Tenchi Universe Vol. #1 (Mania.com)

By:Justin Emerson
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, June 20, 2000

The Review!
Someday I hope to own all of Tenchi on DVD. My first Anime DVD (or DVDs actually) that I ever owned was the Tenchi Muyo OVA Boxset, and there wasn't anything at that time that could've better demonstrated the wonderful possibilities of DVD. With a THX remastering, a Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese Audio mix, and even a complete interactive encyclopedia, the Tenchi Muyo Ultimate Edition boxset was the gem in my collection for a long time.
Instead of taking the Box Set route with Tenchi Universe, however, Pioneer has decided to go with individual discs. Personally I like Box Sets, but I can deal with the fact that such a long series may deserve individual discs. But it being a catalog title, I still was a little puzzled by Pioneer and the way they are going against all their previous precedents (really all their catalog titles have been released as Boxsets, AFAIK - although there are a few exceptions). However, the fact that it is sold in individual discs does not detract from how good a show this is. This disc does have some minor flaws, but overall it is a fun experience, one Tenchi fans would do well to be familiar with.

I've only seen bits of Tenchi Universe previously, so the first time I'm seeing it as a whole is in the DVD format and all its glory. The picture is good, however there are definitely some rainbow effects and the occasional interlacing artifacts that I can spot. I've been doing so much video work lately, editing and such, that I can actually spot interlacing on regular TVs, which really ruins the experience, so I don't watch TV anymore - no big loss. (I want my HDTV, damnit, but sets just cost too much right now!) Aside from these minor graphical issues (the rainbow moire effect isn't easily visible on regular TVs, but visible on computer monitors) the video is of normal Pioneer quality. You can tell, however, that this show isn't brand new and all digital like the Sol Bianca discs from Pioneer. The picture is still good, but you don't get the perfect picture feeling of "I can actually see the painted cel placed over a background drawing in front of me," that Lain or Sol Bianca gives you.

Audio is standard fair for a TV show. No DD5.1 remix, no Dolby Pro-Logic mix, just plain old Dolby Digital Stereo in both languages. While the sound certainly isn't bad, I haven't seen the show use many stereo effects, so far. Surely such a cornerstone title of Pioneer (i.e. any Tenchi product) should receive better treatment than this (yes, and stop calling me Shirley). Even a Pro-Logic mix like in Fushigi Yuugi would have been better than bland old vanilla stereo, and even stereo that isn't used very effectively. However, the audio that is there is top quality, I noticed nothing out of the ordinary and the sound was crisp and clear.

The Packaging is fairly standard, but not underdone. The cover artwork is nice and isn't boring (see Chris's review for a comparison to the Laserdisc covers) but other than the artwork, there's nothing that stands out about the packaging on the outside. On the inside, however, you get little Tenchi Muyo finger puppets. Yay, I'm ecstatic. While I could see Chris's affinity to them (or rather his daughter's), I'm certainly not getting very excited about them. However, they did use the retention mechanism for the disc that I like, so I gotta compliment them there.

The Menus for this disc are so-so. There's music playing in the background (although the English theme song...yeeeecccch) and the language and scene selection choices are fast and straightforward. No more guessing "Which language is selected right now?" syndrome that some older Pioneer DVDs suffered from. They did include Creditless Openings and Endings (something I always appreciate) which was very nice of them.

The Content I have mixed feelings about. It's certainly funny, and it's got its own unique style compared to the OVAs. I of course love the characters, and the storyline so far is different but still fun. It's just that...well this seems somehow unfulfilling in some ways. After all, this is just basically a rehash of the OVA story with one new character plugged in.

Granted, the plots are different, but all the outcomes are the same. I guess that after watching some Haunted Junction (another review coming soon from me) and then this, I couldn't help but think what a difference it makes when you're meeting the characters for the first time. I guess, deep down, seeing the story changed feels almost wrong. Not wrong as in incorrect, but like Pickles and Ice Cream wrong - like chocolate and eggplant wrong. It just feels weird, but I still enjoyed it. I think that those who are more familiar with the TV series or who haven't been exposed to Tenchi at all will enjoy this more than whose who've already seen the OVAs.

Despite some flaws in this disc, it's still funny. Tenchi Muyo has never failed to make me laugh (well, the movies are a little more serious but I'm not going to get into those) and this disc is no exception. If you enjoy a good comedy and want to play it safe, Tenchi Universe is a great place to start. It'll appeal to a lot more people than some other series like Haunted Junction, which is very off-the-wall and bizarre and may not appeal to everyone. This is a decent disc from Pioneer, but I hope they can fix the few technical issues I have with it before it's time to press Volume 2.

Review Equipment
RealMagic Hollywood+ DVD Decoder card w/Creative Labs DTT2500 Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Speakers.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tenchi Universe