Tenchi Muyo - OVA 1 & 2
There's a legend in Tenchi's family, that his ancestor Yosho sealed a demon within a cave at the Misaki shrine. Even if he'd never believed it, curiosity finally got the better of him. When Tenchi finally explores the cave, he finds out the legend is true! The demon is in fact a cute woman from space who crash landed on earth, and ends up living at Tenchi's house. Not long after, she's pursued by princesses from planet Jurai.. who crash and end up staying with Tenchi. Galaxy police officers, genius space scientists; Tenchi has a knack for collecting oddball girls from around the galaxy. Tenchi however, may have the most unusual gift out of all of them.
If there's one title I'd consider worthy as franchise launching, it's this OVA. Tenchi Muyo was among the first anime titles I watched, and at the time I was pretty excited to see anything anime. Over the years I've recognized many of those shows as nowhere near as good as I recall, however every re-watch of Tenchi I enjoyed just as much. It's a good show that's aged well. I think the only real downfall is being copied so much over the years that many of us have burned out on such shows.
Tenchi Muyo is in many ways, the godfather of harem anime. I hesitate to use that term with Tenchi due to the modern stigma associated with it. Many girls live at Tenchi's house, however they are intended as characters, not simply as love interest options for the protagonist. As harem shows distilled this formula, details making characters important to the story were often lost. Each of them plays an important role in Tenchi Muyo. From the love interest angle, an unusual nuance of the girls in Tenchi Muyo: all of them are the WRONG choice. Each one (excepting Sasami unless age is her flaw) has one or more critical flaws making a relationship a bad idea. I think that's the reason Tenchi never pursues any of them, not because he's indecisive.
Production values are very high, as was the case for old school OVAs. Art style and animation hold up well even compared to modern titles. Originally available on VHS, this is a show which looks fantastic on Bluray. All that aside, what makes the OVA exceptional is a great sci-fi story which excels in imagination. I can't stress the imagination point enough; Tenchi Muyo has a fantastic backdrop few titles approach in reproducing. For a show which tries to do a bit of everything, this is the reason I came to like Tenchi over other such "all purpose" anime titles.
The first six OVAs are incredible, and I hate to say it, but it's been all downhill since then. Even the second OVA series (six episodes) started to taper, even if great quality. Starting at such a high point, the franchise has had a long slow descent into poor quality. Strangely enough, that also includes the third set of OVAs. After the second set of OVAs, the TV series began a run which is a completely different take on Tenchi with its own stories, but after a decade the OVA story was picked up again... and not well received. Anyway, if you've seen other Tenchi incarnations and wasn't impressed, the first two OVA series are well worth picking up.
Dubs of the past were generally pretty bad, but Pioneer truly excelled with quality of dub productions (and I mean they really stood out among the horrible standard of the industry at the time). Pioneer changed to Genon, then Genon went away and now Tenchi is released by Funimation. The dub has followed the show all these years and stood up pretty well even if a little awkward in small points. Sherry Lynn particularly stands out in a great performance as Sasami (although she did other voices too. But if there's one voice you'll remember in the dub, it's Petrea Burchard as Ryoko, with her oddly gruff voice and completely at odds compared to what you'd expect to hear in anime... which is a part of what makes her an interesting choice. In addition, songs of the series were also "re-done" very well.
An odd point about the dub, some of the dialog is significantly toned down compared to what is actually said in Japanese. It's a tad more risque than the dub lets on at certain points. The dub grew on me and I still like it, and yet there's the fantastic voice Japanese voice actress chemistry between Ryoko and Ayaeka that's hard to pass.
Well deserving of it's position as a classic, Tenchi Muyo is a well rounded fun anime with a good story, excelling with a wonderfully inspired environment. The story ends up in a odd spot that's not quite finished by the first two OVAs, but I can't say I ever felt it unfulfilling - even if I wanted to know what happened. (the third OVA series released so much later will have its own review). Tenchi Muyo is a great anime that's worth the watch.
Tenchi: If I had known I was going to die today, I wouldn't have done all that homework over summer break.
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