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Tenchi Universe Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

9 min read

When a series of alien girls arrive in his little mountain home, Tenchi’s life changes forever.

What They Say:
Everyone’s favorite luckless hero is back for more intergalactic hijinks in Tenchi Universe, an alternate universe retelling of the original Tenchi canon.

Seventeen-year-old Tenchi Masaki is a regular guy whose life takes a turn for the outrageous when Ryoko the stunning space pirate crashes at his grandfather’s shrine. In the bat of an eye, Tenchi finds himself surrounded by a bevy of bodacious intergalactic beauties who’ll do everything they can to make him late for class!

Contains episodes 1-26.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty basic as we get the original Japanese language in stereo as well as the original English adaptation done years ago in stereo as well, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. The show is one that definitely fits the time period as it’s a full on center channel kind of beast with a decent design about it that just lets it all come across cleanly and clearly in both languages. It’s not something where there’s anything noticeable when it comes to directionality, depth or placement across either of the mixes. While it’s not one to stand out, it does work well with the material at hand and both tracks are clean and clear throughout with no noticeable dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 1995, the transfer for this twenty-six episode TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show is spread across four discs with seven each on the first two and six each on the second two. The series looks to be using the same materials that Pioneer used years ago as the opening and endings are translated as used to be the norm, so no fresh materials are being used here. I haven’t kept up to see where the Japanese releases are, but the release here does suffer from its age and source in that it’s filled with cross coloration throughout. It’s bigger and more problematic in some scenes compared to others but it’s a regular fixture throughout the show and in the endings, some of which are really bad to look at. The colors generally look decent outside of that but its film original shows a fair bit of grain along the way which introduces more noise in the backgrounds as well. I do like the detail to the show and it comes from a “simpler” time with the hand drawn animation so there’s appeal there with some of these aspects, but not enough to salvage it from all the cross coloration.

The packaging for this release is simple but works nicely for the Tenchi fans as we get a very busy cover. The show comes in a single sized keepcase that holds all foru discs and there’s an O-Card slipcover to it as well that uses the same artwork for both sides. The front cover gives us Tenchi and the main cast of charactes, almost all of which are done in super deformed form. It’s just very busy with all the faces but it has a good feel of fun to it. The logo is just too simple though and even if the original wasn’t all that much to write home about, this one is even less. The back cover is rather interesting and I appreciate its approach. The cover as a whole is a soft white so the premise is easy to read and it flows well. We get a couple of shots from the show but it’s a small part overall. The big image here is a “map” of the Tenchi universe that shows which shows are connected and which stands alone, making it easy to follow a particular path. The technical information is all clean and easy to read and the discs extras similarly so. The reverse side of the cover is simple but effect as well with the left side showing the breakdown of episodes by number and title while the right has a really great image of Ryoko amongst the trees. No show related inserts are included with this release.

The menu design for this release is pretty simple but it works nicely in its full frame format as we get a blue heavy image and background that lets Tenchi and the cast shine in the middle. The backgrounds have a bit of detail to it and the designs are good overall as it sets the light and fun mood without it being too over the top. Navigation is kept along the bottom with the usual easy to access sections that load quickly and without problem. The show defaults to the English language track with sign/song subtitles rather than reading our players’ language presets. The menus are quick and easy to use and fit the show pretty nicely.

The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When Pioneer decided to expand from the hardware business into the anime business, they started by working a few different OVA series to see what worked. Some were better than others but I found myself thoroughly enjoying just about everything they brought out. What worked the best for them was the Tenchi Muyo OVA series which spawned several movies, some followup OVAs and three TV series. This series, Tenchi Universe, retells the story as we got it from the OVAs but with numerous changes, expansions and new characters as well. That’s sort of the normal course of events when an OVA gets popular so it wasn’t a surprise. It’s a series I enjoyed back in the day and revisiting it certainly hasn’t changed that opinion.

