Tenchi in Tokyo Vol. #1 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • 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

Tenchi in Tokyo Vol. #1

By Steve Brandon     February 18, 2002
Release Date: January 19, 1999

The Review!
"Tenchi in Tokyo" is the domestic American release of the "Shin (New) Tenchi Muyo" TV series, which aired on Japanese television in 1997. Tenchi moves away from his grandfather's temple in rural (relatively speaking, this is Japan after all) Okayama-ken (prefecture) in western Japan to train with the Shinto priest Dokuzen Tsuchida in his temple in Tokyo in order to assume his ultimate role as heir to the Masaki temple. He moves into an apartment in Shibuya-Ku, where he thinks that he will finally find some piece and quiet. Of course, the tranquility is short lived. Washu invents a "Dimension Tunnel", that conveniently connects the Masaki Shrine to Tenchi's apartment. In Tokyo, Tenchi goes to territory heretofore unexplored (mostly) in the "Tenchi Muyo" series, namely high school. (We've only ever seen him at his own school in episode 1 of the OVA series, and episode 26 in the "Tenchi Universe" continuity.) There he meets a girl named Sakuya Kumashiro, who quickly falls in love with him, much to the dismay of Ryoko and Ayeka. Will Tenchi be able to prevent Sakuya, who seems perfectly normal, from discovering his secrets, and, more importantly, can he get Ryoko, Ayeka and the other alien gals to keep their powers under wraps? And why do the minions of the evil Yugi seem to follow around Tenchi and Sakuya wherever they go?

This is the first Tenchi series to introduce the main villain in the first episode. In the previous TV series, "Tenchi Universe", the machinations of the main plot didn't even start until episode 13. With no small degree of irony, Yugi is much closer in concept to being a "Queen Beryl"-type villain, as seen on "Sailor Moon", than Rumia is on "Pretty Sammy" (the "Tenchi Muyo" spin-off which is meant as a spoof of the entire Magical Girl genre, of which "Sailor Moon" is the best-known example). Yugi even has her own agents, much as Queen Beryl had her knights (Jadeite, Nephrite et al). There are many odd allusions to "Sailor Moon". When the Construction site demons are defeated by the girls in the first episode, they leave behind objects (in this case, currency) which they used as their hearts. In "Sailor Moon S", the same type of thing happens in nearly every episode. (By the way, while we're on the subject of "Pretty Sammy", and since I know some representatives of Pioneer read the reviews on this site, how about putting "Magical Project S" on DVD, huh?) Damn, who was it that the Demon of the Cell-phone in episode 3 reminds me of? I think that it was a character in "Captain N", the Japanese-produced, late 80's cartoon that featured Nintendo characters, but I forget exactly which one. Never mind.

One strength of this particular series is that the focus seems to be much more on Tenchi than it was in previous series. How much do we really know about Tenchi, at least character-wise? In the past, most of what we learned about Tenchi was through how his interactions with the other characters. His own personality is still largely a mystery, other than that he is polite, somewhat introverted, but deeply caring about the alien girls with whom he unwittingly shares his life. Another thing I appreciated was the return of Amagasaki, the high school student with the thick lips, acne-pitted nose and glasses who is, in some ways, the "Anti-Tenchi": not too handsome, and not very popular with girls. He only really made an appearance in the very first episode, but he was also the subject of a gag-strip in the inserts included in the second OVA series (for those of us who bought the Laserdiscs), and he was one of Evil Kiyone man-servants in the "Magical Girl Pretty Sammy" video from the "Sound File". If a character that minor could make a return appearance, perhaps there is hope for Nagi, everyone's favorite Bounty Hunter. (Yes, I know that she won't make an appearance in this series, I'm talking about Tenchi series in the future.)

The dubbing is excellent, as usual. Personally, I think that "Tenchi Muyo" features the best dubbing of any regular series. It is the "gold standard" by which I judge all other dubs. (Two of the English voice actresses from "Tenchi Muyo", Sherry Lynn (Sasami, Kiyone and Tsunami) and Debby Derryberry (Achika, Misao/Pixy Misa, and Yugi) were used in Disney's excellent dub of "Kiki's Delivery Service".) Of course, I still prefer the Japanese cast, but the English dubbed version is one of the few that don't make me cringe. Perhaps it is because I think that my own speaking voice sounds a fair bit like Matt K. Miller's. The music will take a little getting used to; especially the closing song with it's electric banjos. (I believe that they're trying to emulate the European Electric Folk band "Rednex", which had a minor international hit a few years back with "Cotton-Eyed Joe".) Actually, when I first saw "Tenchi Universe", I was disappointed that they didn't use "Renai no Sainou/ Talent for Love", but over time I grew to like Ryoko and Ayeka's dueling "Up Walk in Galaxy" better. They could have used some of the old background music, especially the character's themes. Is it just me, or does one of the background tracks sound like one used on "Urusei Yatsura" nearly every episode, with just a few notes changed?

