We’ve been meaning to have me write something for The Fanboy Review for a while—around a year, in fact—so here I am! This is my first review around here, and I’m quite happy with the show the boss decided on. So let’s get down to it and take a look at the latest release of Tenchi Muyo! GXP.
The truth is that I’ve been a fan of Tenchi Muyo! for a long time. I was always interested in animation in general, but I was first introduced to Japanese animation properly when I was still in school, and Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki happened to be one of the first shows I collected on VHS. As such, it’s surprising that this is my first time taking a proper look at GXP, but I just never got around to it. It’s about eight years old now, so how does it hold up as a show, and how good is this latest release of it?
Well, one thing I feel I should mention right away is that these disks aren’t exactly new at all; they’re actually identical copies of the eight singles originally released by FUNimation back in 2004. A friend loaned me his copies of those singles to do a proper comparison, and the only real difference we could find between the two is the tiny FUNimation logo on the disk’s label, which has changed since the singles were released.
Another thing to mention is that most websites list this as a “Viridian Collection,” which is FUNimation’s way of releasing their old shows on the cheap. Past Viridian Collections were notorious amongst fans for their poor quality packaging, made from “partially recycled materials” to keep costs down and to be environmentally friendly. Since this set is simply a collection of reprints of the same old singles releases, I had no problem believing that it was a Viridian Collection like Amazon and others sites said. But then the boss asked me if the packaging actually labels it as one, and funnily enough, it doesn’t. It also has much better packaging than I would have expected from one. So I did a little investigation and quickly found that there was a Tenchi Muyo! GXP Viridian Collection released towards the end of 2007, which apparently had the poor quality packaging they’re known for. At that point I figured the websites might have just been mistaken, but it turns out that even FUNimation’s official GXP site calls it a Viridian Collection. So…is it one? As far as FUNimation is concerned, I guess it is.
This release of GXP is what people sometimes call a fat-pack, and the series is spread across eight disks—as I mentioned, exactly the same as the original singles. The first disk contains five episodes, but all the others only contain three. All of these episodes are listed on the inside cover and are conveniently organized by which disk they’re on; I found this helpful, but the episode titles are only meaningful if you’re watching the English dub. The front and back of the box show off some decent artwork of the six main characters (including Fuku, the cabbit), and you get the standard region, aspect ratio and runtime information; there’s also a nice spread of all the girls in wedding dresses on the inside cover. There doesn’t seem to be any important information missing, and the artwork is sharp and well colored.
The case itself seems to be made of high-quality plastic and feels like you could drop it without it breaking. The disks rest firmly and safely in their trays, but also come out easily when you want them to. It’s quite unlike the thin cardboard boxes and paper disk sleeves the previous Viridian Collection apparently used. I don’t think anyone could be displeased with this packaging.
The menus are in 4:3 (as you’d expect for a 4:3 show) and feature images and background music from the show. The main menu gives you the standard options of playing all the episodes, selecting individual episodes, modifying the sound and subtitle options and looking through the extras. Each sub-menu has its own background and music.
Something worth noting about the episode selection is that it splits each episode into Opening, Intro, Closing, and Preview, in addition to four scenes that make up the body of the episode. The four scenes are represented by images, but the other options are just text. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought the way they laid it out wasn’t very intuitive.
I mean, it mostly makes sense, but having the “intro” (the little bit of episode before the title card is shown) as its own separate option seems a bit odd to me.
There have been many different versions of Tenchi over the years. A six-part OVA started it all, which was later continued by two more of the same, plus an extra episode here and there. There was also a 26 episode television series, known in the US as Tenchi Universe, which had no direct connection to the OVAs and was more like an alternate universe reinterpretation. Another alternate continuity came in the form of Tenchi in Tokyo, and there are other series and OVAs like Pretty Sammy, the Magical Girl that utilize alternate versions of the same characters in totally different settings, as well as movies that fit into some of these continuities. There’s also a manga that picks up where OVA 1 (and maybe 2) left off and takes the story in a different direction of its own. And to complicate matters further, the OVA canon can even be broken into two (the Kajishima canon and the Hasegawa canon), but I won’t go into too much detail about that.
