Whisked to another world, young Kenshi Masaki finds himself caught in a whirlwind of power – and interested women.
This review is a combined look at the two individual parts released for this series, with the limited edition first part and the regular edition second part.
What They Say:
Fifteen-year-old Kenshi Masaki has been taken from his home planet, transported to a galaxy far, far away, and captured by a gorgeous princess! This royal beauty quickly claims Kenshi as her personal servant – and lends him out to all the lecherous ladies at her prestigious boarding school.
On the rare occasion Kenshi doesn’t have his hands full with a curvaceous coed, he can be found training for the intergalactic mecha battle royale looming on the horizon. Helping the princess save her planet is Kenshi’s ticket home, but losing means he’ll be stuck scrubbing backs in the interstellar sauna for the rest of his life!
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good as we get both the original Japanese language and the new English dub in 5.1 using the Dolby TrueHD codec. The show is admittedly largely dialogue based and the majority of the action in the smaller doses are across the forward soundstage, but it has some good rear channel action along the way and the heightened use of the bass and general placement and depth along the forward soundstage comes across very well here. There’s often a few people on the screen at any given time and the movement and depth of it works well to create a good area of dialogue combined with the ambient sound effects and more. The show knows when to go big and does so appropriately but it never feels like it’s trying too hard. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing from 2009 to 2010, one episode per month, the thirteen episodes for the series are spread across four discs in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The first collection features the first seven episodes in a five/two split while the second has six episodes in a four/two split, with the smaller episode count discs having all the extras. The show has an average of about 45 minutes per episode and is animated by AIC Spirits and BeSTACK, giving it a rich and fluid feel with a lot of detailed backgrounds. The series has a strong look overall with all of its natural color palette choices here with the earth tones, the greens of the trees and the light blues of the skies. Character animation is nicely detailed and fluid and it’s the kind of show where you can definitely see the money in the project itself and not wonder where it went. The transfer captures the details well, has a pretty solid look about it in general with only a few minor noteworthy moments of noise that stand out in solid color fields and is free of problems like cross coloration and line noise during panning sequences.
The packaging for this release is pretty good overall, though I’m mildly disappointed that it didn’t include the star chart showing its placement within the overall Tenchi universe. The first part has a limited edition release with a heavy chipboard box that has a front cover that features the majority of the main female characters, chests protruding in an obvious way, as they all look to the right slightly. With the white background, it stands out nicely overall. The reverse side does the same thing with a different set of the girls, more of the older women in some cases, with them staring to the left, again with some rather large chests protruding out in a difficult to take serious way. Inside the box we get the Blu-ray keepcase but also the cardboard purple filtered box that has various pieces of artwork. Normally it’s easy to just look and toss this out, but it’s inside this box that we get a small full color booklet with lots of artwork from presumably the Japanese home video releases. The Blu-ray case in the box is a thicker sized one, but not a double, as it holds three DVDs and two Blu-ray discs. The front cover artwork is a nice collage of Kenshi and several of the women in the series while the back cover has some more comical aspects of a few of them. The reverse side has the episode title and number information on the left as well as a lengthy breakdown of the extras. The right panel features another good cover piece with another grouping of the girls together. For the second part, we get the same kind of layout with different artwork for the front cover, and a slipcover that matches it, while the back cover is a traditional piece with a good character collage and a brief summary of the overall premise and the usual technical information and production details. Similar to the first volume, the reverse side does the breakdown on the left while the right offers up another decent character cover piece.
The menu design for this release is really lacking as we basically get a series of clips playing in the background which dominates the screen, but what makes it bad is that it’s all done through a purple filter, making it pretty ugly looking and hard to decipher at times. The logo takes up the majority of each menu with a nod towards which part and disc it is and the navigation strip, which doubles as the pop-up strip, is done in a bright green with white text that just clashes with everything else. It may be easy to navigate and get around in and it may load quickly, but it’s just ugly.
The extras for this release are pretty good overall and we do get a couple of episode commentaries by the English language production team spread throughout the show. The majority of the extras are on the second and fourth discs though. On the second disc, we get some of the familiar things such as the teaser trailers and the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. We get a good behind the scenes short making off with Alchemy+, the group that sang the closing song and how they worked towards it. A brief digest version that runs under ten minutes in length was created for the first three episodes to showcase the series and celebrate its release, which is decent but is just an odd sized recap/enticement piece. A short extra that I wish was given some real time involves a 70 second series of stills from the orchestral recording of the theme music for the series. It’s not too often we get to see the orchestral side, so I had hoped for a bit more than just some stills. We also get the three minute promo video that highlights the PPV release of the first six episodes with how they showcased each episode.
On the fourth disc, in addition to the commentary, we get more of the clean opening and closings, more teasers and web trailers and the other PPV look at the second half of the series when it aired on Sky. Though short, I liked the presale video ads since they’re short and hit up different things. The disc also features a look at the radio broadcast recording for the series that happened as we get an eight minute piece with a couple of the actors talking about everything and the creation of the show itself which is pretty nice to see.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Tenchi Muyo universe of series is something that has long been important to me as the original domestic release on Laserdisc is what got me to buy that player, become interested in DVD when they came about and pursued more than just a standard TV set. Over the years, Tenchi has had a wide variety of series, several of which barely or don’t even feature him but rather let others take center stage, such as the fun of the Sasami spinoffs and the Galaxy Police series, one that has long been a real favorite of mine. One show that came out in early 2009 through PPV that didn’t get much discussion is this one, which is literally translatered as Saga Machine Master Story in the Different World. The show was a special one that has thirteen episodes produced that run for 45 minutes on average and aired once a month for thirteen months on Animax. With a slightly more limited availability and a slow release, it didn’t garner much attention outside of Japan, though there it had a light novel and a couple of manga releases to help build it up.
