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Tenchi Muyo: OVA Series DVD/Blu-ray Collection Limited Edition Anime Review

11 min read

Tenchi Muyo OVA Collection
Tenchi Muyo OVA Collection
Sometimes finding out who your family is can truly open up your world. To other worlds.

What They Say:
Tenchi is an average guy with extraordinarily bad luck. To make matters worse, he just accidentally freed the ravishing space pirate Ryoko after 700 years of captivity! Now, attractive alien girls from across the galaxy are about to make his life more outrageous than ever imaginable. Can he survive the romantic entanglements of living with five lovely ladies – and unlock the secrets of his mysterious ancestry?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good as we get a kind of rare layout to the two mixes. The original Japanese language here was done in 5.1 several years ago for a DVD remaster, so we get that here in the Dolby TrueHD lossless form. The English mix is in the stereo design that Pioneer did back in the 90’s and that never got an upgrade or remaster, so we essentially get that using the Dolby TrueHD codec. The 5.1 mix is pretty fun to listen to here as it has a good design to it where some sounds, mostly the music cues and some of the action, is shifted to the rear channels where it helps to immerse you into the situation even more. A lot of it is still in the forward soundstage though and you get that even clearer when it comes to the English mix. That track plays out well overall as it has some good placement across the stage and dialogue comes across in a very clear fashion. I’ve long enjoyed the dub on this release and can’t help but to go to it, even when there’s a Japanese 5.1 mix to check out. In checking out both mixes, the dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally started its release back in 1992, the transfer for this thirteen episode OVA series is presented in its full frame aspect ratio encoded in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two Blu-ray discs with seven on the first and six on the second. Having come from the Laserdisc age, where I was enthralled with being able to step through frame by frame (and paying $35 an episode), I can’t get over the overall quality here. The source materials are what they are, with it being twenty years since it started its release, and the hand drawn animation here looks great and has plenty of detail to it. The show may not stand out hugely, but the end result here is one that is definitely pleasing. Colors are vibrant and the animation has a good, smooth flow to it in quite a few scenes, particularly in the second half. The series avoids some of the telltale problems of the time here with line noise and cross coloration being a non-issue. While the set may not be something that will look fantastic next to a new show today, the leap from when this first came out to now is pretty significant, especially having revisited the Laserdisc editions recently.

The packaging for this limited edition release of the series is quite good and fits well with the movie set release. The box art here lets the three primary characters take the exterior where the main panel has Tenchi and Ryoko together with the star filled stripe through the white background. The two look good with their expressions and the logo has a good bit of flair to it. The back panel gives us Ayeka and Ryo-ohki on her shoulder which is done with the same kind of background. I rather like the Ayeka side since it doesn’t have her in her usual outfit but something a little slicker and more appealing since it’s black and white with a dash of purple. Inside the heavy chipboard box, we get a pair of clear keepcases as well.

Both cases use a similar layout where there’s a purple strip along the bottom where it has the edition name and what format it is while the bulk of the front cover has a white background with different configurations of characters. The cast is colorful and expansive enough, and mostly female, so it’s busy and vivid but still quite appealing. The back covers are laid out the same way with the purple strip just having the logo while the character artwork sues more configurations, including Mihoshi getting some prominence. The covers have artwork on the reverse side as well where the left side has a breakdown of the episodes by number and title along the left and the right has a different piece for each case. The DVD side has a cute hot spring image of the gang that’s mostly naked but amusingly obscured while the Blu-ray edition has a grouping similar to the back covers of the cases.

The set also comes with a small full color booklet that has lots of promotional images used for different releases, including this one, that’s just a lot of fun to go through. Some of it is like a trip down memory lane.

The menu design for this release is similar to all the other Tenchi releases from FUNimation on Blu-ray in that there’s a small widget along the lower left with the basic navigation selections. They’re all quick to load and easy to access and there’s a bit more with this release than the movie set since it’s multiple episodes. Everything has numbers and titles available and language selections are a breeze. Submenus don’t have a lot of depth to them and the main part of the menu outside of the widget is just a series of busy clips from the show itself. It lets the show shine pretty well but after twenty years, it’s all admittedly a little familiar.

While the previous box set from Pioneer had a whole lot of extra material, especially some fantastic domestically made Encyclopedia material, the only thing we get here is the omake segment for the thirteenth episode. The previous material was largely stuff designed around the DVD format and would be quite an effort to convert.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tenchi Muyo holds a special place in my heart for what it is, as it was the reason I bought a Laserdisc play back in the early 90’s. The format was having a bit of a surge at the time and Pioneer, a maker of Laserdisc players, had started releasing its own anime series with Tenchi Muyo as one of its first OVAs. Pioneer was intent on showing off the capabilities of the players with its dual language format and close captioned subtitles, as well as the ability to freeze frame throughout the entire episode. So I bought into the format and loved it and Tenchi became one of those first loves after a couple of years of enjoying anime in general. When the show hit DVD, I ended up getting that in a few different forms and have now come full circle, some twenty years later, in getting the first thirteen episodes in one high definition set.

