Tenchi Muyo Ryo-ohki 3rd Season Vol. #1 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: C
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: N/A
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Vap Video
  • MSRP: ¥4800
  • Running time: 45
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tenchi Muyo

Tenchi Muyo Ryo-ohki 3rd Season Vol. #1

    September 22, 2003
Release Date: September 18, 2003

Tenchi Muyo Ryo-ohki 3rd Season Vol. #1
© Vap Video

What They Say
"...the extraterrestrial beauty girls intently unfold the play-heart of the people..."
- Translated from the introduction to the series published on Tenchi-Web (www.tenchi-web.com), 2002.

Tenchi Muyo! The authentic "Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki" continues after an interval of 8 years. New production!! The original animation commenced in 1992 with "Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki". After 13 episodes (aka OVA 1 & 2) came the TV series, the radio play, the computer game, and the books. The series later progressed to theatrical release, yet the numerous puzzles presented in OVA 2 remained unexplained. For 8 years, increasing numbers of fans have been waiting for the original "Tenchi Muyo!" OVA 3 to be released!!
- Translated from the listing on CD Japan (www.cdjapan.co.jp), 2003

The Review!
"Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki" has the nostalgic feel of a children's cartoon, but with adult humour and concepts. Although this is typical for many anime, the series stands out as a most remarkable example of the genre.

A light-hearted comedy about a high-school student (Tenchi Masaki) whose life is turned upside down when five alien women become shipwrecked on Earth, this series has a certain romantic view of the world and relationships which is particularly endearing.

The highly imaginative artwork, character designs, music, and storyline somehow combine to create a series that is greater than the sum of its parts. Spaceships and computers are constructed from ornately carved intelligent trees. Another spaceship becomes a rabbit-like creature when parked. This is a universe where magic is science and science is magical.

There is a certain nobility, refinement, and honor surrounding all of the characters, including the villains. Tenchi avoids inappropriate actions and compromising situations with integrity, good manners, and forbearance. Despite squabbles and potentially deadly rivalries, it becomes clear that each would rather risk their own life than allow any member of their household to be endangered. Characters smile quietly at one another without a word, yet the audience knows exactly what they are thinking.

Adorning the overall framework of this adventure, with its intricate subplots, lies a simple fascination with the common aspects of life that are often taken for granted. The audience is drawn into this turbulent yet happy household, vicariously taking part in the simple pleasures of owning a pet, growing some vegetables, taking a bath, drinking some sake, preparing a meal, or sitting down to dinner in the company of friends and family.

Despite the obvious quality and popularity of the series, "Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki" was discontinued long before the story was completed. The 13th episode ends abruptly with many questions left unanswered. Interstellar war is foreshadowed and there is a general suspicion that the balance of galactic power may now be centred on the household of Tenchi Masaki.

For 8 years, everything remained the subject of much speculation. In the meantime, the franchise was repackaged as three television series, a spin-off OVA, and three theatrical releases, all of which are set in alternate continuities. Each of these had merit, but most failed to live up to the quality and reputation of the original. Indeed, it could be said that the memory of the original series tended to enhance the overall perception of depth and character development for the later efforts (or detract from it, depending on the general disposition of the viewer).

To celebrate the 10th anniversary, a fourth series was announced for television ("Tenchi Muyo! GXP - Galaxy Police Transporter"), along with a much anticipated continuation of the original series, "Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki OVA 3". The latest series would be part of the OVA continuity, set several years in the future from the events of the original series.

As it turned out, "Tenchi Muyo! GXP" was a mediocre effort, despite some memorable moments and characters. It lacked the depth and subtlety of the original, and seemed to disregard all concept of audience demographic. The basic storyline and general slapstick seemed more suitable for children, yet it contained adult humour that crossed the line where few would dare to tread. While the adult humour of the original series tended to be somewhat risqué, it made fun of that side of life in a manner that was acceptable to most audiences and never crossed the line into feeling "dirty". "Tenchi Muyo! GXP" not only crossed that line all too frequently, it rubbed the viewer's nose in it.

Although "Tenchi Muyo! GXP" would have been acceptable as a spin-off series, had it been set in its own continuity, some were disturbed by the thought that the third OVA could turn out the same. Already, it had damaged the original series by portraying the OVA continuity with an extreme cartoon-like surrealism. To make matters worse, it destroyed the impression that the original characters were somehow remarkable or significant, elevating shallow and poorly-crafted characters to more prominent roles in galactic affairs.
The release of the 3rd OVA opening sequence on DVD did little to quell such doubts, portraying two major characters in an blatently "erotic" manner never before seen for the franchise, a manner which suggested that a line had been crossed and that the series would no longer be suitable for a general audience.

All things considered, it was hard to be genuinely excited about this release. Even the cover artwork conveys a negative impression. Ryoko sneers at the viewer with a nastiness quite unlike anything we have seen, more in keeping with the pirates of "Tenchi Muyo! GXP", but nothing at all like the Ryoko that we have known all these years. The back cover suggests a marked improvement over the bland artwork of "Tenchi Muyo! GXP", but it still has that stereotypical low-grade appearance more often associated with CG-based fan-art than official merchandise.

