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Manga / Kisshou Tennyo

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"For women, blood is nothing to be scared of..."

An Urban Fantasy manga from Banana Fish author Akimi Yoshida. Initially serialized from February 1983 to June 1984 in Bessatsu Shojo Comic, Kisshou Tennyo focuses on New Transfer Student Sayoko Kanō's arrival to an elite private school. Her overwhelming beauty catches the attention of her peers, not only dragging Girl Next Door Yuiko Asai, but also local rich kid cousins Ryou and Akira Toono into her orbit. What first seems like a complicated high school Love Dodecahedron soon escalates into something much more fatal...

Thing is, Sayoko seems like she's inhumanly beautiful. And she seems to have a supernatural sense of other people's thoughts and motives, too. Soon, it becomes apparent that not only can Sayoko put up more than a decent fight, but that she's willing to go above and beyond to protect the interests of the Kanō family. And there's even more to the family's history than just that.

While mostly remembered for Yoshida's authorship, composer Joe Hisaishi, who would later become famed for his orchestral work with Studio Ghibli, produced a synth-heavy 1984 image album as well. Two separate live-action adaptions of the manga were also produced.

The title Kisshou Tennyo (吉祥天女), by the way, means "auspicious goddess." When used in Japanese contexts, this term usually refers to the goddess Kisshōten, who is sometimes considered part of the seven gods of fortune.

Kisshou Tennyo provides examples of:

