Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki Box Set - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 300
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tenchi Muyo

Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki Box Set

By Chris Beveridge     January 23, 2008
Release Date: September 25, 2007


Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki Box Set
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
The gang's all back and their world gets turned upside-down when they receive a strange visitor. While Ryoko, Ayeka, and the others are arguing, Tenchi collapses from exhaustion. At the same time the mysterious Lady Tokimi dispatches the warrior Z to Earth in order to learn more about Tenchi and his connection to Washu and Tsunami. What will be Tenchi's fate?

The Review!
The third OVA series for the Tenchi Muyo franchise comes together a bit cleaner when taken in total like this.

Audio:
Even though we've listened to the Tenchi franchise in both languages over the years, I keep coming back to the Japanese side again. The included stereo mix, done at 256kbps, is nicely done and has a decent amount of directionality across the forward soundstage and the music and ambient effects are well placed and sound full. I'm still disappointed that we didn't get the Japanese 5.1 release that's available however. The English mixes, provided in a 256kbps encoded stereo format and a 448kbps 5.1 format, sound pretty good overall. The 5.1 mix naturally bumps up the overall clarity and depth while also increasing the amount of noticeable bass to it. Across all three soundtracks we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released to video back in 2003, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The materials for this release overall look to be really good and it provides something that we don't get to see in a lot of releases these days, older footage. The first episode provides a number of flashbacks to the original couple of OVA episodes and it's interesting to see the changes and even better the similarities in everything between the two and to see which one you think looks better. Both of them are well authored here and overall this release looks great. The only area I saw some trouble with is when the show goes from an all black screen, there's some visible blocking going on. Other than that, this looks to be pretty much problem free and just filled with lots of vibrant colors that are solid and free of cross coloration and gradation issues.

Packaging:
The original single volume releases for this series was really strangely done as we had two single keepcases and then with the last volume they included a tin to hold it all. Those releases were all done with the artwork we saw from some of the Japanese releases in which they were stark white backgrounds with somewhat strangely colored character designs. This release avoids using the same artwork from that release and puts it all in a single digipak release. The slipcover piece is a chaotic yet cute piece that surprisingly gives the central focus to Washu as we see her in her lair while other characters are all being examined by her. There's a good bit of white space to it that helps draw the eye to the characters, but the dark aspects of it throws it off a little bit. The back cover is a bit white piece that has several shots from the show and some nice character artwork to give it some color. The summary runs through the basics and we get a good listing of the episode numbers and titles – even if they're not justified properly for some reason. The extras are clearly listed as well as runtimes for some of them in order to beef up the overall content value. The technical grid is painfully small and done in a light shade of blue-green that's difficult to read against the white background.

The digipak itself is abound in color as it features the core cast of primary characters for the most part as its main foldout piece. The colors are very rich and look great here. Where the digipak goes weird is that there is a white flap on the first part with the series logo that's designed to hold any booklets. The only booklet included is a standard "coming soon" advertising piece and nothing for the show proper. So they designed all of that just to hold something that could have been easily shrinkwrapped in. The reverse side where the discs are features a good deal of character artwork for those that appear throughout the series in total, but mostly on those new to these OVAs like Airi, Noike and the like. Similar to the main side, it's very colorful and looks good once you take the discs out and is certainly appealing to see the secondary and newer characters given some solid attention.

Menu:
The menu layout goes for the simple but effective approach as the main menu is a slightly zoomed in shot of the original front covers character artwork against a white background. The colors make it stand out nicely and it looks really crisp and clean here as the brief bit of instrumental music plays along. Navigation is straightforward and it avoids the problems older menus had with language section. Access times are nice and fast and our players' language preset for the audio worked fine but with the subtitle tracks unlabeled, that did not pick up correctly.

Extras:
Disc 1: The only extra included on this volume are a short series of character profiles.

Disc 2: The first extra on this volume is a two part "Real Tenchi Tour" that has some of the music oriented folks going on location to places down south in Japan to see areas that were the inspiration for character names and more. It's interesting but very laid back as you watch the singer basically wander around some of the locales. Each of the parts runs about twelve minutes in length. Also on here is a couple of Japanese TV spots for the DVD release and a music video for "Lovely Cookin'."

Disc 3: The extras for this volume are quite amusing and interesting if you're really into the Tenchi lore and want to see it discussed. From the Himitsu Nabe special, we get a 40 minute "live action special" that covers all sorts of material about the show as two actors talk about the background premises of the series. These are all things that they talk about how they'll serve as a bridge between this OVA series and the GXP series. The other extra included is a 30 minute radio drama. Radio dramas have been brought over before and results have been mixed. This drama was actually done for the Japanese release so it has a lot of simple but very cute stills to go along with the voiceovers. The only real problem I had with it is poor placement of subtitles; when some of the Japanese subtitles are flowing by, the all white English subtitles get distorted because of it. Since the show is all stills, it would have been much better to have placed them along the top for that particular scene.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Tenchi Muyo OVA series is one that will always mean a lot to me since its arrival here in the US back in the early 90's was the impetus for me to get a laserdisc player as they weren't doing VHS releases at first. Those releases were just amazing as it was essentially the Japanese release with a stickied translated version on the back. One episode per disc, thirty-five bucks each. Getting those releases and that player led into more film studies, and a great appreciation of international cinema far beyond animation, that has proven to be quite useful over the years.

The arrival of this seven part OVA series came quite a few years after the original two runs and found itself a new home with a different releasing studio. That release was fairly problematic though as it was about a year between the first and second volume and then the third volume was just one episode of epilogue material. Watching it in that manner left me uninterested and uncaring about the entire thing after awhile. While it had been good to reconnect with characters that I've always found appealing because of what they introduced me to, the method of watching it was more problematic than I realized at the time. Revisiting the show now, well over a year since I watched the final volume, has given me a slightly different view of it even if my original feelings about it are unchanged.

