Review of Tenchi Muyo: OVAs Vol. 1
The harem anime genre can be something of an acquired taste. A socially inept teenaged boy is put into a situation where he is surrounded by beautiful girls, all of whom fall for him in some way. Cue plenty of awkward moments, ribald humour, and saucy postcard clichés, as the teen blunders his way from one innuendo loaded scene to another. It`s a type of anime that people either love or hate, but few fall in between. That is with the exception of Tenchi Muyo, one of the earlier examples of the genre. Perhaps it has something to do with the story, the writing or the characters, but this is one harem anime that is more positively received that most. It has also been endlessly revisited. The earliest outing came in two OVA series that came to a total of 13 episodes. Then followed the inevitable movies, as well as spin-off series that took the same characters and inserted them into a new story and new universe. The Tenchi franchise is extensive, and most recently, animators have returned to the original OVA and continued the story. But the original thirteen episodes were released in the UK by MVM over 3 volumes.
Imagine if you will, being a teenaged boy and having beautiful girls throwing themselves at you. The basis of many an adolescent fantasy, I can assure you. But for Tenchi Masaki this is no idle fantasy, especially after he unwittingly unleashes an attractive demon from a family shrine. Ryoko`s pursuit of him is merely the herald for increasingly strange events, as soon female visitors from space in the form of the Juraian princesses Ayeka and Sasami soon arrive, quickly followed by clumsy Galactic Police Officer Mihoshi. If nothing else, he`s certainly kept on his toes.
The first volume contains the first 5 episodes of Tenchi Muyo, just one shy of the complete first series.
1. Ryoko Resurrected
The Masaki shrine has been off limits for generations, which is why young Tenchi Masaki is so eager to explore. This is despite the legends of an ancient demon that lies sealed within. Of course Tenchi has to go inside and remove a sacred sword and disturb the rest of a decayed corpse. Soon the reawakened and rejuvenated form of Ryoko the space pirate is raining havoc at Tenchi`s school.
2. Here Comes Ayeka!
After their explosive meeting, Ryoko has decided to move in with Tenchi, causing no end of consternation for the young teen. Meanwhile a signal sent from Earth is intercepted by the Jurai Princess Ayeka, who is travelling the stars looking for her lost brother Yosho. Yosho is the same ancestor of Tenchi`s who sealed Ryoko in the shrine seven hundred years ago. When Ayeka`s spaceship gets to Earth, she decides to capture Ryoko to learn where her brother is. Unfortunately for Tenchi, he gets in the way.
3. Hello Ryo-Ohki!
Two spaceship crashes later, and Ryoko, Ayeka and her sister Sasami are stranded on earth, and living under the same roof as Tenchi. Things almost get domestic in the Masaki household, but then Ryoko announces that she and Tenchi are having a baby. Fortunately for Tenchi, the egg hatches into Ryo-Ohki, the infant form of Ryoko`s spaceship, and who as a child looks like a cute rabbit. Meanwhile Ayeka finds a clue to her brother`s fate.
4. Mihoshi Falls To The Land Of The Stars
There`s trouble in outer space with the war criminal and space pirate Kagato escaping the grasp of the police into the solar system. The only Galactic Police Officer in position is Mihoshi, a rather ditzy and accident-prone girl who is more liability than asset. Rather than follow orders, she heads straight after Kagato into trouble and towards Earth. Meanwhile Tenchi and his new friends are spending a relaxing day bathing at the springs.
5. Kagato Attacks!
Tenchi`s idyll is about to be shattered with the arrival of Kagato. He has been searching the universe for the secret of ultimate power, and believes it lies with Tenchi`s destiny as a member of the Jurai royal family. He is also intrigued to see Ryoko again and doesn`t hesitate in kidnapping her. Taking her aboard his gargantuan ship, he challenges Tenchi to come and rescue her. Meanwhile Ayeka finally finds her brother Yosho.
Tenchi Muyo gets a 4: 3 transfer that is by and large, clear and free of defects. There is a smidgen of grain and the odd fleck of dirt, but you`ll have to look for it to find it. This is an older anime, and that can be seen in the style of animation. The characters are more free flowing and not as meticulously defined. The colours aren`t as vibrant as more recent anime either. The animation, while not up to theatrical standards, is dynamic and inventive enough to make this show stand out.
You get a choice of DD 2.0 English or Japanese, as well as a DD 5.1 Japanese track. The English dub sounds adequate, but the character voices sound odd indeed once you have heard the original Japanese version. The music harks back to eighties pop tunes, and are as light and frothy as the programme, The surround is effectively used during the action sequences, and it`s nice to see the original language track getting priority over the dub. The subtitles are translated English.
You`ll find trailers for Sailor Moon, Fruits Basket and Serial Experiments Lain. There is also a jacket picture that shows the cast when the disc isn`t spinning.
The first series of the Tenchi Muyo OVAs is certainly the strongest, with the episodes telling a more cohesive and overarching story that is engaging. The five episodes on this volume set up a cliffhanger that will be resolved in the first episode of Volume 2. While the harem clichés are there in full strength, with the hapless Tenchi surrounded by attractive women, what adds dimension to Tenchi Muyo is the story. The sci-fi element is strong, with a mystery and a back-story to resolve. The mythical elements of Tenchi`s ancestry and the legacy that is due to him gives viewers something else to grab their interest when the relationship tomfoolery gets too saccharine, which it rarely does.
The characters are also interesting in that the females are more strongly drawn and defined than Tenchi. Ryoko`s strength and forthright nature makes her an obvious focus, and the way she dominates Tenchi is an interesting dynamic. She almost has it her own way until Ayeka shows up, another strong character in that she is heir to the throne of Jurai, and tries to remain regally aloof of Tenchi. Mihoshi is a relatively late addition to the cast, but her ditzy and melodramatic manner adds much in the way of comedy to the story.
Tenchi Muyo is less about Tenchi himself than it is about the women who pursue him, and while his character is fairly nondescript, the other characters are very well drawn indeed, and the interest lies in how the characters relate to each other. The temptation to descend into prurience is never taken, and Tenchi Muyo is wholesome entertainment throughout. Like all anime, there is a story running through the episodes and it is enough to pique the interest, but the episodes are a joy to watch, with engaging stories. While there are laughs aplenty with a sense of irreverent humour, there is also a warmth to the stories that gives them an emotional appeal. Tenchi Muyo is not your run of the mill harem anime and is definitely worth watching.