Tenchi Muyo GXP Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 8) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, March 14, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, March 09, 2004

What They Say
Contains DVD Volume 1 of Tenchi Muyo GXP along with a High-Quality Collector's Art Box!

Seina Yamada has the worst luck. When he tries to walk down stairs, he trips. When he rides his bike, it falls apart. And when a giant spaceship crashes on Earth, it almost lands right on his head!

But Seina's luck just might be changing for the better when he is presented with an out of this world possibility... to enter the prestigious Galaxy Police Academy! So what if his ticket into the GP was due to a case of mistaken identity! Nothing bad ever happens in space, right?

The Review!
The Tenchi franchise finally realizes that they have a vast wide galaxy of potential in front of them and does a proper spin-off at long last.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for the series is quite good with a lot of directionality across the forward soundstage, generally in sound effects and less so for dialogue, that worked nicely in enhancing the show. With a lot of crashes and other moments requiring things to go all over the place, it's represented nicely here. Dialogue is clean and clear on both tracks and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions. English language fans make out well on this release by also getting a 5.1 remix, which added some noticeable clarity to the forward soundstage but we didn't listen to it enough to notice much to the rear channels.

Originally airing in 2002, the transfer here is presented in its original fullscreen aspect ratio and really looks slick. While the production values obviously aren't OVA level, they've managed to take the best aspects of the original series in its designs and maintain the continuity there, which means lots of bold bright colors. From the time spent on Earth where there's a number of lush looking backdrops to the excellent black levels in the space sequences, this is a transfer that just looked good all the way through. Cross coloration was practically non-existent from what I could see and aliasing was very minimal overall. The opening and ending sequences are done with alternate angles, so depending on how you select your languages will impact what version you get here, but thankfully the ability to change it is not locked and you can adjust it easily.

Going with a grey keepcase, the front cover of the first volume has a very cute shot of Seina stuck in-between two of the series attractive women while the backdrop behind them is obscured bits from elsewhere in the show done in the "GXP" design. While not the most eye-catching cover in the world, it'll catch the eye of a casual Tenchi fan who will mistake Seina for him Tenchi. I also definitely like that the logo is generally unmolested; the boxed part retains the original Japanese text even. The back cover provides a number of screenshots from the show that take up the top half of the cover while the bottom provides a summary that takes up most of the rest of the space along with the basic production and technical information. The discs running time and features are listed but a bit awkward to find in a few places making me wish that they'd adopt the ?info grid' that's so very clean and useful. For some reason, no insert was included with my copy of this release.

In addition to the disc-only release, there's the disc+box release. The box for this release is of the good solid type with a really bright multicolored wraparound image that highlights the franchise quite well. One main panel has a shot similar to the keepcase cover with Seina between two women, this time they're really going at fondling him up a bit however. The spine panel provides a number of varying shots of other women from the series, but no logo or anything. The final main panel is a backwards looking shot of the other panel, so we see how the two women who are playing cute with Seina are actually tearing each other up behind the scenes. In addition, a swimsuit version of this is done on the interior placeholder cardboard piece, a piece of artwork that's supposedly rather hard to get a hold of anymore. Also included in the box set is a presumably limited desk calendar featuring artwork from the series. It kicks off with the March 2004 month and finishes out in February 2005, as well as listing all the release dates for the series where appropriate in each month.

The menu layout is a static piece that takes the science fiction design nature and applies it here with half the screen given over to a nice looking shot of Seina on his bike while the other half is just backdrop and the series logo, all set to some of the bouncy music from the show. Selections are right down the middle essentially and are quick and easy to access and the layout is essentially the norm for FUNimation. My main gripe with their menus continues to be in the audio section where nothing changes when you make a selection, so there's no real indication of what it's set at.

With five episodes on the disc, it's not surprising that the extras are fairly weak, nor that what we get here will be on the remaining seven volumes either. The profiles section provides a single screens worth of information on just over half a dozen characters that show up throughout these episodes and we get the textless opening and closing sequences as well. These continue to be nicely done since you can select the three audio track or two subtitle tracks with it depending on what you want.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the tenth anniversary of the original Tenchi series being not all that long ago, there's been plenty of talk about the death of the franchise and whether the spate of new works could help resuscitate it enough to get back into the mainstream again. While there's plenty of discussion going on about the new OVA series, this particular series came and went back in 2002. While I don't know how well it went over in Japan, I'll say that based on the first five episodes here that it's definitely gotten me to feel like it did when the original OVA series came out. But then again, I was one of the few that enjoyed Tenchi in Tokyo?

