If you were waking around in the Exhibitors Hall at NYCC you might have seen a booth promoting One Peace Book’s recent publication, Tenken. It is an atypical manga that uses the legend of the Yamata no Orochi to tell a story of modern fantasy. The first time I had an experience of the learning about the legend of the Orochi was while watching the Reawakening Memories OVA of Ranma 1/2 in college. That was a great introduction to the story regardless of Rumiko Takahashi’s alterations of the story. Ever since then I have always taken an interest in anything involving the Orochi because it was those two episodes in particular that catapulted me in hardcore anime fandom.
The proper genre classification for this Tenken is urban fantasy. While it has a modern setting there was a horrible environmental disaster during a world war that tainted the earth. There has recently been a new strain of bamboo that cleans the earth that has sprung up that had made places arable again. This makes it quite obviously not our own world while still feeling contemporary . The story itself revolves around the myth of the Yamata no Orochi and how it is drawing in two construction workers who are bound to play roles in an ancient cycle. It has deeper themes and metaphors than can be meditated upon while at the same time they can be safely overlooked and still have the story hold up as a mythical adventure.
Saki and Manaka are charming characters who engage the readers in the short time we get to know them. Saki starts of giving off an impression of a tomboy like character with a short hair cut and working in construction. But as we learn how she came to work with Manaka we see a more nuanced character who is trying to escape a seemingly unavoidable destiny while trying to remain herself. Manaka is a great older gruff but gentle character. He acts as a protective mentor to Saki while clearly have an understated romantic interest in her. They have a gentle chemistry that anchors the story.
I easily see Tenken being a future candidate for Manga Movable Feast. It is only one book that tells a solid, complete, and mature story with nuanced themes and heavily inked art. If that is not the formula for love among manga critics then I am not sure what is.