Reviewby Justin Porter, Jun 17th 2004
Tenchi Muyo! GXP
Seina Yamada may just be the unluckiest guy in the world. A classmate of Tenchi Masaki's, this walking timebomb seems to spread destruction and bad fortune wherever he goes. But when a surprise encounter with a beautiful woman leaves him with lipstick on his face and a Galaxy Police pamphlet, it seems his luck is about to turn around. Now he's become a member of the GP Academy and is about to face the challenges of squaring off against space pirates, adapting to a new advanced society, and sneaking out after curfew with his friends.
It's a time honored tradition - the spin-off. The idea is simple; take a familiar set of circumstances or characters and put them in a new situation. Sometimes it works better than the original (like Frasier), sometimes it doesn't (like AfterMASH).
Tenchi Muyo GXP takes the now-classic world of the original Tenchi Muyo and turns a whole new cast loose in it. The character types are plenty familiar; you've got a hapless but good-hearted male lead, a rambunctious sexpot girl, a quiet, shy, and caring girl, a daffy blonde (who's even related to the core series' daffy blonde), and an intelligent witty girl with plenty of gadgets. Predictable, but it's not archetypes that make a series - it's details.
Each of the characters have been given their own unique look thanks to character designs by Tenchi veteran Atsushi Okuda. They aren't quite as endearing as the Masaki Kajishima drawn original cast. There's something a little off-putting about the way Okuda draws the noses and mouths of his characters. Not everyone will agree, but it can be said that the new cast just isn't as attractive as they could be. We're not talking Peter Chung controversial, but we are talking about a bit of adapting to be done by the hardcore Tenchi fans.
But even if the character designs put you off, the animation itself won't. Bright colors, well detailed backdrops, and good use of lighting are just about everywhere. In the first episode, a scene as basic as Seina riding his bike down a path is actually impressive. Once in a while, you see recycled footage, but it can be forgiven.
Another impressive part of GXP is the use of sight gags. Since this was Excel Saga alumni Shinichi Watanabe's baby, it's easy to expect that the slapstick comedy be golden. Indeed, facial expressions are suitably ridiculous, and the pratfalls are impeccably timed. It's not at all hard to say that this romantic comedy is very much rooted in its comedy half.
FUNimation has been both lauded and criticized for how they handle dubs, and GXP is no different. It's not a bad English dub, and compared to the original Japanese it holds its own. Still, one has to wonder about the decision to cast Tony Oliver (Arsene Lupin III in Lupin the 3rd, Sorata Arisugawa in X TV) as Seina Yamada. While the girls are cast strongly and quite close to their original Japanese counterparts, Oliver's Yamada is squeaky and grows irritating in short order. It's a shame and a disappointment, but that's why there's dual language options.
Speaking of which, FUNimation's growing tradition of including English dubbed versions of opening and closing songs as defaults on their DVD's is found here too. They aren't bad, and are so close to the Japanese versions that they can be ignored. Still, subtitle purists will hit their DVD remote's language button as soon as the first syllables are sung. Differences of opinion, after all.
Another disappointment is that there is no Japanese language option with Surround Sound. The music and sound effects in the series are classy and fun, but you only get them in surround if you watch the dub. A bummer for subtitle purists indeed.
That said, even if you can complain about the dub, you won't be broken up about getting five episodes on the very first disc, and at a discounted price. Even if it is a standard DVD with the only extras being some token previews, a character bio gallery, and clean openings and endings, it's still priced several dollars below market standard. A good deal is always a good thing. One can only hope this cut rate price continues further into the run.
So, the final conclusion? Do we have a Frasier or an AfterMASH here? It's honestly hard to say only five episodes into the series. The characters aren't developed very much, to be honest, and the romance has only been hinted at so far. However, the comedy is hysterical and makes it well worth a look. If you were laughing out loud at Excel Saga, then you'll get more of the same here in Tenchi Muyo GXP. It's not particularly creative, and for now its link to the original Tenchi series is razor thin, but GXP manages to shake the spin-off curse and be its own brand of humor and fun. Diehard Tenchi fans may be disappointed in its lack of attachment to its source material, but casual watchers will have a lot of fun with this just plain entertaining series.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : C
Music : B
+ Great comedy, good price point, smooth animation
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