  • The '80s: The influence of the decade is most clearly shown in the teenage characters' fashion. When not in uniform, characters wear clothing clearly both influenced by Western media and enabled by Japan's economic boom: notable examples include Princeton University merchandise, a Corvette pullover, and all sorts of knit sweaters. At the same time, there's a noticeable lack of technology that would be characteristic of upper class adolescence (such as cell phones) even a decade later. This is more a product of the work being in The Present Day when first published, and can also be seen in Yoshida's earlier California Story and later Banana Fish.
  • Aborted Arc: The story opens on Yuiko Asai, and Chapter 1 seems to set up the development of Yuiko and Sayoko's friendship. Come Chapter 3, Yuiko's crush on Sayoko drifts out of focus, replaced by the Kanō-Toono family drama. By the time this comes up again in Chapter 8, Yuiko chooses to process her sexual proclivities towards Sayoko (and suppression of feelings towards Ryou) as a product of childhood trauma. By the end, it's still uncertain what her actual sexual identity is— or even if that's important at all.
  • Action Girl: Deconstructed. Sayoko is such an Action Girl in an otherwise mundane (albeit occasionally dangerous) Shoujo family drama, to the point where it begins to alienate some of her peers— she arguably even finds them alienating, since she's unable to socialize with them as a normal teenager. This is how Yuiko's brother Takashi realizes that Sayoko's Semi-Divine. Her jet-black hair and moral ambiguity also evoke elements of a Dark Action Girl.
  • Adults Are Useless: Discussed. Adults in town are either unwitting enablers of violence (as in the case of the school administration), violent actors themselves (such as in the case of Mr. Nezu), or helpless themselves (as in the case of Sayoko's mother). Sayoko, at least in the case of her mother, compares them to sheltered children. Yukimasa and Takashi are the only possible exceptions, but Yukimasa serves as further muscle to Sayoko's already overwhelming strength, and Takashi is still a student himself.
  • Art Shift: Twice, both times for story purposes:
    • Once in Chapter 7, the art shifts for a singular page to watercolor. This is to demonstrate Ryou's sheer shock at seeing Akira with a bloodied knife in his hand, standing over his dying father.
    • Another time in Chapter 8, purely for Sayoko's portrait that fully reveals her Semi-Divine nature.
  • Angelic Beauty: Everyone notices how beautiful Sayoko is in the first chapter, either feeling threatened or enraptured by her presence.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Yuiko is clearly smitten with Sayoko the first time they meet, but ends up realizing she has feelings for Ryou as well much later in the story. By the time Sayoko moves out of town again, it's unclear if Yuiko now considers her emotions towards Sayoko a mere phase, or if she's just looking for a change of pace when she hopes the next transfer student ends up being a boy.
    • Considering Sayoko's fixation on Yuiko as a symbol of a nurturing, normative, middle class environment, this just as easily applies to her as well. Sayoko even compares her explicit love interest Ryou to Yuiko— they're both teenagers who feel an unnecessary obligation to "more correctly" perform gender roles, even though it goes against who they are as people. Sayoko expresses to both of them (separately) that they're better just as they are, regardless of what they may feel obligated to be or become. Even after Sayoko kisses Ryou on the mouth moments before he outright dies, she immediately tells Yuiko that she "liked" her the same way she "liked" Ryou.
  • Ambiguously Human: Is Sayoko even human at all? She bleeds like any other human, she clearly has a family she was naturally born into, but has an influence over other people that's blatantly supernatural in nature. Then again, her off-hand comment about Telepathy is seemingly only a joke since she repeatedly expresses frustration with reading other people. But she also can perceive ghosts and spirits, and understands her family's Semi-Divine lineage better than even her grandfather. She mentions seeing the apparition of her grandmother in Nagano, who is in turn implied to have been the last true Ambiguously Human matriarch in the family. When Ryou is hospitalized for a final time, she's even able to communicate with him as he's outwardly unconscious, proving that she does have some kind of Telepathy. It's all sort of confusing.
  • Anti-Hero: Sayoko, more-so than your typical shoujo heroine. While she's ultimately a Well-Intentioned Extremist, she's willing to let some pretty violent things happen to people who sufficiently wrong her— and, in one case, willing to do that pretty violent thing herself.
  • Arc Words: "Lucky" and "Fortunate," in reference to the kisshou (吉祥, auspicious) found in the title. Sayoko both openly and internally questions what constitutes being lucky: despite being borne into wealth and a divine lineage, she's exhausted by having to manage it all as a teenage girl.
  • Attempted Rape: A repeated tactic used by Akira and his associated group of delinquents: even if they don't go as far as actual sexual assault, they certainly threaten other students with it. Sayoko is understandably unamused.
    Sayoko: Is rape the only thing you can come up with when you're fighting a woman?
