Tenchi Muyo! OVA Collection Collector’s Edition (Cert 15)
5 Discs DVD / 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 443 minutes approx.
For fans of a certain vintage Tenchi Muyo! is one of those shows that helped define anime for them, being as it is the granddaddy of the harm comedy genre. Originally a series of OVAs beginning in 1992, the Tenchi Muyo! Universe grew to include anime TV shows, films, manga and so on. MVM has brought Tenchi Muyo! back to the UK for the 21st century with this first time ever Blu-ray release of the original OVAs.
Containing the first two OVA series of thirteen episodes, entitled Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki this set takes us right back to the beginning of the saga, introducing us to the titular protagonist Tenchi Masaki, an average 17 year-old boy living with his grandfather in their shrine. Always curious about a cave that was off limits to him, Tenchi one day manages to steal the keys to find out what is being kept from him.
He finds a supposedly all-powerful sword which is made of wood and shatters the moment he uses it. Panicking Tenchi runs off with the handle and plans to fix the sword, unaware that he has in fact just awakened the space pirate Ryoko from her enforced 700-year slumber. Ryoko causes mayhem around town but is defeated when Tenchi somehow manages to use the sword’s real power, and this inexplicably makes Ryoko decide Tenchi is cute and moves in with him.
Shortly after a spacecraft carrying noblewoman Ayeka Masaki Jurai and her younger sister, Sasami arrives on earth, in search of Ayeka’s elder half-brother Yosho. Ayeka too falls for Tenchi and moves into the shrine. Ditzy and incompetent Galaxy Police officer Mihoshi Kuramitsu literally crash lands into the middle of this set-up, followed by scientist Dr. Washu, who created Ryoko. And the eponymous Ryo-Ohki is a cat-rabbit hybrid called a Cabbit that can turn into a space ship!
Don’t expect any explanations or rationale behind anything that happens in this series because there are none – just accept it and move on. I don’t know if creator Masaki Kajishima was being deliberately evasive in this area or just felt that with time against him, such relevant exposition would slow things down, but the viewer is asked to suspend their disbelief and thirst for logic from the highest mountain peak.
Perhaps the most baffling of occurrences is the chick magnet appeal of Tenchi, who is hardly a stud physically – he even has a rat tail haircut (ask your parents), which is very 90’s – and any power he gains is accidental. He does care about people and is the first to mount a rescue operation but noble intentions don’t always equate to alluring pheromones to the opposite gender.
Ryoko seems to take to Tenchi when he awakens the sword and is the most open about her lust for him – including walking around naked in front of him. Ayeka learns that she and Tenchi are distantly related through Tenchi’s grandfather – another revelation that makes no sense – so that is good enough for her. Sasami is too young and just sees Tenchi as an older brother while Washu also finds his power attractive. Mihoshi probably isn’t even aware she fancies Tenchi, she is that dense.
When not fighting over each other or indulging in the usual domestic scrapes and frolics this peculiar living arrangement incurs, the occasional interloper from outer space descends on the earth to start some trouble. The power of Tenchi’s sword is usually the main cause, galvanising his lovestruck harem to rescue him, or in one case, Ryoko is cloned by the devious Dr. Clay to kidnap his arch enemy, Washu.
These mini-arcs tend to take up two episodes maximum and provide the only sequential narratives in this collection, allowing the remainder of the time to focus on the silly stuff, and does it ever get silly. Animation techniques and storytelling in anime have come a long way in 25 years but the humour seems to have ignored temptations to progress, delivering a lot of the same bawdy gags then that we get today from the harem genre.
But, when a show like Tenchi Muyo! can lay claim to being one of the originators of the genre then we can cut them some slack. However therein lies the caveat for modern anime fans discovering this show for the first time – they’ve seen it all before only with better visuals and ruder girls so where is the appeal?
Maybe it requires a sense of nostalgia to enjoy this show properly or perhaps respect for classic an vintage anime to appreciate it but once the viewer becomes acclimatised to the rough edged cell drawn animation and dusty, prime coloured aesthetic, this personable rag tag bunch of miscreants provides a healthy dose of anarchic, tawdry, zany and above all amusingly mindless entertainment.
Kajishima seems to have a prolific mind capable of throwing out idea after idea and perhaps the long series run would have held him in better stead in bringing them together in less of a rush, yet he is able to let each character have a moment in the spotlight to either tell their story or share a secret or two for that emotional connection.
The last two discs in this set include a special one off episode Mihoshi Special, which is a nice homage to a number of influences from both anime and western cinema, and Tenchi Encyclopaedia V.3, an interactive visual guide to everything related to the franchise. I’m sure this will answer any burning questions you may have about the series, but then again…
When discussing the most influential and classic anime, Tenchi Muyo! is a title that seems to slip by the wayside whilst the more familiar names take centre stage. Perhaps this remastered Blu-ray release will reach a new audience in the same way Dragonball Z did a few years back.
It may be terribly retro and completely barking, but it is still refreshingly good fun!
Discs 1, 2 & 3:
Rating – *** ½
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