One of the things that had bothered me with the second OVA series was that it didn't really seem to have too much of a point to it in the end. This one suffers much from the same thing except that the point of it is to serve as a bridge to the Tenchu Muyo: GXP series. The GXP series introduced us to the larger universe and how it works with a series of characters that, while standard stereotypes, were enjoyable and fun to watch. This series decides that it needs to strengthen its ties to GXP and bring in several of those such as Seto and Airi. But just what is the actual Ryo-Ohki series about?

Therein lies the rub. There are a few stories running through it but two of them are what you could consider the primary ones. And even there, the big epic galaxy spanning story that puts everything at risk is treated little more than a bookend piece, which really undercuts its impact overall. This story involves a young yet powerful man known as Z, or Zero, who is intent on destroying Tenchi in order to force the hand of Tokimi for what he wants. His story is given some minor lip service at the start of the series and then becomes the focus of the sixth episode. Beyond a very mild nod here and there in between, Zero is essentially a non-entity for the bulk of the show. With the scale of his actions and the possibility of it causing the destruction of the universe, it's a shame that it happened this way. Even worse, when things do kick into his storyline in episode six, we're literally thrown right into the second half of it without much explanation of how it progressed there. When they decide to spend time filling us in on Zero's back story, there really isn't much of a care there.

So where does that leave us with the remainder of the series, the bulk of what's left? Family, friends, fiancées and flirtation. Tenchi is the series that many mark as the beginning of the harem formula in the anime world. Over the years though, the scope of harem anime has gotten pretty large and at times fairly inventive. Tenchi Muyo has been relegated to the past with its small simple group of women wanting one guy, so they need to ratchet it up a bit. That all happens with the arrival of a few different people. The first one to throw everyone for a loop is the arrival of Tennyo, a woman who looks exactly like Tenchi's mother Kiyone. It turns out that she's actually Tenchi's much older sister and there's all sorts of similar age related issues that there are with Tenchi's grandfather Yosho.

She's not the only thing that drops in as Yosho's actual wife, Airi from the GXP series, drops in before Seto, the "Devil Princess" of Jurai can arrive. All of them are there to bring about the first meeting for the arranged marriage that Tenchi is part of. An arranged marriage that he obviously didn’t know about and neither did Ayeka, which we see in a careful bit of retconning. That introduction of his fiancée is bluntly done with Tenchi, trying to get away from it all, heads out into the carrot fields to work and stumbles across a young woman named Noike. The casual get along atmosphere works until it's revealed who everyone is and then it just goes all over the map as you have people competing for his attentions across a big scale. The sheer amount of women in the household who fawn and such over him is just too much to bear at times. But, admittedly, with several of these characters being ones that I found myself enjoying from the GXP series, I ended up liking them in this atmosphere and the almost playful familial manner that it took on.

So in addition to the main core cast of characters, which includes Ryo-ohki in child-like human form, we now have all these new intergalactic visitors taking up temporary residence in the house and causing all sorts of confusion while playing in-jokes with each other. That's not all that we get though as there is a subplot that takes up a good chunk of the first few episodes involved Mihoshi's family. Mihoshi is fairly well restrained in this series overall, though she seems to have a Jar Jar Binks like effect wherever she goes. The threat comes from her family this time as one of her elders is attempting to destroy the Earth for delusional reasons while Mihoshi's brother is intent on destroying Tenchi because he views him as a completely evil man taking advantage of numerous women. All the while he's doing this, his adjutant is dutifully obeying his every command while secretly lusting after him herself. This all spills over into everything else and it's just a big mess.

Yet, strangely, in watching these seven episodes over the course of two days, I found myself enjoying it far more than I did during the original release. The distance between releases really hampered it, especially in the way the show itself jumps around a bit towards a certain point when it comes to story progression. If you look at the show as a kind of family reunion for the most part where people you didn't know (or even know of!) were coming, then it has a certain feel to it that works rather well. There's much confusion about who is related to who, why some people didn't know each other well for a time and little other things that seem perfectly natural in a large family gathering. That doesn't minimize the overall structure issues of the series, nor that there really is no point to all of it, but in a way it makes a certain amount of sense.

This isn't a series for new fans to get into though and it barely serves as a proper bridge between the OVA continuity and the GXP TV series. You're like the new guy that's meeting the family for the first time and it all sort of just washes over you. For older fans of the Tenchi series, it's even harder to really say what the best approach is with it. I've really liked Tenchi from the start and seeing much of those early episodes in the first episode here reminded me of why I enjoyed it. With the time between the second OVA series and this one, I had expected a bit more from it than what we got here. All the big epic material is served up as epilogue and it didn't really answer any questions. If anything, the show is weak on what made the OVAs so much fun in the first place as Ryoko, Ayeka and Sasami are all very minimal in it when looked in total. They have their moments, but this isn't their moment to shine. If anything, it's Tenchi's show more than anything else and he spends much of it shell shocked from all the people he's meeting.

In Summary:
Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki has been a real up and down piece as the creative staff seemed like they knew they wanted to tell a story but didn't know which one to tell. They fell into too many pitfalls along the way and had far too large of a cast. This works well in a series of length like Tenchi GXP but when it comes to the OVA franchise, the fans want the core characters. Tenchi Muyo is considered one of the fathers of the harem genre for good reason, but it's a father under the hands of a staff that doesn't know how to take what it once was and make it even more. In a lot of ways, they don't even know how to make it similar to what has come before. This series is a nice set of also-ran stories but it doesn't come near the enjoyment derived from the original six episode series.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,"Himitsu Nabe" Tenchi Muyo Special, Live Action Special, Radio Drama

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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