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Western Animation / Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic

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Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic was an ephemeral 1995 animated show by Saban Entertainment. The story is about a young teenage girl who was discovered by an old magician, Hikita, while she was performing at a circus. He told her she could do more magic than just magic tricks if she got the proper training and she agreed to come with him. She goes to the school to train with five (six if Shonti is counted) other students and soon becomes best in the class. Becoming the Tenko, she learns about the powerful Starfire Gems, each of which have their own magic power. However, another student, Jana, enraged that neither she nor her brother Jason was chosen as the new leader of the gems' guardians despite their grandfather being Hikita's predecessor, coerces Jason into stealing the gems. They get their hands on one apiece, but most of the rest is sent to the ends of the earth to keep them out of the twins' hands. Tenko and her friends are required to recover them all.


At the end of each episode, her live action counterpart Princess Tenko (a real life magician who inspired this show's creation) would either perform an amazing magic act while wearing flashy costumes, or teach a simple magic trick. The show was canceled after only one season due to poor ratings.

See also: Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders and Wonder Woman and the Star Riders

Tropes used by the series:

  • Action Figure File Card: The few toys released have a short description on the back of the box.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The real Princess Tenko would always give instructions for a simple magic trick at the end of the episode, along with a message of "The Magic is in You!"
  • Anticlimax: In "The Forest Emerald," things begin with Tenko having a dream about being chased by some powerful evildoer she's unable to protect herself against. At the end, the villain has found the emerald Starfire Gem and is proving almost unstoppable because of it. Then Tenko's mentor pops in and tells her all she needs to do is shoot the gem with her wand to win, which she had the option of doing at any time.
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  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Hikita has them.
  • Black and Nerdy: Steel, a historian, but only a mild case of the nerdiness.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Jana and Jason, an evil brother-sister team.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: "Starfire!"
  • Celebrity Toons: Princess Tenko is a real person, a famous Japanese illusionist, and was given her own animated series.
  • Circus Brat: Tenko.
  • Cool Horse: Pearl Rider.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: In one episode, Jana's able to bribe a hunter for the Starfire gem he found by giving him the chance to hunt Tenko's pet snow leopard.
  • '80s Hair: Jason's mullet, for one.
  • Elemental Powers: This is actually used neatly in that the crystals didn't give you the basic cliche powers most of the time. There were some elemental powers though.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The demonic being seen in the last episode who probably would've been the Big Bad of a second season.
  • Enemy Mine: Jana and Tenko team up against Vell.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jana dragged Jason into villainy with her, but she does truly care about his wellbeing. Jason likewise does not want to see Jana get hurt.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Kiddles
  • Face–Heel Turn: Of the Rival Turned Evil variety for Jana and a mix of Rival Turned Evil with Love Makes You Evil for Jason.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Hawk, Shonti, and Tenko.
  • Fusion Dance: Jana and Jason's fusion into their two-headed dragon form, achieved by placing their personal (Amber for Jana, Ruby for Jason) Starfire gems together.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Two episodes make it clear that Jana and Jason have the potential to become Guardians again and that if so the others will welcome them back.
  • Henshin Hero
  • Hime Cut: Princess Tenko has one.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Princess Tenko is "always pure of heart and soul", making her a borderline Purity Sue.
  • Jumped at the Call
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Ninjara, Kiddles, and Pearl Rider are shared between Tenko and Shonti. Three of the Starfire gems also give Tenko access to a Golden Lion, a Rose Eagle, and a Sapphire Dolphin as Familiars.
  • Magical Girl Warrior: A Western example.
  • Magical Native American: Hawk, literally. He also has the stereotypical connection to nature.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Hikita
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The Starfire Gems. There are at least sixteen of them.
  • Multinational Team: All of the magicians. Tenko is Japanese, Bolt and Ali are white Americans, Hawk is Native American, Steel is African American, and Shonti is African. Jana and Jason are ambiguous. Jana's toy has a light brown skin tone, which between her, Tenko, Shonti, and Ali by convention suggests she's meant to be Latin American.
  • Multiple Head Case: Villains Jana and Jason can perform a Fusion Dance into a two-headed dragon, with each of them in control of one head.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Unlike the rest of the Guardians, Tenko tends to have whatever magic power would be handy at the moment like telekinesis or walking through walls, totally independent of their Starfire Gems.
  • No Ending: Type Cut Short. The cartoon ended on a major cliffhanger regarding Jana's fate nor gave clarity on Vell's. Ali received her Starfire gem in the second-to-last episode and never got to use it. Shonti never got her Starfire gem at all. Kiddles is the only one of the three pets never to receive a gem-upgraded form.
  • Old Master: Hikita, who taught Tenko everything she knows. Somewhat subverted however he tries to confront Jana and Jason even admits "I may be old, and I may be weak," and is immediately taken out by Jason.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Tenko herself, with Tenko being the title of the jewel master and 'Princess' being Hikita's nickname for her before hand. Her actual namenote  is never revealed.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Bolt
  • Power Crystal: The Starfire Gems. There are at least sixteen of them.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Shonti makes her entrance in the third episode and is explicitly said to have been hired as animal trainer by Hikita, who "died" in the first episode. It doesn't help that there were no animals to train prior to Tenko getting her snow leopard after Hikita's departure. The other animals of the Guardians, a monkey and a horse, also qualify for the trope and thereby pull it right again.
  • The Rival: Jana, being the grandchild of a previous master, is the Privileged Rival to Tenko, who has no family connection to magic. Jana is also explicitly said to be the only one whose power matches Tenko's, despite Tenko being a harder worker.
  • Satchel Switcheroo: How Ali accidentally ends up with a Starfire Gem in her debut episode.
  • Scaled Up: Jana and Jason's secret weapon is combining into a ten-foot dragon.
  • Ship Tease: Jason flirts with Tenko the moment he meets her and a subsequent episode implies that the attraction is mutual but Jana drags him into evil with her before anything can happen between them.
  • Sequel Hook: The second-to-last episode shows Ali becoming a full fledged guardian, with a brief shot of her costume just before the episode ends. Unfortunately, we never got to see her show her stuff...
    • She's not even suited up with the other Guardians when they meet at the end of the last episode. Then again maybe that's because they're meeting on a beach and her costume incorporates rollerblades. Yes, an ancient mystical gem incorporate rollerblades.
  • Smurfette Principle: Weirdly for a show seemingly aimed at a female audience, but Tenko's the only female Guardian out of four. There's three other women, but they all don't qualify for one reason or another. Ali only gets her own gem at the end of the second-to-last episode. Shonti did not get her gem in any of the episodes and the only reason we can even assume she was to get one at all is because of her toy. And Jana is evil and doesn't cooperate with Tenko ever but in the finale.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: In an early episode Janna and Jason manage to steal a Starfire Gem that lets them spy on anyone anywhere, letting them know when and where they'd need to be to screw up Tenko's plans. If needed the Guardians could fake it out with elaborate charades, but this did mean splitting up the team, which presented its own problems (indeed, the one episode they do this is the one where the show's other major villain appears, and having the whole team would've come in really handy).
  • Totally Radical: Unsurprisingly, really, the teenage character sounds nothing like an actual teenager.
  • Toyless Toyline Character: All the male characters, leading to things being filled out by sideline characters from the show. The doll line consisted of a few variants of Tenko and one apiece of Jana, Ali (who did eventually become a Guardian but not in time to ever use her power), and Shonti (who was never a Guardian and never had a gem, although her doll did).
  • Tsundere: Ali
  • Zombie Gait: The mummy guards in "The Stone Of Destiny" do this.


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