First off, do NOT read Ten if you know nothing of Mahjong! The rules are almost never explained, and they constantly use Mahjong terms. So either watch a quick 101 video on Mahjong or have Google at the ready to look up some terms.
I would also recommend reading Akagi before reading this, since some characters make a return, tho it's not a necessity.
On to the review then:
The art is probably the first thing you'll notice, it's not the best and gets pretty strange in some parts. For example characters having very strange proportions and the backgrounds being pretty basic to flat out just being white. However, I found myself liking the artstyle of Fukumoto Nobuyuki more and more, it has a very unique feel, but ultimatly it comes down to your own preference.
In terms of story, there isn't much. The first few volumes are pretty much introductions to the characters and their playing styles. The real meat of the manga is when the East/West battle begins, this takes up about half of the manga. A problem here is that the stakes aren't very well explained, I still don't really know why they are playing such a big Mahjong game, something about reputaion is what I'm gathering.
It's a shame because the Mahjong battles get really intense, some characters start cheating while others use extreme deducing to determine what their opponents are waiting for, making for some very fun and tense games.
This brings up another small flaw: the characters don't really get all that much development. They are all defined by the way they play Mahjong, some have a specific way of playing while others excel at certain cheating methods. But we rarely see them talk to each other about things that are not related to Mahjong. This does not mean that they are bad characters at all, in fact I liked seeing them play and respond to each others playing styles, I just wish they got some more personal development.
I've been talking mostly negativly about Ten, but let's talk about those final chapters.
It completely changes its tone and delivers one of THE BEST endings to a manga I've ever read. Without giving away too much, it delves much much deeper into the characters and their personalities while not feeling like a huge exposition dump. The Mahjong theme falls away completely to make room for the characters to talk with each other and learn more about each other, and more importantly about themselves. It almost feels like you are reading something entirely different, the art also got a lot more attention to detail in some panels.
If you enjoy Mahjong with likeable characters, and you can look past some of the flaws that the artstyle and the lack of story carries, I do recommend you read this manga (especially if you have already read Akagi).
A small summary:
- never feels like a high stake battle
- knowledge of Mahjong is required
+ intense Mahjong games
+ likeable enough characters
+ beautiful ending