Tenchi Universe is a self contained entry in the large Tenchi Muyo media empire that spans several OVA specials, movies, and a number of episodic retellings. Universe presents the life of a young man who lives alone with his architect father and shrine guardian grandfather. When not going to school, Tenchi trains under the tutelage of his grandfather so that he may be prepared to tend the shrine when he is older. These plans fall into disarray after a spaceship flown by the “dreaded” space pirate Ryoko crashes to Earth while engaging Galaxy Police forces. Ryoko’s visit brings about great change for Tenchi, as more women flock to Earth: Princess Ayeka of planet Jurai, accompanied by her sweet little sister Sasaki, hears that her childhood rival has been apprehended and wants to bring her back to jail out of spite. Galaxy Police officer Kiyone is ordered to retrieve her dimwit partner Mihoshi (who caused Ryoko to crash into Tenchi’s backyard) and serve as Earth’s branch of the intergalactic police force. Finally, there’s Washu, a good natured, brilliant and boastful scientist who was exiled to our planet after an incident involving the development of several planet killer weapons.
All these women have taken up residence in Tenchi’s home, spending their days goofing around and getting into all sorts of wacky situations. Episodes are broken up into three major story arcs beginning with the gang’s adventures on Earth, such as Mihoshi and Kiyone trying to pay rent, Tenchi taking Sasaki to a summer festival, and a bounty hunter attempting to bring Ryoko to justice. The second arc involves an invention by Washu that grants anyone the ability to create their own universe. Ryoko and Ayeka end up breaking the machine in a fight resulting in everyone getting cast about in time and space, experiencing amusing and romantically charged vignettes while Washu fixes the machine. The final arc involves a battleship coming to Earth and arresting Ayeka and Sasaki on the charge of treason, leading Tenchi and his friends and family to make their way to Jurai to save them.
The viewer can expect all sorts of madcap antics during the course of the twenty six episodes, the bulk of them being Tenchi’s discomfort as an object of Ryoko and Ayeka’s rivalry. For the first half of the series, both women use Tenchi to get a rise out of the other, but eventually the women develop strong feelings for him. To Tenchi’s chagrin, his lecherous father tries to find ways to urge his son into a relationship with one (or both!) of the girls. That said, out of all the harem series I’ve seen, Tenchi Universe is noticeably less lovey-dovey than most, as the romance is fairly low key.
Back in high school, Tenchi Muyo was one of my earliest exposures to Japanese anime. Coming full circle, I was curious to see if this held up after all these years. In some ways it has, in others it hasn’t. The re-release may have been published by FUNimation, but the content on the disc is pulled directly from the original version produced by Pioneer, meaning all of the original voice dub remains intact. The series debuted in the far off time of 1992 and it certainly shows its age. The animation and picture quality aren’t that great and the difference between the DVD and my old VHS copy is fairly negligible. The voice acting is far more grating than I remember. Tenchi comes off as super whiny, Washu sounds nasally, and Sasaki is nearly obnoxious in her cuteness. However, these are the mere critical ramblings of a disappointed Tenchi fan. Tenchi Universe is a charming, good-natured comedy and a family-friendly romance tale. Outside of a few swimsuits and bath scenes featuring non-anatomically correct women, there is very little content to offend younger viewers, making it appropriate for early adolescents.
directed by Hiroshi Negishi
650 minutes, Number of Discs: 4
Company Age Rating: 14+