Tenchi in Tokyo Vol. #5 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, September 07, 1999
I think that this is the third belated "Tenchi in Tokyo" review that I've done. I seem to remember that Volume 3 was delayed by several months last spring, and then I had just left on vacation when Volume 4 arrived in my mailbox (in Pincourt, Quebec). This time, I got the disk a full month ago, but the right audio output on my Toshiba SD-2107 stopped working altogether, and I had to take the player back to the shop for three weeks. (This is the second time I've had to get my player repaired. In January, less than a month after I first got it, the laser had to be replaced. And that procedure only took two weeks! This time, I assume that the problem was only a loose connection somewhere. You'd think that they'd be able to fix that in a couple of hours!) But it's fixed now, dear Anime on DVD fans, so I can slowly catch up on the reviews that I've been eager to write!
I had actually watched this disk all of the way through before I put the player in for repair, but, for the purposes of writing a technical review, it wouldn't have been fair for me to evaluate the disk on anything less than a perfectly functioning player. What can I really say about it though? It's basically the same as the previous disks, except with different episodes. Unlike Chris, I haven't noticed any drop in picture quality since the previous volume. The white fuzz at the top of the screen is still present. One of the benefits of writing these reviews is that I get some pretty interesting E-mail. Someone finally sent me an adequate explanation of the cause of the fuzz, which I had assumed was either static or some sort of photography issue. Apparently, since this particular "Tenchi" series was a low-budget production compared to, say "Tenchi Muyo in Love" or even the original OVAs for that matter, AIC spliced together the individual pieces the film the old-fashioned way; with a pen-knife and glue. So the white fuzz is actually the glue. They could have removed it electronically, but I doubt that they had the money or the time. It's a minor annoyance, but one you have to really look for to notice. (And as the pencil work for many anime series is now scanned directly into computers to be colored and spliced together electronically, such technical problems will soon become things of the past.) As with Chris, I found that on my player there is no pixellation to report at 56:22, though there is a tinge of redness in the white fuzz for some reason. The sound is digital, great, but not THX-quality, as always.
A wise man once said "See, I Told You So". Well, now I can say it too. Last July, in my review of "Tenchi in Tokyo" vol. 4, I wrote: "The bonus in this volume is Mayumi Iizuka's (the voice of Sakuya) video "Romantic da ne?" ("Isn't it Romantic?") As you may recall, this video was also included on the "Tenchi Encyclopedia 3.0" disc from the "Tenchi Muyo Ultimate Edition" OVA DVD set. (It's the one with the sunflower.)" I then went on to write: "Let me make a crazy prediction: the "Mint to Kuchibue" video will be the bonus included on volume 5." See, I told you so! Just as I predicted, the bonus on this disk (I spell "disk" with a "k" now, although both spellings are acceptable in English. The exception would be "Compact Disc", where that is the proper name for the format.) is the "Mint to Kuchibue" video. (There's also another Japanese "Shin Tenchi Muyo" commercial.) Am I not on the cutting edge of societal evolution? Perhaps I have some distant connection to the Kasuga family due to my uncanny precognitive ability (and for those of you in Rio Linda, that means "the ability to see the future"). I think that "Mint to Kuchibue" is the better of the two Mayumi Iizuka songs, although the video for "Romantic da ne?" was more interesting to look at. I'll go out on limb here; the bonus for volume 6 will be the video for Linda Yamamoto's "Yume wa doko e itta?" (the opening song).
In the September issue of "Die-Hard Gamefan" magazine, in his review of "Tenchi in Tokyo" Vol. 4, "Shidoshi X" mentioned that when he first got into anime on DVD, he hoped that every disk would be as feature-laden as the DVDs for Hollywood movies such as "Ghostbusters" and "The Matrix". After a while, he came to realize that this just isn't realistic. Most domestic anime companies don't have the deep pockets required to add all of those neat features. Even Pioneer, a major Japanese corporation, has two types of domestic anime DVD releases; they pull out all of the stops for a few high-profile titles, most notably the "Tenchi Muyo Ultimate Edition" where they devoted an entire disk for the multimedia "Tenchi Encyclopedia". Perhaps that's "The Way Things Ought to Be", but, for most of their DVD releases, it's just the anime. On DVD. With chapter selection, multiple languages and subtitles, but little else. "Tenchi in Tokyo" vol. 5 falls in the latter category. And that's fine with me. I can't help but feel that one of the reasons that some domestic anime companies are so slow to embrace the DVD format is because they think that we expect them to blow our socks off with tons of special features such as director's commentaries, DVD-ROM enhancements, multiple angles, and so on. While such features are nice, I hardly consider them essential. I'm not going to look down on anime DVDs with just the bare-bones DVD features (chapter selection & subtitles). For me the only bonus I need to be enthusiastic about a DVD release is that it is on DVD. I'd much rather have a company release 10 simple anime DVDs than one super-deluxe, multimedia event anime DVD. I mean, some of us bought LaserDiscs for years without any special features. The appeal of anime on DVD is that the picture and the sound are superior to VHS. Everything else is really just eye-candy.
