Tenchi Universe (Tenchi Muyo! TV)

May 4, 2008 on 5:58 pm | In Tenchi Muyo! | Comments Off on Tenchi Universe (Tenchi Muyo! TV)

Because everyone wants a pet spaceship.

It’s Conflicting Views Theatre! On the one hand, Tenchi Universe is way too long and largely pointless, with some good story episodes; on another hand it was pretty charming and honestly, what could you cut out of it? I really don’t know. I probably own one of the last copies sold in the Northern Hemisphere (barring Japan, of course, which I think you’ll find actually exists in a continuity separate from our own), so getting it is largely a moot point until, say, Funimation picks the rights from the corpse of Geneon.

Tenchi lives with his father and grandfather on a huge plot of land with a Shinto temple atop it. One fateful day, a space ship crashes to Earth – aboard it the famed space pirate Ryoko! She is being chased by the incompetent Galaxy Police officer Mihoshi. When that’s all sorted out, both of them decide to stay, and then they’re joined by the usual crew of Tenchi cohorts: Ayeka, princess of Jurai, her younger sister Sasami, genius inventor Washu and Mihoshi’s partner, Kiyone. Around the halfway point, the crew ascends into space and kind of begin their adventures to a degree!

I’ll explain the pacing of this series to you. I had thought that it would be slightly more credible than the first OVA, which used four of its six episodes to introduce its characters – but I was a bit wrong! The first five episodes introduce the characters (Kiyone wasn’t in the OVA, so she gets her own introductory episode), the next three episodes feature antics of varying amusements, then there’s an episode which hints at mystery that’s not followed up on until a million years later, then an occasionally recurring character is introduced for good measure.

Then, get this (I didn’t), they spend three “special” episodes doing genre pieces because Washu has built a machine that affects the fabric of the universe. This might have been okay if the stories that were presented had visible endings, but they actually just kinda … stopped. Somehow at the end, despite the characters acting as their character of the piece (for instance, a bar owner, or a feudal lord, or a gangster), they remember everything they did in every continuum. It’s enough to make me scratch my head, although I can thank one of these “Adventures in Time and Space” episodes for the introduction of Pretty Sammy, who is still the best part of any Tenchi ever (and her transformation incantation involves the line “Sammy Davis Broiler Chicken!”, so she has to be great).

Then episode fourteen, they go into space! Sweet, right? Almost. Eight of these episodes are about the story, and they’re pretty good, and the other five just kind of fill in the time (I am really loath to use the word “filler” – I remember when I campaigned against the word, and you probably remember that that’s a lie). The revelations of the second half are very easy to see if you’ve seen the first OVA, because the fundaments of the story are exactly the same. I won’t go into spoiling them here.

The big complaint that I have read about Tenchi and its related series for years is that they’ve never finished any of it. While that is true of the originating OVA, despite its fourteen-years-later follow up, Tenchi Universe completes the story that it presents. I realise now that what people were complaining about is that it never resolves the Ryoko-Tenchi-Ayeka triangle. Well, who the eff cares about that? It’s not like it’s well developed or something that anyone needs to worry about: Tenchi Universe, for instance, is almost entirely lacking in romance. Fighting over Tenchi is just a small source of the series’ comedy.

The characters in this series are fun, and Kiyone gets to shine as the captain of their space expedition and as the only woman who can work in such close proximity to Mihoshi without dying a thousand horrible deaths. Surprisingly, the characters aren’t really written in broad strokes – a lot of the time it feels as if they’re hardly written at all. I mean, with the balance of the second half, the plot is all about travelling to point B. In the meantime not a lot is achieved and everyone seems to just service whatever’s happening. Now I’m making it sound like a totally negative thing but it’s really not, it’s just that maybe the show is a little too paradoxically simultaneously stilted and organic for such an artificial premise – and there’s really way too little of the Katsuhito and Nobuhito team. I’ll give the show this: on the occasions when it does give us the actual story, it actually is quite compelling, and the ending is very nice indeed, one of those sweet adventures.

The DVDs are just repackaged versions of the 2000 DVD release (depressingly issued in June 2007, which really shows just how recent the death of Geneon was), and that was a darker age for anime on DVD indeed. The subtitles are frequently awful, with completely unnecessary overtranslation. Part of the reason that the show feels like its missing something is because the translation is totally untrustworthy. I always feel lame complaining about translations but “Ryoko! Ryoko!” does not translate to “Ryoko, you’ll be all right”, nor does “bakayaro” translate to “You fool, good luck.”
The chaptering system is also among the daftest I’ve ever seen, with the first chapter for each episode encapsulating the OP and the bit of the show before the episode title. That means that, if you skip the OP, you have to rewind anywhere between thirty seconds and three minutes so as not to miss any of the actual content. I have to wonder how many people have been confused by Tenchi Universe these past eight years because they didn’t know that they’d missed the start of the episode (which sometimes is throwaway but more often is actually the seed of that particular show’s plot).
Next time this is available, it will probably be reauthored and retranslated. I doubt I’d rebuy it (and I didn’t pay that much for it, honest), but I’d like to imagine that these problems will be solved for future generations who wish to experiment in Tenchi town.

Tenchi Universe is nice, but there’s probably too much of it and it really illustrates how much of a sham it was that they used to sell 26 episode series on eight DVDs and expect you to pay $30 each for them. I know that that is still done to a degree but there is always, inevitably, the option of a thinpak on the horizon. I liked it but I’m not convinced that it ever quite fired on every cylinder necessary for optimum enjoyment.

No Comments yet

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress with Pool theme design by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS. ^Top^