Review of Tenchi Muyo Ryo Ohki Box Set (3 discs)
Anime is a medium much like any other and as such, there are always titles that stand out as exemplars. These are titles that everyone has heard of, titles that stand the test of time, and just don`t leave fan consciousness. Your Burst Angel and your Heat Guy J are just mayflies compared to the Ghibli films, shows like Ghost In The Shell, Ah My Goddess and of course, Tenchi Muyo. The characters and stories grab the attention so tightly that people just can`t get enough. Just as there will always be a Star Trek, or a James Bond, so there will always be some incarnation of Tenchi Muyo on the horizon. It`s not bad for a show that began as a short-lived OVA series. Those initial six episodes begat six episodes more, as well as specials. Movies were next, and when that wasn`t enough, the story was retold in a full-length television series. Further series were produced, which took the same characters and placed them in a different universe. One of the earlier specials itself spun off a series. Just trying to pin down all the various incarnations and series boggles the mind, and it`s a problem that gets worse with every new release. In 2002, the creators went back to the original OVA universe, and moved the story forward in time, introduced new characters and created Tenchi GXP. This was scheduled for release in the UK this year, but at the time of writing it`s lost in the limbo of `Indefinitely Delayed`.
But there remain the OVAs, the initial set of episodes that started the phenomenon. While they started the story, there was no suitable conclusion, and the final episode left matters hanging. It took over half a decade, but the creators finally returned to the OVA to tie up the loose ends. The Tenchi Muyo - Ryo Ohki series of 6 OVA episodes and 1 OVA special was produced in 2003 to complete the story. It had a protracted release in the US, with three discs taking more than a year to come out. That schedule wouldn`t attract much custom in the UK, nor would the fact that the third disc only has the one episode on it. Fortunately Revelation have gone straight for the boxset, releasing the series in one go, and they`ve also included the nice shiny tin that US purchasers got to keep the Amarays in.
Imagine if you will, being a teenaged boy and having beautiful girls throwing themselves at you. The basis of many an adolescent daydream, 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 female visitors from space in the form of the Jurai princesses Ayeka and Sasami soon arrive, quickly followed by clumsy Galactic Police Officer Mihoshi, and galactic scientist Washu. If nothing else, he`s certainly kept on his toes. And this is the state of play as we begin the Ryo Ohki boxset.
Tenchi`s life was certainly hectic at the end of the second series, his home becoming the centre of events of galactic importance. Lady Tokimi had tried to infiltrate Tenchi`s household with the aid of Doctor Clay, but that attempt failed. This series begins with a second attempt, with the mysterious Z arriving to sow the seeds of mayhem. He`s been ordered to stay away from Tenchi, but he has his own agenda. He begins by subverting one of Mihoshi`s letters home. He needn`t have bothered, as Tenchi`s life is getting more complicated than ever, if such a thing is possible. Tenchi is reflective, wondering about the death of his mother, but he`s at that age where the truth about his heritage and his destiny can finally be revealed. His grandfather and father begin by introducing him to his long lost sister Tennyo, who is the spitting image of his mother Kiyone. If that isn`t enough, he learns that he has been betrothed since birth, and his grandmother Airi, another new face, arrives with his intended, Noike. Noike is good natured and helpful, something that puts Tenchi`s potential suitors Ryoko and Ayeka on the back foot, although the presence of her ex-GXP partner Mihoshi brings out Noike`s volatile side. But Noike has a hidden purpose in the Tenchi household.
If that isn`t enough, Mihoshi`s brother Misao has learned that she is living with Tenchi, and jealousy rears its ugly head. Soon Mihoshi`s whole family is on the way to rescue her, teach that brute Tenchi a lesson, and in passing destroy the planet Earth just for good measure. Which is when Ayeka and Sasami`s grandmother Seto, Tenchi`s great-great-grandmother, and incidentally the person who adopted Noike and arranged her engagement to Tenchi, arrives to see how things are progressing. I hope you`re taking notes, as there will be a test after the end of the review.
Seven episodes are split across three volumes.
Volume 1: Here Comes The Bride
1. Visitor From Afar
Volume 2: Target Tenchi
4. Here Comes Misao On The Chobimaru
5. Operation Lovey-Dovey
Volume 3: Final Confrontations
7. Final Confrontations
Tenchi has had a CG makeover in the intervening years, and the resulting image is clear and crisp, with no apparent flaws. You can do a compare and contrast as the first episode offers a couple of flashback sequences to the original OVAs, just to get everyone up to speed. Other than that, the image is on a par with most anime that you get today, and as you would expect with an OVA the animation is a tad more fluid and expressive. CGI spaceships abound, and the CG Ryo-Ohki makes quite an impact. The 4:3 transfer does what it says on the tin (literally so in this case), the image is transferred well, and other than one moment of compression in the final episode (the sole single layer disc), there were no apparent flaws.
You have the choice of DD 5.1 English and DD 2.0 Japanese, with optional English subs and signs. As you would expect, the Japanese cast remains unaltered from the original OVAs and the various series. What`s surprising is that other than the voice actor for Ryoko, the English cast has remained the same as well. It`s still not my favourite dub though. The sound works well enough, but watching the ads on the disc, it becomes apparent that the Japanese discs had 5.1 sound for the original language audio. It`s a shame that wasn`t ported over, as that would have maintained consistency with the earlier OVA series.
