Tenchi Muyo! was one of the first anime series that I was afforded the opportunity to watch. Since then I have to admit that I take some small amount of pleasure in knowing that the rest of the otaku world fell in love just like I did. The franchise has spawned several series, movies, and OVA. It can be quite daunting to keep track of it all though I must say that when FUNimation released Tenchi Muyo! Ryo Ohki it was the first time I saw anything of it.
If you're a Tenchi fan and find yourself in the same boat as I am then you basically just need to know that Ryo Ohki is a continuation of the original Tenchi Muyo! OVA series that was released in the early 90's. The characters are inherently the same and though the original creative forces didn't have their hand in this 2003 sequel, it's safe to say that a lot of the same Tenchi tone has been kept in place. Ryoko and Ayeka still bicker, Washu is still the omnipotent scientific mastermind, Ryo Ohki keeps on eating carrots, and in between it all poor little Tenchi Misaki is left to deal with the insanity.
I do realize that considering the original Tenchi Muyo! was released over ten years ago there is a pretty good chance that several people familiar with the franchise may have never seen it. You may be aware that there are many continuities such as Tenchi Universe, GXP, and Tenchi in Tokyo. In between each of those there are some differences but since Ryo Ohki brings us back to the original I suppose it's only fair to discuss events as they pertain to this series.
In the original Tenchi Muyo! 13 episode OVA (which was broken up into two series by the way) Tenchi was living a carefree life at his grandfather's shrine. One day he stumbles upon a devilish woman named Ryoko who was sealed away on Misaki property. Once that happened all hell broke loose. A space princess named Ayeka came to capture Ryoko, a super dimensional genius named Washu sprung up, Ayeka's sister arrived, a space cadet known as Mihoshi stopped by, and with all of these beautiful women around Tenchi's father displayed his lecherous tendencies. It's safe to say, without giving many details away, that the original Tenchi Muyo! storyline was harem anime at its best. Tenchi was an everyman and the seemingly unsuspecting guy trapped in the middle of beauties that were warring to be at his side and invariably caused much grief in his life. To put it another way it was comedy gold.
As the third leg of the Muyo! saga begins Tenchi takes a moment to wander down memory lane. We are treated to some flashbacks that help set the mood and refresh our memories about the series, characters, and relationships. Once things get under way here the familiar Tenchi pattern hits us square in the face with another new character.
It would appear that Tenchi's older sister has come all the way from Jurai to announce that the future Mrs. Misaki is on her way. I'm sure if you're familiar with the characters of this series in any way then you already know how they would respond to that news. When Noike (Tenchi's betrothed) arrives on the scene it's obvious right from the start that she's the total opposite of Ayeka and Ryoko. She shakes things up and puts a viable threat out on the table as an object for Tenchi's affections.
As you watching more of these seven episodes you'll begin to notice a pattern develop. While Ryo Ohki is an extension of the original Tenchi Muyo! and it's supposed to wrap things up for the series; it actually does the opposite. It spends most of the time ignoring the main characters and brings new ones in on a whim. Characters like Noike for instance or Mihoshi's brother add very little to the series as a whole despite supplying some entertaining moments. This show should have been, in my opinion, an appropriate send-off for diehard fans. Sadly it's anything but.
Despite this fact it's hard to deny that the Tenchi formula is strongly in play here. The character exposition and random insanity will receive many chuckles from the audience. The show also takes the time to bring Zero in as a villain and display some of that Tenchi fighting action we all know and love. Juraian power, the Light Hawk Sword, and all of those magical bits in between are every bit as fun now as they ever were. Sadly, in the end it's just not nearly enough to be quite as successful as the first go around.
As the dust settles some questions get answered but many things are left unsaid as far as the fate of Tenchi and company are concerned. Sure the GXP series takes place within the same continuity but there would have been something satisfying about having a definitive ending here. Overall, if you were a fan of Tenchi Muyo! and you still harbor fond memories of the series you'll want to give this one a spin. It's like the original "just enough" to be worth your while despite the fact that it's only seven episodes long. Don't come expecting defining moments in the Tenchi franchise and you won't be too disappointed.
With the much more recent production of Ryo Ohki is a noticeable improvement over the original Tenchi Muyo! series. The show is still presented with a full frame aspect ratio but the artwork seems somehow more refined, the animation is stronger, and the video quality is decidedly better. During the seven episodes here there was very little in the way of grain to complain about, aliasing was nonexistent, and I suppose the only flaw to nitpick would be a slight amount of blocking that crops up in the darker areas of the picture. Overall this is a very solid looking addition to the Tenchi franchise.
As is the cast with most all anime produced within the past few years this DVD comes with 2.0 tracks for English and Japanese. The English language also receives a 5.1 selection that features a slightly better sense of immersion but skimps on the impact that it should have delivered. The dubbing quality is fine for both languages though the English cast is noticeably not the same compared to the original. All around the sound here is fine but I do have to admit that I wasn't blown away by it.
Throughout the three discs in this collection you'll find a smattering of bonus material. There are some lighter things like character profiles, studio trailers, Japanese TV spots, and a music video. Some more impressive fare comes in the form of "The Real Tenchi Tour" which features some of the people involved with the creation of the show's music visiting locations that inspired sections of the show. It's interesting because it gives something in the way of insight into the thought process of the series but limited in the amount of information it actually dishes out.
The third disc in the set includes the lengthiest supplemental bits. The first is a forty minute "Live Action Special" which features a couple of voice actors talking about the series and franchise. They fill in some of the gaps in continuity and generally talk about their impressions of the show. Overall there was nothing here that you couldn't lean by watching the series yourself and it wasn't "that" informative. The other feature on this disc is a thirty minute radio drama and if you appreciate those kinds of things you'll most likely dig this. I personally don't get excited about them but to each their own I suppose.
As a fan of Tenchi Muyo! it was nice to revisit the series with Ryo Ohki. These characters feel like old friends and their antics almost always tickle the funny bone. These episodes unfortunately feel unbalanced as more characters are introduced and the story is not very cohesive. This is more of a fitting "continuation" rather than a "conclusion", but it's one that fans should endeavor to check out regardless. It's Tenchi at its core and that's definitely a good thing. Recommended
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