Why did I have to explain this, you ask? Well, Tenchi Muyo! GXP has the honor of being the first full-length television series to be part of the OVA canon (Kajishima canon, to be precise), and thus adds to the story that Kajishima Masaki started way back in 1992. The OVA-verse is fascinating and unique. I feel that none of the spin-offs ever quite captured what made it special. But GXP, despite focusing on a new cast of characters, actually manages to do just that.
Despite being called “Tenchi Muyo,” GXP is a story about a boy named Seina Yamada. Seina is, without a doubt, one of the unluckiest anime characters ever created. The first episode goes to great and hilarious lengths to make this known to the viewer. His bad luck is destructive to himself and anyone brave enough to get near him, but despite this he is generally high-spirited, good-natured and…I’m not sure I’d say optimistic, but not really pessimistic, either. A realist who accepts his bad luck as scientific fact, perhaps? Whatever the case, he lives in the same area as Tenchi Masaki, star of the OVAs, but despite being friends with him, Seina has no idea about the alien origins of his houseguests. That is, until he drops by Tenchi’s house one day and nearly gets landed on by a spaceship!
A brief encounter with an extraterrestrial babe was all it took for Seina’s luck to get him recruited into the GP—the Galaxy Police, who protect and serve all of space. He’s quickly shipped off to the Galactic Academy for training, but isn’t even in space for a day before his bad luck attracts hundreds of pirates. Realizing his potential as a way of rounding up criminals, the GP soon puts his “skill” to use by making him a decoy. The series follows his strange adventures, from his training at the GP Academy to him commanding one of the most powerful ships in the universe, and beyond.
As I’ve said, the series primarily follows a brand new cast of characters, but it still ties in nicely to the existing canon of Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki. It gives us a deeper look at the sometimes-bizarre universe that the OVAs only gave us a glimpse of. We get to see the Galactic Academy for the first time. We get to see Jurai, a place that’s so intricate to the plot of the OVAs, but which we’ve only ever seen briefly in flashbacks. It also gives us our first real look at space pirates outside of Ryoko and Kagato, showing us exactly why the GP is needed. Even Seiryo—a bumbling would-be suitor for Ayeka who appeared briefly in the OVAs—comes back as a recurring pain-in-the-bum for Seina and his friends.
The new characters themselves are likeable, but I didn’t think they were as memorable as the classic Tenchi cast. I felt like some of them could have done with a bit more development, and it’s not like 26 episodes doesn’t give you plenty of time to do that. That said, they all got their time to shine, and they did grow on me. Director Shinichi Watanabe—most known for his work on and appearances in Excel Saga—even provides the voice (in Japanese anyway) of Seina’s robot, “NB”, who is the source for almost all of the show’s ecchi humor.
I didn’t know a lot about GXP before I started watching it, so quite early on I found myself wondering exactly where it fit into the continuity. I eventually realized that the whole series happens after OVA 3, but the funny thing about that is that OVA 3 didn’t come out until the year after GXP finished its run. Despite this, there are numerous references to the events of OVA 3, such as the presence of new characters who hadn’t been introduced yet, as well as relationship statuses that had changed in the meantime. There’s even a very specific reference to Ryo-Ohki chasing a butterfly, which didn’t happen until the second episode of OVA 3. That’s some impressive foresight there, and it makes me wonder what it would have been like to watch this series back when it was brand new in Japan. Since I’d already seen OVA 3 before watching this, you could say that I watched everything in chronological order and thus was able to understand all of these things, but I imagine that someone who watched GXP first would have been left wondering who Noike was and where she came from, amongst quite a few other things. Oddly enough, it also works in reverse; OVA 3 had a cameo appearance of Fuku towards the end, whom I knew little about because I hadn’t seen GXP yet!
