Tenchi Universe vol. 2

TenchiMuyoUniverse2coverThe opening of Tenchi Universe speaks to me in ways that an essentially typical piece of animation should not. It really isn’t any big deal – simply placing the characters in a normal setting, throwing the camera around them (in a sense), and making everything look pretty. But for Tenchi Universe it really works. Maybe it’s the fast-paced editing or the energy of the lovesick song (which, dubbed, sounds real good) that plays over it. The song seems to encapsulate in that one minute all the fun of this Tenchi series, and even highlights the pathos that’s inherent in the overall situation. I find myself watching it every time I watch each episode, not skipping by it like I do with most openings. It just works perfectly.

After several delays, both related to disc problems and distribution issues, the second DVD of the Tenchi Universe TV series is in my hot little DVD player. Does it pass muster? Well, video and sound are up to the usual Pioneer snuff, with quality high in both areas. There’s occasional line shimmering, like we saw on the first disc, but nothing I found distracting from the overall experience of the show. The animation also continues in fine fashion, with above-average TV quality that seems to be standard for A.I.C. Pioneer is really the most solid publisher of anime DVDs out there, IMHO, almost always worth the most pence spent.

Of course, ordering their anime DVDs as soon as they arrive is a strain on my pocketbook and credit cards (eesh), but it has given me a bonus beyond the tangible, raising me to ecstatic heights… Oh, what could I be talking about? FINGER PUPPETS! The first printing of the Tenchi Universe DVDs comes with lil’ finger puppets, and, dammit, they make the whole purchase worthwhile. I love thee, finger puppet, let me count the ways. I haven’t actually cut them out yet, but I anticipate the moment.

Ahem, but as for the DVD. I think that the episodes on this disc are what would be referred to as ‘filler’ – parts of a TV show that don’t propel the overall story arc, but instead fill out the show. Now, fearless reader, I’m sure you know what filler is and don’t need some smart-mouth reviewer to tell you, thank you very much. Well, I’m defining it here more for my own edification, because it’s always struck me as a weird way of characterizing these episodes. Frankly, the parts of Tenchi‘s OAV series that really work for me are the episodes that would fit under this definition of ‘filler.’ While the same isn’t necessarily true for Tenchi Universe, I in fact do enjoy the episodes on this disc a great deal.

For the first part, it introduces Kiyone, one of the most interesting girls in Tenchi’s sphere. What’s best about Kiyone is that she is the least willing in the circle of friends to be anywhere near earth, she doesn’t seem to give a lick about Tenchi, and she wants the hell away from Mihoshi. She injects a healthy bit of self-reflexivity into “No Need For Partners” where she neatly summarizes the absurdity of their entire situation. The disc’s second episode, “No Need For Resident Officers,” does much the same, but it is subtler in its contrasting Kiyone’s hard reality with the odd and narcissistic lifestyle of some of Tenchi’s lodgers, particularly Ryoko and Aeka. Sure, these may not move the story forward, but they comment on Tenchi’s situation with insight and wit.

“No Need for a Carnival” definitely fits under the umbrella of filler, OK, but it is so damned entertaining that I really can’t be brought to care. Its silliness and sheer lack of pretense make it a winner in my book. As a whole, the episodes on this second DVD are an improvement over the first because they do fairly effortlessly what is a pretty difficult thing – they question themselves without taking themselves too seriously. In lieu of a plot, the episodes here have good-natured self-examination, and they never stretch the characters beyond their bounds, nor do they forget to be entertaining.

Rating: A-

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com