Reviewby Carlo Santos, Jan 3rd 2005
Tenchi Muyo! GXP
DVD 6: Seiryo Strikes Back!
Seina Yamada is the unluckiest guy ever, but, somehow, he's been recruited aboard a Galaxy Police starship where his fellow crewmembers are four beautiful women. Seina's toughest challenge yet comes in the form of the Good Luck Fleet, a band of pirates whose starships are festooned with traditional Japanese good luck charms. When Seina's rival, the manly but pink-haired Seiryo Tennan, duels his way to being captain of the newest Good Luck starship, he sets out to build a vessel so auspicious that even Seina's bad luck can't stop it. Firepower and tactics be damned; this epic space battle will be fought with fortune versus misfortune! Amidst all the galactic chaos, Seina and the crew still manage to make time for a futuristic fashion show and a pitstop at that old mainstay of the Tenchi universe, planet Jurai.
For many fans, Tenchi Muyo! was their first introduction to the "harem" sub-genre of anime: one ordinary guy being lusted after by cute girls of all types. With charming and memorable characters like the sharp-tongued space pirate Ryoko, haughty princess Ayeka, and indomitable genius Washu, the Tenchi franchise was a cornerstone of 90's comedy anime. Now it crawls into the digital animation age with an exhausted gasp, in the guise of Tenchi Muyo GXP. With the original cast all but gone, and only the most superficial elements of Tenchi's world intact, this is one show that could have been called "No Need for a Tenchi Spin-off."
Before anyone mistakes this for a curmudgeonly "it's not as good as the old version" rant, it's worth remembering that the 90's Tenchi Muyo! titles—the OVA, Tenchi Universe, the movies, maybe even Tenchi in Tokyo—made quite a noticeable impression. They weren't masterpieces, but they were enjoyable works of romantic comedy, and by being part of the Tenchi family, GXP must be measured by those same standards. Is it enjoyable? Is it funny? Does it contain characters that we'd like to see more of?
Tenchi Muyo! was never very ambitious in the story department—aside from a few movies and some series-ending story arcs, it was always more about silly sitcom action. In this respect, GXP is no different, except the sitcom action now happens in space. The plotline on this disc is fairly easy to follow: Good Luck Fleet challenges Seina, Seina heads them off, bad guy makes improvements to Good Luck Fleet and challenges Seina again. Whether this chain of events will hold the viewer's interest is another matter. Throughout the episodes, there never seems to be any dramatic impulse or strong conflict. Without the sitcom action, GXP would be just a dreary space drama. The sense of humor is surprisingly diverse, from some wry deadpan moments, to the usual wacky boy-girl antics, and the occasional crude gag that's just plain wrong. Unfortunately, the jokes aren't really laugh-out-loud funny, and they're hardly enough to save the flatness of the show.
Like homunculi, the characters of GXP seem to be artificial stand-ins for the cast that made the original series so amusing. Seina is, of course, the new Tenchi, close-cropped hair and all. Taking the place of Ryoko is the promiscuous blonde Amane, and rival Ayeka is now played by the prim and proper Kiriko. Just to confuse matters, there's also a new Ryoko among the crew who is "named after the legendary space pirate." Although these characters fit their molds well, they lack any spark that would elevate them above being mere copies. In fact, the rascals among the Good Luck Fleet—Lord Da Ruma (students of Japanese culture will get the joke) and Seiryo in particular—generate more laughs than the Galaxy Police squad. Aspiring space cadets, take heed: your adventures will look really boring if the bad guys are cooler than you.
In trying to capture the spirit of its predecessor, Tenchi Muyo GXP hews close to the original visual style, but looks cheap because of that. The character designs, which would have been just right in the mid-to-late 90's, look too simplified and angular by today's standards (and those flat, empty ears are just bothersome). Furthermore, while the use of digital techniques enhances the color, clarity and fanservice, it also magnifies the shortcomings of the unsophisticated visuals. The animation is just as mediocre, with speedlines and effects substituting for rapid motion. Even large crowds are represented as still frames—a shortcut that's understandable in low-budget anime from years past, but just looks lazy from a show that dates back to 2002.
Funimation's dub work on this series is passable in terms of voice acting, but leaves a lot of questions about the translation. Viewers beware: there are two different subtitle options, a transcription of the dub script and the actual Japanese translation! While it's understandable that dub lines need to be altered to fit the mouth movements and improve the tone of some jokes, this script goes so far as to change the intent of several conversations. Sure, the Japanese dialogue is bland, but did it need to be completely re-written for the English version? Whatever the intents of the translators, the voice actors carry out their job passably, sounding appropriately goofy as dictated by the tone of the series. However, they still lack the natural rhythm of the top North American voice acting studios.
As is customary for Funimation, the theme songs in Tenchi Muyo GXP are re-recorded with English lyrics for the dub version. The results are actually quite fun to listen to, with a female vocalist who blends well with the music. The background music in each episode is far more forgettable, offering about three different mood options: heroic, emotional, or silly. With a bare minimum of musical instruments available, the sounds of GXP are repetitive and uninspired. Don't expect to see people clamoring for this soundtrack anytime soon.
Tenchi Muyo GXP pays homage to its predecessors with its setting and sense of humor, but misses the boat on what made the original Tenchi titles so appealing. With only a hollow shell of characters substituting for the original cast, this series feels like a mechanical reproduction of things that have gone before. There aren't many shows out there that combine spacefaring hijinks with boy-meets-girl humor, but you can watch quite a few good titles in either of those genres without having to resort to this one.
Overall (dub) : D
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C+
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : F
+ A nonstop sense of humor that zips between deadpan, wacky, and just plain crude.
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