Review for Tenchi Muyo OVA Collector's Edition [Blu-ray + DVD]
Tapping into the current appetite for nineties nostalgia, the entire OVA series of the ever-popular Tenchi Muyo! series is now available on Blu-Ray. What’s a teeny bit weird is that it’s a dual-format pack (do people really need dual format discs these days?) with two decidedly retro extra discs on DVD only. But more on that later.
‘Tenchi Muyo!’ remains a fun series, an early incarnation of anime which mixes madcap humour with action and thrills; a formula that still works when viewing it 20 years on. But being from the nineties, as opposed to the seventies or eighties, it hasn’t yet marinated enough to pack a really good retro punch for someone as seasoned as me – like Mobile Suit Gundam, Battle of the Planets, Speed Racer or the first run of Robotech. Despite pre-dating CGI, it still has a recognisable visual style, albeit somewhat primitive, which is used to a large degree today. I guess what I’m saying is, for an old-timer like me, the nineties is just too damned close to today to get extra retro points. That will not, of course, be true for anyone in their thirties or even their forties.
Originally comprising six straight to video episodes in 1992, its almost instant popularity made it a viable option for a second series. By the mid-nineties, it blossomed into a TV series which resulted in a 26-episode run (‘Tenchi Universe’) which was followed by a couple of feature length films. But what you have here are the original OVAs.
Before we get into this review proper, it may be worth stepping back in time and reading our in-house anime expert’s view from way back in 2005, when the OVAs were released in a DVD box set. That review is as relevant as ever and can be found here. The only thing to add really is that the Blu-Rays are certainly a lift on image quality from that set and, of course, you do also get the quirky extra DVD-Rom, ‘Tenchi encyclopedia’ with this set which I don’t think you got with the one Jitendar reviewed. Jitendar does a great little episode plot synopsis too so I won’t repeat that exercise here.
For the record, the set has all 13 OVA episodes, running at about 25 minutes each, plus the ‘Tenchi Muyo! Mihoshi Special’ which was a 25 minute one-off that appeared sometime between the two OVA series and which is housed, somewhat indulgently perhaps, on its very own DVD in this set.
So for the uninitiated, what’s it all about? Well, Tenchi Muyo is a pony-tail wearing teen who lives with his Grandfather, who he helps look after their family shrine. He’s just a bulk-standard, kind-hearted, fun loving kid – as far we know. However, despite being warned never to enter the padlocked cave in their dwelling, he does exactly that, after battling with his Grandfather to get the key. A few steps in, Tenchi falls down to the caves depths and unleashes a sleeping demon who, despite starting off quite spookily, manifests as a lovely looking space alien called Ryoko who is very pleased to have been released from a 700 year hiatus. She believes that Tenchi is partially responsible for her prolonged imprisonment (it was his ancestor, Yoshu in actual fact) and the two battle, in a friendly enough way, until Tenchi surprises everyone by winning a fight, using a sword he found in the cave.
Of course, not all is as it seems and Tenchi discovers that he actually comes from a line of mystical warrirors and that he is the rightful owner of the sword – perhaps as his Grandfather had intended.
When he returns home he finds Ryoko asleep in his bed, having, more or less moved in. As a viewer we are never sure if she fancies Tenchi or merely wants his sword, though the answer is clearly both.
Cue lots of screwball comedy and occasional drama and action as more characters are quickly introduced to the series, including Ryo-Ohki, who is Ryoki’s mascot, which is a cute rabbit-like creature that’s lots of fun.
The plot thickens with the arrival, from space, of Princess Ayeka, who is travelling the universe, searching for her long lost brother Yosho. It was Ayeka who was responsible for Ryoko’s incarceration 700 years ago and they don’t exactly hit it off. Things get more complex when it becomes clear that she quite likes Tenchi too – setting the scene for lots of feuding and drama.
I won’t spoil the revelation about Ayeka’s long lost brother, but, for me, it wasn’t such a great surprise, but was a fun twist. It’s all highly entertaining and a light, simple watch that is anything but demanding – with lots of laughs and just about enough narrative to pull you right through the 13 episodes.
The Blu-ray certainly looks superior to the DVD version, though is not particularly stunning. A 5.1 audio track is available for the Japanese, with an HD Stero mix for the English dub, which is what I selected.
There are two additional DVDs included as part of the pack. The first is the aforementioned bridging OVA, the Mihoshi Special which has a disc all of its own. The transfer is pretty poor on this, almost VHS-like and I preume has simply been ported over from a previous edition.
The DVD-Rom, the Tenchi Encyclopedia, is perhaps the biggest nostalgia fix of all, comprising pages of image and text accessed via a central menu with plot and character guides, pre-dating websites which now function in this way, more or less, and as a result, it’s the perfect inclusion for those looking for a nostalgia fix.
Tenchi Muyo! is far from my favourite anime, though is perfectly enjoyable and fun; to some degree, perhaps help setting the mould for future series. It’s immensely watchable, occasionally laugh-aloud funny and a very easy watch – a series that never asked to be taken very seriously. If you’re a Tenchi fan, and want the original OVAs, then this is clearly the way to go.