Tenchi Muyo! GXP Anime Review
Tenchi Muyou! GXP
This End Up! GXP
US Release By
Sci-fi Harem Comedy
26 25-minute episodes
2002-04-02 - 2002-09-25
What's In It
- Incredibly Unlucky Youths
- Crazy Inbred Royalty
- Massive Space Battles
- Massive, Silly Space Ships
- Little Pervy Robots
- Ridiculously Overpowered Heroes
- Violence: 2 (moderate)
- Nudity: 2 (moderate)
- Sex: 3 (significant)
- Language: 1 (mild)
Harem show plot #3: Seina Yamada, a young, rather naive, generally nice boy from Earth, gets caught up in intergalactic mayhem at the Galaxy Police Academy, attracts the attention of several very attractive women from other planets, and spends his not-so-lonely days trying to either avoid their affections or keep them from killing each other over him. Oh, and there are also some space pirates with an unhealthy interest in any ship he's on.
But our young hero isn't just any old affection-showered schoolboy: He's known far and wide on Earth for having luck so bad that he's a plague to those around him, and he's about to introduce the unsuspecting GXP to misfortune like they've never seen before.
If you average it all out, I suppose he's just a normal guy.
Quick ReviewSwitch to Full Review
Wow, a Tenchi Muyo! series that's finally part of the OVA continuity! ...and it has absolutely nothing to do with Tenchi and the gang. Instead, GXP focuses on a completely unrelated Tenchi-lookalike Earth-kid named Seina who finds himself somewhat unwittingly recruited into the GXP. Directed by professional madman Shinichi Watanabe, the series got my hopes up early on with some hilariously-timed visual jokes involving Seina's terminal bad luck, and there are certainly plenty of attractive women chasing after him. Sadly, it just doesn't have that Tenchi magic. It also ends up feeling like a kids' show with a 16-up rating (particularly the dirtier first half); the jokes are cheap and juvenile, but the harem stuff pushes the limits so far you'd think the unsettlingly-young male lead would stop noticing average nosebleed moments. The women are also so much more mature than Seina I ended up half-wondering whether they're just playing with a borderline-pedophilic toy, since he has no appeal apart from not being as insane as the entirety of Jurai. Aside from the variety of pretty women, the art is functional if unremarkable, as is just about everything else.
I can't recommend Tenchi Muyo: GXP as either a Tenchi series or on its own merits. Overly lightweight, not terribly funny, and a bit dirty to boot, it seems to narrowly miss the mark in every area. Then again, it isn't outright bad and you don't need to be a Tenchi initiate to enjoy it, so if it sounds appealing it may not be a complete waste of time.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
I'm a huge fan of the original Tenchi Muyo! OVAs, but not either of the later TV series, so I, like many others, had been eagerly awaiting a Tenchi series that actually follows the OVA continuity. As such, my checklist for any new Tenchi incarnation had, to this point, been:
- Does it follow the OVA continuity?
- Does it have the Tenchi magic?
My list actually should have included one more item, however:
- Does it have anything at all to do with Tenchi and the gang?
Well, GXP manages one of the three, and adding insult to injury, it's #1. Yes, Pioneer finally makes a Tenchi series that most certainly is part of the OVA continuity, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Tenchi. The Masaki household and related folks are mentioned occasionally, and the main character, despite being of no relation whatsoever, is a dead ringer for a younger Tenchi. There's even a Mihoshi look-alike (voiced by Yuuko Mizutani, no less), but the only character from the OVAs who appears outside a cameo is Tennan, the pink-haired loser from the the final episode. No Need for Tenchi indeed.
A pale Tenchi shadow
As if that weren't bad enough, GXP doesn't even stack up very well in the Tenchi-verse. By tacking this side-story onto the OVA continuity they set the bar pretty high, and GXP sure can't jump like that. To its credit, it's interesting to see some of the inner workings of the GXP and the Juraian royal family--every bit the insane, inbred mess you'd expect. And, there are a variety of colorful folks, wild technology, and Earthling-torturing situations. However, much of the technology lacks that fanciful and imaginative flair (physics-defying Juraian ships are the exception), the nosebleed humor is quite a bit dirtier, and it feels more like the spin-off it is than a quality side story.
Bottom line: The Tenchi Magic, GXP does not have.
But enough of my "It's not the OVAs" ranting. Although there are plenty of in-jokes (including a lot of precognizant references to the third OVA series), you don't need to be a Tenchi expert to enjoy GXP, so from a non-fan perspective, where does it stand? In a nutshell, on shaky ground.
