Tenzen Yakushiji (薬師寺 天膳, Yakushiji Tenzen) is a member of the Iga Tsubagakure clan and one of the ten ninja picked by Ogen to participate in the war against the Kouga. He is second-in-command after Ogen and is able to wrestle control of the Iga away from Oboro following Ogen's death to become Iga's de facto leader. He is the main antagonist of the series.
Tenzen is a rather tall man with long black hair which he sweeps back, leaving him with no fringe. Two of his side locks curl forward, resembling horns and giving him a devilish appearance which is further accented by his upward growing eyebrows.There is an ever-present shadow over his eyes. His ears each possess a small growth which is actually the closed eyes of a demonic symbiote that inhabits his body. Tenzen wears a greyish-purple kosode with a white haori over it and grey hakama. He keeps his katana tucked in the belt that ties around his hakama.
Before the WarEdit
Tenzen's backstory differs slightly between the manga and anime. In the manga, Ogen tells Oboro that the symbiote creature is Tenzen's twin brother with whom he merged with inside their mother's womb shortly before being born. Because of his powers, Tenzen gradually began to consider himself the future leader of Tsubagakure; an ambition that was not unnoticed by Lady Ogen.
In the anime however Ogen stops just before telling Oboro where she believed the parasite came from, leaving its identity ambiguous. The anime also expands slightly on Tenzen's backstory, by identifying his mother as an Iga woman who was slain by her lover (a member of the Kouga ninjas and Tenzen's father). Baby Tenzen was then cut from his mother's womb and taken to be raised as a Kouga. Years later the Adult Tenzen would defect to the Iga where, unbeknownst to the others, he secretly manipulated both clans into retaining their hatred for each other in the name of his own vengeance. Tenzen's anime version was also suggested to have secretly viewed his powers as more a curse than a blessing, as he said aside to Oboro during his duel with Gennosuke that suffering the pain of both death and rebirth for more than 200 years was beyond any suffering she could possibly imagine.
He is also seen speaking with Ogen when Oboro was still a child, trying to convince Ogen that Oboro was not the right selection for heir to Tsubagakure. Ogen dismisses Tenzen's complaints and heads out to meet with Hanzo the 2nd to confirm her selection.
Although his initial impression is of a pragmatic fighter concerned solely for the honor and future of his clan, Tenzen is actually a sadistic and mendacious individual who revels in conflict and bloodshed. He fights with a brutal, ruthless tenacity and won't hesitate to involve innocent bystanders to guarantee a victory. He also lusts after Oboro and desires to take her for his wife in order to become the true lord of Tsubagakure. Even if he has to rape her to do it - which he attempts at least twice over the course of the series.
Regenerative Symbiote: The aforementioned symbiote that is the source of Tenzen's recuperative power is also partially sentient. This means that it will not initiate the self-healing process while suspicious characters are nearby to ensure that they will not hinder Tenzen's recovery in any way (as seen with the delayed recuperation during the time when Tenzen's body was carried around by Saemon while searching for some suitable clay to copy Tenzen's appearance) and will generally only begin to heal Tenzen's wounds once ensured that he is alone to keep his method of regeneration secret. Furthermore, the ever-present eyes on Tenzen's ears can actually see, allowing the symbiote to perceive Tenzen's surroundings while Tenzen himself is in no condition to do so.
- Immortality: Tenzen was born sharing his body with a demonic symbiote that usually conceals its presence so that only its closed eyes are visible as a wart/growth on each of Tenzen's ears. The creature reveals itself whenever Tenzen has been wounded or killed, moving through his body to regenerate Tenzen by 'eating' his wounds and restoring whatever ravages of time or battle Tenzen might experience. Thanks to his powers, by the time of Basilisk's beginning Tenzen was already over 200 years old though he looks no older than 30; granting him a lifetime of martial and tactical abilities that surpass any of his clansmen. Even when decapitated, Tenzen can still regenerate if his head is placed back onto his body with his twin sealing the cut. Reviving from death however seems to be even more painful for Tenzen than dying itself and has greatly contributed to the deterioration of his sanity.
