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Tenchi In Tokyo Complete Series Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Sometimes I think I like this series so much simply because so many Tenchi fans hate it.

What They Say:
When walking disaster Tenchi sets out for the bright lights of Tokyo, his harem of scandalous space vixens won’t take their abandonment lying down! The jilted lovers use an inter-dimensional tunnel to keep tabs on Tenchi and visit him – in bed – any time they please! The claws come out when the girls find out Tenchi has a super cute new girlfriend – and her intentions are anything but honorable!

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 1997, 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 some grain, but less than Tenchi Universe did, and it does introduce some noise in the backgrounds. 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 fans of this show as we get a very busy cover. The show comes in a single sized keepcase that holds all four discs. The front cover gives us a cover without Tenchi as it focuses on the three primary girls of the Tenchi-verse while putting Sakuya in the center. The artwork looks cleaner than I think I’ve seen any Tenchi in Tokyo artwork before and it’s definitely appealing. 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 Sakuya at the beach sitting down getting some sand out of her shoe. 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)
A few years after the original OVAs and two years after Tenchi Universe aired, the franchise that was hard to keep down in the 90’s returned with Tenchi in Tokyo. Animated by AIC once more and directed by Yoshihiro Takamoto, who also directed the Lodoss War TV series, Tenchi in Tokyo ran for twenty-six episodes in two separate seasons in 1997 and departed from the more traditional Tenchi storytelling that had come up. And it was really just the first to do that as later it expanded to the Magical Project S material and the Tenchi Muyo GXP series that ejected the main cast pretty much entirely for the majority of it. While Tenchi Universe hewed to the original OVAs mostly with some deviations, Tenchi in Tokyo just goes a completely different way in many ways and alienated most fans.

The show gives us the standard Tenchi grouping at the start where we have Tenchi and all the girls living at his Okayama home while he does his shrine work. It’s been quite a lot of time since they came there and that origin of how they met is a bit different. Explored more later in the series, the deviations are alright as it all comes down to the same characters just arriving in different ways, such as having Kiyone and Mihoshi already there. Ryoko’s the space pirate that’s chased there as well, rather than someone trapped in the cavern near the shrine. Though these changes are here, it has little impact on the way the characters interact. It feels just like they were all as we saw before, with the one main change being that they’re all bonded together after all this time through the use of each of them having a crystal that belonged to Tenchi’s mother. It’s a good common physical bond that gives them a connection they can touch and feel when apart.

And that being apart is a big part of the series here. With Tenchi going to take over the shrine some day, he’s on his way to Tokyo to go to continue his high school career and train at the shrine there so he can achieve his goal. It’s going to take about two years and he’s avoided telling the girls for all this time until it’s the day before it’s time to go. They’re obviously distraught and can’t understand it, though Washu comes up with a dimensional tunnel that will allow them to go back and forth a bit. But for Tenchi, he doesn’t quite want them there much since they get into a lot of trouble easily and with their powers it would just be a mess. And he’s also going through a lot of things with school itself and the shrine training. That doesn’t sit too well with them though since they want to see him and that leads to a lot of simple, silly comedy sequences in the first few episodes where they try to find ways to be there.

The kink in the works here is probably the most controversial character of all the Tenchi properties. While in Tokyo, Tenchi ends up meeting another girl in school named Sakuya who is smitten with him from the start and feels like everything in her life has lead her to this place to meet him and love him. She’s a little obsessive at times to say the least, but the draw that she feels is powerful. With the two of them in Tokyo by themselves for the most part, we get to see Tenchi have a fairly normal relationship, one that goes into things rather quickly, And it’s a lot of fun to watch since there is a connection there, even with the secret about who Sakuya really is that comes into play much late in the show. Sakuya brings a lot of tension into things as well because the relationship has a different kind of feeling about it which completely tweaks the other girls.

And therein lies the problem with the show for many people. There’s a background story to this that comes into play about a young girl named Yugi that has a Jurai flavor about her from the start that is manipulating the situation and you know Sakuya is a part of it all, no matter how Sakura really feels. And it does work overall as it gets explored with the reasons why she’s doing what she’s doing. But the cardinal sin that the show commits for many is that it takes the principle cast of girls and largely excises them in a way in favor of another girl that nobody knows. With the releases that came before, people essentially settled into which their favorite was and wanted to see be the chosen one. The idea of none of them being the chosen one hits them hard.

And in a big way, it’s why I gravitated towards this show more than a lot of the others after the original six episode OVA series. After those OVAs, the follow-ups and Tenchi Universe, I had come to a point where while I had my favorite (older Sasami from the OVAs), I just felt that the primary girls were going to never have any true closure and would just be a mess no matter who won unless they went for some real polyamorous situation. The introduction of Sakuya allows us to see Tenchi involved with a normal girl, in the big city, doing normal dating things and getting in touch with his emotions with a girl that can’t knock him into orbit. Of course, taking the alien out of Tenchi kills a lot of what the appeal of the franchise is and I wouldn’t want it to go that direction for everything. But as an opportunity to show what Tenchi can find and be like when away from the girls, it works well. And it also works to give the girls time away from Tenchi so that we see them all split to the winds and going back to how their lives were before, which infuses them with a bit more character since they’re not Tenchi-obsessed themselves. Well, outside of Ayeka who seemingly has no real purpose in life in this incarnation other than to be royalty.

In Summary:
Tenchi in Tokyo is a series that during its original run, being one of the first anime series released on DVD in the US as well, made for a lot of fun because it shook up the franchise by doing things different than they had before. When the series breaks the norms, like this and the GXP series, I get more interested because everything else just tries to not rock the boat all that much. The show works through some less than stellar material at times, and having a pink transformable Ry-ohki is just wrong, but when it gets down to the characters and how they work here, it left me enjoying it a good deal. Not as much as I did over ten years ago when I first saw it, but I still find Sakuya to be a very positive match for Tenchi and a good look at how he exists without the alien girls that will never give him a peaceful and productive relationship. I completely understand why so many fans hate the show, but it’s one that I think does what I wish more adaptations would do rather than just playing the same game over and over and to actually take a chance or two. This one worked for me.

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

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 20th, 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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