Titled The War on Geminar for its North American release, the series is certainly a curious beast and even after watching it I find myself in a hard place to really say a lot about it. The connection to the Tenchi-verse is one of the things that will be of most interest to those that haven’t seen it and it’s definitely weak. It’s not made clear in the show, but apparently elsewhere, that the series takes place fifteen years after the Tenchi Muyo GXP series, which is part of the main Ryo-Ohki! continuity that’s been established. From there, young Kenshi Masaki is whisked to this world called Geminar, though we don’t see where he starts and what his actual connection to existing characters is beyond his name, at least for new viewers. With him actually being Tenchi’s half brother from his father’s second marriage, he carries the bloodline forward, but it’s not something that’s really delved into here. In fact, the only reference I can remember to anyone by name was a very brief mention of Washu, but he does make nods towards aunts and family in a very general way, leaving it very open to interpretation.
The series has Kenshi whisked away to this world that’s just about ready to hit a boiling point of issues going on. People have been summoned to the world of Geminar before, we learn, so there’s not much surprise about Kenshi, though they make a nod more towards the idea he’s just from a part of the lands around there that people don’t deal with much, allowing him something of a fish out of water aspect to help him blend in as he deals with more and more people. The world of Geminar is one that has some interesting ideas as it’s set up with several countries we’re introduced to through the younger set that exists as many of the elite go to an academy in the Holy Land, a kind of neutral ground of sorts, where they and others train to become Sacred Mechamasters, so they can manipulate and control large mechanoids that do battle with other nations when the need arises. There’s a lengthy and mysterious history to these machines that does slowly come out and it paints a different picture of the past from the present and how the mechanoids are viewed.
Kenshi’s arrival comes at a time of unrest and he ends up “lucking” into the hands of Princess Lashara, a young woman who will take over for her kingdom someday and is going to the Holy Land and the academy to avoid being assassinated as the show opens with an attempt on her life. Realizing the potential that Kenshi has, and the innocence of him as well, she makes him be her attendant and introduces him to life in the Holy Land. He doesn’t participate as a student, though he learns from the place, but instead becomes something of a workhorse for the academy. It turns out that his otherworldly nature has him being very strong, fast and capable here and his different way of viewing things from this not altogether industrial world allows him to do things that almost come across as magic to others. He wins a lot of respect and admiration along the way from both staff and student and there are some comical moments where he becomes the objection of affection for seemingly every girl in the academy.
While Kenshi is attached to Lashara, it’s interesting in that it doesn’t seem like the two really have a strong bond. Her being three years younger helps, but she also doesn’t dominate the screen and we don’t get the kind of usual Tenchi harem situation going on here, though plenty of women are interested in him along the way. The one that makes the most progress is the kind of surprising on with Princess Aura, a dark elf princess from the Shurifon Kingdom that’s very much a natural type of community that lives in the forest. Kenshi makes some strong impressions on her and the others there as he himself is very naturalistic in his approach to things and it’s there that you see the strongest bonds form, weak as they are, and really feel like there’s some true sort of connection between the two.
The structure of the series is both a positive and a negative as it has lengthier episodes and it spends the time well in building the world, though I feel the characters are very weak for a lot of it. It wasn’t until towards the end of episode six that I finally came around to starting to like Kenshi and felt he had a personality. There’s a lot of whisking about going on, so many different lands and the whole academy aspect and so many different pieces of politics and religious bits coming into it, and the entire Sacred Mechamaster aspect, that there’s a ton to deal with and it ends up superseding actual character growth and exploration rather than being a component of it. The main thrust of the series is the coup attempts that kicks things off with the attempted assassination, but it has a lot of layers to it that come up as it progresses and more and more things are introduced. It is, frankly, the kind of series where after you see it, you can watch it again and then understand and appreciate what it was trying to do. But it’s not a series that as it starts and goes on really draws you in much because there is so much and it’s not laid out in a really accessible way. But after the halfway mark, things do start to come together more and because of Kenshi, it does succeed in a lot of respects. But it’s a very, very hard first half in a lot of ways.
If you make it through the first half and enjoy the second, the show has a lot to offer in terms of replay value as I think you get more out of it with each viewing, and with some additional reading to clear up a few things. This show has a big cast to it and goes in a lot of directions, and parts of it felt more like an El-Hazard series more than a Tenchi series, and it’s one that has some references to the short Photon anime OVA series as well that are long lost on me at this point. The War On Geminar is a beautifully animated piece and I’m very intrigued by the shows that pull the double episode/once a month episode attempt, such as this at Katanagatari, as they try to do something different and those differences can be hard to reconcile when everything else is done in twenty-two minute episodes. I had a lot of trouble with the first half of this series, but the more I watched and as the second half rolled out and more was explained, I got into it more and more. This isn’t the Tenchi spinoff series I suspect anyone expected, or even wanted, but it’s an intriguing look at such an incredibly minor character for what little we saw of Kenshi in the main continuity that I have to applaud the attempt to move the whole thing forward in some way.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentary, A Taste of a Day Recording Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar’s Radio Broadcast, Textless Songs, Sneak Peek Promo, Promotional Videos, Making the Closing Theme “Destino” by Alchemy+, Digest in Commemoration of Sales Release, Stills of Recording the Music for Tenchi Muyo! War on Gemina
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C-
Extras Grade: A
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: May 21st, 2013
MSRP: $69.98 / $64.98
Running Time: 322 / 271 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.