Most of the pieces, none of the execution
All the basics for a decent harem show are here, and GXP even offers a few twists on the standard inverted-skirt-chasing formula. It has some funny moments and the occasional decent episode, but for the most part it feels like a Saturday morning cartoon with a 16-up rating--half of it seems too childish for anyone old enough to be watching it. I'm sure there are male fans who'll have a ball, but other than plenty of cracked Juraian culture it does very little to distinguish itself.
The mediocrity is particularly surprising given that GXP is both written and directed by professional madman Shinichi "Nabeshin" Watanabe, of Excel Saga fame. You get occasional whiffs of his warped, offensive sense of humor, but there's shockingly little of the hilarious lunacy he usually brings to the table.
Uncomfortable age gap
GXP's most notable feature is its women: Compared to your standard harem-fodder, three of the five are unusually mature in terms of looks and personality. This is a welcome change of pace, and coupled with a very young-looking hero makes for a rather interesting contrast. Unfortunately, the age (and experience) gap is so large it also borders on uncomfortable.
That gap is where the nominal romance runs into all kinds of trouble. For one thing, in addition to being too young, Seina has no personality to speak of, and about as much appeal as the placeholder he is--his only selling point is that he's not as crazy as everyone on Jurai. Which makes it increasingly baffling that four women would have any interest in him past playing with a borderline-pedophilic toy.
When the series eventually tries to put some substance into this paper-thin harem romance it's laughable even by the already low standards of the genre. In isolation the women each have at least a little drama in them, but they stop making sense as soon as Seina is in the picture, and any drama is quickly forgotten in favor of petty squabbling.
Then there's later addition Neige, who's all kinds of wrong. Neige is the only harem member near the four-digit ages of Tenchi's admirers, except she looks like prepubescent jailbait, and plays the part. So you're stuck with her being either an old lady pretending to be a little kid and hitting on a 15-year-old, or too young to be anything like a romantic interest. Take your pick, either way it's sort of creepy. Worse still, the series seems to completely forget she's supposed to be hundreds of years old and just starts treating her as a child.
The part where I give away the one good twist
I'm going to go ahead and blow the closest thing GXP has to an unexpected twist and tell you the one thing it does right relationship-wise--skip this paragraph if you really care. We all know that the nutty Royal Juraians are just fine with polygamy (and incest), a fact GXP drives home throughout. And we all know that the only real solution to the original Tenchi Muyo! woman dilemma is to just marry both of them. Well, GXP goes there, full-on, for its finale, and doubles down by tossing a cabbit in for good measure. (Yes, a cabbit.) So at least it does something right, bestiality and bi-directional borderline-pedophilia aside.
Saturday morning scattershot
Past harem romance, most of the show is composed of juvenile, somewhat cartoony humor. There are essentially three jokes: Our poor hero's terminally bad luck, various nosebleed-inducing female bickering, and that the antagonist, Tennan, is a complete poser. Some of the early scenes involving Seina's "problem" are beautifully-timed hilarity. Sadly, impressively funny moments aren't as common as the first couple of episodes had me hoping for, and his bad luck is quickly relegated to a plot device. Once in a while it manages a satisfyingly funny chunk, but for the most part GXP just sort of stumbles along aimlessly, throwing jokes at the viewer and hoping some of them stick. It doesn't even have the mellow "just another weird afternoon" filler that made the OVAs so much fun.
Story? I lost you back at the family tree...
Don't get your hopes up about the story, either. The bits of drama are particularly bad, as they make little sense and seem awkwardly serious in the face of the otherwise silly plots. Not that it amounts to anything; the series half-heartedly throws in a forgettable villain for a grand total of about four episodes scattered through the series, but the heroes are so ridiculously overpowered there isn't even a hint of suspense. In fact, the whole thing is sort of a Dragonball Z-esque orgy of pointless powering up, except it's only the heroes--pretty soon you start feeling sorry for the cannon-fodder bad guys.
The rest of the ongoing plot relates to Juraian back-room scheming, which is on one hand appealingly underhanded and convoluted, but on the other hard enough to follow that I eventually lost track, and didn't much care.
A final gripe is that the nosebleed humor is sometimes closer to an H comedy than a TV series. Coupled with the awkward maturity gap, the titillating situations end up feeling unnecessarily dirty (something which the OVAs somehow managed to avoid completely), and less fun--snicker-inducing, eyebrow-raising scenes degrade into blatant ogling. After a while, I started to wonder why our "naive" hero would even take notice. At least it burns out on this stuff about halfway through; the second season is noticeably cleaner.
As far as the look goes, GXP is definitely an AIC series: Lively colors, reasonably good art, a variety of creative bits of technology (not nearly as effortlessly imaginative as usual, but better than nothing), and lots of very attractive (female) character designs--certainly no complaints on that last one. The animation isn't spectacular, but good enough to get the job done, and there are a few little scenes with wonderfully-timed visual jokes. The music is similar: A decent if unremarkable background score courtesy Tada Akifumi during the series, but a lively, fun end theme.
