Shelf Life
Ai Tenchi Muyo!

by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,

I rarely end up revisiting any of my old streaming review shows, if only because writing about a series every week forces you to get just about everything out of it on the first viewing. However, I ended up breaking that pattern last week, and for Laid-Back Camp of all things. It's been nice to just soak up that show's cozy vibe without having to analyze everything that's going on. As far as second viewings go, I think the low-key approach of the slice of life genre might actually age better than more dramatic storytelling. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Ai Tenchi Muyo!

On Shelves This Week

Action Heroine Cheer Fruits - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $35.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A group of high school students form a local super hero team, performing in live stage shows in an effort to promote their hometown.

Extra: We have a full review for this series, and it's available streaming on HIDIVE.

AOKANA: Four Rhythm Across the Blue - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $43.49 Amazon

Synopsis: Asuka Kurashina dreams of competing in an airborne sport known as Flying Circus, but she'll need to master the use of anti-gravity shoes in order to participate.

Extra: This series only made it as far as the Preview Guide when it premiered a couple of years ago, but our user ratings seem reasonably positive with an average of 7.3 out of 10. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

The Garden of Sinners - Complete Movie Series BD
Aniplex - 530 min - Sub - MSRP $319.98
Currently cheapest at: $249.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Mikiya Kokuto's relationship with the enigmatic Shiki Ryogi causes both of them to get involved in a mystery surrounding a series of violent deaths.

Extra: We have a couple of reviews for this collection of movies, which you'll find here and here. If that price tag seems a bit too steep, you can also stream the films on Amazon Prime and Crunchyroll.

ReLIFE - Complete TV Series BD
Funimation - 325 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $37.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Unemployed at the age of 27 and struggling to find a job, Arata Kaizaki accepts an offer to test a mysterious pill that will turn him back into a teenager.

Extra: Be aware that this set only includes the original series, not the more recent OVA sequel. We have reviews for the series here and here, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Tokyo Ghoul - Season 1 BD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.29 Amazon

Synopsis: After being attacked by a flesh-eating ghoul, Ken Kaneki wakes up in a hospital and discovers that he has become a half-human, half-ghoul hybrid.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this season, along with a full review of a previous release. It's available streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Vatican Miracle Examiner - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 325 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.29 Amazon

Synopsis: When two priests travel to Mexico to investigate a possible miracle, they find themselves in the middle of a sinister conspiracy.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this series, and it was also covered in This Week in Anime. You can stream it on Amazon Prime and HIDIVE.

Yona of the Dawn - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 600 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.79 Amazon

Synopsis: Driven from her home by a violent coup, princess Yona must gather a group of legendary warriors in order to save the kingdom.

Extra: We have all kinds of reviews for this one, including episode reviews, a full series review, and coverage of previous releases. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.

Shelf Life Reviews

Shelf Worthy
Nothing this week.
Ai Tenchi Muyo!
Nothing this week.

I've been writing a lot of our reviews lately, but it's time for the rest of the Shelf Life crew to make a triumphant return to the spotlight. James kicks things off this week with a look at Ai Tenchi Muyo!, the most recent version of the influential harem comedy franchise.

It feels like a lifetime has passed since my days of catching up with the original run of the Tenchi Muyo! franchise after school back in the early 2000s, so I was plenty interested to check in on Funimation's Blu-Ray release of the latest adventures of Tenchi Masaki and the gang: Ai Tenchi Muyo! This is an interesting project for a number of reasons. The first being that instead of taking the form of a traditional half-hour long series or a collection of OVAs, Ai Tenchi Muyo! consists of 50 short episodes which are all about five minutes in length. Also, in addition to being produced as a celebration for the franchise's 20th anniversary, it was also made in cooperation with the city of Takahashi as a sort of tourism advert.

The plot itself doesn't feel too off-base for the shenanigans-loving, continuity hopping Tenchi Muyo! that I remember: Tenchi Masaki is our stalwart hero, who has been entrusted with the job of cleaning up the mess of the mad scientist Washu, whose experiments have mucked up the balance of the universe. The solution revolves around the fates of a young girl named Momo and her friends, who all attend an all-girls school that Tenchi must infiltrate as a student-teacher. Over the course of the series Tenchi and company will have to endure the perils of time-travel, rogue robots, school festivals, and more, all so that Tenchi can once again put the universe back on track.

One of my biggest concerns with coming back to Tenchi Muyo! after all of these years was how much I've come to dislike many of the tropes and foibles of the typical harem anime, and Tenchi-Muyo! is the King of Harem Anime. Sure enough, the first chapters of this fifty-episode journey didn't do much to assuage my fears: We open with Tenchi getting a face full of crotch when Momo falls from a tree and lands on his face, and for a couple of episodes most of the gags involve Tenchi's students and co-workers lusting after him and/or putting him in incredibly compromising positions. I understand that this all meant to be humorous and not taken seriously at all, but I cannot escape my own personal distaste with any series that tries to mine humor and romance out of a young teacher and his harem of students.

While the questionable taste of these gags is rooted within Ai Tenchi Muyo!'s premise, things let up quite a bit for much of the series, and I was able to look past my own biases to enjoy the show more. Seeing the old Tenchi Muyo! cast is great, and the new girls are mostly all fine additions to the ensemble. Momo is cute, her frenemy Beni is one of the show's more interesting characters overall, and I was consistently entertained by the fierce sword-fighter Hachiko, who talks plenty tough until she's disarmed, which turns her into a blubbering mess. Ai Tenchi Muyo! is first and foremost a love-letter to the tropes that made the franchise and the harem genre of anime comedies famous in the first place, so none of these girls are going to offer any exceptional depth or surprises, but they're fun enough.

The same can be said for the story in general, though I often found myself wondering if the show's short format might not be to Ai Tenchi Muyo!'s benefit. Many of the episodes consists of small arcs that could have easily been stitched back together into a single traditional episode, and the series is serialized enough that one would have to watch them straight through in order to get the most out of the show anyways. There's also the fact that the present-day school stories are interspersed with flashbacks to a completely different time period that don't gel together until around episode 30 or so, and I don't think the show would have lost anything by saving the flashback for one single arc instead. Still, even though Ai Tenchi Muyo! is lacking in originality and cohesion, it has plenty of heart and silly old-school fun to offer instead, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't eventually find myself more entertained than annoyed.

Funimation's Blu-Ray is a standard release, giving us nothing but some trailers and the English dub, plus a code for a digital copy of the series through Funimation's website. The dub is nothing if not a nostalgia trip, reuniting many of the franchise's mainstays, and offering perfectly acceptable replacements for characters like Washu. Matt K. Miller and Petrea Burchard could play Tenchi and Ryoko in their sleep by now, I'm sure, so it was nice to see them back together again here. The new cast does a good job too, and even though much of the show's signature corniness occasionally gives the dub the feel of an aged, less sophisticated production, it fits in the context of an anniversary celebration of what many would consider to be a classic. If you have fond childhood memories of the old Pioneer dub of Tenchi Muyo! like I do, then you will probably appreciate Funimation's work for this series.

Overall, I enjoyed Ai Tenchi Muyo! more than I expected, but it couldn't quite recapture the magic from the franchise's glory years. The fanservice and harem elements are admittedly tame by modern standards, but the clichés still feel a bit stale and awkward for me, though the charm of the cast and the mostly interesting plot made it pretty easy to breeze through the few hours it took to finish up all 50 episodes. If you like no-frills harem comedies that move at a quick pace, or you're just looking for more Tenchi Muyo! in your life, then Ai Tenchi Muyo! just might be worth diving into.

That wraps things up for this week. Thanks for reading!

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