Review: "Tenchi Muyo! War On Geminar" - No Need For Kenshi?
All the girls love him, with most wanting to take advantage of both his body and his unnatural superpowers. He’s a sweet and kind guy, although a little oblivious, and is thrust into a world he doesn’t understand. His name is Tenchi Masaki- wait, no… this is about Kenshi Masaki, Tenchi’s half-brother. Kenshi has been ripped from his world and tossed to that of Geminar, where royalty thrives, men are scarce, and the Sacred Mecha Masters are praised over all. Can Kenshi survive a world unlike his own, and if not, what will be the death of him: mecha battles he’s unprepared for, or the women who want to use (and in some cases, abuse) him? Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar brings viewers back to the Tenchiverse… or does it?
The Tenchi franchise is one to love and embrace, for it’s good and bad faults. FUNimation recently reissued the “main three” series of Tenchi Muyo!, Tenchi Universe, and Tenchi In Tokyo, which all have their highs (amazing animation, well-built characters, or surprising drama) and lows (no Kiyone, weekly television problems, and debatable animation). While they also brought back the movies (and keep the spin off stories of Tenchi Muyo! GXP and Sasami Magical Girls Club available), there’s a whole chunk of Tenchi media absent from American shores, such as the two OVA specials, novels, and even another Sasami story or two.
War On Geminar is, to some extent, a Tenchi story, but it’s almost strained in connection. Yes, the character of Kenshi Masaki has already been established in Tenchi canon, and the series does fall into the timeline of the original series (taking place some 15 years after Tenchi Muyo! GXP), and the concept of the Light Hawk Wings does make an appearance, but there’s very little that actually makes it part of that universe. There’s no cabbits, no Galaxy Police, no mention of Jurai or even Earth. At most, Kenshi references his “sisters” (presumably the girls that hassle Tenchi) and there’s a fleeting glance of Washu (theoretically, the only character that wouldn’t age; no reason anyone would be interested in seeing where the girls are and what they look like fifteen years after we last saw them, right?)
The 13-episode series is spread out over two releases, each running 45 minutes or longer, and including DVD and Blu-ray copies. The first set contains a hard box that can contain the second release, which comes standard in a Blu-ray case with a sleeve (thankfully, FUNimation seems to have abandoned the practice of putting filler cardboard segments to make these sets fit in with DVDs)
If you come at the series looking for a new Tenchi story, you’ll be sorely mistaken. The story is only tangentially related to the other worlds (in effect, Kenshi could lose his Masaki surname and the series would be exactly the same), to the extent that it wasn’t marketed as a Tenchi title in Japan (the original title being Sage Machine Master Story In The Different World). Largely, the biggest connection to the Tenchiverse is that a quiet, shy, noble, and reserved guy has about a dozen lovely ladies all vying for him.
The tropes are swapped up a bit for this series. There’s the regal girl in the Ayeka archetype (whose character trait is that she takes the royal “we” to an absurd extent), there’s the tan wild girl (whose character trait is that she occasionally becomes scared), the pale quiet girl (who, for some reason, has the only unique eyes in the series), the “somebody should call the police” Hot Mom, the badass warrior, the smart mechanic, the bureaucrat, and even like Washu, the girl who’s older than she actually appears. On top of these characters, there’s the “evil villain” group, the “generic schoolgirls” group, and even the adults of the series, such as the “buff woman” and “basically a nun woman.”
Their names? Roles? Personalities? Completely and utterly forgettable. It may be the fact that there’s only 13 episodes, or it could be that so many characters are thrown in your face at once, or it might just be that none of them are particularly memorable.
Tenchi Muyo! worked great at handling an ensemble cast. They kept the numbers relatively low, only introducing one or two per episode, and those first episodes usually focused on them wholeheartedly. If you weren’t going to get much character focus on them later, you decidedly got it in their first appearance. When new characters were added, older ones were there to show off how relationships and dynamics have changed. War On Geminar decides that you can deal with all these characters in an episode or two and sort them out later, which could theoretically work if the rest of the series was devoted to figuring them out, but instead, more characters and plot developments are tossed on. If Tenchi Muyo! was the slowly-building Tetris stack, War on Geminar is the Dr. Mario: There’s a bunch of stuff already there, you have to figure it out, but while you’re figuring it out, you’ll add more to the pile.
You’ll also be surprised at how long a 13-episode series can feel. The problem with the run-time is that many of the plots would work fine in a standard 22-minute format. We’re not getting AMC primetime drama here, where nuances can be found in the loud silences as characters stare each other down, nor weekly procedurals where an entire case has to be built up, twisted, and broken down in that time.
Extras are great. As stated, the first half comes in a hardbox, and the second half comes in a slipcover. There are “commentaries” on both episode 1 and episode 13 (they are admittedly interviews stitched together covering everything from Toonami to the act of “walla”, but not much actually regarding the content on screen), five teaser trailers, presale promotional videos, Pay-Per-View promos, stills from the recording of the music, a behind the scenes looks at both the making of the closing theme and the recording of a radio show about the title, web trailers, and a “Digest in Commemoration of Sales Release”, a mini-episode combinining scenes in promotion of a new release. There’s the standard texteless opening and closing songs, the US trailer, and FUNimation’s standard trailers. The first volume’s hard pack includes a small art book as well.
War on Geminar is a hard to recommend series. While the release is amongst the finest of FUNimation, or any Japanese animation company in America, the show itself is a bit hard to swallow. Tenchi fans will be disappointed by the lack of Tenchi, and non-Tenchi fans will be disappointed by the lack of entertainment. It’s a misstep on both hands, and while it’s not offensively bad, it doesn’t step up to the plate as much as it’s bigger and better half-brother. It’s worth checking out once if you’re a Tenchi fan or like harem shows with a twist of mecha, but you’re not missing too much if you’re not a fan of either.