|The principal cast of Tenkai Knights: Vilius (top left), Toxsa/Valorn, Ceylan/Tributon, Guren/Bravenwolf, Chooki/Lydendor and Gen (all bottom).|
Canadian toy and entertainment company Spin Master was looking for a way to market their line of Ionix construction blocks. The Ionix blocks were part LEGO and part Transformers in that not only could they be used to build as is, but the blocks also shifted into other forms and shapes to which other Ionix blocks could be added. Having found previous success with Bakugan, it was decided that an anime could best serve their purposes and they teamed-up with Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions to make it happen. The result was Tenkai Knights.
|Vilius and the Corrupted.|
The anime focused on the peaceful cube-shaped planet named Quarton that was populated by shape-shifting living bricks called Tenkai. The planet became ravaged by a war between the Corekai Soldiers, led by Commander Beag (Chafurin & Kyle Herbert), and the Corrupted Army, led by the ruthless Lord Vilius (Yosuke Akimoto & Crispin Freeman). Vilius sought to obtain the source of Tenkai energy for his own uses, and the only ones that could oppose him were his former allies: the Tenkai Knights. The Knights defeated Vilius and his Tenkai Dragon, resulting in its fragments being scattered across the planet and the Knights disappearing.
|Mr. White in the Shop of Wonders.|
On Earth in the year 2034, four young teenage boys were unknowingly marked to become the next generation of Tenkai Knights as Vilius and his forces began to renew their attacks on Quarton. Guren Nash (Meguru Takahashi & Johnny Yong Bosch) was the leader, able to transform into Bravenwolf and used a Tenkai Sword and shield as his weapons. Upon moving to Benham City with his father (Tomoyuki Shimura & Steve Blum), Guren became friends with practical joker Ceylan Jones (Akemi Kanda & Todd Haberkorn). Ceylan could transform into Tributon and used a Teknai Crossbow and Arrow Blaster, along with a shield. They would be joined by athletic Chooki Mason (Risa Taneda & Bryce Papenbrook), who could become Lydendor armed with a Tenkai Kunai Saber with Chain and shield, and tech geek Toxsa Dalton (Maki Mizuma & Ben Diskin), who could become Valorn with a Tenkai energy lance and shield. A recurring joke would be when Beag expressed confusion over a pop culture reference made by the Knights; not knowing they weren’t the same Knights he once knew. The Earthen Knights operated out of Mr. White’s (Keji Fujiwara & Brian Beacock) Shop of Wonders, where a portal to Quarton was held in the basement under the guard of Guardian Boreas (Shigenori Soya & Blum). The Guardians were the protectors of Quarton and largely responsible for the formation of the Knights.
Over on Vilius’ side along with the Corrupted Army, he had special agents which he frequently employed in plots against the Tenkai Knights in order to acquire the power for himself. His two prominent henchmen were Granox (Hisao Egawa & Blum), whose armor resembled a rhino and had the strength to match, and Slyger (Atsushi Imaruoka & Freeman), a sneaky and cunning being in panther-like armor. Vilius also employed Tenkai Knights of his own: Gen (Miyuki Sawashiro & Yuri Lowenthal) was able to transform into Dromus, which was a darker version of the Bavenwolf armor, and Beni (Masumi Asano & Nika Futterman), who could become Venetta and sought the destruction of both worlds due to her father spending more time searching for Quarton than spending time with her. The Guardian Eurus (Hideyuki Umezu & Diskin) would help Gen and Beni in their quest to aid Vilius in an attempt to restore the balance of Tenkai Energy he felt Boreas disrupted by helping the Tenkai Knights.
|Slyger and Granox's Earth forms.|
To differentiate between the two worlds, different animation styles were used. On Quarton, the characters were depicted as computer-rendered brick forms reminiscent of their toy counterparts. On Earth, the characters were done in traditional-looking animation resembling actual humans. Natives of Quarton, however, looked more like humanoid robots with squared features and unique skin tones.
Interestingly enough, while Tenkai Knights was a fully-produced Japanese anime, it wouldn’t begin airing in Japan until April 5, 2014 on TV Tokyo (several affiliates would further delay the broadcast by one or two weeks). Instead, it first aired in the United States beginning on August 24, 2013 on Cartoon Network, followed the next month in Canada on Teletoon. The series was animated by Japanese studio Bones and the music was composed by MoNACA. The series utilized four different themes for the Japanese version: the opening theme was “Get the Glory” by Ayako Nakanomori, while “Shunkan Diamond” by Rurika Yokoyama, “Victory Bouquet-gonna gonna be hot!” by Cyntia and “Legendary Flare” by Pile were used as the ending themes over the course of the show’s run. Studiopolis handled the English dub of the show. Shortly after it began, 10 weekly webisodes called Tenkai Knights: Origins would be published on YouTube acting as a prequel showing the downfall and rise of Vilius to the series’ main villain.
|Beni hanging out with the other Knights.|
The series would follow the Knights on a quest to find the cubed pieces of the dispatched Tenkai Dragon and the keys that would unlock either its good attributes or its evil ones. Vilius’ ambitions would lead him to betray Gen, driving him to join the Knights against him. Beni initially joined the Knights as well as a ruse, but became a genuine member over time. The Knights themselves would learn more about Quarton, the history of the Knights and their own abilities; unlocking various modes that would give them new armors and powers. And, as if the threat of Vilius and his army wasn’t enough, a plague began befalling Earth called “Brickification”, which was when a person or object would turn into bricks that could temporarily be reversed by the core bricks that powered the Knights’ armors. Tenkai Knights was written by Akiko Waba, Hiroshi Ōhnogi, Jin Kanada, Naohiro Fukushima, Nobuaki Yamaguchi, Ryȗjiro Shimatomi, Shakeko Samon and Yuuichi Nomura, with the English scripts written by Ardwight Chamberlain, Tama, Brandon Auman, Mark Henry, Seth Walther and Marty Isenberg.
|Guren and Ceylan looking at Quarton.|
The series ran for a single season of 52 episodes, ending its run on December 6th, 2014 in North America. The Japanese run ended on March 28th, 2015 with only 51 episodes as the clip-show episode “Looking Forward, Looking Back” only existing in the English dub. The producers of the show had lofty ambitions, with the official Twitter account making a claim that they hoped to produce 1,000 episodes. While the ratings, even in reruns, justified it, and the show’s official Facebook page unofficially announced plans for a second season in 2014, additional episodes have, to date, not yet appeared. The show has been dubbed in other languages and shown in additional markets since its initial premiere.
Phase 4 Films took the first few episodes of the English dub and edited them together into one 72-minute movie, which it released on DVD and iTunes as Rise of the Knights. Beginning in August of 2014, four different box sets were released in Japan by Happinet and Victor Entertainment covering the entire series. Kaze Anime released two box sets in France that came with a figure and trading cards, as well as six volumes in Germany containing 42 of the episodes. In September and October of 2014, Bandai/Namco Games released Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle for the Nintendo 3DS. Spin Master has also produced a line of their Ionix toys based on the show, handling the distribution in North America while Happinet handled the Japanese releases.