Tenchi Muyo! Series 3
Zany space adventures continue in the third installment of the popular OAV series, centered around earthling high-school student Masaki Tenchi, whose ancestry reaches boundaries far beyond his own galaxy! After a fateful incident in which Tenchi unwittingly releases the space demon Ryoko from her captivity, a sequence of events occur one after another in a domino effect, unveiling the true identity and hidden power of Tenchi's galactic bloodline - ridden with political obligation, ancestral significance, and an unfathomable history.
This review is for those of you that have already seen the first two installments of this OAV series. I mean, if you haven't seen those, there's really no point in seeing this, because you'll just wind up confused.
For nearly eight years, the outcome of the immensely popular Tenchi Muyo! OAV series has been subject to simple speculation by its fans. In spite of numerous spin-offs on television, the movie theatres, a radio drama, two manga series, and a number of other goodies, the questions raised in Tenchi Muyo! have remained unanswered, and there was no resolution in sight.
So many questions, so few answers, right? Now, after eight years, Tenchi returns to us in its original glory. Does it live up to the original?
Where to start? Well, the first episode is a full forty-five minutes long, and the opening sequence is severely impressive, especially the new opening theme music. (The opening animation sequence is not shown until the second episode, and I'll get to that in a bit.) Automatically confusion is paramount when the viewer eavesdrops on a conversation between a new adversary and Lady Tokemi. This sets the stage for what we can only guess is the main plot of this new series, and are left to speculate for the rest of the episode ...
... Meanwhile, back in the Masaki residence (where have I heard that before?), things have finally settled down after the Jurai family headed back into space. Unfortunately, the first episode mostly serves as a flashback episode, which not only is a waste of time (those of us watching this series KNOW what happened, damn it! We don't need to be refreshed!), but it takes away from the quality of the first episode --because it's so BLATANTLY obvious how the animation quality and character designs have evolved since the earliest episodes. For the money a Japanese person has to pay for a single episode DVD, you'd think they'd at LEAST re-touch the scenes to better mesh the "recycled" product into the new footage. For shame, FOR SHAME!
And while the poignant moments Tenchi spends in his thoughts (mostly about his mother) and his father are enjoyable, they certainly do not make for an episode of the Tenchi Muyo! we all hold so dear. This episode, instead of serving as a stage-setter for a landmark series' comeback, dickers around for its twenty minutes of original footage. (With the exception of Tenchi asking his father what exactly it was that caused his mother's death--to which Nobuyuki dodges the subject. Ouch.) Thoroughly disappointing. My first time watching this episode I fast-forwarded a good half of it. I watched through the entire thing before writing this review to make sure I didn't miss anything. I really didn't.
But don't fret! Episodes two and three are where it really begins. I don't want to give away too much in the review, but let's just say that all of the mother flashbacks and mommy-talk serve a purpose, and it's really rewarding as a viewer to finally see our grown Tenchi cry. (C'mon, we KNOW he's been holding it in for so long!!)
Viewers will automatically bemoan the addition of three new cast members (all alien women) by the second episode -- including a new candidate for Tenchi. (Yeah, yeah ... I know ... ANOTHER fiancee? But trust me, this isn't a Ranma re-run, folks.) I can't be too sure yet, but the opening sequence from the first episode leads me to believe that Noike, the newest member of Tenchi's harem, has something to do with the Tokemi conspiracy ...
As if the entire Noike/Tokemi/Washu and Ryoko/Aeka plots aren't enough--by the end of episode three, we discover that the Jurai and Masaki families aren't the only ones that are dysfunctional. The Kuramitsu family (of whom Galaxy Police officer Mihoshi decends) has its own skeletons locked away in a very deep, very dark closet. And an overzealous brother is dead-set on "rescuing" his older sister Mihoshi ... whatever that means.
As far as plot goes, I can't help but get excited about this series. Although I do wonder if the creators actually anticipate wrapping up these storylines, after opening up all these new cans of worms.
The original mood and style of the OAV series is magnificently recaptured in this series. The only thing that prevents this installment from achieving a seamless assimilation into the storyline is a slight overabundance of surrealistic super-deformed facial expressions, something that is rarely found in the OAV series. Another drawback are the eroticized images of Ryoko and Aeka in the new opening sequence animation ... something that was never part of the original OAV series, and, frankly, should have remained something tongue-in-cheek, not so blatantly played upon. (Fortunately, this sexual subtext is pleasantly absent in the majority of the actual episodic content.)
The storyline is maturing, as are the characters. I was afraid that the eight-year absence of our favorite characters would put them out-of-sync with all the other continuities they've been thrown into. But the writers picked up the ball as though it never stopped rolling, and it's refreshing that they have opted not to keep Tenchi in the dark about all of the mess that's going on around him. It appears that Yosho (and the writers, obviously) consider Tenchi ready to stomach the truth.
As a long-standing member of the original series (in other words, this is one of the first anime I came across, and it wasn't on Cartoon Network), I can stand firm in saying that while us OAV fans have set a high standard for any follow-up for this series, we might approach this new text with a bit of hyper-sensitive cynicism. But try to loosen up, guys. The new installments are really great, and, after watching episode three, I can honestly say that I'm excited, and I'm eagerly anticipating episode four.
This is probably the most challenging series to review, simply because the series on the whole is undoubtedly a classic. If this were a follow-up to the TV series or something like that, it might be a little easier. But the OAV series is far more interwoven and complex - the equivalent to an epic novel in the realm of the anime medium. At the same time, this series is perfectly capable of being enjoyed on a superficial level as well. — Melissa Sternenberg
Recommended Audience: As in the original series, there is some violence and adult content. Teens and above.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source
Review Status: Partial (3/6)
Tenchi Muyo! Series 3 © 2003 AIC / VAP
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