Kenjutsu: Tenzen's offensive abilities lie in his great swordsmanship. He wields his katana ruthlessly and is good enough with it to even deflect shurikens being thrown at him.
Senbonjutsu: Tenzen is also proficient at throwing small-sized needles. He easily throws many small neddles with perfect aim repeatly and he is able to write a kanji word with needles. His needles are poisonous and causes pain to enemy.
Tenzen believes Oboro to be extremely weak-willed and doesn't see her as fit to be heir to the clan. Due to her hesitance to fight, Tenzen is able to completely usurp Oboro's authority following Ogen's death to become Iga's de facto leader, power which he had longed to claim for himself. He often berates her for her unwillingness to battle, but at the same time seems to lust after her, attempting to rape her at least twice.
In the original manga, Ogen had at first considered engaging Oboro to Tenzen instead of Gennosuke but ultimately decided against it when she saw how arrogant his abilities had made him. The anime goes into further detail by suggesting that the two of them had something of an antagonistic relationship with Tenzen frequently attempting to manipulate or usurp her authority; although he was nowhere near as successful with Ogen as he was with Oboro. In both versions, when giving Oboro the Seven Days of Darkness ointment, Ogen warned Oboro to be wary of Tenzen and that only by killing his symbiote could he be permanently killed.
Tenzen hates Gennosuke for being a threat to his ambitions and wishes to have him killed at all costs. On the other hand, Tenzen seemed to fear Gennosuke at first, knowing Gennosuke's ability would likely mean Tenzen's defeat in any battle they would have.
Although Koshirou dedicates himself as Tenzen's loyal apprentice, Tenzen does not seem to host any sincere feelings for him. When Koshirou is blinded by his own whirlwind Tenzen becomes infuriated, however this is most likely due to the fact he was unable to defeat Gennosuke. Even after Koshirou's death, Tenzen is not shown harvesting any emotions for his fallen subordinate.
Appearance in Other MediaEditTenzen is featured as a character in the 2005 live-action movie Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (portrayed by Kippei Shiina), in which he is said to be 300 years of age. In the movie, his appearance matches the original novel and he wields a sword and duel chakrams. He appears to revive with some sort of worm, much like the Kessen-chu in the manga .
He still sports the role of the main villain, but acts more from the shadows in the movie, not revealing anything until his battle with Gennosuke. He seemed to have gotten tired of life and sported a death wish throughout the entire movie, commenting on the fact that he still revived after Gennosuke fatally hurled back his chakrams to him (possibly through his Doujutsu), slicing through his torso. He got his desire, however, when he got poisoned by kissing Kagerou after stabbing her through the abdomen.
In the novel, Tenzen is able to regenerate without the aid of an internal symbiote, although it takes him longer to do so. He is also described as having feminine features with white hair and purple lips. His parentage is unknown in the novel and like the manga, his motivation and bloodlust is born out of raw ambition rather than revenge.
- Genma Himura of Ninja Scroll shares similar abilities to Tenzen. Since Ninja Scroll is a homage to Futaro Yamada's Ninpōchō series, it is possible that Tenzen was the influence for Genma.
- The "ten" in Tenzen's name can be translated to "sky" or "heaven" while the "zen" could mean "good", "right', or "virtue". This is quite ironic, considering the contents of Tenzen's overall character and the fact that he is the main antagonist.
- Tenzen is the oldest character in the series, it's implied that he has at least 200 years, but because of his ability, he is unable to get older and die. This explains why he has once lived in Manjidani, but is unknown to its people.
- (To Akeginu, about Koshirou) "What's wrong? Just have him sit there and stay still. People won't approach someone who looks like him."
- (To himself) "Ogen-sama, the insults are over. I will not allow the past mistakes to be repeated. Oboro-sama will be mine. And Gennosuke...I will bury him with my own hands.
- (To Oboro) "Hell is enduring the pain of death, only to be reborn. This limbo I suffer has the persistance of the rising sun; never a sign of salvation or deliverance into the next world. To me, that is hell."
- (Upon his death) "Kouga...Gennosuke...behind Oboro...he is hidden...under the stairs."