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TENCHI UNIVERSE #1 - - Special Review

It's like MAD LIBS with anime!

I have to confess that, a lot of the time here, I suspect I might be enjoying a particular show a lot more if I were watching it in a group instead of alone in apartment at night. If there’s any “job hazard” to writing up shows on this site, that could be one of them, I suppose. I get the feeling I probably would find TENCHI UNIVERSE a litle funnier at a convention screening room or at a college anime club.

Watching it this way, though, is kind of like seeing a sitcom with the laugh track removed.

We actually got Funi’s re-issue of this series in the mail last week, so you can expect a more in-depth review of the series from Alexei sometime next week, or the week after. I’ve heard the title before, certainly, but I don’t have any attachment to the show’s reputation and am thusly watching it with maybe a little more objectivity.

As such, I’ll objectively say that one commonality I’ve noticed from all the revered 90’s series is that they all jump into the thick of their fantasy with as brief and basic set-up as they can get away with. In this case, it was rather comical how the show literally just opens with Tenchi walking away from home, saying bye to some unspecified family, and then having the familiar wild outer-realm girl dropping right into his world in the space of maybe two minutes. You get the sense that the crew was utterly bored with anything coming before her arrival.

I say “familiar” there because this whole episode plays like a parody of shows I’m not familiar with - - the catty outer space robots of Show X + the magical alien/fantasy girls of Show Y + the regular Joe of Show Z.

There’s also the matter of the dub. Maybe this is a relic of the lawless days when translation teams weren’t taking the material that seriously. The whole episode plays like an extended sketch from some late night talk show where the host and his sidekicks run ridiculous, random anime clips up on stage and just improv lines with the most ridiculous voices to fit what they’re seeing. (Of course, I doubt the original material was played any straighter - - no matter how “inappropriate” this dub seems to purists).

Improv is really the right comparison point, here. Much like absurdist humor, it’s a kind of comedy that will work awesomely as long as you’re on exactly the same wave-length as the characters. That’ll only happen maybe one out of every ten times - - and you’re just kind of shrugging those other nine times. It also generally plays better - - you guessed it! - - when you're in a group!

So yeah, all by lonesome, I found TENCHI UNIVERSE to be alright, shrug-able, passable entertainment.

Watch this episode, "No Need for Discussions!” here and decide for yourself.

Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - tompinchuk.com - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk

Paulruson Oct. 2, 2012 at 5:09 p.m.

I bought the complete set a couple years back, to see if I was as I fond of it as I used to be; like having lunch with an old friend to play catch-up. I consider Universe the better of the three Toonami Tenchis for reasons, as I type this, I do not undertsnad myself. Perhaps it was because the original OVA was shorter, and it never held my attention to begin with, and Tenchi in Tokyo was way too Japanese and random for me.

Universe, perhaps, is just the best one because the other two had little to offer me. I can only name a few fragments of why I liked the show;

But now I found some things tiresome when I check it out. The whole Ryoko vs. Ayeka setup lost its charm when I realized that both are just terrible, manipulative people, and that the show REALLY wants us to choose between them like if we had a choice. The dubbing hasn't aged well either; some of the lines came off awkward (I remember, in one episode, Ryoko saying "What do you mean needs work oh no!" in the same matter of a Tommy Wiseau piece.) and the occasional karaoke scenes made my ears bleed; I still skip them whenever I decided to watch it again.

Then there was the set-up, which I'm iffy on. As you know, in the last third of the show they all end up going to space after shit goes down on Ayeka's home planet and, as a result, they all become criminals. Looking back, this comes out of nowhere and just acts as a mean to drive the show to the end of its ordered run... or however it was set up. The prior 2/3s just sets up the characters and has them putz around, rarely pointing out a concept that comes into play later. I can't call this a bad thing, but I feel it would've been better if they shot the cast into space sooner. Like they pick up the girls on the way to Ayeka's planet.

So the show isn't timeless; it shows its age and the stories were more of set-ups for wacky anime harem antics. Speaking of harems, I've never been attracted to the genre, but Tenchi Universe has played as the exeption. Probably because the characters have some personality, to them, perhaps? I know Ryoko and Ayeka are just horrible banshees, but at least there's something to them: nothing more elaborate than princess and space pirate, civilized and drunk, proper and fun, but it's something more than "look at this girl and her big boobies and other concepts that Paulrus doesn't like because anime isn't his bag." But I loved them all in the end; they were, at least, amusing.

Well, this was a huge wall of text. How'd that happen? Well, let me put a can on this by offering my hat into the debate of who is the best girl for Tenchi. I think it's simple: Kiyone. I want to go into this farther, but this is waaay too long for the comments section. And I don't think many are going to read this anyway.

sotyfan16on Oct. 3, 2012 at 4:32 a.m.

I loved watching Tenchi on Toonami back in the day. The original OVA is my favorite but this is a close second (followed by GXP and the dreadful Tenchi in Tokyo). Maybe it was because I was younger and didn't know what anime was back then but I laughed plenty when watching this either by myself or with my family. I haven't seen this since then but considering I've watched my GXP boxset like 4 times since I bought it I think it will still hold up. I went ahead and pre-ordered the OVA series and this one on RightStuf so I can't wait to see them again.

Just for kicks I'll say Ryoko has, and always will be, my favorite woman from the Tenchi franchise.

Dig Deeper into Tenchi Universe

A Alternate Retelling of Tenchi Muyo. One day while walking to school Tenchi remembers all the Adventures he when though. So from their the rest of the show is a flash back.

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