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Anime Reviews: Tenchi Muyo! GXP
CAUTION: Contains spoilers.
You never forget your first. And Tenchi Muyo! was my first.
It was the show that introduced me to the concept of entertaining cartoons from Japan, in the after-school hours during the glory days of the original Toonami block.
Its first TV spinoff Tenchi Universe, my personal favorite entry of the franchise, now sits in my DVD collection, along with that series’ first spinoff movie, Tenchi Muyo! in Love.
Tenchi Muyo! GXP is another TV spinoff, debuted in 2002 and directed by the legendary Shinichi Watanabe, alias “Nabeshin”, director of the famous (or infamous) Excel Saga.
And let it be said right now that Tenchi Muyo! and Excel Saga are two great tastes that do NOT taste great together.
It’d do you good to know that Tenchi himself doesn’t exactly appear in this series, outside of a one-episode cameo. It actually focuses on a scrawnier kid named Seina Yamada, a boy with a penchant for getting into horrible accidents through no fault of his own. When he visits Tenchi’s place and is almost accidentally drowned when a sexy young Galaxy Police officer named Amane parks her spacecraft nearby at the same time, a series of events follows which sees his parents, fed up with the medical expenses he racks up every time he takes a breath of oxygen, inadvertently ship him off to the Galaxy Police Academy. From there, Seina is whisked away into a fabulous lifestyle of becoming an officer of the Galaxy Police, where thanks to some *ahem* encouragement from Amane, Kiriko, his crush from back home on Earth, and a space pirate named Ryoko (no, not THAT Ryoko, this is a different girl), he learns to use his natural ability to attract misfortune in the ongoing fight against space pirates.
One of the things I like about Tenchi Muyo! was that its title character does not act like a lustful teenager towards the women who have suddenly come into his life, but was actually very polite and acted like an absolute gentleman, no matter how often his new houseguests drove him crazy. In this series, however, Seina doesn’t even have to TRY that hard. It seems the number one thing Nabeshin got from Tenchi Muyo! was the space-girls-fighting-over-one-guy scenario, which he repeatedly exploits at random with the fan service turned up to eleven. Nearly everywhere Seina goes, he is ambushed by every love-struck female in a fifty-foot radius. (The final episode was especially ridiculous, in which not only does he marry ALL of the female leads, but is later abducted by four other girls during the ceremony…and ends up marrying THEM, too!) Because of this, Seina does not make for a very interesting male lead character and just comes off as a very fortunate dweeb. And what makes it EXTRA creepy is that some of the show’s cast are dog creatures, and one of the women he DOES hook up with can disguise herself as a FEMALE dog creature, which just takes it into more uncomfortable territory.
On the topic of characters, I did like that they brought back a minor character from the original OVAs—Seiryo Tennan, the guy who challenged Tenchi to a duel and lost thanks to Mihoshi—but no sooner is he introduced than he is relegated to being a stubborn love rival and perennial butt monkey whose presence became more annoying with every appearance.
Oh, and just for the hell of it, let’s throw in an annoying robot character who spends the entire time lusting after humanoid women! We already have a furry, WHY NOT?!
You think Tenchi in Tokyo was silly…this show makes Tokyo look like a Shakespearean tragedy. Oh sure, this kind of humor was funny in Excel Saga and The Wallflower, but Nabeshin’s use of bright colors and zany expressions sticks out too much here. Zany, erratic, madcap shenanigans doesn’t exactly fit this franchise, and a lot of its cast, Seiryo in particular, are merely written in episodes for cheap laughs. It doesn’t really feel like Tenchi at all, just some insane fan service-riddled romp-around. I’m sorry, but…Nabeshin’s directorial style doesn’t exactly suit the Tenchi Muyo! atmosphere.
I respect Nabeshin and have enjoyed many of the series he’s made over the years. I consider him one of the most influential directors of madcap comedy anime. But as Rob Reiner had his North and George Lucas had his Howard the Duck, so, sadly, is Tenchi Muyo! GXP a blemish on Shinichi Watanabe’s directorial career.
Pays homages to the original OVA
Very thin plot; uninteresting male lead; unappealing characters and art design; too many rapid-fire gags