GXP takes place in the same timeframe/universe as the original OVA series and focuses on someone who lives in the same town as Tenchi. We're introduced to Seina Yamada, a high school lad who has not some of the worst luck in the world but all of the worst luck in the world. While it seems to get worse the more excited or frustrated he gets, it's almost always present and working in some form. It typically ends up causing all sorts of problems just for Seina, such as falling off of bikes, having things hit him unexpectedly and so forth, but also it affects those in his general area. One scene has him riding his bike through town and everyone he bikes by has a problem, such as the schoolgirl whose phone suddenly disconnects or the old man whose horse he bet on in a race suddenly loses. Or, in a nod to the perverted crowd, the schoolgirl whose panties suddenly fall down on her while walking home.

Ah, good old Tenchi humor.

Seina's life is in for a change though when he takes a shortcut to reach his friends house and goes through one of the mountain trails that leads him by the Masaki residence. While getting some water to use, the air suddenly changes and a miniature tsunami starts up, causing him to get swallowed under the water. Before he knows it, he's waking up under the careful gaze of the young blond and chesty woman named Amane, a second class detective with the Galaxy Police. She's in a rush to deliver something to Tenchi and has mistaken Seina as one of Tenchi's pupils in training. Having liked how Seina has survived so far from her arrival, which she admits wasn't quite what she intended, she gives him a pamphlet on the Galaxy Police and a form to join if he's so inclined. Before Seina knows it, she's off into space again and he's on his way.

Seina later tries to explain all of this to his friend Kai Masaki but only ends up coming across as weirder than normal. In addition, the tale of another woman in front of Kai's sister Kiriko, a slightly older woman that Seina is madly in love with, sets the stage for the two to not get along too well during his visit though she tries to play oblivious to his snafu. Eventually he makes his way back home and tries to explain some of what's been going on there as well, but his family is the type that just chuckles and mocks him at every opportunity. While he bemoans his fate, his mother and sister fill out the form for him and get his thumbprint so that his fate is sealed. They think it's a joke or something else, not realizing just what they signed him up for.

When Seina later wakes up that night, he's found himself not at home anymore but in a bed on a transport ship headed deep into the galaxy. After being shown a video of his family who are quite happy about his new trip, they show them heading off to Hawaii on a vacation away from it all. As Seina learns, he's been admitted to the Galaxy Police as a cadet in the Academy. It's from here that we start getting into the larger cast, the wide array of pirates and political forces that rule the known galaxy. Right from the start, Seina finds himself getting wrapped up into the larger politics of things as he causes an accident that brings one of the royals of Jurai into the picture. And with him knowing the Masaki's via Tenchi, he gets a crash course on just how many Masaki's there are out there. But he also has to face the hurdles of being able to stay since Earthlings are not supposed to be allowed off-planet for things like this as Earth hasn't achieved true stellar travel yet and is considered off-limits.

And with his move into the bigger pictures, Seina finds himself being caught up the loves of many women he comes across, though some are more calculating than others. From one of the pirate captains to a Masaki and more, people find themselves strangely drawn to the wiry lad of bad luck. But it may be that bad luck that's causing their interest, with the old unlucky at cards lucky at love kind of way. There's a number of hints towards characters and settings from the original OVA series which are cute, though the characters are almost always just black silhouettes instead of actual shots and voices. But there are more than enough other things here.

In fact, I hope that some of the ties to the Tenchi world get shrugged off as it goes on. While it's not a bother here at all, the universe that's been created for this franchise is pretty wide open for exploration and Seina's move into the academy and then beyond is going to exploit a lot of it without hopefully using the originals as a crutch. The series has such a great feel to it. I've always loved the character designs used, which made it into a number of AIC shows over the years, but getting to see them in this context again is great. That goes with the other areas of design as well, from the starships to the Jurai interiors of the royal ships and so forth. The tendency towards an earthy nature gives them something most other shows don't have since they go the high-tech route. GXP looks to provide a mix of that as it goes along, all while letting Seina's bad luck throw it all for a loop along the way.

In Summary:
GXP makes out very well here since the first five episodes provide a lot of hooks and ways to get into the series while also getting most of the basic explanations out of the way so that the show can really move forward with the remaining volumes. I avoided all the back and forth about the quality of the show when it originally aired, so I have no idea where it goes from here. But from what I've seen here, this is a worthy succession to the original series and lets it play out without the same baggage that ended up weighing it down so heavily over the years. With a lot more science fiction and comedy into the mix, GXP looks to be a series that will be very quickly watched as each new volume comes in.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Songs

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 24.98/34.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tenchi Muyo