Tenchi Muyo GXP Vol. 4: New Illusions
Today there are many diehard anime fans out there that got hooked due to Cartoon Network's push on some of the most popular series in the world. Dragonball Z was one of them, with nonstop action and creative character designs. Akira Toriyama's hit series, featuring Goku and friends, is universally appealing, no matter how bloated it may have become in the end.
Aside from Dragonball Z, there was another series that served as tinder for the blazing fire that is the modern anime industry. Tenchi Muyo wasn't quite as successful overseas as it was in Japan, but even here there was a sizable market eager to grab up the various TV shows, OAVs, movies, and spin-offs.
So here we are with yet another Tenchi spin-off in our hands. Once again, all is well in the world.
While GXP is set in the Tenchi Universe, the character responsible for the title of the show -- Tenchi himself -- is nowhere to be seen. However, his influence is obvious, especially with the numerous hints that we receive from the series' cast through their dialogue. The phrase "Tenchi Muyo" is actually a number of puns rolled into one. First of all, it can be translated as "No need for Tenchi". Since the original series was somewhat of a harem comedy, this made sense. There was so much stuff going on, it sometimes felt like the main character -- Tenchi -- was merely a background element. On the other hand, it can be read as "No need for heaven," and again, this makes sense.
First of all, being surrounded by beautiful women is many guys' idea of heaven, so heaven is not necessary when life on earth is already so good. I sometimes wonder, however, if Tenchi's frequent brushes with death made the title even more impressively meaningful.
To encapsulate the mood of the entire series (and the overall feel of GXP), it is also what's stamped on packages to indicate "This end up." As wacky as the original show was, and as crazy as GXP is, viewers need all the help they can get making sense of it.
GXP tells the story of Yamada Seina, a young man who is the unluckiest boy alive. Period. Storms form on sunny days when he's around. Everything he touches falls apart -- clothes, bikes, buildings -- everything. If a woman is undressing, he'll walk in on her. If he's undressing, a woman will walk in on him. One of the most reliable running gags of the show is also a pivotal plot point in GXP, oddly enough.
Through his incredible luck, Seina stumbles his way into space without realizing it. Before he has a chance to figure out what's going on, he signs on for service in the Galaxy Police. While Earth is home to a relatively unsophisticated society filled with self-centered dimwits (plenty of examples of this sad fact are particularly evident in an election year), Seina was not aware of extraterrestrial life prior to being whisked away by a Galaxy Police member who also happens to be a former model.
Again because of his unreal luck, Seina captures the attention of hundreds of space pirates while traveling to the GXP Academy. In the first few episodes, this uncanny ability swiftly moves him up the GXP ranks. Soon enough, he is Captain of the Pirate Decoy Squad.
The show isn't as largely and comparably neurotic to other recent comedies like Excel Saga or Abenobashi, but it is continually funny. Most of the humor is slapstick instead of intelligent comedic fare, but it works very well and moves rather fast. GXP is not the least bit pretentious; it's just a sincerely funny show.
The vast back-story and amusing characters helps flesh out what would otherwise be a rather simple comedy show.
A recent production, GXP looks pretty smart. The animation, while not overly complex, is smooth, and the visuals are sharp and colorful. Distinct yet attractive character designs help round out this show's look, making it one of the more impressive comedies out there.
Plus, the sound is pretty slick. While the Japanese subtitle stream has a good translation on its own -- even going so far to include honorifics -- the English dub has been Americanized as per FUNimation's standard operating procedures. The English is in surround sound for those of you who prefer dubs, but I'm happy hearing the show in both Japanese and mere stereo.
To be honest, I was not one of the people who watched Tenchi Muyo on the Cartoon Network. Even back then, I didn't like dubs enough watch one on TV - even if I couldn't see the anime otherwise. Now I have it all on DVD, and it was certainly worth the wait.
Extras are minimal, like character profiles (some of which already appeared on previous DVDs) and one of the credits songs on its own. With only three episodes per disc, lack of content ends up being the only true technical disappointment for this release. Though, as FUNimation is quick to point out, the disc's MSRP is $5 lower than the average anime release, charging viewers (at full MSRP) about $8.31 an episode. This still isn't much of a bargain when compared to $30 DVDs with 5 episodes per disc (that's only $6 an episode) or even a $30 DVD with 4 episodes on it (that's less than $8). It does, however, make it look like GXP is a really long series when you have two times the cases for the same number of episodes as another show.
In all fairness, FUNimation has a pretty wide distribution, so you can usually score its releases at large discount retailers for about $16, or from TRSI for about $13 if you catch one of their better studio sales.
Ultimately, Tenchi Muyo: GXP is a supremely entertaining series, even if it is a little light on the cerebral content. It won't force you to question your sanity, like Excel Saga, or reality, like Abenobashi or FLCL. It will elicit a regular stream of laughter from all but the most emotionless of viewers. Even people new to the Tenchi Universe will get a kick out of this series, though longtime fans will potentially get more from frequent inside jokes thrown in here and there.
Somehow, Seina is a very appealing character. While his luck swings in extremes (no matter how many pirates you have after you, if a score of beautiful women are equally eager to get their delicate hands on you, then don't you dare tell me your luck's ALL bad), he is a sincerely likable guy. His genuine innocence and purity make him an easy person to admire, even if he does inspire jealousy from time to time.
I guess he gets that a lot from other guys.