The Japanese acting is solid all around. There aren't any standout voices, although I will give some points to Seina (voiced by Shigeru Mogi) for the way he resigns himself to his constant misfortune without seeming either too depressed or overly cheerful.
The tepid conclusion
In all, I just can't recommend Tenchi Muyo: GXP, either as a Tenchi series or on its own merits. Overly lightweight, not terribly funny, and a bit dirty to boot, it seems to narrowly miss the mark in every area. On the other hand, it isn't outright bad and you don't need to be a Tenchi initiate to enjoy it, so if it sounds appealing or you're just curious, it's not a complete waste of time, and you might enjoy it more than I did.
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If the fanciful technological flavor and randy fun of this series appeals to you, you'd darned well better be a fan of the other Tenchi series already--if you're not, go get some. Photon also has a bit of flavor in common, though is also all-around better.
Notes and Trivia
Tenchi Muyo: GXP is an original concept spun off of the Tenchi Muyo OVA series.
GXP is written and directed by Shinichi Watanabe, better known by his anime alter-ego Nabeshin (from Excel Saga and some of his other series). Unlike most of Watanabe's other anime, Nabeshin doesn't make an appearance in GXP, but he does supply the voice of pervy robot NB.
If you haven't at least heard of the Tenchi Muyo franchise, then you're probably not an anime fan. But, not everybody is an expert, so if all my talk of "OVA continuity" has you confused, it goes like this: First, Pioneer produced the Tenchi Muyo OVA series (two series, actually, but they fit tightly together). Everybody loved it. Then, they made a TV series (generally called "Tenchi Universe") that involved different versions of the same characters, in a similar but somewhat different plot. Almost everybody liked it. Then they made a couple of movies that didn't quite fit anywhere, which some people liked. Then they made another TV series ("Tenchi in Tokyo") that involved yet another unrelated version of the same characters, in an entirely different plot, which almost nobody liked. Finally, there was a "final" movie, that didn't fit anywhere. Plus, there's the random, completely unrelated (except for the fact that it involves yet another version of... yes, the same characters) spin-off series "Pretty Sammy."
Though each of those series has a following, most "True Tenchi Fanatics" (or at least the smart ones who agree with me) consider the OVAs to be the original and best incarnation of Tenchi Muyo (partly because of it being the only continuity in which the story was left wide open--it stopped right in the middle). This series clearly fits into the same continuity as the OVAs (there are eventually cameos by the original cast), but involves completely different characters, hence my violent knee-jerk reaction.
That said, GXP sets up a number of plot points and introduces several characters who later appear in the third OVA series, which finally continues the One True Continuity. This is particularly interesting, because GXP is set a year after the third OVA series, although it was actually produced about a year earlier--that's planning ahead.
GXP also contains a reference to the mostly-unrelated series Dual! There are no direct indications in Dual! that it is part of the Tenchi continuity, but there are a few subtle hints, and one of the mecha from Dual! appears briefly in GXP (then, later, in the spin-off Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar).
In a small stroke of insulting irony, Pioneer did an online poll prior to the creation of this series asking fandom "If there were a new Tenchi Muyo series, what universe should it take place in?" The OVAs, unsurprisingly, won by a vast margin, but this being the apparent product leads me to believe that they'd already decided on a story and didn't really care whether the fans wanted yet another continuity or not.
One high point of GXP from a fan perspective is that it gives a considerable amount of background on the workings of the Jurai royal family (including an actual diagram of the non-literal Royal family tree--not only does it not branch, it looks like a plate of spaghetti). It also explains pretty clearly why a lot of the least-crazy Juraian royalty seem to go hunting for mates on Earth: Because Juraians are completely insane. With any luck your Earthling mate also won't be a close blood relative.
US DVD Review
Funimation's DVDs, regardless of the packaging (8 individual discs, 8-disc box set, or four 2-disc sets), include crisp English and Japanese audio, a decent-looking video transfer, and English subtitles, but don't boast any special features.
Parts are relatively clean, but I'd call it 16-up based on a couple of episodes. At the least, expect a variety of suggestive situations, dirty jokes whenever NB is onscreen, and a lot of borderline nudity.
Violence: 2 - There's a lot of fighting, but it's all pretty bloodless excepting a couple of mildly dramatic episodes.
Nudity: 2 - A whole lot of skin in some episodes, but you don't technically see many "important bits."
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - At the very least, several naked massages and a lot of suggestive behavior, plus a lot of moderately dirty jokes.
Language: 1 - Pretty mild.