Rich (Webmaster)

Based on: First DVD

UK Distributor:  MVM (DVD)

Tenchi is relatively normal.  I say relatively because the average Japanese schoolboy generally doesn’t live in a shrine and undergo martial arts training every day, no matter what many anime series will have us think.  Also not many Japanese shrines have intergalactic demons sealed beneath them.

However, Tenchi’s has.  And of course, he releases it.  This is just the start of his troubles, as before long the demon’s enemies and acquaintances begin to pop up from outer space and wreak havoc.  Once the carnage has died down Tenchi is stuck in the enviable position of living with a beautiful but demonic woman (Ryoko), a beautiful but aloof intergalactic princess (Ayeka), a cute but too young intergalactic princess (Sasami), a beautiful but ditzy space policewoman (Mihoshi), an attractive but slightly evil genius inventor (Washu), and a carrot crunching cat/rabbit hybrid who can turn into a spaceship (Ryo-Oh-Ki).  Obviously much mayhem ensues in one of the most imitated and popular anime series of the last ten years.

Tenchi may be responsible for creating an entire genre that is unfairly much maligned by many hard-core fans and critics, it may be guilty of spawning so many spin-offs and sequels that repetition set in, but one thing you can’t say is that it isn’t great fun.

One of the things people sometimes forget with anime is that although the likes of Serial Experiments Lain is a great and extremely thought provoking piece of animation, you are hardly going to watch it frequently.  However, Tenchi Muyo is great light viewing that has absolutely everything you want from anime – huge amounts of action, great comedy, large explosions, attractive characters, some fan service nudity and a hugely enjoyable story.

Although seeming like a sci-fi spin on a mish-mash of clichéd swords n sorcery ideas – demons, princesses, magic swords, pervy old men, mystical powers, etc – Tenchi isn’t as hackneyed and predictable as you may think.  Yes, there are the obligatory ancient prophecies, super powerful demonic enemies, gratuitous bath scenes, dramatic revelations and love octagons (too many characters for a triangle…) that you would expect, but there is also quite a lot of very funny comedy, some quite touching scenes and frenetic action to keep you interested.

The OAV series focuses on Tenchi and his harem of wannabe girlfriends being brought together, settling down to a series of mildly antagonistic hi-jinks and subsequently having to face a hugely powerful space pirate from Ryoko’s past.  The series is well written and animated with memorable characters and some great set pieces that mostly paper over some huge narrative leaps.

Hang about, huge narrative leaps?  Yep you did read that right; although I really enjoyed this there are some quite big changes that happen with absolutely no explanation.  For example, in the first episode Ryoko is trying to kill Tenchi to get his sword (which contains the key to her powers), in the second episode she tries to seduce him to get it and in the third episode she fancies him.  What is odd about this is that she explains in the third episode that she has always watched over Tenchi and liked him since he was very young, which doesn’t explain why she repeatedly tried to kill him two episodes earlier.  There is also the simple matter of a huge tropical dome which appears from absolutely nowhere for the characters to bathe in after they wreck the local bath house.  The creators seem to expect the viewer to take these things for granted – possibly the explanation had to be cut because of the series length, possibly they didn’t think it was important.  And to be perfectly honest it isn’t really that important, but often you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve missed something, and it can niggle.

This is really the series’ only drawback, the vast majority of it is enjoyable and it quite skilfully manages to move from comedy to action to romance to drama without losing focus on the characters.  There are some quite moving scenes about Ayeka’s past and the antagonism over this between her and Ryoko is the most enjoyable aspect of the series.

I really enjoyed this.  Although I can’t say it’s the best anime series I have seen recently (I mean, I have seen the likes of Trigun, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Haibane Renmei in the last few months) it is probably the most enjoyable one I have watched in a long, long time.  It manages to be funny but dramatic, action packed but moving, and above all extremely watchable.  I do have some minor gripes – the lack of explanation mentioned above, and Ayeka and Mihoshi can sometimes be a bit annoying – but overall you will not be disappointed if you buy this.  One of the best releases of the year so far, great fun and highly enjoyable.

Best Bit:  The bath house episode (look, it’s funny ok?  It’s not just cos I like seeing Ryoko and Ayeka in the buff…)

Worst bit:  Ryoko’s ‘oh I know I tried to kill you but I fancy you really’ contradiction.


Feature:   Extras: N/A

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