Tenchi Universe vol. 1

TenchiMuyoUniverse1coverPrevious to the arrival of this DVD, the third incarnation of the popular Tenchi Muyo series to get the shiny disc treatment, I must admit that I was a total Tenchi virgin. Sure, I’d seen pictures of the various ladies on innumerable web pages, but the show was one of the ones I’d managed to totally miss in my anime fandom hiatus. So, what impression did I garner from viewing the first few episodes of the first Tenchi TV series?

Well, damn it, I liked it. There’s a good nature present in the show that really appeals to me, and the focus on relationship trials, as opposed to silly space battles and massive bolts of lights firing from protagonists’ hands at each other (that’s what we have the OAV’s for ;p), tends to make the show inherently more interesting. Conflicts arise from clashes of character more often than from artificial plot devices. That is, until Washu the walking plot device enters the fray. But, hey, we haven’t got there yet.

Tenchi Universe is the lament of poor Tenchi Masaki, a decent and hard-working (which to many folks’ minds reads as dull) Japanese kid who through a silly concatenation of circumstances ends up living with a gaggle of attractive young women, at least two of whom are inexplicably, madly in love with him. One of the smarter changes from the OAV series is the limiting of amorous intentions to just Ayeka and Ryoko, giving the show a better sense of focus at least on the relationship level.

The four episodes present on this disc are mainly concerned with introducing the major characters and finding minor adventures to busy them with. With a show like this, I personally find that the episodic nature definitely works in its favor. It allows the show to develop each of the characters without saddling them with a story arc that, at this point, would just get in the way.

The various Tenchi Muyo English redubs are regarded by many as some of the best in the business. At first listen, I actually found the English redub a bit grating, especially the extremely cartoony portrayal of Nobuyuki, but as the series wore on I found that the actors were hitting their marks more often than not, particularly the three components of the show’s love triangle. Petrea Burchard’s Ryoko has the perfect nonplussed attitude, while Jennifer Darling’s Ayeka maintains a prim and proper sense of decorum, always threatening to give way to petulance and self-service. These are two spot-on performances that really help to buoy the show, at least for the English redub viewer.

My first encounter with Tenchi Muyo is a pleasant one, then. The show succeeds for me because its reach never exceeds its grasp. Each episode isn’t filled with portent, but instead is allowed to stand on its own and contribute individually to the Tenchi mythos. The characters are smart without being cynical (Mihoshi being an annoying exception on occasion) and the situations comical without being too ridiculously over the top or slapstick. Watching the whole series on Cartoon Network has made me appreciate the show even more. I haven’t seen all of Tenchi‘s incarnations, but something tells me this just may be my favorite.
Rating: B+

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com