Well, it has been quite a nice and long 6 years of doing this anime blogging and what not. I remember back in 2011, there wasn’t that much out there doing it and now you can’t go one twitter post or youtube video past without stumbling upon a piece of anime analysis. I can say I am quite impressed, even if I was in a way a pioneer of this kind of enterprise back in the day. As I did a special review last August over a classic I love personally (Ah My Goddess TV) I figure this year I would do a piece over a classic that a lot of people remember, that being
“The Carnival Comes and Goes….”
Tenchi Universe (1995 TV Series)
Director: Hiroshi Negishi
Writers: Ryoe Tsukimura, Nahoko Hasegawa, Yousuke Kuroda, Satoru Nishizono and Mayori Sekijima
For some time in the last year, for Anime Herald, I have taken a look at some of other entries of the Tenchi Muyo franchise: The 1st two Tenchi OVA series, the three movies and god help me War on Geminar. To summarize, the 1st two Tenchi OVA series have some good character work, but is rough draft in terms of mostly everything else. The movies are good (well two of them) with one of them being totally pointless. And well there’s War on Geminar, and there’s not much for me to say on that that hasn’t been stated, just god awful. And now I take a look at Tenchi Universe, the first of 2 TV series in the ‘90s and in my opinion the best one of the lot.
Within the Tenchi Muyo franchise, there’s the Negishi canon named after director Hiroshi Negishi which consists of Tenchi Universe alongside the Tenchi Muyo in Love and Tenchi Forever, all helmed by him. I find that while Masaki Kajishima deserves some credit for coming up with one of the first harem genre series, it was the work of other people that developed it into something worthwhile and entertaining. Such is the case with Tenchi Universe, where Negishi and lead writer Ryoe Tsukimura took it and made it into one of the definitive harem series, with some solid character work and prime comedy material even the storyline is quite straightforward.
Of course, Tenchi Universe starts out a lot like the 1st OVA series, with Ryoko and the girls getting introduced into Tenchi’s life rather by accident in fact. It helps that while the origin point for some of the characters have changed (Ryoko and Washuu got swapped in that regard), the characterization is strong here: Ryoko the brash space bandit, Ayeka the haughty princess, Sasami the cute little sister, Mihoshi and Kiyone the boke-tsukkomi pair of Galaxy police officers and mad scientist Washuu. What’s nice is that not only the characterization is effectively established but each of them get an episode or so of singular focus. This allows for further fun involving the characters, such as in the Space and Time Adventures 3 parter, my favorite part of the series where Tenchi and the gang end up in various genres and places and ending on a nice reflection on escapism and adding dimension to Ryoko’s character.
Now while Tenchi Muyo is the definitive harem show, Tenchi Universe treats it like Tenchi has a bunch of ladies hanging about him, but only 2 of them are interested in him romantically: Ryoko and Ayeka. The two butt heads right off the bat when it comes to Tenchi and each other and they are the top highlight of the series for me. And considering how the movies Tenchi Muyo in Love and Tenchi Forever continues and even culminates that relationship dynamic in a rather satisfying manner is more evidence that Negishi and his crew knew what they were doing more so then Kajishima ever really did.
This is helped out also by the fact that the show is also a comedy, a damn funny one at that. It’s mostly comedic hijinks and silliness around but serves to highlight one important notion-that it’s all One Big Joke. The central idea behind Tenchi Universe is that traditional story conventions are bumpkiss, and should be made fun of, but in a light and quirky fashion with no hint of malice or contempt. Nevertheless, that is what makes Tenchi Universe stand out from the harem anime that indirectly influenced by it-Tenchi doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows to have fun and laughs and to me that’s why it has endured for so long in the memory of the anime fandom.
Of course, it has to be said that Tenchi Universe is a well done TV series on the production front. AIC was, for the 90s, on their A-game with various shows like Ah My Goddess, Battle Athletes, Burn Up, El Hazard among others. Tenchi Unverse, even 22 years on, looks great for the most part. Also the opening song, despite its 90s cheese, is quite enjoyable listen that I don’t skip when watching the show.
Now the other main reason Tenchi Muyo has remained firm in the memory of otaku out West is due to the English dub. Well not as good as some of its contemporaries, it’s still iconic and memorable. I can’t imagine any other people voicing these characters in English. Matt Miller as Tenchi and Jennifer Darling as Ayeka are at moments grating but they fit the roles well enough and give decent performances. Sherry Lynn is cute as Sasami and pulls a nice surprise as Kiyone. The rest of the cast are quite good and even, getting their own moments to shine. But the standout performance is Petrea Burchard as Ryoko, infusing the part with such energy and life, such a shame she didn’t do more beyond Tenchi. But still an overall good dub that has aged somewhat gracefully.
Tenchi Universe is a good and entertaining series, from start to finish. As Ryoko puts it, their adventures are like a carnival, something fun and a diversion from an ordinary life. To me, that sums up Tenchi Universe quite nicely. If someone were to ask to me what parts of Tenchi Muyo to checkout, I’d recommend to definitely watch Tenchi Universe and the 2 Movies I have mentioned that serve as a natural continuation and conclusion. It’s all good fun in the end and a well deserved classic.
So, next month I doing 2 reviews for the month of September. Only hints I can give out now is the first is about college otaku and the other is a wacky high school girls club slice of life show.
“Til next time dear readers