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Tenchi Muyo OVA 3 Review [Spoilers]


Kreutz

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Since it was lost in the forum crash, and since Crube is asking about the show, here's my review of OVA3 reposted. One of these days, I'll actually finish it.

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I just watched the first episode of the new Tenchi Muyo OVA series, brought to us from our friends/foes at FUNimation, and I have to say I am both pleasantly surprised and unfortunately disappointed with the initial offering. Now, before I get started, I feel it is necessary to warn you that I am, or I should say was, somewhat of a fanboy of the series. I own the DVDs of the first two OVA series, Tenchi TV (AKA Universe), Shin Tenchi Muyo (Tenchi in Tokyo), Tenchi Muyo GXP, all three Tenchi movies, the entire manga series, two musical CDs, and an original animation cel from Tenchi TV. So, suffice it to say, I probably have a different opinion than a casual anime fan that may recognize the series from Cartoon Network. I will nitpick, and I will bitch about minor details. You have been warned.

Let's start with the episode itself, since that would be a good starting point, or so I have been told. The episode starts off with a battle sequence which takes place somewhere outside of the mysterious location Clay visited in episode 11 of the original series. Here we are introduced to a character that was hinted at several times in the second OVA, but never properly identified. He doesn't really get identified here, just introduced. After the battle, we are treated to a retelling of the D3/Tokimi exchange from the very end of episode 13, which was probably necessary given that a lot of people have never seen that particular part of the episode, especially in America.

After the opening credits, we arrive back at the Masaki household. Things are more or less as we left them, with Ryoko actively avoiding chores, Mihoshi fast asleep, Sasami serving breakfast, and Washu making poignant commentary. Tenchi has gone to town to see the reconstruction of his old school, which leads to an obligatory flashback sequence of how Ryoko destroyed it. Following the flashback is quite possibly the most painful exchange I've ever witnessed in a motion picture, as a couple of Tenchi's old classmates (whom I've dubbed Rubber-Face and Over-Actor) inform Tenchi of recent events involving his old pal Amagazaki. In case you don't recognize the name, Amagazaki was the classmate Tenchi whacked for insinuating a case of necrophilia on Tenchi's part, way back in Episode 1. Or something. Hell, he wasn't even around long enough to remember his name, so why devote the longest 5 minutes in anime history to explaining the story of a character who's only appearance up to now was a brisk 60 seconds? Anyway, Tenchi also goes on to observe what was once his yard, before his house was moved out to the boonies. Another flashback sequence ensues, which revisits chosen events from OVA 1 and the Ryo-Ohki Special. Notable points here include the omission of the entire Kagato battle (pretty significant), and the inclusion of the infamous 'Nurse Washu' scene in its uncut glory. I'll bet Cartoon Network can't wait to get the new OVA on the air so they can cut that scene out for a second time. These flashback sequences, while serving a purpose to newcomers, add unnecessary reflection to those who have followed the story up to now. In addition, they nearly derail the English dub (more on that later).

After the nostalgia trip wears off, Ryo-Ohki manages to get herself lost in the woods, and Ryoko travels out to rescue her. This seems to unlock some sort of motherly instinct in Ryoko, who spends the rest of the episode coddling Ryo-Ohki, much to Sasami's dismay. Around the same time Tenchi has a meeting with his father's somewhat-forward secretary, who has seemingly been present in several important events in Tenchi's life but who hasn't been properly introduced over the course of the last two OVAs. During the car ride back to the shrine, Tenchi inquires about the death of his mother, which causes Nobuyuki to evade the discussion. This leads to a meeting between Nobuyuki and Katsuhito (also Yosho, but you knew that) regarding the revelation of the late Kiyone's demise (Tenchi's mother, not the Galaxy Police officer, we already know how she 'died'). At the end of the episode, a visitor bearing a striking resemblance to Kiyone arrives at the Masaki House. Oh, the drama.

Now, let's move on to FUNimation's English presentation of the episode. This was a major point of contention among the American fan base, seeing as FUN has a track record of 'updating' it's properties, often in unnecessary ways. Seeing as the original series was brought over by Pioneer (R.I.P.), most fans wondered how abrupt the switch between companies would be. Having seen the first episode, I can say it was no more abrupt than driving over untended railroad tracks in a Cadillac. This is fortunate, seeing how the general consensus would have related the experience to driving over said tracks in a small import with broken shocks and transmission problems, stalling out, and being hit by a freight train. So it's wasn't as bad as we thought.

First off, most of the Pioneer voice cast is here, including all but one of the main characters. The veterans do a fair job reprising their roles, especially considering a 5-year hiatus since the last time out. Jennifer Darling, Sherry Lynn, and Debi Derryberry step right back into their old roles like a pair of well-worn sneakers. Matt K. Miller initially sounds as though he has relapsed into puberty, but by the end of the episode he pulls it together for a somewhat-familiar rendition of Tenchi's voice. K.T. Vogt does her best to stay true to her role as Washu, but the years haven't been kind to her voice, and it loses a lot of that famous Washu squeal. Bob Papenbrook returns as both Tenchi's father and grandfather (though he wasn't the original actor from the OVA), and he does a good job of making a distinction between the two, even if his Nobuyuki is entirely too raspy. Rebecca Forstadt once again portrays Mihoshi, and she once again proves to us how good Ellen Gerstell was as the original actor for the role.

Notable in her absence is Petrea Burchard as Ryoko, lost due to circumstances unknown. In her place is Mona Marshall, the same actor who portrayed Ryoko in TM: GXP. In her defense, Mona tries her best to emulate Petrea's style of acting in the role, sometimes fooling even an experienced ear. Unfortunately, Mona is not Petrea, and the new Ryoko comes off as a different character altogether, despite the only difference being the VA. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the flashback sequences, which have Mona rehashing the lines instead of merely reciting them. I'm sure she's only trying to add her own spice to the character, but from the moment she blurts out "Ryo-Ko, that's what they call me!” any resemblance to the familiar role is shattered. It's unfortunate that she had to redo so many of the old scenes; Had she only spoken in the new material, a lot more could have been forgiven. In fact, the same goes for the rest of the cast. Ryoko has become a sassy 17-year old, Mihoshi has become a squeaky 7-year old, Washu can't manage a squeal, and Tenchi can't stop squealing. On the other hand, FUNimation isn't anymore to blame for the situation than Father Time and character rust. As far as editing, FUNimation did the absolute minimum required by them, and I for one thank them. They have redone the opening credits in English, instead of simply adding English subtitles, but it's a minor detail. The music dubbed into the flashback sequences is entirely inappropriate for most of the dramatic scenes covered. It's comparable to scoring Romeo and Juliet with Benny Hill music. All in all, FUNimation did a better job than was expected, even if the expected was a train wreck. Aside from a couple of VA miscastings and inappropriate music selection, I could almost swear it was a Pioneer job. Almost.

The original Japanese voices are completely intact, at least as far as I can tell. If the VA cast has changed since the last Tenchi movie, they have fooled me. If you're the type of anime fan who prefers subs over dubs, congratulations. You get VAs that won't make you cringe, flashback dialogue that is mostly unchanged from the original, appropriate music at appropriate times, and lots of minor details left out of the English dub, to boot. It pains me to do this after FUNimation went to the trouble of tracking down most of the original English VAs, but I have to recommend the Japanese soundtrack over the English. It's not for lack of trying to enjoy Rebecca Forstaadt's squeaky voice, I assure you.

Edited by Kreutz
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