If GXP has a flaw, I think it’s that it lacks a good villain. Nothing seems like a big enough challenge and, like Tenchi himself, Seina has so many amazing people ready to help him that there just aren’t any villains in the universe that can really compete. I think this is made most clear in one episode where, after being picked on and outnumbered by a fleet of pirate ships, Seina and Fuku are rescued by not only by the Choubimaru—a spaceship powerful enough to destroy an entire planet—but also by the even more powerful pirate ship Ryo-Ohki. Talk about overkill!
Tarant Shank, a dangerous pirate, makes several appearances and is built up to be the big bad of the series, but even he is consistently and easily outmatched thanks to all the advantages the good guys in the OVA-verse have. How are space pirates meant to compete when the good guys literally have gods backing them? To be fair, though, the series is probably meant to be taken more as a romantic-sci-fi-comedy than a story of good vs. evil. But that isn’t to say it doesn’t have some fun space battles.
One last thing to mention about the show itself is that there were actually two versions in Japan: a TV version and a DVD version. The TV version was slightly more censored, having towels on the girls while they’re in the hotsprings and the like; it’s easy to do when it’s a digital anime. FUNimation uses the DVD version, though I will point out that any nudity it has is pretty tame anyway.
Overall I think Tenchi Muyo! GXP is a good addition to the Kajishima canon, and it only makes me wish for more. A second season would be nice, or maybe animated versions of Kajishima Masaki’s Shin Tenchi novels, which offer even more background information. I’d love to see an OVA about Washu’s early life. There’s still so many questions that haven’t truly been answered; I once thought they were answers we’d just never get, but more than ten years later we got a new OVA that took care of some of them, so you really never can tell!
The video is NTSC, interlaced, and encoded at 480. The quality is sort of what you’d expect from an anime released in 2002. It’s 4:3, obviously, but it was also a digital anime, and the artwork itself has held up rather nicely over time. I remember thinking that it felt too different from the old OVAs when I first saw images from it, but it’s actually very similar to OVA 3, so maybe I’ve gotten used to it thanks to watching that. The character designs are a little different from the older OVAs, but some of the deformed expressions the characters get feel like they’re taken straight from them.
GXP seems to use the same sort of cel-shaded CGI for the spaceships that OVA 3 did. I actually think this is quite well done; it isn’t jarring at all to go from the 2D animation of the characters to the CGI animation of the ships. Compare this to something like Vandread, which came out only a couple of years earlier than GXP and which had CGI space battles that stuck out like sore thumbs. It even makes the designs and movements of the ships more clear in some cases; to this day I still can’t make heads of tails of the design of Ayeka’s ship, Ryu-Oh…
At a glance, I’d say that the video quality of the DVDs themselves has also held up decently after more than six years. The colors are fairly vibrant, and the picture seems crisper than my own region 4 copies of OVA 3. However, there are small problems if you look closer that might give away the age of the DVDs. For one, there’s a minor but ever-present case of frame-jitter. You might also find that lines sometimes break up slightly rather than looking perfectly solid, and two parallel lines that are very close together can almost blur into one big thick line. I also noticed some low quality moments during fast moving parts, particularly in the opening. The openings make use of multiple angles (something FUNimation did back in those days), which could just be amplifying the problem.
Apart from the above shots from the opening, though, these low quality moments are few and far between, and everything else takes a good eye to spot. It’s not perfect, and FUNimation’s DVDs have improved since it was released,but I wouldn’t say it’s badly dated, either. I thought it looked pretty good when I’d only watched it on a 37” LCD TV; it’s only after looking at it on a computer monitor for a while that I start noticing it could be crisper.
For audio you get the option of English Surround (Dolby 5.1 at 448k), English Stereo (Dolby 2.0 at 256k) and Japanese Stereo (Dolby 2.0 at 256k again). English Stereo and Japanese Stereo sound about the same when it comes to volume, while English Surround is louder even without surround speakers. I didn’t notice any major problems with any of these options; the sound is consistent, and the voices can be heard just fine over the music and sound effects.