The series is one that, for its first half, is the way that I wish more OVA series were like. It actually tells a full tale from start to finish but open enough for more to happen after there, which it does. The show introduces us to young Tenchi Masaki, a young man that lives in the city with his father and visits the mountain shrine that his grandfather operates out in the countryside. He’s a decent kid, a little goofy, but the nice guy that everyone likes but you can see gets easily overlooked in a lot of things. He’s also got a natural curiosity that gets him into a lot of trouble, at least at first. Amusingly, once that first bit of curiosity gets him into trouble, he’s almost never curious again as he learned his lesson. His curiosity leads him to swipe a set of keys from his grandfather to check out a locked cell within the mountain. Supposedly a monster from hundreds of years ago resides there and the lore about the battle that sealed it are legendary.

Tenchi’s curiosity ends up freeing the monster, which looks like a twisted mummy at first but is then revealed to be a cute girl that’s been trapped for seven hundred years. Ryoko, as she introduces herself, is intent on having a bit of revenge on the descendant of the man who sealed her, so Tenchi is chased through the school when she finds him there eventually and it leads to lots and lots of destruction. It’s a fun start because it’s kept simple and just on Tenchi and Ryoko and there’s a sense of intimacy about it. Ryoko’s abilities aren’t what they were before she was sealed and she ends up crashing with Tenchi, which makes for some obvious fun, especially since his father is just so proud. Well, at least until some aliens show up in a big ship from outer space as it turns out Ryoko is a wanted criminal that they’ve been searching for.

This introduces us to the two princesses of Jurai, Ayeka and Sasami, who have been searching for Ryoko since she fought Ayeka’s brother (and betrothed) all those years ago and she wants to take her out in order to find her intended. Sasami’s just along for the ride and a bit of a playful bit of fun. Things go crazy once these two show up since Ayeka kidnaps Tenchi, Ryoko and his father – and his house – and that leads to all sorts of chaos where eventually everything crashes down at the mountain shrine. And from there everything sort of settles since all the aliens are stuck there and they’re all rather interested in Tenchi in various romantic ways.

While we’ve seen harem style shows like this before and after, Tenchi Muyo really defined it well and executed in a way few have followed. The first six episodes introduces the core characters along the way, including the adorable cabbit Ryo-ohkit hat can transform from a carrot eating creature to a powerful spaceship, and we get a Galaxy Police officer named Mihoshi that is like an accident in motion constantly that often leads to welcome results. It also introduces a young woman named Washu who is over twenty-thousand years old and is a catch-all incredible inventor. The cast is a lot of fun overall and the way they interact makes for some great enjoyment since Ryoko and Ayeka end up fighting over Tenchi. But unlike future installments, it’s not been done into the ground and it’s not like the TV series where they do it every episode either.

The first six episodes are a great piece of work as the introductions are spread out well and it has an underlying storyline to it that culminates in the introduction of Kagato, a hugely powerful man searching for something related to what Juraians are capable of. It ties back to the story of Ryoko and how she was trapped on Earth, but it also pushes Tenchi into a great action position. The reveals still hold well after all this time with who is really who and the secrets that they have. While you can tell that some of it may not have been fully intended at first when they started it, it does all come together and the big sixth episode does things in a very strong way. Which makes the follow-up OVA with the down time all the more enjoyable as that’s the first chance we really get to see the characters relaxing.

While the first OVA series and that follow-up were part of a singular work overall, the second OVA series that brings us episodes eight through thirteen are a little different. I had a harder time getting into those the first time they came out since it felt less focused and didn’t have the larger plot that was going on in the first series. If anything, it really is just a huge setup piece for the third OVA series with the larger mysteries of Washu and her place in the universe. Or the dimensions when you get down to it. The second half does have some fun, but it starts off with an episode about the girls having to take care of a baby in the Masaki family for a couple of days and it shows how bad everyone is. Another comes up with a way for Ryo-ohki to gain a human form that she can transform into sometimes. It does start to work the bigger story a bit with the introduction of Dr. Clay and his robot Zero that are searching for Washu, but it’s like the prologue of some bigger story and there’s no real culmination to it here. The only aspect I really enjoyed in the second half was the final episode which brings in a few of the Juraian parents coming to visit, including the King and two of his Queens.

In Summary:
With the release of this set and the movies, I now want the third OVA and Tenchi GXP on Blu-ray. And yes, I’d want Tenchi in Tokyo as well so we can get everything. Anyway, going back to the origins of the franchise, this set shows once again that twenty years later, the original work is what did it right. It’s not forced, it feels natural and doesn’t spend all of its time with the two main girls fighting constantly. It actually tells a good story, origin and all, in the first six episodes and brings it to a close. But that overall tightness shows in the second half where it’s less focused and they’re not sure where they want to go and were unable to really do something strong with it that was worthy of what the first half did. FUNimation’s release her brings one of my most favorite OVA series that launched a varied and uneven franchise. But it shows why it worked and why it got the fans base that it did. It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty years but there’s still something special about Tenchi and the gang and I’ll still hold out for more to be made.

Japanese 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Language, English 2.0 Dolby TrueHD Language, English Subtitles, Episode 13 Omake Segment

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 18th, 2012
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 405 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
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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