DVD Review: Tenchi Muyo OVA Collection (BD/DVD Combo)

Tenchi Muyo! Complete OVA Collection BD/DVD Combo

Tenchi Muyo!
OVA Collection (BD/DVD Combo)
13 Episodes

Tenchi Misaki, a typical high school boy, has the responsibility of attending to a shrine his family cares for.  Fulfilling a lifelong curiosity, he enters a cave which legend states has been sealed in order to confine the horrible demon, Ryoko.  Little does Tenchi know that his accidental release of the sexy demon will lead to the arrivals of two alien princesses, a Galaxy Police officer, and the world’s greatest scientific genius; a battle among genius criminals and goddesses; a fight for Tenchi’s affections; and the fulfillment of his destiny.

Out of print for many years, FUNimation has surely brought joy to many fans by releasing the classic OVAs, available for the first time on Blu-Ray.  Tenchi Muyo has a dear place in my own heart, since it was the first anime that hooked me, back in the early days of Cartoon Network’s Toonami block.  I was eager to see how the series held up (and how it looked on Blu-Ray).

Approaching the series with a critical eye, rather than with the nostalgic glee with which I normally watch it, helped revealed the show’s faults.  The script is sometimes terrible, as the early part of the series contains a lot of nonsensical actions and dialogue by the characters.  The English language screenplay actually improves upon the direct translation, though it can’t correct poorly constructed plot points, like Tenchi sleeping on the roof of the school the entire day before awakening to a revenge-minded Ryoko.

The writing gets stronger and the inconsistencies start to fade as the series progresses, though.  We get to know each of the girls intimately (more so than we get to know Tenchi, who is famously declared unnecessary by the series title) by the end of the series, and they are classic characters: the wild and needy pirate/demon, Ryoko; temperamental and prim princess, Ayeka; her responsible and slightly mischievous younger sister, Sasami; serendipitous and empty-headed police officer, Mihoshi; quirky scientific genius, Washu; and even the cabbit/spaceship Ryo-Ohki, who is also of the female persuasion.

The 13 episodes are consistently strong.  There are no low points in the OVAs and no wasted episodes – each is meaningful, driving the story forward either through significant plot developments and action or through important character development (or both).  The jump back and forth between action-packed episodes and slice-of-life ones reflects the strength of the series – it does a lot of things, and it does them well.  Episodes four and five, which focus on Tenchi’s rescue mission for Ryoko, are exciting (and Kagato remains one of the best anime villains I’ve seen), but favorite episodes also include those in which the group simply hangs around the house (“The Night Before the Carnival”) and one where they care for Tenchi’s infant cousin (“Hello Baby!”).

Of course, Tenchi Muyo! may best be known as the granddaddy of harem series.  But unlike current harem series, or famed ones like Love Hina, the lead is not characterized in a wish fulfillment sort of way.  Instead, the harem aspect is almost always played for laughs.

The series is also full of mystery, which is perhaps why it captures the imagination so.  Plenty of interesting questions arise throughout (Who are the goddesses?  How are Sasami and Tsunami related?  Who exactly is Washu and how does she know Tenchi?  How do the Jurain trees/ship work?  What are the Light Hawk Wings?), with some explained and others left unanswered.  The depth of the Tenchiverse (as FUNimation refers to it) is part of the reason why fans gravitate toward the series.

I think you’ll prefer the promo above one to the FUNi preview

FUNimation’s release is fairly bare, containing trailers and the episode 13 omake.  The special Galaxy Police episode, in which Kiyone is introduced, is not part of the set.  An artbook is included, which is always welcome, but the images contained are the same ones fans have seen in official art and on wall scrolls for 15 years.  The DVD covers are reversible, which I find to be an underutilized addition in box sets.

Watching Tenchi Muyo in Blu-Ray is both a gift and a curse.  The format really emphasizes the instances where the animation is outstanding, particularly when characters are profiled or in many of the backgrounds.  However, it also made spotting on the animation cels more obvious; these imperfections show up frequently throughout the 13 episodes.

Discerning viewers should be aware that the series contains some violence and language, and a number of episodes feature nudity.

Although it’s been almost two decades now since Pioneer released the original Tenchi Muyo OVAs, the series still holds up well.  Time changes our tastes and habits, but it can’t kill great characterization and unique plots.  Tenchi aficionados have long waited on this rerelease, and at a reasonable price, it’s a good time to pick this classic up, both for fans of the series and for those curious as to why clamor for the show still endures.

Rating: A-

Review copy provided by FUNimation


8 thoughts on “DVD Review: Tenchi Muyo OVA Collection (BD/DVD Combo)

  1. I think I saw this set in Best Buy the other day. I contemplated getting it, but then I checked my anime budget for the month and..well…much weeping ensued. ;_;

    Good write-up as per usual sir! Now if you’ll excuse me…I’m gonna go balance the books…again…oy.

      1. Heh, thanks! I try to keep around about $30-40 tucked away every two weeks for anime…which sometimes goes by the wayside if something else comes up. Prime example; the anime budget is gone this week because I wanted to take advantage of the Windows 8 deal for my laptop…::sighs::

        1. Lucky for me, I’m trying to get rid of some of my collection and only add titles that are among my very, very favorite. For instance, I think I’ll only be adding the final volume of Madoka Magica and Kids on the Slope in the next few months.

          1. WAAAAAAAIT…A…MINUTE…Kids on the Slope was released?! WAS IT DUBBED?!?! TELL ME!! TELL ME!!! TELL ME OR I’LL MAKE YOU MORE TANGLEY THAN YOU ARE NOW!!! ::shakes him::

            1. Bwahahaha!

              Well, Aniplex (I think?) just announced that they’ve licensed it. It released in a few months time (Right Stuf has it up for pre-buy already).

  2. Well sir, I must admit I am impressed. While the opening segments of your review—comprised of words such as “terrible,” “nonsensical,” and “poorly-constructed” (terminology that, in any context, is simply inappropriate for a high-caliber series such as Tenchi Muyo!)—evoked knee-jerk reactions of mild disdain and contempt on my part (I hope you’ll forgive my “nostalgic glee”), upon further reading it became readily apparent that you are a knowledgeable connoisseur of Kajishima’s work and have made strong efforts not only to be concise and well-informed, but objective and fair as well. Your highlighting of the strengths of the writing is an accurate assessment, as is that of the eclectic characters we come to know so well in so short a span of time (your recognition of the superb pacing of the show is also appreciated). In addition, I also highly value the fact that while Tenchi Muyo! is often rightly considered the “granddaddy of all harem series,” essentially creating a well-defined sub-genre recognized to this day, you sir have gone one step further in pointing out that while it is a harem anime, it is intrinsically so much more and altogether different than most run-of-the-mill harem series; the multiple-girls-vying-for-one-guy angle is a component, a plot-device used for situational humor, not merely “wish fulfillment” as is so often the case nowadays. And yes, you are quite astute when you state that the depth of the “Tenchiverse” (as we fans have referred to it long before FUNi became interested) is a powerful factor contributing to the overall allure and durability of the late-twentieth-century phenomenon known as Tenchi Muyo! Despite FUNimation’s past attempts to effectively obliterate the series in the past (their staunch unwillingness to allow Petrea Burchard to reprise her role as the English version of Ryoko, among other things), they did right by their recent acquisition and subsequent re-release of the original OVA’s on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s never been easier to experience Tenchi Muyo!—whether it’s for the very first time, or for old-school fans who never tire of revisiting a true classic. In short: great review! I hope you reach or exceed the outstanding bar you’ve set for yourself in all your future endeavors.

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