Ooh! Shiny packaging! This is a boxset worthy of the name. We get the tin box with the hinged lid, which the region 1 fans got. Indeed I think it`s the same one. It`s slightly larger than the Amaray cases we get in the UK and there is no Revelation branding. That`s limited to the disc cases only. It really has some nice artwork on front and rear with all the main characters. I can already sense someone thinking that it would be perfect for keeping sandwiches in, so I give a pre-emptive "Shame on you!"
The episodes come with multi-angle credit sequences, and the discs have jacket pictures and well designed menus, all normal for your typical anime disc.
There are six trailers for other Revelation products across the discs including Negima, Fruits Basket, Full Metal Alchemist, Rumbling Hearts, The Full Metal Alchemist Movie, and Gunslinger Girl.
Disc 1 simply has the character profiles for the seven main characters, Tenchi, Ryoko, Ayeka, Sasami, Ryo Ohki, Mihoshi and Washu.
Disc 2 offers the music video for the end theme, "Lovely Cookin`", the Japanese TV Spots which offer 1 minute of trailers, and the Real Tenchi Tour Parts I & II. These run to a total of 23 minutes and take us to the real life locations that inspired some of the locations in Tenchi, as well as inspiring some of the character names.
Disc 3 offers the Himitsu Nabe Radio Drama. This lasts 29 minutes and is a collection of 5 short comedy skits, voiced by the Japanese actors, and presented against a series of flashcards, much like the bonus drama at the end of the second OVA series. These are light, frivolous and played purely for laughs. There is also the Himitsu Nabe Live Action Special, which lasts 41 minutes and has voice actors Tomoko Kaneda and Etsuko Kazakura taking a light look at the premise and technobabble behind the Tenchi universe. There are plenty of clips of Tenchi GXP to be going on with here.
It is possible to over egg a pudding, and it is possible to have too much of a good thing. That became apparent the further into this OVA series I went. I did enjoy Tenchi Muyo - Ryo Ohki though, and Tenchi fans will already have this boxset holding pride of place on their shelves, or intend to soon. Newcomers to the Tenchi universe may feel initially adrift with these episodes, but they do tell their own story, and if a dimension is lost by not having knowledge of the earlier episodes, it isn`t fatal to the experience. But comparison with those earlier episodes is inevitable, and in that comparison Tenchi Muyo - Ryo Ohki comes off a little lacking.
It isn`t immediately apparent though, as the third OVA series starts off strongly indeed, with a trio of episodes that are on a par with the best that the originals could offer. That`s even with the new character overload. From the moment that Tennyo is introduced, there is a steady stream of new characters that never diminishes, and keeping track of them all is difficult, even you are taking notes for a review. One of Tenchi`s strengths is in how it handles the feelings of the characters, and understandably Tenchi is feeling melancholic for his mother, especially not knowing how she died. Perhaps the strongest moment in this entire series is when Tennyo shows up, and she is the splitting image of Kiyone. I`d challenge anyone not to have a lump in the throat while watching this scene. But we quickly get back to the comedy that is so at the heart of Tenchi, with the arrival of Noike, Tenchi`s betrothed. Tenchi has a hard enough time fighting off the constant attentions of the females that already surround him. The arrival of yet another adds another dimension to the chaos that tips him over the edge.
Around the fourth episode is where this series begins to lose its way. Yet another raft of characters are introduced, as Mihoshi`s family turns up to rescue her from the evil Tenchi. A planet-sized spaceship accompanies this overreaction, but fortunately Mihoshi`s ditziness runs in the family. While the initial episodes led on from the original OVAs, it becomes apparent that at this point the series is more concerned with tying in to the Tenchi GXP spin-off, and it seems that Tenchi`s story is pushed into the background somewhat. It`s something of a disservice to the character, even though these episodes are entertaining in their own right.
Then in Z we get the confrontation with the series villain, and this is where Tenchi Muyo takes a leap into the deep end. The true natures of several characters are revealed, and Tenchi`s place in the universe made clear. While each OVA series has a climactic moment that allows Tenchi to develop his powers further, and to reveal even more of the extent of how he ties into the universe, this episode in my opinion takes it too far, and I was left wondering where my suspension of disbelief had strolled off too.
We come back to basics in the final episode, where the truth about Tenchi`s mother is finally revealed (Note, this series is in a different universe to the movies, so Tenchi`s mother here, Kiyone is utterly different to Achika, who we met in Tenchi in Love). I think the intent was to see Tenchi go on some sort of emotional journey as he finally discovered whom his mother really was, but in practice this falls flat. This final episode is flippant and frivolous, and doesn`t work well. And with it, Tenchi Muyo - Ryo Ohki ends with something of a whimper.
I think the idea of this series was to mirror the structure of the earlier two series, so we begin with zany relationship mayhem, throw in an intergalactic threat, and finish with a bit of domestic angst. This structuring becomes very obvious at points, and on occasion I did feel the show slip into self-parody. Fortunately this was rare. Tying the show into GXP was a little distracting, but I can see it appealing to fans of the follow up. It`s a shame that the ending was weak, as the earlier episodes are certainly enjoyable. It`s also nice to have the plot holes left at the end of the 2nd OVA filled in. But of course, now there are new plot holes requiring attention. Let`s hope that a 4th OVA series doesn`t take as long.
Tenchi Muyo - Ryo Ohki is good but not great, it doesn`t quite live up to its predecessors, but still manages to provide a decent amount of entertainment. The presentation in the nifty tin boxset is excellent, and there a goodly amount of extra features to accompany the series. It`s still a must for Tenchi completists, although first timers will find some entertainment too. It`s just that it`s not the best Tenchi has to offer.