Tenchi Muyo GXP Vol. #8 (of 8) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, December 25, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, December 28, 2004



What They Say
I’m so cursed! It wasn’t too long ago that I was a simple Earthling teenager struggling through a typical teenaged life at home with my friends and family. Then one day I’m almost squished by a runaway spaceship! Before I knew it I woke up on another space ship on the way to the Galaxy Police Academy. Now I’m facing a painful death as both Tarant Shank, the galaxy’s most feared pirate, and the entire Galaxy Army have me surrounded! I guess my old friend Kai was right...I never will make it to graduation day!

The Review!
Bringing the series to a close, GXP ends quickly and then goes into different directions for roughly two episodes of epilogue.

Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer here is presented in its original full screen 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.

Packaging:
Going back to the core triangle of characters, Seina takes center stage for the final volume with Amane and Kiriko looking on, all of them in their very good looking uniforms. 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. The included inserts front page is a slightly cleaner version of the keepcase cover that opens to two panels that talk about the individual episodes. The back panel is an advert for another FUNimation show.

Menu:
The menu layout is a static piece that takes the science fiction design nature and applies it here with half the screen letting Seina get a nice shot in with an autumn style sunset behind him. This is 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.

Extras:
The profiles section continues to be relatively the same as it covers some of the cast members as before in the profiles section as well as a few new ones to this particular volume but they're still fairly meager with a short paragraph each. In the songs section, 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)
After eight volumes, Tenchi GXP finally comes to an end with the last three episodes. Throughout the series, we've enjoyed it a lot and found a lot of parts of it to be much better than the original Tenchi properties in general, though I think the original OVA series in its first six parts still stands out just slightly better. GXP manages to avoid the problems that Tenchi ran into by having the new character take the stage without the same expectations, which actually allow for a story to happen as opposed to keeping the series going for the sake of the love triangle that ended up being the focus.

With the last three episodes, I have to wonder if the episode count/release style is what's given me the feeling of this series being so oddly paced and unbalanced at times. The show opens with the last episode of the big action and adventure arc and then goes into two follow-up episodes of character material. It just feels wrong to end with the first episode here so quickly and with such big import and then drop off to what is more character comedy. The first episode is a lot of fun though as it has Seina being dealt with by the tribe he came across previously and their belief in him being the hero that they've waited a long time for. Bringing him deep into the caverns, they show off their god that's sitting there and tell him the tale of its past.

With Tarrant still very much after Seina and losing all sense of normality, he's got a good number of forces on the ground to deal with him as well as a sizeable number of ships in general. But as it would happen, when he attacks he ends up hurting plenty of the locals which sends Seina into not a rage but a real mad-on about it. His rising temper causes a connection with the god and the natives toss him in as a sacrifice, which reveals what the god really is. This elevates Seina up to a similar level as what Tenchi did early on in his own series, but the chances of it don't surprise too much considering the lineage and history of the families. What's interesting is that Seina takes it almost to a different level and really uses the tools given to him and cause a lot of destruction. In fact, it makes you think back to earlier in the series and realize just how many deaths Seina is responsible for.

The epilogue section of the series has an equally strange feel to it at times as well. The graduation side of things is pretty normal and it's fun to get Seina back into the actual academy for a bit and to do a couple of things with his class and graduate. But while the wacky stuff happens there, such as the party and all that, time is spent with the women of Seina's life and how they have to grapple with no longer being all together like they have been. Since they spent so much time together in space during their travels, they've all bonded rather well and even through the arguing feel close to each other. The loss of Seina in their lives is definitely something none of them really thought about happening.

But at the same time, we get to see how things are being manipulated by Lady Seto to get what she wants. Getting a party together for Seina ends up having her bringing in just about everyone from a good chunk of the original Tenchi cast to the Jurai Royal Family members as well as Seina's own parents and relatives. There's some amusement over his friend and sisters engagement and just a lot of really cute moments that will appeal mostly to the really die-hard fans as opposed to those who've only seen GXP. But all of it plays out well and is a lot of fun until they decide to drag it out just a bit more to a new kidnapping plot that has more naked women accosting Seina. This is the last piece that really just made me roll my eyes at it and at Seina's luck. The doubling of the number of women just doesn't feel right and feels like it's pandering too much towards the other series that are out there.

In Summary:
Overall, the GXP series was a lot of fun but it had plenty of frustration along the way, mostly because the show was over by the time you really get into it. The characters for the series definitely have their basis in the Tenchi universe but they had the freedom to explore more directions and more relationship possibilities since they aren't tied to nearly a decade of history. This freedom allowed for more comedy, more slapstick due to Seina's bad luck and plenty of fanservice throughout it. Though there were some frustrations with the release, the show itself managed to please time after time and took more chances than anything else in the overall Tenchi franchise, and that alone has us singing its praises. For Tenchi fans, this one is a great complement to the series and does a wonderful job of expanding the universe and explaining some of the neat ideas behind it. Definitely worth seeing, but if you haven't by now, wait for a cheap set.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Songs,Character Profiles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, 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
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tenchi Muyo