Because I live in the Montreal area, I didn't get my copy of "Tenchi in Tokyo" until Monday, the 25th of January, as goods ordered off the Internet always takes a few extra days to ship to Canada. I had the advantage of seeing some people's responses to the new series, both positive and negative, in the "Anime on DVD" Forum (message board), before I wrote this review. I find the biggest objection most people have is to the SD (super-deformed) expressions. Oh please! Do you people never watch any other Anime? Characters faces routinely turn SD in series as varied as "Fushigi Yuugi" and "Rurouni Kenshin". And "Tenchi Muyo" has always been primarily a comedy series! You expect this type of thing. This isn't even the first time SD has appeared in "Tenchi Muyo", though I admit in "Tenchi in Tokyo" that the SD is even more exaggerated than usual, but that's what makes it so wild. Some of Tenchi's tortured, convoluted expressions, particularly in episode 2, are reminiscent of Kintaro Oe in "Golden Boy". (If Tenchi starts kissing Sakuya's toilet, I'm outta here!) I hereby sentence those of you who complain about the SD in "Tenchi in Tokyo" to 20 episodes of "Kodomo no Omocha", so you can experience the true horror of SD overload.

On the technical side, what interests me the most is how it compares to Laserdisc. I hooked up my Pioneer CLD-S104 Laserdisc player and my Toshiba SD-2107 DVD player to my Panasonic PV-4662 VCR. (I don't usually watch LDs or DVDs through my VCR, but my television only has one Input port for the Red-White-Yellow wires, so this was the only way that I could directly switch between the two formats.) Since I don't have the import "Shin Tenchi Muyo" Laserdisc, I had to substitute "Tenchi Universe" for my little experiment. I compared episodes 1 & 2 of "Tenchi in Tokyo" to episodes 25 & 26 of "Tenchi Universe". What are my results? The "Tenchi Universe" episodes on CAV Laserdisc look sharper than the "Tenchi in Tokyo" episodes do on DVD. I can offer some explanation for this. It could be that Pioneer wanted to reduce the "Rainbow" effect on the "Tenchi in Tokyo" DVD, so they intentionally reduced the definition. Personally, I'll take the "Rainbow" effect as a trade off for a sharper picture. (The "Rainbow" effect is still there, but it's not nearly as noticeable as it was on Laserdisc.) Please note that this is not conclusive proof that CAV Laserdiscs have a better picture than DVDs, it's just that I think that that specific LD looks better than that particular DVD. The DVD does have some advantages over the LD, of course; both soundtracks are in Digital Stereo, not just the English-dubbed version as on LD, and there are real subtitles, not just "Closed Captioning" (note to Pioneer: yellow subtitles, please). The biggest advantage over the LDs is the price; the suggested retail price for the "Tenchi in Tokyo" DVD is $29.98 (I paid less), while "Tenchi Universe" cost $44.98 for each 2-disc volume. Still, I can't help but feel that Pioneer could have given us a little more, especially for us Laserdisc fans still hurting that we had to upgrade to DVD to enjoy the same quality picture (and I'm not even sure that it is the same quality) that we already had on Laserdisc. Chris has already noted that a Direct Chapter Access menu (as is standard on most DVDs) would be useful, and I second that.

This is a rather frivolous point, but I preferred the old Pioneer logo. I miss the golden ring descending around the tuning fork and turning into an Omega sign (?). It was, in my opinion, the second most distinctive company logo sequence in Anime, after "BANDAI Presents" "Dunt-dunt-dunt-dunt! Da-na-na-na-na-na-NAH-na-na-na-na-na-NAH-na-na-na-na-na-NAH-DE-do-de-do, etc. (actual lyrics)" (2 giant Easter Island stone heads appear) "EMOTION". It screamed "Tenchi Muyo dead ahead"! I miss the clunky "Translated in Tokyo by junior high students" English of the old Tenchi packaging. (Examples from volume 2 of "Tenchi Universe": "The end with a warm longing feelings (sic) for more..." "This episode to tell a story of Mihoshi and Kiyone living on Earth".) I also miss the little mini-posters that were included in the "Tenchi Universe" boxes, but I guess it would have been difficult to include those. The postcard is nice, but who am I going to write?

So, in summation, I enjoyed Volume 1 of "Tenchi in Tokyo", even though it is not technically everything that I hoped for. I'm looking forward to Volume 2.

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