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Ima, kore ga hoshiin da! - Tenchi Muyo GXP

There are a lot of things that can help generate advanced buzz for an upcoming series. This can range from word of mouth, visual teasers or artificial buzz generated by marketing blitzes. Something else that can help generate buzz is news that a popular series is making a comeback. There is one slight problem with this: anticipation can often create large expectations. Expectations can kill a project even before its been seen. Large expectations can kill something after it is seen. It's like saying you've read the book, but didn't like the movie. Your imagination just works better than Hollywood.

This is no different when dealing with a popular Anime series. Lots of series come and go, but the really good ones come again and again. One such series is Tenchi Muyo!. Many consider Tenchi Muyo! a must-have series. The original OVAs spawned a few more OVA series, 2 TV series, a manga series and 3 movies. (This is one of those rare cases where the Anime actually came before the Manga.) After the last series, Shin Tenchi Muyo (aka Tenchi in Tokyo), plans were in the works for a spin-off series. Nothing really came of this for quite a while, and it looked like the series came to an unfortunate end thanks to Shin Tenchi Muyo's poor retelling of the Tenchi Muyo! story. Fortunately for fans, this changed with the running of all the Tenchi series in North America on Cartoon Network's Toonami Block.

Tenchi Muyo! goes mass-market. Despite a lot of grumbling amongst the faithful for some questionable editing, Tenchi Muyo! found a new audience that helped breath life into the franchise. Last year, it was announced that AIC would continue the original OVA storyline with 13 episodes as well as create a new 26 episode spin-off series. Fans were ecstatic and a new trend was born. For the first time, it looked like an English speaking audience affected the Japanese Anime market.

As time grew closer for the new series to premiere, the fans started to grumble once again. People felt AIC's creativeness would suffer because they were designing a product that would sell well with an English speaking audience. There were those who worried that the show would be self-censored because the show would definitely play on North American television. Would the Japanese point of view become skewed in favor of the greater end audience? The grumbling from the English audience got so bad; AIC announced that they were overwhelmed with requests of information about the upcoming series on their English website.

The series finally began to broadcast in Japan, and now the grumbling can be addressed.

Tenchi Muyo GXP is a spin-off series featuring an all-new cast of heroes and villains. The story, set in the OVA continuum, features a younger classmate of Tenchi named Yamada Seina. About 6 months ago, Seina started experience a large amount of bad luck, and of course wherever he goes, it follows. His friends, family and the rest of the town have adjusted doing their best to avoid him. Of course, Seina hardly notices, as he is very busy visiting with Kiriko, older sister of his best friend Kai, who moved in 6 months ago. While passing Tenchi's house on his way to see Kiriko one afternoon, Seina has a bit of an accident involving Amane Kaunak, a Galaxy Police officer. Mistaking his bumps and bruises to be from training with Tenchi, she leaves him an application to join the Galaxy Police which his mother and sister trick him into signing. From there, things really start moving.

To alleviate the first set of concerns, AIC stuck with their standard style when creating this show. Sexual innuendo runs rampant with Seina finding himself in the standard pervert situations that all male leads find themselves in. Next up was worry that this series was simply a retelling of the original Tenchi Muyo! story with new characters. While the formula is familiar, one guy with many females chasing him, the characters feel different. The setting is definitely different as Seina finds himself whisked off to space before the close of the first episode.

The first episode does its job of establishing the main characters of the series. Seina, our hapless hero, finds himself in space and is more concerned with his family eating his cake than the fact he's about to enter the Galaxy Police Academy. Seina so far is very likable, and the characters joining him come across as likable as well. There has been a lot of play with the love triangle, as posters and what little information has appeared have Amane Kaunak and Kiriko vying for Seina's attention. This is such a staple of other Anime series that its not even worth arguing that this is simply a Tenchi rip-off. These types of shows revolve around these kinds of relationships, pushing them into that romantic-comedy genre. The overall feeling of this show just feels natural, and I look forward to this one playing out.

The good news is this one pretty much has a home with Pioneer. Because of the Tenchi Muyo!'s popularity, there is a good chance this series will make its way to North America before the end of the year. Yes, it will have to be edited for television, which I'm sure makes quite a few fans happy. Tenchi Muyo! shows that the English speaking audience can make a difference. Just look at Big O, whose sequel will actually premiere first in the U.S. before airing on Japanese TV. Shows like this go a long way in helping to break the time barrier that exists when a show premieres in Japan then makes its way here. As time goes by, this gap can only decrease as long as the Japanese see the monetary potential that exists.

Before concluding this column this week, I wanted to make a few corrections to last week. First off, I mistakenly said that Sadimitsu was an OVA series. My confusion came about because of the references I found for the VHS/DVD release. It ran from January to March in 2001.

.hack//SIGN is based on a set of PS2 games. The TV series premiered at the same time as a game and 30 minute OVA episode. There's a big push to bring this property over to the North American market for the PS2. Bandai is a big sponsor of this, so expect them to make a big push in North America for the whole franchise.

That's it for this week. I know I focused on one series but I consider it very important to the future of Anime in North America. Take care!

Allen Divers

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