As always, the dubbing is top-class. Recently, I watched TV dubs like "Pokemon", "Dragonball Z" and "Monster Ranchers", listening closely to the dubs, and it occurred to me: the quality of the dub voice acting in "Tenchi in Tokyo" is even better than any TV dub. The only thing that compares to the quality of the dubbing are the Disney-produced Ghibli dubs like "Kiki's Delivery Service". I'm not just talking about accuracy of the translation (which obviously would be better than any dub produced for children's television), I'm talking about the quality of the voice acting. It really is better. From what I've heard, should the American Cartoon Network spin off the Toonami block into a separate network (which I think should be called the "Excellence in Broadcasting... Anime" Network), "Tenchi Muyo" would be one of the showcase series. The dubbing is that good. (But any talk about an all-anime network is moot as far as I'm concerned because the C.R.T.C., the Canadian equivalent of the FCC, would prohibit any Canadian cable or satellite service from carrying it as there is already an animation channel in Canada.) However, should you watch the dub with the subtitles for the Japanese-language version turned on, you'll notice many changes made for the dub version. "Chestnut Imagawaki" becomes "blueberry cheesecake", "stretched out the chest" (on Washu's favourite nurse costume!) becomes "ripped the pants", and so on. I think that I can safely say that Pioneer made these changes in the dub with the specific intent to annoy a certain talented fan-fiction writer (who also contributes reviews and articles to this site)! But seriously, unlike certain people here, I admit that domestic anime companies aim dubs at a younger audience than subs (even though I can't say for certain whether or not the people who buy dubs are generally younger than people who buy subs), so I really have no problem with anime companies removing obtuse cultural references and cleaning up the language for the dubs (with the caveat: "just so long as the subtitled version remains intact").
Incidentally, the building on the cover is Shibuya 109, a vertical "fashion building" (shopping mall). The "Open Road" Tokyo Guide, by Patrice Fusillo and Noriko Araki, informs us that this building contains "Kujira", a restaurant serving what was traditionally considered a delicacy in Japan. I won't say what the word "kujira" means (look it up yourself), but the Tokyo Guide advises you to "leave your Greenpeace membership card at home" if you want to eat there!
I realize that some of you don't read below my "spoiler warnings", but I wanted to address a common criticism that I've heard about this series. Even though this is the only "Tenchi Muyo" series (not counting "Magical Project S") which features a continuing story right from episode one, I still hear people complain that "Tenchi in Tokyo" is mostly filler. Yes, it is. What's your point? "Tenchi Muyo" has always balanced filler with story. That's part of the appeal. "Tenchi Muyo" co-creator Hiroki Hayashi has said in interviews that one of the purposes of this series was to show the daily lives of the characters. I find that supposed "Tenchi" fans complaining about the filler in any "Tenchi" series to be tantamount to saying "I like "Dragonball Z", except for those endless scenes where one all-powerful, muscle-bound alien battles against another all-powerful, muscle-bound alien using martial arts and psychic powers" or "I like "Jem and the Holograms" except for the episodes when Jerrica is holding a benefit concert for the Starlight Foundation but the Misfits try to ruin it". Umm, that's about 90% of the series. If you're a fan of plot-driven series rather than character-focused series, why do you bother watching "Tenchi Muyo"? There are plenty of excellent series out there, such as "Fushigi Yugi" and "Gundam Wing", where the story continually advances forward with each episode. I don't think that the story in this series even starts to resolve itself until volume 7. If you only like the big climax episodes, why don't you just skip on this series until volume 7? Or, if you're looking for a series that has multiple levels of meanings, that has profound insight into the human condition and that is conducive to long polemic debates on the Internet discussing the significance of minor plot elements, try "Neon Genesis Evangelion", "Revolutionary Girl Utena" or "Serial Experiments: lain". With the exception of the movies, most of "Tenchi Muyo" is light comedy. It's always been comedy; though this particular "Tenchi" series is a broader style of comedy than we've seen before. It's certainly not for everyone's tastes, but which series is?
