Tenchi Forever (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, August 31, 1999
Release Date: Tuesday, August 31, 1999

What They Say
Tenchi the Movie III Is this the end of Tenchi?! Japan has announced that this 35mm full length movie will probably be the last production involving Tenchi Muyo! Tenchi fans everywhere will appreciate the production quality and beautiful animation of this farewell feature. In the story, Tenchi storms off into the hills after a fight, but doesn't return. After searching for some time, Ayeka and Ryoko finally discover Tenchi seduced by a mysterious woman! Simultaneous widescreen release for VHS (English Dubbed and Subtitled) and DVD.

The Review!
Ah, Tenchi Forever, or Tenchi Muyo in Love 2. The disc that completes the domestically named Tenchi Universe TV series. How do things fair?

Things fair quite well in the audio world. An English and Japanese 5.1 track is included (though for various reasons unknown, the DTS Japanese 5.1 release is not included). Both sound very clean and clear with no dialogue distortion at all. The surround sound isn't as active as in past movies, but for the most part Tenchi movies don't really lend themselves to huge action sound sequences very often. The 5.1 really starts to kick in during the 3rd act as things begin to shake and rumble in the story and was done very well. An excellent mix, especially with the great music and the ambient sounds it uses earlier in the movie.

Pioneer did one of the best things it could with this video release: it's an anamorphic widescreen encoded disc. The only problem some people may have with it is some very minor downconversion artifacts in a few early complicated scenes (such as the Jurai tree at the beginning that shimmers a bit more than it should). Video clarity otherwise throughout is very crisp and facial close-ups are just stunning in the vivid colors. Some have had issues with the apparent different frame rates used in areas, but that's more of an animation issue than how the disc is encoded. This is a great looking presentation of this disc.

For this "final" Tenchi movie, Pioneer has wrapped the favorite Amaray keepcase around it. This is naturally a striking contrast to the two previous movie releases which are surrounded by an awful cardboard box. I'll make my plea once again for Pioneer to provide at the least a mail in option to get an Amaray style sleeve that we can put into a blank keepcase and have a seamless collection for titles afflicted such. Regardless, the Tenchi Forever artwork has a different feel than most other releases in recent memory as it contains most of the characters and some very striking colors. The Tenchi in Tokyo series contains mostly the dull blues and simple one or two character poses while the older movies seem very dark and muted for the most part. I just really like this cover artwork.

The menu is also very well done and evocative of a simple ness that permeates throughout the movie. Menu selections are easily made with no sluggishness or errors. Curiously, they included the Japanese subtitles to each of the menu selections. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy having an anime disc seem Japanese in every sense, but considering the low cost of the disc compared to the region 2 release, I have to wonder if this would get this title exported back there.

The only other technical issue that has come up in terms of this disc is the new font being used by Pioneer (which also showed up on Lain #3). For the most part, I think it works fairly well. I'm not overly excited by it, but I'm not hating it. The only problem I see with it is when they italicize a section, it looks too jagged and is a bit distracting there.

Overall, the disc is a technical masterpiece for the most part with the very things we all expect from a Pioneer disc. It's delivered in spades and I will re-review the video portion of this when I get my HDTV set. The rest of this review deals with the storyline, so spoilers are a given.

But for as gorgeous as a disc can be, the content itself must be good, yes?

And the content on this disc is very good. Before being able to watch this disc, I had read portions of many reviews and heard many opinions on it. It's release in Japan fared very poorly from what I've read and many fans on both sides of the ocean essentially wish that this storyline simply never happened.

This is again one of the reasons why my wife and I will never really understand a lot of Tenchi fans. The vehemence of people towards the new woman in Tenchi's life, Haruna, is much more vulgar at times than ever leveled against Sakuya from the Tenchi in Tokyo series.

The crux of the story is that Tenchi is transported to an alternate parallel world where Haruna is in control. It's very similar in respect to the Urusei Yatsura movie Beautiful Dreamer which in turn is based on a very old Japanese folk tale that's similar to the Rip Van Winkle story.

Six months after Tenchi has gone missing, Ryoko and Ayeka are off in search of him still, having taken quick paying jobs as waitresses (that unlike others, I do not find demeaning in the job or the uniforms). As things go along, the girls manage to catch glimpses of him and try to track him down, but they're never really able to until they have an encounter with Haruna, who shows them just what's what.

I found Haruna to be a very subtle at times character whose personality came about quietly through vocal nuances and very subtle facial animation and movements. Others have commented on just how well layered this movie is, and even after just one viewing I have to agree. I've watched the first movie a couple of times since it came out and the second movie once, but I can see this disc getting many repeated viewings for things.

Something I'm sure many did not like is the 'matured' Tenchi which was commented on even by Ryoko and Ayeka at times. The longer hair, the different facial expressions... things that are dramatically different than what most are used to. A view of the Tenchi mythos growing up in essence, which many may not care for nor want. Perhaps a bit of a Peter Pan syndrome.

Regardless, it's something that we enjoyed immensely. It was definitely good to see things such as Tenchi making his own decisions and to be away from Ryoko and Ayeka's continuous bickering. That's something about the Tenchi in Tokyo series that I enjoy is that enough of the time is spent away from those two and developing Tenchi himself with Sakuya. After seven years of watching all the Tenchi incarnations, I finally find myself tired of Ryoko and Ayeka.

Which is why I'm pretty much pro-Sakuya. And now I'm pro-Haruna. I think Haruna is a great addition to the Tenchi mythos, especially for what I thought was a lacking TV series. The backdrop of explaining Yosho's departure from Jurai and to Earth was welcome (as is any inclusion of Yosho) and his first relationship being explained was pleasing. The small bit with his Earthly wife and the brief mention of Achika made things come full circle. Simply wonderful.

And as things got near the end, I was honestly wishing that when confronted between Ryoko and Haruna with her world fading, that Tenchi would realize just how happy he could be with her and choose to stay with her in some way of continuing that reality. To give him that chance at happiness.

But it's also nice that the series ended on what I consider a definite ending relationship with Ryoko. Much better than leaving it open-ended in the long run, though with the way it's done I'm sure it'll be debated from here to eternity by fans.

Of course, the other thing that will be continually talked about (or yelled about) is the inclusion of two actual sex scenes within the movie. Having read many a disparaging comment about it before seeing the disc, I was expecting the worst. Trashy or demeaning or something else.

Instead, I saw it very differently. While the second encounter was used for personal purposes by Haruna to distract Tenchi, the first encounter was nothing more than their sharing of each other and the hinted at love between the two and the bond that had been created, whether a lie or not is hard to tell. Everyone will react to these sequences differently. Those looking for the mature Tenchi that this movie is may be very pleased with their inclusion while those looking for more of the first two movies or the OVA style are likely to be disappointed.

I'm extremely happy.

English 5.1 THX Approved Language,English Subtitles,Japanese 5.1 THX Approved Language,Original Japanese Trailers

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 95
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tenchi Muyo