Tenryu (Dragon Cycle) Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: C
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: CMX
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1-4012-0669-7
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Tenryu (Dragon Cycle) Vol. #01

By Patricia Beard     November 21, 2006
Release Date: May 01, 2005

Tenryu (Dragon Cycle) Vol.#01

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Sanami Matoh
Translated by:Neil Ray
Adapted by:Jake Forbes

What They Say
Are they humans in dragon form, or dragons in human form? Can they keep their tempers long enough to find out? Two sword-packing brothers must find their father's killer and learn their true origin in war-torn ancient China. Two brothers search for revenge, treasure, and the secret of their powers.

The Review
This volume, displaying the original CMX logo and cover design, does not make a great first impression. The title itself is displayed diagonally over the lower midsection of the cover art with "CMX" and the author's name in corners of the cover. Sanami Matoh's portrait of Hiryu is dynamic and loses visual punch with the added busyness that these strong diagonals deliver. With the introduction of Volume 3, there is a logo change and a cover redesign that allows Matoh's art to become the primary visual focus. This particular volume has the stiff binding and improper paper orientation, problems that are not evident in later volumes. The print quality in this volume is acceptable but layer volumes show a very marked improvement in contrast and depiction of line quality. Matoh admits that she reworked the material in this volume so I'm inclined to attribute some of the roughness to the original image rather than the print.

Sanami Matoh can be very good; she can also be very slap-dash. The art in this first volume is a mixed bag. I have never liked Matoh's use of over-exaggerated facial expressions and in this first volume there are quite a few. Her exaggerated expressions push the character model to being unrecognizable. Her characters can look so fine, do we really want to see them this way?

Matoh provides quite a bit of background art befitting a title set in an exotic locale. I just wish she weren't so sloppy with some of the figures she puts in them. But when she takes the time, her characters are engaging and their attitude leaps off the page. Do expect a large improvement in the art in subsequent volumes, however.

Although this is a shoujo fantasy title, Matoh does include action scenes. To her credit, these are pretty good. They don't go on forever, get to the point, and are visually comprehensible. One knows what is going on, no gestalt interpretations here.

Some SFX are not translated and those that are translated are done by replacement rather than subbing the SFX. Dialog reads naturally and there are lots of asides, background conversations and thoughts in these panels making for very lively reading.

Contents: (may contain spoilers)
Two guys discover their inner dragoness. One of them is a jerk.

Fictive brothers Hiryu and Ryukei are members of the Black Dragon gang, a bandit group headed by Lord Unryu, their boss and adopted father. The story begins with Lord Unryu dismissing a messenger sent by Lord Torau, who has offered promises of friendship that Lord Unryu feels are attempts to take over the Black Dragons as Lord Torau has taken over so many other gangs. This action leads to death of Lord Unryu and to the quest of the gallant and levelheaded Ryukei and the crude and hotheaded Hiryu to avenge their father. In pursuit of their father's killer, Hiryu and Ryukei assist a young woman in recovering a gem entrusted to Lord Unryu, a gem that only gifted members of the Dragon Clan can produce. This young woman, Ryurei, and her retainer, the boy Ryuko, have been summoned to Ryurei's grandfather, Lord Ryuho, but are set upon by one of Lord Torau's minions, the mysterious Koro. In the struggle against Koro, Hiryu and Ryukei become separated and, in pursuing separate paths, discover their dragon powers. They travel with Ryurei to inquire of Lord Ryuho as to the origin and nature of their newly discovered powers.

Readers of Fake would be forgiven if they initially approached Tenryu as cosplay with Dee and Ryo. The gang's all here - Bikki, Carol, Drake, Captain Smith, Berkeley Rose, Diana Spacy, Leo Grant. (Didn't find JJ, though.) Hiryu certainly shares quite a few of Dee Laytner traits. He's obnoxious, childish, and headstrong. Ryukei is as polite, sensitive and brave as Ryo, and the other characters share anything from a physical archetype to almost full-blown character transfer. While Tenryu also shares the comedy/romance approach of Fake (but not its romantic orientation), it isn't Fake, and the biggest difference is in how the story unfolds.

While Fake is essentially episodic with one overarching plotline (not resolved until the end of the last volume, heh), Tenryu is a very linear story with a single focus. A lot gets done in this first volume and the pacing is quick, almost too quick. The problem with introducing story elements at the rate they are introduced here is that there is no time for finesse or the artful introduction of these elements. One is left to a form of shorthand, an expedient to move the story on, the cliché. I had to admit to cringing a few times. But it's the character interaction that's at the center of Tenryu, not some well-worn plot elements. I did enjoy the characters, that's why I kept reading.

For readers familiar with fantasy, the plot is familiar but the tale is competently told and the pace is refreshing. For those readers new to shoujo fantasy romance, Tenryu: the Dragon Cycle can be an entertaining introduction to the genre. It has a brand of humor particular to Sanami Matoh, and you need not be familiar with her other works to appreciate it. While Tenryu doesn't share the depth of Fushigi Yugi (more shoujo fantasy romance), it does tell a complete story in an efficient six volumes, and doesn't have as its major character the most annoying young woman in manga history.

In spite of some artless plot devices, I did enjoy this first volume of Tenryu. The road may be familiar but the company made all the difference.

I was hoping that there could be some Koro x Ryukei action. (No, there isn't, not in any of these volumes. This is straight boy-girl stuff.) But I guess that's what bad fan fiction is for.


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