When it comes to anime, it’s not uncommon at all to hear familiar sound effects. Sometimes they’re from other shows, while other times they sound just like memorable sound effects from movies. I swear I hear the sound effect of a proton-pack from Ghostbusters starting up in lots of anime, as well as the sound of the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive breaking down. Dragon Ball fans often point out that One Piece uses a lot of the same sound effects, and older fans might then add that a lot of those were in Hokuto no Ken (i.e. Fist of the North Star) before that. But GXP, despite being released a decade later, seems to use all the same sound effects as Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki did. It definitely adds to the nostalgia. Maybe I’m just going on about nothing here, but I think it’s impressive for sound effects to stick with you for a decade like that, and it definitely makes you feel like you’re watching a Tenchi series.
This is only slightly related to the audio, but there’s a “dubtitle” track available for the hearing impaired. It isn’t labeled as such, but turning subtitles on normally in the audio settings when you have it set to English Stereo or English Surround will use subtitles that match the English script. I probably wouldn’t even have noticed this if I hadn’t tried to watch the dub with subtitles on to directly compare the scripts.
As a final audio note, I found the opening very catchy and the ending quite amusing. The background music is fitting enough to not stand out, but rather more forgettable than what I remember from classic Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki episodes.
Now, the dub… Let’s just say that story, art and sound aren’t the only things that make me feel like I’m back in the 90s. It’s very reminiscent of Pioneer’s dub of the OVAs in a lot of ways. Your mileage may vary on whether the voices themselves are bad or not, but I found that the personalities of the characters came across subtly differently depending on whether you’re watching it in English or Japanese. It’s hard to explain it, but I suppose it’s a combination of differences in the script and the voice actors using a different tone as they say something, as well as the new tone and new lines not always matching the body language of the character as they say it. It’s interesting to watch both versions and get a slightly different feel of a character’s personality between the two. But to be fair, I don’t think it’s as bad in this as in the OVAs or, say, Dragon Ball Z’s old dub.
Like I just mentioned, there are script changes. I watched the show dubbed first so my brother, who can’t read, could watch it with me. As soon as we finished it I went back to the start and switched to Japanese, and right away I could tell that the script was very different—again, quite like the dub of the OVAs. Some things seemed to be different because they wouldn’t translate very well from Japanese. Others were different presumably because they were references to older anime that a casual English fan might not understand, such as Seina describing the faster-than-light scene from Space Battleship Yamato and wondering why Galaxy Police hyperdrives don’t produce similar psychedelic effects. Then there were yet more times where jokes or plot points were changed for no apparent reason (such as “he ran off with her best friend” being changed to “he became a transvestite and married her brother”) or left out entirely (Seina noticing that someone’s perfume smelled familiar and wondering if he’d met her before).
All the above examples were present on the first couple of disks, so I thought I knew what I was in for. But surprisingly, after a certain point, the dub script seems to become strangely more accurate. Not perfect, mind you, but not as blatantly different from the original as it was. I really don’t know what happened. The random changes don’t seem to return in force until towards the very end, where the dub even adds a marriage proposal that didn’t exist in the original script. Did they just decide to do whatever they wanted since it was almost the end anyway…? Very strange. Still, there are plenty of other oddities to be found throughout, such as the dub having Ryo-ohki speak in actual English instead of just meows. I honestly can’t imagine the reasoning behind choices like that, especially since she’d never spoken properly in the dubs that came before this.
Speaking of previous dubs, it has to be mentioned that most of the voice actors from the previous English versions don’t make a return. This only applies to the classic Tenchi characters, obviously; Tenchi, Ryoko, Ayeka, Washu and Sasami all have different English voices than old fans will be used to, but Rebecca Forstadt and Bob Papenbrook reprise their roles as Mihoshi and Tenchi’s grandfather. I wasn’t exactly a fan of the old English voices, but it felt weird hearing new ones even for me. I imagine fans of the old OVA dubs might not like them simply because they’re different, but it’s hard for me to say if they’re better or worse than the originals.
