Anime simply does not get as good or classic as Tenchi; it's that simple.
Tenchi Muyo! was one of the first shows that I was introduced to back when a friend tried to get me into anime. It had everything; witty writing, loveable characters, fantastic artwork, and more importantly a great sense of personality. Needless to say I was hooked right from the very beginning. Once I finished watching the last episode I went back to the series whenever I wanted a laugh because I found the show to be that endearing. I was pleased to see that I was not the only one who appreciated it and when Tenchi Universe was released some time later I naturally gobbled it up like a starving Ryo-Ohki with a carrot.
Ironically, though I came to the show expecting a sequel or continuation of Muyo!, Universe was something a little different. The characters were mostly the same and their personalities were roughly identical as well, but Universe was kind of a reboot. This was new, with fresh origins and a different venue though fortunately the key elements that made the first series so successful were still in place.
Out in the middle of no-where-ville Japan, Tenchi Misaki lives in a house by a lake and shrine with his father and grandfather. Tenchi is your typical teenager; well, maybe he's not so typical. He's quiet and respectful of things around him. He wears a certain child-like innocence on his sleeve though he harnesses both his grandfather's dedication and his father's laziness simultaneously. Life at the Misaki residence is quite peaceful. That is, at least, until a spaceship crashes in Tenchi's backyard.
One fateful afternoon Tenchi is out for a walk and hears an explosion, as if something hit the Earth with a massive impact. He investigates and finds an unconscious beautiful woman whose breath reeked of alcohol. She stirs a bit and comes to, telling Tenchi that her name is Ryoko she's being chased by a mean space pirate who seeks to destroy her. Sure enough a robotic fiend shows up firing shots her way. In good form Tenchi gets caught up in the chaos and finds himself standing by the girl's side on the verge of being annihilated. The robot slips on a can of soda and falls off a cliff thanks to a little assistance by Tenchi's new friend.
Ryoko worms her way into Tenchi's life and introduces herself to his father and grandfather. Tenchi's dad is all too pleased to see his son bring such a babe home and gives him a pat on the back for a job well done. Through a series of events the robot shows up again and is revealed to be operated by another beautiful girl. She is Mihoshi of the Galaxy Police and she has come to capture the infamous space pirate Ryoko. Naturally all hell breaks loose but the end result is that Mihoshi, a true space cadet, forgets that Ryoko is a wanted criminal and is forced to stay with the Misaki's until she's rescued.
Rescue does come quickly enough in the form of Jurian Princess named Ayeka. Once Ayeka lands in response to Mihoshi's distress call she and Ryoko instantly go at each other's throats. These two have a history, and it's an ugly one at that. They both hop aboard their ships and fly into space to see the other off to a fiery grave. Things don't go as planned and the ships collide, both crashing back into Tenchi's backyard. Now in addition to Ryoko and Mihoshi, Ayeka joins the Misaki household as a guest of honor. Tenchi's life has certainly gone from serene to insane in a matter of days. The best, however, is yet to come.
In the subsequent episodes Sasami, Ayeka's sister, and Washu, the ancient mad scientist, are all introduced. New to Universe is Mihoshi's partner in the Galaxy Police, Kiyone. She's mostly all business and is essentially the polar opposite of Mihoshi often holding a grudge against or complaining about how she holds her back. Once the main cast is introduced Tenchi Universe begins to tell its tale.
For the most part things in Universe are episodic like they were in the original series. There's an episode that shows Mihoshi and Kiyone living together and what their life is like and another that takes place during a traditional Japanese festival. After a few episodes like those the backbone of the show really begins to form. It is slowly revealed to bits of story that Tenchi is actually Jurian since his grandfather came to Earth from the Planet Jurai. This sense of discovery adds a lot to the show and to his character and easily becomes a benchmark of Universe's success.
Other things that happen throughout this series include Ryoko's bounty hunter rival Nagi appearing with her ship Ken-Ohki which leads to future episodes. A few of Washu's inventions go haywire as well, such as Mecha Washu and a dimensional trinket that transports the cast into other worlds where they play interesting roles. Most of this isn't necessarily new but the most familiar aspect of the series is the overbearing harem tone. Every girl in this show loves Tenchi and it's taken to ridiculous excess; and I don't mean that in a bad way.
Watching Tenchi fend off one girl only to have another cling to him is hilarious enough but the highlight is the rivalry that pops up between the girls. Ayeka and Ryoko in particular are constantly at each other's throats though Sasami, Washu, and Ryo-Ohki even get onto the Tenchi love train. It's difficult to describe the humor in Tenchi Universe because it emulates so many styles. Slapstick, sharp writing, perfect delivery, and visual cues all hit the marks that most anime doesn't even come close to.
If you have never seen a Tenchi series then Universe is a decent as any place to start. Just about ever piece of the puzzle comes together brilliantly and from beginning to end this is a nonstop, hilarious ride. That's a feat within itself considering that this is a show that can be irreverent, self-referential, and just plain silly at times. Still, I can't recommend this classic show enough. Sure it carries a near identical Tenchi formula but it works very well.
Tenchi Universe isn't the oldest show in the world. Heck, it came out in the 90's. But like many series from that era it does display its age even when watching this latest transfer. While Universe may be a vibrant show with fun designs and good animation it's hard to deny the flaws inherent with this presentation. There is a fair amount of grain that blankets the image, compression that can be spotted in more than a few spots, and dirt that appears in many scenes. To say that this is a bad looking show would be doing an injustice but it's certainly one that doesn't look as crisp as series that have been produced recently.
Tenchi Universe comes with English and Japanese 2.0 stereo audio tracks. The quality is very good as a whole with both dubbings being very good. The cast meshes well and the timing with most jokes is perfect; something that can't always be said when it comes to anime dubs. Technically speaking the stereo tracks provided the appropriate amount of presence on the soundstage though this is a series deserving of a 5.1 surround presentation if you ask me. Still, what's here is good even if it can sometimes feel muted in parts.
On each of these eight discs there are some bonus features to peruse through. There's nothing meaty to sink your teeth into but clean animations and art galleries are there to provide some additional viewing time.
I have been waiting for an affordable Tenchi Universe release for quite some time. Thankfully Geneon has revisited the Tenchi catalog recently and dusted off this series for the masses once again. The show is every bit as good as I remember it being and though I never felt that it surpassed Muyo!'s quality Universe is still iconic. Tenchi is one of the most popular characters in anime and there are plenty of reasons for that. Check it out and you won't be disappointed.