Tenchi Universe introduces us to the world of Tenchi Masaki, a nice guy who lives in a mountain area with his father and grandfather. He’d be a normal kid if not for the slow but sure descent of several alien females into his life as they come almost one by one. His trouble starts initially when the infamous space pirate Ryoko ends up crashing into the area as she’s being chased, though she tries to pawn the other guy off as the bad guy. The other guy is actually a Galaxy Police Officer named Mihoshi, a cute and bubbly blonde who is nothing but comic relief and pratfalls for the most part. It’s a one-note gag with her but ti works as the gang grows around Tenchi and the women end up moving in with him, often because their ships are destroyed when they end up here.

Things get further complicated when Mihoshi’s distress signal is picked up by Ayeka, a royal princess of the Jurai family. Her arrival has her falling for Tenchi which just ticks off Ryoko and sets the two to odds. A second princess arrives in the younger sister Sasami, who is just full of sunshine and happiness, and then it gets weird with Washu being discovered. She’s been imprisoned under the mountain for seven hundred years due to being an intergalactic menace back in the day with all the devices she created. She’s done up as a mad scientist here, the most obvious change from the OVA series, but it’s a different kind of welcome comedy she brings. Things then get fleshed out when Mihoshi’s partner Kiyone arrives and she’s the best of the best of the Galaxy Police. Just dragged down constantly by Mihoshi, who now gets her to be “promoted” to being stuck in this sector for the foreseeable future.

For just under the first half of the season, Tenchi Universe works its fun in bringing in these cast of characters, establishing the relationships between them. It’s fun, moves well enough and plays with the usual harem routines in a simple way. Which makes sense since this was one of the earlier harem shows that populairzed the genre. With Kiyone being the main new character here, she gets some additional time as we see her coping with Mihoshi in her life and that makes for some good fun as they try to settle on earth while not living at the Masaki residence. Beyond that, there’s hints of the bigger picture but mostly it just wants to have fun, especially when Washu starts creating interdimensional portals for the housemates to use to have access to larger baths.

With that first half as the foundation, the show has a bit of fun going into the second half with a “space and time adventures” trio of episodes that puts the characters in different, alternate realities where they know it’s off but are caught up in it. This lets us see the dynamic and groupings in new forms and it’s pretty fun to see them go this way, especially since it brings in a little magical Sasami material. Serving as the transitional material, it does open us up to a number of different things, which is why when everything is returned to normal, it shifts quickly as the entire Tenchi household – and house – is absconded with into space. As it turns out, in the time that everyone has been on Earth, a new power has swept into the Jurai royal family and Ayeka has been branded a criminal along with most everyone else. It turns into a brief adventure to get them back since some weren’t in the house at the time. But that serves only to put other things in motion, which is pretty much another seven or eight episodes of random space adventures in which the gang tries to get closer to Jurai while doing odd jobs to make money. Including a bathing suit competition,. It’s fluff with little in terms of real revelations about how the galaxy works.

While there is fun to the fluff, it’s when they get closer to Jurai that it gets interesting. The reveal of the power that’s taken over the throne goes a ways towards showing some of the hints we’ve seen about certain peoples pasts, connects things up and gives Tenchi the boost he needs to be a full on participant as opposed to a pretty boy wallflower for the girls. When the show shfits to having an actual objective and mission in place with a series of goals, it moves quickly and everyone has a purpose. It’s a bit shorter form in a way than the OVAs, which feels strange to say, but it’s working on a different approach and spreads out the reveals more and doesn’t have quite the impact that the OVAs had either because of changed backgrounds. But it does work well overall as a different interpretation and it sets everything up to be open ended enough, hence the couple of movies that came afterward.

In Summary:
With a popular OVA series behind its sails, the Tenchi Universe series is one that you can understand why it’s a disappointment to many of those fans. Similar to El-Hazard, it changed too much and lost some of the tightness and character appeal by simplifying it and stretching it out. But on its own, disconnected from that, I do think it’s a very fun little series that’s only a couple of years away from its twentieth anniversary. And I do find that even if it is dated in animation, it works well and has a good sense of fun about it. The structure of this show works nicely as we get a lot of characters up front and see how they work together, then it gets jumbled for a few episodes and then it’s off to work together as a group. Often while trying to make sure Mihoshi doesn’t screw it up. I like this group of characters and I like that their personalities are as close to the OVAs as they are, even if backgrounds are changed. Tenchi Universe is good fun and this collection brings it all together again cheaply and simply.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 16th, 2012
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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