Overall rating: 9.25

Recommendation: Buy

Page count: 336 pages    Price: $16.95    Release Date: Out Now

One Peace Books provided Graphic Policy with an advance copy of this issue for FREE for review.

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