It's been a long wait for fans of the Tenchi Muyo OVA. For a while, it seemed like the questions surrounding Washu, Tokimi, the gems, the sword and a host of other questions - never mind telling viewers who Tenchi is going to choose, were never going to be answered. The original Tenchi Muyo OVA was released starting in 1992. Now, over ten years later, we get to see a continuation to the story that a lot of people would claim to have gotten them their start in anime.
Tenchi Muyo has always been about a very precise formula: girls, humor, sexual innuendo, drama and temporary exposition. Long-time fans will be happy to know that this formula is pretty much completely untouched in this third OVA. Tenchi is still his indecesive self, Ryoko is the violent space pirate with strong feelings for Tenchi. Aeka is the sometimes loud and boorish but oftentimes refined princess, etc, etc. The list continues the same way it always has.
For those worried that this new OVA couldn't live up to the original, rest easy. Tenchi Muyo! Ryo Ohki delivers the same unique blend of drama, mystery and sci-fi harem hijinks that made the previous series so great. Fans of the Tenchi OVA will find that the story left behind years ago is still intact and just as interesting as it was back then.
For Tenchi fans, this is good stuff. The story picks up just where it left off at the end of OVA 2. If it's been a while since your last Tenchi viewing, a dark opening followed by ships exploding might be a bit of a confusing start. Thankfully, the pace quickly slows to allow for more of what the Tenchi creators can't seem to stop themselves from doing: introducing new characters.
If Tenchi Muyo ever had a plot weakness, it's the sheer size of its cast. Looking at the Masaki family tree and larger character relationship chart is enough to send your head spinning. OVA 3 introduces no less than three new characters over the course of these three episodes. For the most part, these characters don't seem to add much to the enjoyment of the Masaki household. Rather, they just seem to add unneeded complexity to the already confusing storyline.
After episodes one and two, the number of girls who show interest in the plucky Tenchi threatens to burst the house at the seams, not to mention the Masaki and Tenchi Muyo family tree. How the creators at AIC can keep all the character relationships straight in the heads is a Herculean feat. That they want to add characters to that chart is pure masochism.
Tennyo makes for a good character that sort of fills in some minor continuity gaps regarding Tenchi's mother. Even though it seems like she won't be joining the regular cast at this time, she did seem to suffer from the same personality flaw that all female characters in this show suffer from, and that's a sweet disposition covering up a short temper. Katsuhito's fireball of a wife, Airi, is actually a lot worse in this respect.
Here's an interesting aside for Tenchi OVA fans who haven't been keeping up with the production of the new OVA. Apparently, Tenchi's mother is named Kiyone, not "Achika" like in the first movie. The first movie was based on the alternate
Tenchi Universe. According to the novels, Kiyone is the correct name, so purists need not post all over forums or send angry email to Funimation about it. That's the way it's supposed to be.
OVA 3 also suffers from a rather terrible pacing issue at this point. Understandably, some time needs to be spent refreshing memories about the events of the previous two OVAs. There are only so many episodes in an OVA series though, and while episode one is an extra 10 minutes long, there is still a lot of time spent reprising old scenes and re-introducing bit characters from the very beginning of OVA 1.
Flashback scenes in the first episode also look awful. Animation for the flashback scenes looks as though it was not cleaned up or re-animated at all. While it's unreasonable to expect 10-year-old animation to be cleaned up or re-animated in some way, something probably should have been done to the flashback scenes. The difference in quality is absolutely jarring. This is a brand-new OVA, so this is probably not the best way to try to sell the show to newcomers, especially in the face of other modern animation budgets.
Along with the animation quaility, plot-wise it's hard to say how well Tenchi has aged in comparison to other shows in the same genre. This incarnation of Tenchi is much like its predecessors, but this is also a kind of weakness. While it's easy to say Tenchi Muyo is vastly superior to a show like Girls Bravo, it's harder to decide if Tenchi Muyo really stands up to modern harem shows. The sameness also makes the show a little stale, especially considering that the old characters aren't getting much new characterization, a staple of any harem show.
Fans in love with the old characters may find themselves somewhat disappointed at the way the old cast is being treated so far in this newest OVA. Everyone is present and the old cast is up to their usual antics, but the bickering and battling that was so much in the foreground before seems to have been shifted to the background slightly while new characters fawn over Tenchi. That may just be a side-effect of how quickly these introduction episodes move, though.
The dub quality is as good as you'll probably remember from before. All the voice actors managed to pick up their original roles again very well. There's barely any discernible difference in the voices from what they were years ago. Undoubtedly, some are going to miss Petrea Burchard as Ryoko, a performance that seems to have a lot of praise among longtime fans. However, Mona Marshall as Ryoko turns in an equal, if not superior Ryoko, and should not disappoint long time fans.
Musically, Tenchi Muyo OVA 3 has the same sort of slightly weak, subtle strings and environmental sounds being used for a soundtrack. Much the same as the previous two OVAs, it's nothing that will be hummed after the DVD player is stopped, but it works well enough. Tada Akifumi did a fine job in capturing at least the spirit of the first OVA's opening: a music-only piece with pronounced percussion and bass. The mood for watching an episode of Tenchi isn't really set until after a run of the opening track, and this opening still does a good job of that.
Still, Tenchi Muyo Ryo Ohki accomplishes what it set out to do. It's the build up to what looks to be some exciting anime further down the road. Unfortunately, it's not quite there yet. This volume, viewed alone, ends up suffering as a result. Still recommended viewing, it has the elements and spirit that made the originals so great. Tenchi Muyo is making a great start for itself, but at the moment, that's all it is, a start.