One of the great classics of anime among western fans is the sci-fi comedy Tenchi Muyo. This is one of the first anime I ever really got into when I was an early teen. And after decades, the original OVA (Original Video Animation) series is being re-released on Blu-Ray. Does this classic hold up?
Tenchi Masaki is an ordinary teenage boy… well, as ordinary as can be given that his grandfather, a Shinto priest, has been training him in swordsmanship for years and telling him the legend of his ancestor Yosho, who descended from the heavens to defeat a demon. When Tenchi finally manages to enter the cave where the demon is sealed, he accidentally sets it free… only to discover that the demon is actually a young alien girl, the space pirate Ryoko. And so begins a series of events that results in Tenchi’s home becoming home to a bevy of alien ladies: Ryoko the free-spirited troublemaker, the proper, regal, and slightly high-strung Princess Ayeka, her mischievous homemaker little sister Princess Sasami, the ditzy Galaxy Police detective Mihoshi and the diminutive genius Washu… not to mention the adorable half-cat half-rabbit Ryo-Oh-Ki.
If there’s one phrase that describes this, the original Tenchi series, it’d be “character-driven”. Each of the characters are so well-developed that when a situation is thrown at them, be it a confrontation with their first major foe, taking care of a baby, or dealing with what may be a haunting at a hot-spring, the humor and story just flows naturally off of how the characters are, and in every episode each character gets at least one chance to shine either humorously or dramatically. Speaking of humor, this is one of those anime where the humor is just pitch-perfect. Jokes aren’t beaten to death, with the story knowing when to be funny and when to be serious. If there’s a complaint to be made about the series itself, it’s that after the 13th episode, with all the set-up being made for the next story arc, it just ends. Granted, the story was finally continued in the recently released Tenchi Muyo: Ryo-Oh-Ki series, but if you didn’t know that, it’d be frustrating.
As this is the first time the original series has been in HD, it’s a bit jarring. As mentioned, this was made as an OVA in the early 90’s for home video, particularly for VHS and Laserdisc for the the kind of TVs they had back then. Meaning that on your HD TV, the show is a still fairly-decent sized square in the middle of your screen, with black bars all around it. This does NOT detract from the quality of the show though, with the details and colors on this series looking amazing after all these years. And since it was an OVA (traditionally meaning better budget than a TV series, though not as big as a feature film), the animation is still great. Throw in a surround-sound of both Japanese and English language tracks, and you have all the great music and voice acting in amazing quality. Speaking of the language tracks, while I always enjoy the Japanese track, the English track was the first way I ever heard these characters, and even after all these years, the delivery on some of the comedy lines still make me laugh out loud.
If there’s a major con to this release, it’s the criminal lack of extra. The only major feature is the Omake (Extra) epilogue short. Considering that when the OVA was released in the 90’s on DVD, they included a bonus disc that was an encyclopedia of all things Tenchi. Tenchi and his extended family’s Blu-Ray debut should warrant something special added.
None of that will detract from the sheer joy and fun that this series gives. This is one of the few anime I can watch over and over and still enjoy it as much as the first time. If you’re new to Tenchi, or coming off of seeing the TV series Tenchi Universe that was released earlier, the original is waiting for you with open arms and laughter.
[learn_more caption=”Review Results”][one_half]Pros:
- Great character development
- Gorgeous animation and music
- Great balance of humor and drama[/custom_list][/one_half]
- Story ends a bit abruptly if you don’t know where to go next
- Seeing it in its true aspect ratio in HD can be initially jarring
- Criminal lack of special features
To see where this review score falls in our scoring range, please read our review scale guidelines.[/learn_more]