The review copy is a limited first-pressing edition that contains a bonus drama CD, which will not be reviewed here (save to mention that there are no music tracks).

The DVD and CD are housed in transparent slimline twin-disc pack with Amaray-style clamps. Four-panel manga are displayed on the reverse side of the front and back covers. There is a pamphlet (a single sheet of sepia paper folded in half) that features the familiar OVA 3 cast promotional poster as a sepia-toned sketch. Inside the pamphlet are some more sketches and some notes. Also included is a glossy advertising flyer with release dates, a story summary, and promotional artwork from Tenchi Web (www.tenchi-web.com).
The discs themselves are striking in appearance, with transparent blue labels (there is a picture of Ryoko on the DVD, but not on the CD). The DVD is single-layer with a running time of 45 minutes.
All of the menus have been kept simple, with basic functionality. The chapter menu plays short clips within small windows. All of the screens have colourful artwork and background music.

The main feature automatically plays when the disc is loaded and, surprisingly, the new opening sequence that was the subject of its own DVD release is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the opening credits appear over a prologue depicting the battle that precedes Dr Clay's visit to Lady Tokemi. It is a nice touch, considering that Dr Clay had commented on the debris as he passed through the area in the original series. Immediately, we are given the impression that this episode was planned from the beginning and not added as an after-thought (although this impression is fleeting, as it turns out).
As for technical matters, the picture quality is very disappointing. Superficially, the picture is sharp and colourful, but there are peculiar interlacing artifacts of a type that I have never seen before. Moving objects break up into multiple images. It seems as if the video was prepared at a low frame rate, then frame-blended to fit a higher frame rate.

Some frames are perfectly resolved, as if they are progressively encoded, while others appear to be interlaced with half the scanlines missing (occasionally some scanlines from adjacent frames are present). This is an appalling example of DVD encoding, one that will make the recent demand to recall "Spirited Away" seem like "much ado about nothing". Considering that this is an all digital production, it is completely inexcusable.

Conversely, the sound is crystal clear with deep bass extension and excellent punch across the entire audible spectrum.
The quality of animation and artwork is excellent, although it differs in style from the original so much that it will be hard to watch OVA 3 immediately after OVA 1 & 2. It's not that it is better or worse, just that it is different to the point of affecting the sense of continuity between all three parts. All of the artwork is painstakingly detailed and makes significant use of 3D shading techniques. Apart from 3D effects, the style is soft and slightly diffuse, almost watercolour-like for the backgrounds, yet vivid and sharp with bold outlines for all the characters.

As for dramatic style, OVA 3 is not at all like "Tenchi Muyo! GXP". Instead, the director has captured much of the atmosphere of OVA 2. Even so, several bad decisions have been made which detract from the overall quality. One example is the use of grotesque super-deformed faces when characters become emotional - a level of surrealism that simply does not belong in the OVA series.
Another example is the inclusion of flashback footage from earlier OVA episodes. The problem with this is that we see some characters as current and flashback in the same scene, painfully highlighting the difference in style to the point of breaking "suspension of disbelief". Furthermore, the flashbacks are all too pervasive and give the strong impression that they are merely an excuse to save money and pad out the episode by an extra 20 minutes (literally). Certainly, they serve no purpose in advancing the story.

Worse yet, the flashbacks are not taken from the restored THX-certified version or the original R2 DVD masters. Instead, they are low-quality interlaced video with objectionable cross-colouration ("rainbows") in areas of fine detail, appalling frame-blending, significant compression artefacts, and horizontal smearing. The original R2 releases were interlaced and had some compression artefacts, but they did not look like this. Given that original versions of an appropriate standard were available, this is a significant oversight.

The director would have done well to realise that an audience paying close to two dollars per minute expects to see new footage, not a replay of what they were seeing on VHS tape a decade ago. Considering that 18 out of the first 20 minutes of the episode is recycled footage of the lowest possible quality, the audience is ready to leave long before the story has even commenced. To make matters worse, very little happens in the rest of the episode - it simply "farts about", to coin a phrase.

Despite these problems, the show has not fallen completely short of the mark. The new footage appears to be faithful to the original in many respects. The atmosphere and dramatic tone of the episode is appropriate, the character designs are compatible (within the limits imposed by the new style), and the soundtrack is as impressive as we have come to expect from any series in the franchise. Even so, aspects of the production are careless, and it would be fair to have expected more effort to be made. It is obvious that many in the audience are going to feel cheated and abused. It can only be hoped that the series will improve with time.

Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese Language,Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese Language,Featurettes (4): Cast interviews,First Edition Bonus: "Tenchi Muyo Special Issue" CD

Review Equipment
System 1: 29" Toshiba Dramatic-V, 28 System (multi-standard) television (calibrated); Pioneer DV-626D; Playmaster Series III amplifier; Mission 725SE speakers with XLO-Pro cable; Monster Video-3 (S-video) and Interlink 400MKII (audio) cables.
System 2: WinDVD 3.1 (Pentium III 550, Windows XP); GeForce4 Ti 4200; Mitsubishi DV-171 TFT Monitor (calibrated);


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