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Ai Tenchi Muyo! Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

Coming on as a 20th-anniversary project, fifty episodes of Tenchi debuts.

What They Say:
Thanks to Washu, the universe has been thrown into chaos and it’s up to Tenchi to clean up the mess. But to do so he’s going undercover as a teacher—at an all-girl’s school! What awaits him beyond the attention of cute girls at this not-so-ordinary school? And will he be able to balance timelines and trouble that come with this latest adventure? Join the harem and the fun in this series of shorts!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub, which did not get a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show plays out in pretty standard form with a lot of dialogue, some decent music moments, and the occasional flashes of action that keep things busy. The design of it is fairly straightforward but with the nature of the episodes being short it doesn’t get to really go big or have the time to really make it work in standout moments. But what we do get is very solid in terms of placement and clarity so that everything is pretty strong throughout. Shorts tend to get the short end of the stick but with a bigger feeling to some of this considering its origins it just feels like it’s being a little constrained.

Video:
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The fifty episodes are kept to a single Blu-ray but get spread across two DVD releases in the set. Clocking in at just under 3 ½ hours, the show has plenty of room to work with here and with a clean look in terms of animation from AIC+, it turns out pretty good. The character designs are bright and colorful with some decent detail to them, the backgrounds avoid looking like they were from a budget show, and there are enough areas where it goes bigger that you can appreciate the quality of the animation – briefly. It’s a good looking show with a solid encoding that will delight fans as it doesn’t feel like it was treated worse for being a short.

My only complaint is that this is a series that practically begged for marathon play with how it was put together.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with a hinge inside to hold two of the three discs and an o-card that replicates the case artwork. The front cover works the familiar key visual of Tenchi surrounded by his new harem of girls with the white background letting their colorfulness stand out, as well as that of the cherry blossom petals. The back cover brings us Tenchi and our favorite ladies together along with some good shots from the show. The summary of the premise covers everything well and it’s clear there are no extras to be had here. The technical side is solid as it lists how both formats are put together and we get a nice bit of artwork on the reverse side that shows off more of the Japanese cover artwork.

Menu:
THe menu design for this release brings us a simple static image that has the main cast together spread out along the length of the screen. With a white background and echoes of the cover itself, it’s a clean and appealing menu with no bells or whistles to it. The navigation is kept simple for the setup and startup of it all but it’s almost comical when you get into the episode selection since it lists all fifty episodes by number and title. Everything works smoothly both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during regular playback.

Extras:
Nothing to see here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally airing in the fall of 2014 with sixty episodes that clock in at four minutes each, Ai Tenchi Muyo has landed here in this set with fifty episodes of material. Where’s the other ten? They’re recap episodes that ran roughly every fifth episode or so. The series when it was broadcast was done with one new episode per day so the whole thing wrapped up in just a few months as part of the fall season. Working as a piece to help celebrate and expand the Tenchi Muyo franchise as part of its 20th-anniversary, it’s the kind of project that works better than I expected but still left me a bit frustrated in the end. Tenchi Muyo was a key property for me when it first came out as I was able to pick up those LaserDiscs that Pioneer releases, giving fans a bilingual release for the first time. It was something that served as a precursor to how the DVD market would change everything when it came to anime.

With this series and its structure what we get is a pretty interesting tale overall but is one that lacks the ability to really bring it together solidly because of the running time. Even when viewed as a marathon session here for a couple of hours the problem exists because of how the story is being told in just under four-minute increments. As with most Tenchi stories, Washu is at the core of the problem as she needs Tenchi to do a little work for her in finding some folks that got stranded thanks to her shenanigans. This is almost kind of a background issue that plays a bit at the beginning to set the stage and then gets dealt with at the end, like you’d expect. The bulk of the journey is just Tenchi in the middle of the situation and coping with what’s thrown at him while trying to keep everything from going crazy.

In this release, Tenchi is twenty-two and thanks to the mission ends up attending an all-girls school as a student teacher. I’m hard-pressed to say there are any other guys in the series outside of some minor Galaxy Police types toward the end so it’s harem business as usual. Tenchi ends up spending his time at the school trying to figure out what’s going on and he gets some assistance from time to time from the usual gang with Ryoko and Ayeka doing the most while Sasami has some cute moments and Mihoshi is barely there. Ryo-ohki? Nope, nope, nope. So, in a way, the show kind of fails from there alone for some. That said, Tenchi’s dynamic with the familiar group is fun when they’re together and it avoids really overdoing the craziness that can happen since it’s just a few minutes per episode.

With the familiar cast largely put to the backburner, the show focuses heavily on the new cast, which includes Momo as the student council president that has a dark secret that will be unearthed and is the focus of the series. We get a couple with her on the council that keeps some variety to events and are balanced out by the wackiness of the science club, which is primarily Yuki and Rui through Kinojo also becomes involved in that as their bodyguard. There are a lot of inter-character dynamics at play within the school setting with competing interests and all but these are all very short-term events, like the episode length itself, but build nicely into the larger story as more is revealed and the friendships form up as the school year goes on.

At its core fundamentals, we do largely have a standard school harem comedy of sorts going on here. There are a couple of episodes on the culture festival and the sports festival and even some time for Tenchi to dress up in a dress to participate in a beauty contest while stealing the show. There’s lots of simple school interactions that go on with the way the science club causes trouble and various characters try to make their move with Tenchi himself. And it all gets some added juice with characters like Ryoko making greater plays for time as the series progresses and she unites a number of other characters against her. It’s not exactly a by the numbers thing in a way but it’s an interesting use of the short-form storytelling style knowing you’ve got fifty episodes, a good budget, and that episodes were played daily so that you could binge four of them on the weekend and have a good time with it.

In Summary:
I had no idea what to expect going into Ai Tenchi Muyo since it’s been a few years since it first came out and the focus at that time was on all the new characters, which felt like it just didn’t get what the core fans wanted. I do like that it nudges Tenchi up a few years and that it doesn’t excise the core cast completely, so we get a good mix of new and old. But part of me just really wants to see something new with forward progress for the core cast and something bigger than this. It works well with being a short-form show with low stakes and a nice overall storyline, but I want to see a real rousing adventure ala Tenchi GXP for the core group with all kinds of craziness. We get tastes of that here and there with this series. Funimation’s release is very basic but I’m glad they got a good dub for it and a great looking encode to give fans a chance to watch something new in the Tenchi-verse.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: July 10th, 2018
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 200 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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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