Background: Tenchi is one of the best known characters in anime as an example of a "harem" show. Tenchi is a hapless average guy that isn't particularly bright, gifted in any way, or outstanding yet through circumstances of fate, he ends up with a bunch of interstellar babes fighting over him. If that's not the stuff of fantasies appealing to young males everywhere, nothing else is either. In any case, as is common in anime, the Tenchi "Universe" has multiple alternate realities as a marketing ploy to sell the characters repeatedly in slightly different circumstances; generally showing that a whole world beyond Earth is out there waiting for those of us that want to fulfill our destiny. There have been a few decent spin-offs from this universe but one that recently caught my eye was Tenchi Muyo!: GXP: Galaxy Police Transporter: The Viridian Collection from FUNimation; the best anime company in Texas. I hadn't seen the individual volumes when they came out but I heard good things about them so this full series boxed set struck me as a great way to acquaint myself with the show that came out awhile back. Here's a quick take with minimal spoilers but enough to give you a head's up of what you can expect.
Series: Tenchi Muyo!: GXP would lead most people to think the story was about Tenchi by the title alone but that was one of the quirks I soon found to be untrue when I started watching the episodes recently. The series actually focuses on a teenager named Seina Yamada, a high school student that lives near Tenchi in a small rural area in Japan. Seina is much like Tenchi in terms of his social status and general demeanor but he has one crucial difference in terms of his luck; it's overwhelmingly bad and on a galactic scale, it results in all sorts of mischief. Even knowing how everything he touches will fall apart, Seina goes about life without worrying from day to day or minute to minute like most in his situation would do; instead, he does whatever he is going to do and suffers the consequences. For example, he knows that taking a shortcut while riding his bike will lead to disaster yet he goes forward with the shortcut and usually ends in a pile of trees needing to be bandaged up. Everyone in the village knows about him and think he's a good kid but they also know that whatever curse he's carrying is beyond approach too.
That's why one day while riding his bike, he is nearly killed when a spaceship crash lands. He wakes up in the arms of a beautiful young lady named Amane who is dressed in an official looking uniform. Like most women, she takes a liking to him and hands him a mysterious form that he can't read; the form showing signs of an advanced civilization. He doesn't pay much attention to it but when pressed by his family to fill it out (it looks like a sweepstakes form to them), he tries to resist until his mother and sister gang up on him; even forcing him to put his thumbprint on it against his will. Needless to say, when he wakes up aboard a spaceship, his whole world goes crazy. He denies it but the form was an application for the Galaxy Police Academy and when asked, the crew shows him a video of his family joyfully sending him off with their permission. While not entirely comfortable with the situation, he thinks maybe this will help him change his luck for the better and make something off himself so he agrees to go. Given his luck however, the ship transporting Seina is soon attacked by a huge fleet of pirate ships and their use of him as a random factor in their quest to evade capture goes horribly awry so it looks like his short lived career will be cut even shorter until one of the most powerful royal ships in the galaxy intervenes. Led by Lady Seto of the Jurian Royal Family, the cavalry manages to catch all of the pirates; earning Seina the dubious distinction of being a major hero in her eyes and being hated by the pirates. She supports Seina's commission in the Galaxy Police against the general rules that would have eventually prohibited him application and the rest of the series follows through on what happens after that.
Seina's life starts off kind of hard as he is not liked by one of his instructors, Seiryo Tennan, another nobleman from Jurai that thinks of Earthlings as inferior. This is due to an encounter with Tenchi that left Seiryo beaten and disgraced so this prejudice comes into play as he runs the lad ragged at the Academy. Adding insult to injury, Seiryo has the hots for one of Seina's growing harem and he makes it his mission to get rid of his competition (as he sees Seina). Along the way, Seina also encounters the love of his life, Kiriko Masaki, who he thought was just his childhood friend but was also a valued member of the GXP; her role as his protector complicated further now that he is among the stars. She is also very affectionate towards him but they don't readily acknowledge it for the awkwardness of young love, his growing legion of ladies all vying for his affection making it even more difficult to handle. That brings Amane back into the picture as she ends up working at the Academy too; soon finding herself embroiled in chasing Seina along with many others.
