Tenchi Muyo RYO-OHKI Vol. #1 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 103
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tenchi Muyo

Tenchi Muyo RYO-OHKI Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     July 01, 2005
Release Date: July 05, 2005

Tenchi Muyo RYO-OHKI Vol. #1
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
Tenchi seeks answers from his past while Ryoko faces the present head on. But the gang's world gets turned upside-down when they receive a strange visitor. After composing himself, Tenchi discovers that the mysterious visitor is not his mom, but a long, lost sister who has come to inform him of his arranged marriage and, more importantly, his new fiancee, Noike. While Ryoko, Ayeka, and the others are disputing this, Tenchi leaves to work in the fields, where he unknowingly meets his bride to be. When Tenchi collapses from exhaustion, Washu gives him a prescription for three days of complete rest and relaxation! Now, with Tenchi confined to his bed, Noike must find a way to rally the girls into helping out around the house! After proving herself to him and his friends, will Noike finally be the girl Tenchi chooses?

The Review!
After far too many years, the original OVA series continues with its third installment, and one of the original full on harem series comes back to life.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included stereo mix 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 mix, provided both in stereo and 5.1 formats, sound good and across all three soundtracks we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

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.

FUNimation's doing the packaging just right for this release by using the original Japanese covers. As expected, Ryoko of course takes the first volume cover and with the stark white background, the design and colors are even more striking. I especially loved the inclusion of Ryo-ohki as well on her hip. The back cover continues with the white and lighter colors by providing a number of character animation from the shows opening sequence and some shots from the episodes as well. The summary, in far too small text, is decent but I was highly amused by what they listed as extras. Apparently English audio is an extra feature now as are the Japanese and English subtitles. The rest of the cover is filled out with the basic production information and the small tight technical grid. No insert is included with this release but the cover does have artwork on the other side, each panel being a different character; one for Aeka and another for Sasami in a rather interesting outfit.

The menu layout goes for the simple but effective approach as the main menu is a slightly zoomed in shot of the front cover character artwork against a white background. The colors makes 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.

The only extra included on this release is a short series of character profiles.

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. But getting them 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.

After a decent hiatus for the original series, it was decided to go back and continue on with the story that had kicked off so many side universes and spin-offs. While the original creative team couldn't come back together for various reasons, in watching these first three episodes and in having the flashbacks easily at hand to see the differences, I really think that they managed to properly capture what made Tenchi work all those years ago and to bring it to life again. Even better, all the comments I had heard from the die-hard crowd upon its release in Japan and their complaints just don't seem to bear out in my mind.

If you have no previous knowledge of the Tenchi-verse, this release will do a fairly good job of explaining away some of what's happened before. The opening episode is a double length OVA that includes a number of scenes from the original where Tenchi's having a flashback to his first meetings and other adventures as he makes his way around town or meets up with various people. From the way this was initially described it sounded like there was a fifteen to twenty minute block of recycled footage in the middle of the episode but it's actually nicely spread out. Walking with Tenchi, we get to see how the town has changed, such as the damage to the school and his house being slated for new construction.

Even better, we're given to understand where the focus of things is going to be when Tenchi and his father are on a drive together and Tenchi asks about his mother and how she passed away. Nobuyuki avoids the question as much as possible but it sets into motion the need for him and Tenchi's grandfather to come clean about it. What little we knew of his mother comes from Ryoko's knowledge of her and the way Ryoko attempted to comfort Tenchi after she died but this speaks of something more going on, which really isn't that surprising considering how this family works and its relations to those in the stars. The important thing when trying to get all of this in mind is that you have to excise so many alternate universe stories in order to take this in.

The Masaki household up near the shrine has continued on much the same. Sasami has managed to become a real force to reckon with as she manages the place in assigning chores, keeping Ryoko under control and ensuring that things just go along smoothly. Tenchi spends a lot of his time in the seemingly endless carrot fields and Washu works away at her mysterious projects in her dimensional chamber. Little has changed since we last saw everything in the first two OVA series.

All of it goes to hell in a handbasket though when some new people from Jurai start showing up. It's chaos at first as it seems like Tenchi's mother has come back to life but she's not exactly who she turns out to be and the mystery behind it is revealed surprisingly quick and I'll even admit that it's rather satisfactory in how they did it. A lot of the mystery of the family we've learned from Tenchi's grandfather in the one episode where he did his revelations but that apparently only scratched the surface of how things work in the family. The slow aging effect of the family is something that has to be dealt with and it looks like their solution works. Even better, after we get introduced to this new person, she's suddenly bringing in someone else and it's one of my favorite characters from the GXP series, Airi.

Amusingly, she's brought in under the assumption that she's Tenchi's new fiancée as picked by Seto but she's just there with the woman whose been chosen. The introduction of Airi and the mention of Seto further ties the GXP series to this continuity which makes me extremely happy as I just adored that show almost as much as the original six episode OVA series. Airi's arrival in the room with the women there believing who she is works out beautifully, especially how Washu simply sits to the side and observes and comments on everything, thereby filling the rest of us in. Airi's a great character and the way she deals with Tenchi is priceless, especially when he uses the sama honorific on her later on and she practically climaxes right there.

The show moves forward with a fairly standard set of episodes as we get the introduction of the real fiancée and she moves into the household. Noike is an interesting character and her background as an adopted daughter of Seto really set hers place in the hierarchy. Of course, he reason for being sent there is plausible enough as well since Tenchi is in line for the throne, he needs to go through a proper marriage procedure, one that was likely drawn up quite some time ago. What's interesting is that as the episodes progress and Noike works with everyone in the household (as Ryoko and Aeka conspire against her of course), she becomes the most interesting and enjoyable character there that works with Tenchi. She takes on the role that you'd assume Sasami would take on if she were of the right age in that she's able to run the household, manage the people and still go out there and put her back into working in the fields. Something you never see any of the others besides Sasami do.

Of course, there's probably heresy to old time Tenchi fans, but I've never been in favor of Ryoko and only moderately so of Aeka. I'm firmly in the Tsunami camp but a character like Noike allows that to be pushed to the side to be what it needs to be instead.

In Summary:
With the 3rd OVA season of the series, I think they managed to recapture much of what made the original six episodes of the OVA series so good while building upon what's come since both in the 2nd OVA season as well as the GXP series. Getting Tenchi back into circulation in what's largely considered his best incarnation and least goofy one really brings back the nostalgia but the show doesn't ride on that and sets about to nicely advancing a series of revelations about the family's history, where things are going as well as a slowly building background arc that picks up from the previous episodes. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes from here and simply enjoying the hell out of it. Good stuff for those who are open to the Tenchiverse but may cause hives for those who are fanatical about it.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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