The final thing I want to mention about the dub is that it doesn’t translate or explain any of the Japanese text. There’s a joke where a ship’s name means something vulgar, but the Japanese name of the ship remains in Japanese in the English dub. The characters react to the name, but it never explains to an English viewer what it means. The dub even changes Seina’s reaction so that he doesn’t get the reference either, and the other characters comment that it’s a good thing he doesn’t have a wide vocabulary.
All in all, I had a better time watching it in Japanese than in English, and I recommend doing so if you want things to make the most sense.
The extras for this set are very limited. Under extras are sub-sections for Songs, Profiles, and Trailers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them put under “songs” before, but this section contains the clean opening and closing. I believe there are three subtly different versions of the opening and two of the closing over the course of the series, and the clean versions in the extras change accordingly, so that’s nice. Something to note is that the clean openings and closings will be in whatever language you have the disks set to, since they dubbed both songs.
The profiles page contains a handful of character profiles each disk, and the profiles available change from disk to disk depending which characters are heavily featured at that point in the story. The profiles are written from the perspective of Seina himself, and to be honest, they don’t tell you a lot. They aren’t updated as the series progresses, either, so the Seiryo profile from disk 1 is identical to the Seiryo profile from disk 8. It even has the same typo in it!
The only other extras are trailers, but these are quite out of date. There’s a trailer for a Dragon Ball GT single that was due out back in 2004. This is obviously because all eight disks in this set are merely reprints of the old singles, so even though the trailers available are different from disk to disk, you probably won’t see anything you don’t already know about. One other odd thing is that each disks begins with a trailer before the menu, but this trailer never seems to be available in the trailers section.
In conclusion, this is obviously an old set in a new package. The episodes are needlessly spread out across eight disks, and the extras are extremely limited. But even so, it’s a nice little package that’ll only cost you about $40, and the show itself is enjoyable, especially if you’re a Tenchi Muyo! fan to begin with. It holds up well after eight or so years—well enough that it won’t feel outdated even if you’ve already watched the OVA that followed it. I’d recommend this set for any Tenchi fan who doesn’t already own the series.
Show: A (I may be biased because of how much I love Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki, but I found the show highly enjoyable. It’s set in a bizarre and interesting world, and it has the same sense of humor I loved from the OVAs. Watching this has actually re-ignited my love for the franchise for the first time in years.)
Packaging: A- (All the information I needed was on the cover. The box is made of sturdy plastic and the disks don’t come loose or anything. The only possible complaint I could make is that the website listed on the back doesn’t go anywhere anymore.)
Video Quality: C- (I bounced around on this one due to trying to take the age of the disks into account. C- is still better than it would get if this was a truly new release.)
Audio Quality: B- (Pretty average, but having three different options is nice, and I found no problems with them at all.)
English Dub: D (Your mileage may vary, but the dub script had so many parts that were inaccurate, vague, or changed for no logical reason. On top of that, some of the voices can be grating.)
Extras: D- (I’d say these disks contain the bare minimum when it comes to extras. The trailers are out of date, and the character profiles feel like something someone wrote just to add another bullet point to the list of extras.)
Overall (not an average): B (It’s a cheap way to own a good show. Nothing outstandingly special, but I’m happy to own it.)
Gallery and copyright information under ad. All caps are lossless PNGs taken in MPC-HC, feel free to request more. (Caps are sized 640×480 so as to display properly on computer monitors, they were modified to this resolution via Photoshop CS4 as MPC-HC takes screen captures at 720×480 on the disc. Having the caps be 640×480 makes them appear at the properly intended aspect ratio.)
This set was purchased at a major retailer.
These DVDs are labeled to work in Region 1 and 4.
Tenchi Muyo! GXP is available to watch streaming for free at FUNimation Video. Only the first four episodes dubbed are available right now.
I want to give a special thanks to Tenchi Muyo! Another Universe and Tenchi Muyo! FAQ, two sites that have always been helpful when I’ve needed to look up obscure Tenchi-info, including for this review. They’re like the Daizenshuu EX and Kanzentai.com of Tenchi, so check them out if you’re a fan.