Okay, here's the standard spoiler warning. For those of you who want to watch this "fresh" (in the Frank Constanza meaning of the term), bail out now; otherwise don't complain to me later on in the forum that you found out something that you didn't want to know.
Episode 14 (yep, we're now in the second half of this series) is "Tokyo or Bust!" Tenchi has sealed off the Dimensional Tunnel (by folding his comforter), so Ayeka has to find another way to get from Okayama-ken to Tokyo (about 500 km). But Kiyone and Mihoshi are out on patrol in their blue version of Yagami, and Ryo-Ohki is sick, so Ayeka and Sasami have to resort to hitchhiking. "Don't Panic", Ayeka! (Though if you think about it, she's an alien hitchhiking on Earth, which makes her the polar opposite of Arthur Dent.) Meanwhile, Yugi and Tsugaru enlists the help of two guardian spirits from a passing comet to help the Juraian princesses get to Tokyo, because, as they've discovered, the best way to divide the Tenchi "family" is by brining them together. Meanwhile, Ayeka gets a lift from Masayo, a gorgeous female motorcyclist who pines after the only man who was faster than she is. Ayeka sees a parallel with her own (twisted) version of how she was separated from Tenchi, so she decides to help Masayo out. Hmm... I wonder if there's some kind of connection with the guardian spirits? You come to your own conclusion. (It's like "The Sixth Sense": Bruce Willis is mortally wounded in the opening scene. The boy can see and communicate with ghosts. The boy can see and communicate with Bruce Willis. You come to your own conclusion.) I was hoping that in this episode we'd find out once and for all whether or not Tsugaru is truly "a little light in the loafers" (if you catch my drift), but I had just misinterpreted a line in the preview for this episode on the previous disk. (When Ayeka said "Masayo! Let's fly off together in pursuit of the men we love!", I assumed that "Masayo" was an alias that Tsugaru uses (i.e. "Masato Sanjouin"/"Maxfield Stanton" a.k.a. Nephrite) because Tsugaru was shown on the screen at the moment she said "What? You'll take me with you to Tokyo for free?!". Alas, it was just the name of the female motorcyclist.) I also wonder whether this was a special "Tanabata" episode? (Tanabata is the festival of the stars. Altair, the weaver, and Vega, the cowherd, were star-crossed lovers who are separated for all but one day a year, July 7th. It's sort of the Japanese version of "Romeo and Juliet"; you find allusions to this legend in episodes of many Anime series, from "Rurouni Kenshin" to "Urusei Yatsura" (It's actually shown up many, many times in "Urusei Yatsura"; particularly in the 6th film "Always, My Darling".) I'd also argue that the OVA series "Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket" is yet another variation on the theme.) The best part of this episode is that you get to hear Ayeka speak bad English (for no apparent reason) to Masayo! (And by Ayeka, I mean Yumi Takada, not Jennifer Darling.) Is Ayeka a graduate from the "Pixy Misa Institute of Bad English"?
Episode 15 is "Love Date". Tenchi phones Washu and tells her to close off the Dimensional Tunnel, because it's not normal for girls to pop out of nowhere in a bachelor's apartment. (Umm, I thought that he could already do that just by folding up his comforter.) While the girls can't get to Tokyo that way, Washu figures out that Nobuyuki over the years that he's been working, has saved up exactly enough money for economy-class bus fare from Okayama to Tokyo plus snacks. But where did he hide his secret stash? Washu devises a canine robot sniffing device named "Pochi" (but not "Pochi" the angry dog (who was hilariously portrayed by Kotono "Sailor Moon" Mitsuishi) from "Those Who Hunt Elves"), or "Fido" (for those of you who only watched this disk with the English audio on) to help them look for the cash. Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Tenchi and Sakuya's classmates try to get them alone. Amagasaki (Tenchi's portly classmate with the glasses, pitted nose and thick lips) continually interrupts them from getting too friendly with each other, so Yugi sends another guardian spirit, in the form of a female pro-wrestler, to prevent Amagasaki from getting close. Since I watch a lot of "Urusei Yatsura", since "Urusei Yatsura" works in a lot of references to other Anime series, and since AnimEigo president Robert Woodhead includes "liner notes" explaining all of the references along with each "Urusei Yatsura" tape or disk (as in LD; I haven't got any preview disks from AnimEigo myself; although Mr. Woodhead, if you read the reviews on this site, a few preview disks of "Urusei Yatsura" would be very sweet), I recognize Amagasaki's final move as being a parody of the famous "cross-counter punch" from "Ashita no Joe", a 1970's anime series. Incidentally, Sadako Ikarini, the female wrestler, is portrayed by none other than Mizue Otsuka, who also provided the voice for everyone's favourite bounty hunter... no wait, that's Boba Fett... okay, everyone's favorite female anime bounty hunter... oh no, that would be Iria... well, Ryoko's arch-rival, the bounty hunter Nagi from "Tenchi Universe". Nobuyuki has the largest collection of shoujo manga that I've seen this side of... Nobuyuki's collection from episode 7 of the original series, "The Night Before the Carnival"!
