Review: "Tenchi In Tokyo" Finds The Friend You Didn't Know You Had
“You can’t change my mind; I’m going to Tokyo!”
With those words, their bond will be strained. Tenchi Masaki will leave the idyllic countryside life with those crazy girls he loves so much to travel to Tokyo, working as an apprentice, and pursuing his own life. Naturally, the girls won’t be having any of that, but Tenchi will possibly find the one girl he more than likes. True love may reside in the metropolis of neon, or it may just be a shadow of what could be. The second Tenchi Muyo! TV series, Tenchi in Tokyo, has been rereleased by FUNimation in an all-new set. Is it worth the return?
The series is honestly best viewed after watching at least one other Tenchi series; there’s a reason it’s called “New Tenchi Muyo!” in Japan. Many of the early episodes presume you have a working knowledge of the cast and characters, and while certain minutae might vary from story to story, the characters all ring true, even if their Tokyo selves are incredibly Flanderized. The writers of the series effectively just looked at the crib notes from previous iterations and ran with them. For example, Mihoshi might be summed up as “clumsy ditz” (despite a gentle heart and unnatural luck) from previous series, and Tokyo’s iteration of her is just a clumsy ditz. In some situations, the simplification is actually beneficial; any and all dramatic background that’s already been explored with Washu is stripped away, leading her to just be an enjoyable scientist trope. Much as in Universe, Kiyone (making her second appearance, given her absence in the original OVA series) is largely maligned by being permanently affixed to Mihoshi. She never gets her own story or own focus, and is purely the foil for Mihoshi. Ryoko and Ayeka, always the lead ladies, get their fair share, but the series leans heavily towards Ryoko being the actual best girl for Tenchi. (Other stories tend to promote this mindset as well.) Sasami gets a few good bits, and the series remembers that she’s an actual little girl, and the parental units are exactly the same as they’ve been in every other series. Ryo-Ohki’s here too, but the cabbit turns into a mecha instead of a spaceship this time around.
The true star of the series is not Tenchi (as he remains his standard stalwart self, despite a few odd moments of standing up for himself), and not the recurring villain of the series, Yugi (who proves to be more of a catalyst and large threat to story, but largely absent from the actual interaction; she’s more like Rita Repulsa or Lord Zedd). The star of the series, and one of the saddest parts of the franchise as a whole, is Sakuya. For most of the series, she’s presented as the pure, honest, and only normal girl that’s shown an interest in Tenchi, and proves to be a solid option for Tenchi. While all the girls may have their hang-ups or insecurities, Sakuya proves to be the normal high school girl, something that, at the heart of the series, pairs well with Tenchi’s high school guy origins. Her story is quiet and quaint, which only makes the final few episodes all the more tragic.
Tenchi in Tokyo, a series that premiered in the late 1990s (and in 2000 on Toonami), is a decade and a half old, and it does show. The video quality, unlike the OVA Collection and Movie Collection (released around the same time in FUNimation’s much-needed reissues of the franchise), is rather poor, being a television show before HD. It’s fullscreen, it shows bits of the film if you pause it correctly, and there’s a part of the intro that, due to the tracking, where you can’t tell whether a character has tremors of love as she leans in to Tenchi, or if the video just can’t balance out. FUNimation’s made no attempt to modernize the series, such as redoing the titles (to be more accurate to their Japanese names), updating the credits, or such. Gone from the original release are line-art galleries, music videos, and TV commercials (as listed online; we do to have the original release on hand). Still, it’s a modern release, split over four-discs in one slipcovered DVD case. It’s quality archival, as it were; if you want the series now and only want the series, you’re good. The current extras are nothing more than what you’d expect from many of FUNimation’s rereleases; modern trailers, credit-free opening and endings (one episode receives a special ending), with nothing else.
Tenchi in Tokyo in its technical aspects fails to hold up. Yet, the series and story itself have actually aged decently. Sure, there’s some middling monster-of-the-week stuff early on, but all that falls by the wayside when you discover the true heart, and tragedy, of the story. Check out the series if you want to be a little shaken at the end, all the while enjoying the continuing adventures of the Tenchi crew.