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Tales of the Tendo Family
Tales of the Tendo Family

Tales of the Tendo Family

Written by Ross Locksley on 05 Mar 2024

Distributor One Peace Books • Author/Artist Ken Saito • Price £11.99

Tales of the Tendo Family is a period drama (I hesitate to use the word "Romance", reasons for which we'll discuss later) concerning Masato Tendo and his arranged marriage to a young woman named Hojo Ran. Hearing that the head of the Tendo house has died, prompting a bloody battle for succession, the young girl tries to end her own life. She's found by a country girl who was brought up in the countryside by her grandfather and was never given a name - she agrees to take her place in order to fulfil a pledge to die saving another's life, and so begins the fraught relationship between Masato and his unnamed "bride".

Initially I had thought this would be a book along the lines of the hit anime "My Happy Marriage", but just a few chapters in and it's clear that Masato is no diamond in the rough. He's a ruthless bastard to the core, and while I was appalled at his behaviour, the book did enough to keep me interested to the end, and it was never dull.

Upon being rumbled (all Hojo girls have a mole under their eye, which made her an easy fake for Masato to spot) our heroine offers to kill herself with a knife to show her sincerity, and is only stopped by Masato's hand, which takes the blow in her stead. He allows her to leave, but is shocked to find that not only does she return with medicine for his wound, but has also taken out a guard who attacked her. Seeing potential in the strange girl, he forces her to stay at the Tendo residence to play the part of Hojo Ran and help Masato's schemes against his relatives.

Not keen on the idea, the girl begs to be slain or allowed to leave, so Masato commands his live-in student Tachinbana tie her up in bed each night, forcibly bathe her and teach her etiquette. It's all quite brutal and the poor girl is clearly terrified, so in that sense it's not only hard to read, but also very hard to see Masato as anything more than a brutal thug. His cold attitude to her heartbroken wailing is borderline inhuman, especially given that all of her actions are driven by compassion for others. While there are glimmers of humanity in the young Lord's character, his acts in the latter half of the book make him seem even more heartless, so I'm fascinated to know if this is going to be a romance story or a Kill Bill style revenge story for our unnamed heroine. He's certainly created a layer of vile behaviour that's going to make him very hard to empathise with later.

As for "pipsqueak" (the nickname given her by her Grandpa) she's a plucky figure and easy to root for - she might be "country simple" but she's no slouch in combat and clearly has a strong sense of right and wrong, it's just a shame that she's so saddened by her Grandpa's death that she's so eager to meet him again. Seeing a good person abused and tortured by a sneering madman makes for an odd dynamic, I'm just rooting for her to find some agency and kick her abuser's ass.

On a more technical level, the art has a pleasing style to it, with Pipsqueak being rendered as a pretty but inelegant girl, her expressions wonderfully realised and adding a lot of character to the work, especially when they're exaggerated for comic effect. Masato's sneering expression and villainous looks perfectly convey the coldness of his actions, matched only by the looks of sheer evil that portrayed by the rest of his family. Backgrounds are detailed to provide a suitable sense of place, while the page layouts are easy to follow and move the action along clearly. I did notice one grammatical mistake on a page that made the dialogue nonsensical, and one word balloon had the text running into the margin through poor placement, but aside from these minor issues, it was a solid read with dialogue that reflected the character personalities and status giving each a distinctive voice.

The cover depicts a romantic tale within, but as of the first volume I'd argue it's anything but; the heroine is brutalised and essentially a prisoner for much of the book, but it's hard to see where it might be heading. I'll be checking out subsequent chapters, mostly because I don't want to see how the writer redeems the seemingly irredeemable. 

Hard to read in places due to the bullying within, however it's never less than intriguing, with a heroine it's hard not to root for.

Ross Locksley
About Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time. You can read his more personal articles on UKA's sister site, The Anime Independent.


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