Tenchi Muyo Ultimate Edition (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, June 01, 1999
With the release of the Tenchi Muyo DVD Ultimate Collection, Pioneer has proven that DVD is indeed THE perfect home for anime! Since the announcement of the eventual release of the entire 14-episode Tenchi Muyo OAV collection onto DVD, anime fans have been eagerly holding their breath for the actual product to show up. After a delay or two (the set was originally set to ship back in March '99), the set has finally arrived and proven that when given the proper treatment, anime on DVD is here to stay! Initially, the $130 price tag for the 14-episode set will initially turn off the casual anime fan. But if one is to remember, the original Tenchi OAV's first came out on bilingual/dubtitled at a price of approximately $35-$40 a laserdisc (with only one episode PER laserdisc until episode 8), the price becomes much more reasonable AND affordable-and that doesn't even include the additional Tenchi Encyclopedia V3.0 that comes with the set!
For those of you that are not familiar with the Tenchi Muyo name or storyline-what ROCK have you guys and gals been under?!? After an initial 14-episode run, the series expanded into "alternate" universes including the Tenchi Universe collection, 2 feature movies, the Tenchi in Tokyo TV series (also available on DVD through Pioneer), a spin-off series featuring the Sasami character and a third movie that is soon to be released in Japan. But for those uninitiated in Tenchi lore, the story starts out with monk-in-training Tenchi Misaki disobeying his grandfather and accidentally waking up a demon (that later turns out to be a space pirate who's been "sleeping") named Ryoko. The awakening of Ryoko sets up a chain of events that involves, but is not limited to, a space princess and her younger sister, a space police detective, a mad scientist, a cute little half rabbit/cat and numerous other memorable characters that end up living with Tenchi and making life absolutely difficult! For those of you that would like more information on the Tenchi universe, there is a wonderful primer.
The first thing that I noticed was the Pioneer could've done a bit better job on the actual box/case that the set came in. First off, it was very plain and ordinary looking (I mean, an overall gray box with just Ryoko on the front?) from the outside so its not very eye-catching to the non-anime inclined DVD shopper. Opening the set, the 3 discs are stuck in their case spindles so tight that I was afraid I was going to break the DVD as I was removing it from the case. Personally, I would've preferred the "yin-yang" push-down spindles for this setup. On the inside of the case, there was a flap to hold the insert (which was a simple 2-sided sheet with a breakdown of the chapters on the 3 DVDs) but other than a nice-color picture of the Tenchi gang, this was a rather spartan case totally devoid of eye-catches. Perhaps Pioneer figured that most of the folks getting this set already knew what a big thing Tenchi was? Don't know, but I hope Pioneer will give more artwork/graphics on future sets (Fushigi Yugi, El-Hazard, etc.) to come because this just didn't cut it.
On the technical aspect of the set, Pioneer is obviously at the forefront of utilizing the best aspects of a new technology such as DVD. The audio and video presentation is top-notch and is tops across the scoreboard especially now that the entire OAV series has been given a THX-approved remastering in the audio and video departments. With only minor "glitches" that were noticed, the DVD set shines in every aspect. The video presentation was vibrantly brilliant, with almost no pixellation or artifacting present. Even on my measly 13" Commodore 1084S monitor, the video was just absolutely stunning with colors that I haven't seen my monitor do before showing up onscreen ! The subtitles were done in a nice yellow font with black backgrounds which was far more legible than a lot of the earlier anime DVD fonts (especially those from the CPM/USMC side of the anime DVD front). Pioneer seems to have also learned some tricks with DVD subtitle positioning as well, with the subtitles being positioned in the proper position of the character speaking the dialogue (nice touch Pioneer!). The audio was in a word...stunning. Even on a left/right standard stereo setup, the 5.1 Dolby Digital Japanese dialogue track came through clearly and with no background noise (Tenchi LD owners, remember us having to switch to the ANALOG track on the laserdiscs for the Japanese track? ) and made me feel like I was in the Tenchi world. The 2.0 English track was also great, and although I prefer my anime in the Japanese language the English voice cast for this production was a statement to the fact that Pioneer took its anime productions SERIOUSLY and were giving it the best that they had!
While the set did shine in its technical aspects, there unfortunately were some instances where Pioneer had stumbled. First off, the menus-while presentable and workable-were very clumsy! There was no delay in going from one place to another via the menu, but what happened to the types of menus that were typical of Pioneer like their Darkstalkers DVD productions? Another annoyance was that the Tenchi episodes were chapter-marked for each episode opening and each episode opening ONLY. What happened here Pioneer? There are some of us that would like to look for a SPECIFIC chapter and not have to search through an entire episode for that particular spot, so the chapter marks definitely got a thumbs-down from me. The audio aspect of the production survived my inspection (heh), but the video aspect suffered from some artifacting that was evident in the opening intro from the "first" season (the intro WITHOUT Sasami singing ). I am running on a Toshiba SD2006 player so I wasn't sure if anyone else may have caught this, but in the intro scenes where the characters are up against the colored "noise" background, there is some evidence of missing blocks that I knew were not off of the originals. Another criticism I had for the production was for the credits both during the opening and ending scenes. Pioneer simply left the original Japanese credits in the production which doesn't bother me too badly (I mean look what CPM/USMC did to Grave of the Fireflies' DVD opening), but they did not follow up with a TRANSLATED listing of the cast & crew! Couldn't Pioneer have imitated what they did with the wonderful alternate-angle shot from the Tenchi Muyo 2 DVD movie and offered an alternate shot with the English credits? The English-credits on the bilingual laserdiscs would've worked, so what was the deal with this goof-up Pioneer? Still, these are minor letdowns in what is largely a very well-done production and Pioneer is to be commended for giving an OAV series like Tenchi Muyo this fine treatment.
Overall, this set didn't disappoint me and is a worthy addition to any anime fan's collection. With the addition of the Tenchi Encyclopedia Version 3.0 on the third DVD in this set, fans get access to a wealth of Tenchi information, trailers and even a preview of the upcoming third Tenchi movie (BTW: the actress who plays the Sakuya character in the Tenchi in Tokyo TV series is kawaii CUTE!!). The interactive walk-through of Tenchi's house was also entertaining and the bilingual audio on most of the clips in the trailers/previews section showed that Pioneer was trying to please both the subbed and dubbed sides of fandom. Additionally, the first 3000 sets came with a limited-edition Ryoko plaque encased in a card sleeve (Pioneer also made it a point to mention on the promo sticker that the plaque did not contain actual gold on it heh) so be on the lookout! (I got #2866 of 3000). Overall, with just some minor "glitches," this set does the Tenchi series justice. I am hoping that the other domestic anime house here will take a look at this set and give their potential sets this kind of treatment, because this is the best way anime can be presented in a compact and affordable format.
Mania Grade: NA
Audio Rating: N/A
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 420
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tenchi Muyo