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sayoko successfully protects the family fortune and leaves the school a much kinder, more merciful environment for its students, but not without getting several people killed, including all viable heirs of the Toono family. Yuiko never even gets to fully learn the story behind all the fatalities, and never comes to clearly understand her feelings for Sayoko or Ryou. Also, unlike a lot of other Shoujo manga, no one ends up in a lasting relationship.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Yukimasa Ogawa is the attendant and chauffeur for the mainline Kanō family, apparently born on a branch line. His role seems to largely be covering up Sayoko's more obvious supernatural traits, as he refuses to tell Takashi the truth about the string of deaths left around Sayoko at the conclusion of Chapter 8.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: In averting Mukokuseki (dyed hair not-withstanding), every single character has both a distinct set of features and a unique build to match. In the singular scene where this is Averted, Yuiko is momentarily imitating Sayoko's usual deadpan expression.
  • Chekhov's Gag: In the first chapter, Sayoko jokes to Yuiko that she has Telepathy. In Chapter 8, it's revealed that she does have some kind of telepathy, at least to the extent of willing communication. She uses this to enable Ryou to make his Dying Declaration of Love to her.
  • The Chessmaster: Sayoko Kanō reveals herself to be the teenage version of this: scrupulous, attentive, and strategic. She even berates Akira for letting her out-maneuver him when he threatens to sexually assault her, holding a shard of glass she had picked up from the floor against his neck. When the Toono family attempts a hostile takeover of Kanō properties following the death of Sayoko's grandfather, one that would entail Sayoko's Awful Wedded Life to Akira, Sayoko retaliates by orchestrating the (rather fatal) undoings of her Aunt Ukiko, her uncle-by-marriage Ichiro, and her would-be-fiance Akira himself. The result is the total and utter annihilation of the Toono family's independent enterprise.
    Sayoko: A trump card is something you save for the very last.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Subverted, as while it seems like Takashi is just another guy flirting with Sayoko when he expresses his interest in her family's antiques, he's genuinely interested in the art in the Kanō storehouse. Even when he has the chance to produce a portrait for her, his interests remain entirely artistic. By approaching Sayoko with actual respect and maturity, but also a sense of friendliness, Takashi manages to not only learn the secret of the Kanō family, but be one of the few named male characters to survive to the end of the manga.
  • Creepy Good: Sayoko is ultimately benevolent and well-intentioned, in spite of how much she might intimidate the other students. Good is Not Nice in this case, however, as she's demonstrably willing to defend herself and her friends. Messing with her family is a good way to end up dead.
  • A Deadly Affair: A unique example in that the murderer is a non-participant. Sayoko is so uniquely enraged by her aunt-by-marriage attempting to seduce her father for the sake of the Toono family, that she offs her Aunt Ukiko in the family mansion's sauna.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: And not in the way you would expect. The combination of Sayoko's relatively mundane Femme Fatale tendencies and her supernatural Semi-Divine powers leads to not only the deaths of several unwanted suitors, but every single male heir of the Toono family in town. Sayoko ultimately doesn't end up with anyone in particular.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The manga starts off with a focus on Yuiko Asai, then rapidly pivots to the drama between Sayoko and the Toono cousins. Yuiko Asai only really comes back into the focus at the manga's conclusion.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: No one ends up as Sayoko's ultimate romantic partner, either losing interest or outright dying by story's end.
  • Dramatic Wind: There are many, many panels of Sayoko's hair being caught by the breeze, which turns into a Battle Aura of-sorts. She even uses one of these dramatic breezes to kill someone in Chapter 4.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Ryou takes advantage of Sayoko's Telepathy to do this.
  • False Rape Accusation: Akira, who is not above using the threat of rape as an intimidation tactic, once attempted to frame Ryou for sexual assault in "revenge" for Ryou getting into a better high school than him.
  • Feminist Fantasy: A Semi-Divine Action Girl is able to defend herself, her friends, and her family's legacy from bullies and megalomaniacal heirs alike. Interestingly for a manga from 1983, Kisshou Tennyo actively questions gendered behavior and gender performance, much in the same way Yoshida's later Banana Fish would respectfully depict queer drama and love. Sayoko and Ryou, though Ryou dies tragically, are depicted as heroic for defying conventional gender roles of the period:
    Ryou: I mean, I was born a man! Isn't that enough? Is there any need for me to "act like" one?
    Yukimasa: That's an interesting way of looking at things. I'd say you hit the nail right on the head.
  • Femme Fatale: Sayoko will not only passively allow others to die around her, but is willing to get her own hands (sort-of) dirty if it means protecting the integrity of the Kanō family.