Okay, if you're one of those who haven't seen these episodes yet but don't mind reading the minor episode spoilers, you might want to stop reading now, as I will give away something that will really ruin episode 16, "Carnival", for you if you haven't already seen it. The girls have found the money, and prepare to go to Tokyo. Ryoko decides to stay home, as she's the only one who trusts Tenchi on his own. (Or does she?) They show up in Tokyo, but Tenchi isn't around. Fortunately, Washu has a certain device (that should look very familiar for those of you who were once 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System aficionados) to find an ingenious way to enter Tenchi's apartment. They find out that Tenchi is helping out Sakuya, so they proceed to infiltrate the school festival with their usual subtlety. (I'm sorry that the school festival was destroyed, Selphie... er, I mean, Sakuya. I know that you worked real hard setting it up. "Booyaka"!) Now if a certain other reviewer on this site wasn't too thrilled with "Tenchi Forever" because it didn't conclusively tie-up the romantic feelings between Tenchi and a certain girl (gee, I wonder which girl it could possibly be?), he must REALLY hate this episode since (don't say I didn't warn you) Tenchi kisses Sakuya out of his own volition (rather than from having an outside force controlling his mind).
It's time for another installment of "Tenchi in Tokyo for the Japanese Impaired"! (To be honest, I didn't come up with the term "Japanese Impaired"; but I've completely forgotten where I first heard it.) When Ayeka realizes that she needs money to get to Tokyo, we see the character "a" in Ayeka's mouth. This is equivalent to "Oh!" The crown-shaped speech balloon next to Ayeka's head says "Yabu na"! "Yaburu" is a verb that means "tear, break or violate" but I'm not sure what the stem of the verb plus the adjective marker "na" means. The next screen has cartoons of a car and a change purse. The white rectangle next to the car says "norimono" or "vehicle". The car says "pika pika" and "yabo". Even though, as you may know, "pika pika" is Japanese onomatopoeia for "twinkle", I think that in this context, we can safely assume that it's "beep beep". "Yabo" is "unsophisticated" or "senseless". The rectangle next to the change purse is "okane" or "money" (come on, you knew that one). The change purse says "zenzen ieii". I can only assume that "ieii" is a variation of "iie", which means "no". "Zenzen" means "entirely"; but with a negative it means "not at all". Later on in the episode, the Kanji on the bus with the kids on it reads "youchien" or "Kindergarten". (Incidentally, the bus with the old-timers is going to (or coming from) Hiroshima.) When they first encounter Masayo, the motorcyclist, we see "kakkoii" (good looking), "Very Nice" (written out in Katakana) "ika" (less than) and some other Kanji that I can't make out behind Ayeka and Sasami. In episode 15, the big sign on the side of the school (at 32:50) is for a photography exhibition. When Washu displays Pochi, there's writing pointing to his "eyebrows" which says "Kono hen ga kawaii". I believe that you can translate this as "This feature (lit. strange?) is cute." Then, "Kono hen mo"; "This one too". As for the manga that Ayeka is reading at the end of this episode, the title (hard to make out) seems to be "Koi ga jitsu na..." ("Love is truly...") and the final character is "ishi" (rock), but, even using the 4X ZOOM on my player, I can't make out the characters in the middle of the title. The back cover says "Shoujo no yoru" or "Girl's night". In "Carnival", the name of the festival on the banner at 50:26 is "Shirohou Masturi" or "White Phoenix Festival" (they might have said that somewhere).
Last time, I said that the next time that I'd see you would be in my review of "Tenchi Forever". But, as things turned out, this came out first. But now that I have "Tenchi Forever" (actually, I got it two weeks ago but I had been waiting for a month to write this one) I think that I can safely say "see you in my review of "Tenchi Forever"!"
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tenchi Muyo