Seina meets other ladies along the way like lion-faced Erma, space pirate Ryoko Balta, Neju, and others that all become smitten with him for some reason or another. This elevates his status with some of his fellow cadets who like hanging around him just so they can see the eye candy he brings forth. As Seina continues his adventures, it becomes apparent to more than just Lady Seto that his luck may come in handy for the Galaxy Police so the head of the organization, his principle, and even some of the lady pirates he meets look out for him. The resulting chaos pushes Seina higher up the chain of command to hilarious results, making him Captain of a small ship to act as pirate bait. Time and again his luck draws them out to be captured, resulting in pirates like Tarant Shank gunning for him (losing each time, with a part of his body during each encounter at that) and a few layers of intrigue tossed in for good effect. Throughout it all, Seina remains a kind hearted individual and while he's not above juvenile mischief (such as violating curfew or watching videos of the ladies undressing thanks to his robot pal NB, who, thanks to Amane, is as horned up as a male personality can be), he believes in what he is doing and pushes forth despite his bad luck just as he had learned to do on Earth.
The result of this is that Seina is wildly successful and through twists and turns, is rewarded handsomely even finding himself about to be married into royalty. There is a whole lot more to the series than that but essentially, if you like the general principles of Tenchi's plights, you will easily identify with the slapstick humor and situational comedy of the series, complete with the heaps of sexual innuendos and double entendres played up even more than the parent series had done. I liked it a whole lot so I rated the value priced set as Highly Recommended though your mileage may well vary depending on how much you care for harem videos to begin with. Here's a list of the episodes for those that care to know what they were:
1) Sieze the Day
3) The Devil Princess of Jurai
4) True Love, Truly Painful
5) Seeing is Believing
6) First Tests
7) Moving In
8) Meet the Parents
9) A Stormy Voyage
11) First Paychecks
12) The Vengeful and the Wounded
13) Old Reveals and New Deals
14) Neju Who?
15) Runaway Fuku
17) Getting Reacquainted
18) The Price of Fortune
19) Seiryo Attacks
20) Beware the Unko!
26) Final Engagement
Picture: Tenchi Muyo!: GXP was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as the series was shot by director Shinichi Watanabe for broadcast on national television in Japan. The show was one of the colorful types without a lot of drab contrasts (some call this a "cartoony look") and the animation frame rate was limited in most cases with the fluidity of the characters on the low end. Still, it looked in line with the other Tenchi Universe shows in most ways so fans of those will feel right at home watching (and, more importantly, enjoying) these episodes. I didn't see a lot of compression artifacts and the fact that the disc count totaled 8 full discs, I never expected that to be a problem with three episodes on most discs. The blacks were reasonably close to being accurate and the lines were solid on the drawing, almost making me want another series to continue the adventures of the hapless Seina even though there really wasn't much more he could do after his misadventures in the GXP series.
Sound: The audio was presented in the usual offerings; the 2.0 Dolby Digital original Japanese soundtrack (as well as an English language version you won't care about in 2.0) and the enhanced 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English dub commissioned by FUNimation. While I enjoyed the Japanese track using the optional English language subtitles, I'd be misleading you if I said it stood up to the dub this time. The voice actors on both tracks did a decent job with the characters in almost all the cases (even staying true to form when I'd have gone a different route) but in terms of the score and special audio effects, the dub had more clarity and the bass was noticeably higher with a tightness to it that helped in the larger scale fight scenes and space battles. The separation was never truly used to full effect on either track, the rear channels remaining largely silent, but you can't go wrong with either track so fans of dubs and those into the original tracks will each be able to claim a victory here thanks to FUNimation's efforts.
Extras: Unlike many series being released by other anime companies in value packed sets, this one appeared to have all the same extras included on the discs, the discs themselves offered up in an accordion style booklet package holder complete with cardboard sleeve. The majority of discs had some character profiles that varied by disc, trailers, as well as clean openings and endings. I know this isn't much but at least they kept the extras in the set rather than falsely claim they were saving money and space as other companies do.
Final Thoughts: Tenchi Muyo!: GXP was a whole lot of fun and reminded me a lot of the original OVA for Tenchi I picked up years ago when DVD was not nearly as inundated with anime or even movies for that matter. Seina Yamada had a similar spirit as Tenchi along with the admittedly gimmicky bad luck but the nods to the original (Tenchi and company made a guest appearance mid way through the series too), the light sexual overtones, and the fun factor all made this one a winner in my book. It wasn't super sophisticated or had a lot of deep meanings going on, nor were the writers scrambling to confuse the viewer as some of the more obscure titles seem to do but it provided another take on the Tenchi Universe that might even surpass some of the more directly related titles at that. In short, Tenchi Muyo!: GXP: Galaxy Police Transporter: The Viridian Collection had the kind of bang for the buck value that anime fans clamor to see, with insider jokes galore going on for those that pay attention, making it well worth your time and money.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, Best of Anime 2005, and Best of Anime 2006 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.