  • Healing Hands: Sayoko uses some sort of version of this to heal Ryou's sister Mizue. It's unclear how she does this, especially since she's unable to do the same for Ryou after his torture by Akira's gang— or for when Akira's ghost forces Ryou to shoot himself, but it's implied that Mizue's belief in her powers somehow helps.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: This is the primary motivation for Sayoko to interact with the Asai family, as their friendship provides some remote sense of a normal teenage life. Not only does Sayoko secretly dread having to deal with the inter-family drama, but it's implied that she finds her divinity exhausting.
    Sayoko's Grandfather: You may curse your very existence... But you must forget such feelings. You were born... for a reason.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Sayoko is able to use more reasonable (albeit totally unconventionally) blades such as a scalpel or a glass shard to defend herself, but the extent of her powers comes into question when she's able to weaponize a yo-yo against a gang of masked bikers. Even more unlikely is her ability to disarm Akira, in the midst of him attempting to run her over with his car, using her school satchel as a projectile against the windshield. This causes him to crash into a pole, leading to his swift, unhappy death.
  • Inheritance Murder: A more complicated version. Not Sayoko's grandfather, since he dies naturally, but rather Aunt Ukiko, a member of the Toono family who had already married into the Kanō family before the start of the story. When the death of the Kanō means that Ukiko will become de facto head-of-household, Sayoko offs Ukiko before she has the chance to fully absorb the Kanō's properties into Toono's real estate monopoly— and to prevent her from further seducing Sayoko's father. However, since Sayoko is the actual one to inherit the Kanō fortune, the murder of Aunt Ukiko is more to prevent her from illegally gaining the inheritance in Sayoko's place.
  • Ironic Name: Kisshou Tennyo, Auspicious Goddess, as a whole: the extent of Sayoko's divinity is never clarified, and moreover, there's a whopping total of seven deaths (that the audience is informed of) that she is either directly or indirectly responsible for. She also finds her Semi-Divine aristocratic status exhausting, as it means fending off people like the Toono family. This goddess(?) is pretty miserable at times, rather than auspicious.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Where to start? Sayoko deliberately engages in a Love Triangle between Akira and Ryou in order to foil their father's attempts at seizing the Kanō family fortune. In the process, she sparks a separate love triangle between her, Ryou, and Ryou's current girlfriend Hisako. There's also whatever's going on between Sayoko and the Ambiguously Bi Yuiko, and similarly offhand flirtatious moments between Ryou and Yuiko. Of course, this complicated love shape gets quickly shrunken down by the many deaths that occur around Sayoko.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Akira's ghost clearly demonstrates the presence and power of the supernatural in the manga, and Sayoko clearly has something magical going on with her, but it's extremely unclear just how much that happens is a product of Sayoko's sharp wit and the influence of her family, and how much is a product of her inherited powers.
  • Meaningful Name: The teacher Mr. Nezu is nicknamed "the mouse," not only in reference to his awkward and meek behavior, but also due to his surname being a homophone for a variant reading (ねず, nezu) for "鼠", meaning mouse.
  • Old Money: The Kanō family has been this for generations, due to their divine lineage. The Toono family seems to be this as well, engaging in the same upper class flower viewing parties.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Sayoko begins defending her fellow female students (and even her nicer male peers) from their bullies and manipulators immediately upon arrival. She also retaliates against these bullies in increasingly intimidating and violent ways, culminating in a string of deaths. That is to say nothing about how she decides to defend her family.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Many of Sayoko's enemies (and particularly the ones she retaliates against with murder) are either sexists who believe Sayoko's too rowdy for her own good or manipulators trying to assert and/or enable a male power fantasy.
  • Rape as Backstory: While it's ambiguous as to what exactly happened, Sayoko tells Ryou that a stranger sexually assaulted her as a child, and her retaliation against her abuser led to a temple-burning cover-up. She later claims she had made up this story on the spot, but it's implied that this is simply to further stir tension between Ryou and Akira.
    • Additionally, Yuiko confides in Ryou that her discomfort around men is related to having been molested as a child by a stranger.
  • Stairwell Chase: A slower-paced twist in which the protagonist is the pursuer. Sayoko visits the hospitalized Makoto Oosawa after slicing off part of his ear in self-defense, and calmly follows him up the stairs of the hospital as he flees her in terror. She effectively intimidates him to death, as a Dramatic Wind blows him off an unbarricaded portion of the roof.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: The cast (and particularly Takashi, who investigates into it) never get to know what Sayoko actually is at the end of the day, beyond her having some sort of supernatural influence. Takashi decides it's safer (both for himself and for Sayoko) to not investigate further when Yukimasa insists that the police would be no help.
  • Vengeful Ghost: Akira's ghost, a mere day after his death, attempts to possess Ryou in order to kill Sayoko in an act of revenge. And, bar that, have the gun backfire on Ryou.