"Looks like we have another pretty lady in our household. You should be happy, Tenchi."—Grandpa
Like many successful anime series, Tenchi Muyo! has several incarnations with alternate timelines. This proliferation can confuse newcomers to the franchise, who may need to visit websites such as DVD Verdict just to figure out what is going on.
This DVD is the first in the Tenchi Universe collection. Tenchi Universe, AKA Tenchi Muyo TV, is a neutered version of the popular Tenchi Muyo! OVA. I recently reviewed the first DVD in the Tenchi Muyo! OVA collection, so the differences are fresh in my mind. The contrast between the two is not kind to Tenchi Universe, I'm afraid, as Tenchi Universe is inferior to Tenchi Muyo! in every way.
Facts of the Case
The basic plot is this: a bevy of comely women fall from outer space and land in Tenchi's backyard. They all get crushes on Tenchi, a studious and handsome youth. The attention flusters Tenchi, but pleases his father and grandfather to no end.
In this version, the ladies are Ryoko the space pirate, Princesses Ayeka and Sasami, and Galaxy Police Officer Mihoshi. The gang eventually awakens Washu, an insane scientific genius. The ladies tend to bicker, and Tenchi is usually caught in the middle. Can Tenchi get through this pheromone-fest unscathed?
In a nutshell, everything I found provocative, humorous, or clever about Tenchi Muyo! has been removed from Tenchi Universe. I'm glad I saw Tenchi Muyo! first, because this series isn't making much of an impression.
One thing is immediately evident: the video quality is bad. The image is highly pixelated, there is twitter all over the place, the transfer is soft, and there are nicks and dust in the print. Colors are unevenly saturated—nothing is crisp. The animation matches the transfer quality. Tenchi Universe employs inert imagery in place of movement. Where Tenchi Muyo! is fluid and dynamic, Tenchi Universe is static and plodding.
Tenchi Universe has a vapid but peppy '80s pop soundtrack that is mostly forgettable. It goes well with the "I'm trying out to be an MTV music video extra" look the gals are wearing. The Japanese voice actors aren't particularly impressive, but they are totally better than the cheesy American dudes.
Here is the plot: Ryoko from the sky and meets Tenchi. She falls for him. Tenchi's father makes small talk laced with sexual innuendo before inviting her to stay. Grandfather nods solemnly. Another foxy space chick falls from the sky and meets Tenchi. She falls for him. Ryoko makes trouble for her. Tenchi's father makes small talk laced with sexual innuendo before inviting her to stay. Grandfather nods solemnly. Another foxy space chick falls from the sky and meets Tenchi. She falls for him. Ryoko makes trouble for her. Tenchi's father makes small talk laced with sexual innuendo before inviting her to stay. Grandfather nods solemnly. They all wake up the foxy space chick who fell from the sky 700 years ago and was imprisoned. She makes trouble for everybody. She falls for Tenchi. Tenchi's father makes small talk laced with sexual innuendo before inviting her to stay. Grandfather nods solemnly.
I did summon weak laughter a few times while watching Tenchi Universe, so it isn't devoid of any entertainment value. It just doesn't sizzle. Mostly, I missed the exactly-the-same-yet-infinitely-better counterparts in Tenchi Muyo! Ryouko (the sleeping demon) really gave Ayeka hell in Tenchi Muyo! and Ayeka's little sister was spirited and restless. Tenchi was granted more skill and a noble lineage. Everything made sense. Everything was edgier and more dramatic. It is a hard contrast to go from that to this rather one-dimensional program.
One area of inarguable improvement is the extras. Tenchi Muyo! had none. Tenchi Universe provides standard-but-somewhat-pointless clean credits and character sketches. It also throws in a worthwhile extra: character descriptions. This kind of extra is always welcome, where the character backgrounds and motivations are spelled out. Anime can be hard to follow at times, and extras such as this help solidify the main players in your mind.
Variations of anime series usually have different target audiences, which tends to divide fans. Put me in the camp that finds Tenchi Universe a pale imitation of Tenchi Muyo! I miss the sexual antics, convoluted plot twists, thrill of danger, and the sense of enmity that peppered the original. Tenchi Universe isn't really bad, but it isn't noticeably good either. A dated '80s feel (incidentally, why? this thing was made in the '90s, after all) doesn't win it any friends, and the stripped-down plot is repetitive. Get out your hammer, because the technically flawed transfer is the final nail in the coffin.
The court finds Tenchi Universe guilty of identity theft.
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