Tales of the Tendo Family Volume 1 Review

It’s always nice to see more shojo series being brought to the West, so of course I was very excited when One Peace Books announced they would release Tales of the Tendo Family. This popular series currently runs in the magazine Lala which has produced hits such as Snow White with the Red Hair, Natsume’s Book of Friends and Ouran High School Host Club, but is this another hit of that ilk? With Volume 1 in hand, let’s find out!

Our story follows an unnamed protagonist who was adopted by a man she referred to as ‘grandpa’ and lives in the middle of nowhere. One day while washing clothes in the river, she comes upon a young woman drowning. Our heroine saves her life and then learns she’s Ran Hojo, who was on her way to the Tendo residence where she was supposed to be getting married to Tendo Masato.

However, the head of the Tendo family has taken ill and Masato is embroiled in a bloody battle for succession. Ran is afraid of being caught up in the struggle and living with a constant fear of death, so felt it better to end her life on her own terms. Hearing this, our heroine decides to take Ran’s place which will ensure the young girl has enough time to flee for her life.

Upon being faced with Masato, our protagonist (who we’ll henceforth refer to as Ran), comes clean about her deception after he notices she’s lacking the mole said to be under the eye of the Hojo daughters. But despite what Ran says, Masato is unwilling to believe such a silly tale and tells Ran to kill herself if she wants him to believe her. While attempting to stab herself with the knife Masato places in front of her, she’s quickly stopped by him and causes him to hurt himself in the process. 

Ultimately, Masato believes Ran’s story and allows her to go home. But Ran feels guilty about Masato hurting himself to save her, so although she does go home for the night, she returns the next day with an ointment  that her adoptive grandfather taught her to make. At the Tendo estate, she runs into an assassin looking to kill Ran Hojo, whom she quickly takes down. When Masato arrives at the scene he’s impressed that such a small girl took down a much larger opponent. Ran declares, “I want to die while saving someone”, believing this will allow her to be reunited with her grandpa when she passes on. To which Masato answers, “If you want to die so badly I’ll give you the perfect place to do it.” And so begins an awkward relationship of convenience between the two! 

I will say upfront here that if you’re someone who can’t handle suicide or characters willing to throw their lives away then this is not the series for you. Not only does Ran Hojo try to take her life at the beginning of the series, but our heroine also talks in detail about having attempted to do the same when her adoptive grandfather passed away. And she talks about wanting to die often enough that it’s going to be incredibly uncomfortable reading for anyone who finds those subjects triggering or simply doesn’t want to sit through them. 

Tales of the Tendo Family is supposed to be a romance and while I quite like Ran as a character, there’s no real chemistry between her and Masato. Clearly, due to his upbringing and the succession battle, Masato has had a difficult life but throughout this first volume, his treatment of Ran isn’t great. Ultimately by the end of the first volume, he ends up blackmailing her into taking the place of Ran Hojo after he’s been injured several times while protecting her. Ran meanwhile is so focused on wanting to follow her grandpa that she doesn’t stop to think about how Masato is treating her. Even if this ultimately doesn’t feel like an abusive relationship as it goes on, it’s not a great starting point when the heroine lacks the self-awareness to recognise the danger signs. 

The mangaka behind the series is Ken Saitou, who is perhaps best known in English for The Name of the Flower or Oh! My Brother, neither of which I believe is still available here having been released by CMX who have since gone defunct. In terms of the art for Tales of the Tendo Family, I find it fairly light on detail with a lot of empty space, especially in bigger panels. Also while Ran is quite expressive, Masato is often depicted with the same sneer on his face, which does nothing to make the reader care for him! 

Although the series is set within the Meiji Period, I don’t think the art does a great job of capturing the setting either. The outfits certainly do capture the right vibe, but given we spend so much time in the wilderness at Ran’s old home or in a room cooped up with Masato we’re not getting to see the surroundings as much as One Peace Books’ other shojo series Usotoki Rhetoric – which does better convey the time period in my opinion. I’m sure this will get better as the series goes on, but it’s just a shame that Volume 1 doesn’t have the time to do so. 

The series has been ongoing in Japan since 2014 with 14 volumes currently available as well as 2 million copies in circulation between print and digital. So, I have to assume that a lot of what’s irritating in this first book improves as the series goes on. I’m open to giving it another chance, but I do think a lot of readers will be put off by this first outing and not bother continuing. This is a shame, given we still don’t get a lot of series like this in the West, but also perfectly understandable as this is a very hard sell. I do think it would be marginally better if Ran didn’t go on about wanting to die all the time and my one wish is that we stop seeing quite so much of that going forward. 

Unfortunately, I’d like to say that my complaints end with the content but I have some criticisms with the English release as well. As mentioned, Volume 1 has been brought to the West thanks to One Peace Books and it has been translated by Matt Schley. For the most part, the translation reads fine; I think it’s quite stiff in places but it does the job okay. 

Where my problems begin is with lettering. Throughout Volume 1 there are 3-4 instances of text not being centred within the speech bubble, which feels like sloppy quality assurance at this point, given how often this happens with this publisher. The only oddity is that Masato and every one of a more upper-class status have their dialogue rendered in a serif font, which is incredibly distracting when reading. Especially when the font changes multiple times on a page if Ran is speaking too (whose text, as a commoner, is in the normal font). Initially, I thought it was just Masato, but later we meet other members of the Tendo family and other noble families who speak the same way. I think instead of trying to convey this difference through the fonts it would have been better to focus on the vocabulary usage and establish his way of speaking there. But that requires a translation that’s a little more inspired and what we have here isn’t that, it’s fairly by the books with very little flourish. 

It’s really hard to recommend this between the content and the lacklustre release especially when we’re talking £11 a volume. I suspect things will improve going forward as Volume 1 often is the worst for QA, but I’m doubtful the font will be changed and that is a much bigger issue since it’s very difficult to ignore. If you do want to continue on with this, Volume 2 is scheduled for an English release in June. 

Overall, I think Tales of the Tendo Family Volume 1 has the puzzle pieces to create something interesting – and clearly, it must have done so in subsequent volumes, given its popularity. However, there are a lot of problems with its initial outing and that’s going to put off a lot of its potential readers. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it right now above other similar series in the market, which is a shame.

Our review copy was provided by the publisher One Peace Books. 

5 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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