Welcome back to another delve into the world of retro anime, and continuing on from last time, I’m staying in ’harem’ territory while I bring to you the unfortunately disappointing spin-off of a show I had actually enjoyed.
If you have read my last review of Tenchi Muyo, you would have learned about the ‘harem’ sub-genre of anime as well as a list of things I enjoyed about the core Tenchi Muyo series. One take-away, which I hope you had from that review, was that Tenchi Muyo had a knack of spinning itself off a lot. Including the ‘Tenchi Universe’ mini-series, we had the disappointing ‘Tenchi in Tokyo’ and the magical girl spin off ‘Pretty Sammy’. However since 1993, the original Tenchi Muyo OVA continuity had remained in an odd sense of limbo.
That was until another spin off series came around, which kick-started the OVA universe back into life…be it in a way that I hadn’t expected.
Tonight’s retrospective is of Tenchi Muyo: GXP.
As a rule, I dislike being negative about well put-together anime or indeed any anime, but yet again I feel like I have to bring out my ‘red marker’ to underline another show that managed to disappoint.
But first, a little background…
In the Tenchi Muyo retrospective I had mentioned one of my favourite ‘buddy-cop’ pairings had existed in that series in the form of Mihoshi & Kiyone. Most of their stories were in the ‘Tenchi Universe’ mini-series but many elements of their ‘Galaxy Police’ background was present in both ‘Universe’ and the OVA. Beyond the addictive paring of the two girls, who were always fun to see in action, I very much enjoyed whenever the Galaxy Police got involved in the plot. It very often made for a welcome and well-constructed break from the ‘Jurai Royal Family’ sub-plots that many Tenchi series had a knack of focusing on.
I had often hoped for more Space-Police hi-jinx during the run of the various Tenchi shows, but alas there was no more. Or at least not for a while…
By 2002 there hadn’t been much in the way of a Tenchi show since ‘Tenchi in Tokyo’ had deservedly crashed and burned 5 years earlier. (Edit: I know that ‘Universe’ had a movie released in 1999, but I wouldn’t know it existed until much muuuch later). ‘Tokyo’ had been a disappointing addition to the Tenchi family. Together with poorer quality animation, and the lack-lustre presentation of the usual cast, the producers had managed to make that show bland and forgettable. Mihoshi and Kiyone were also present in ‘Tokyo’, but had been relegated two-dimensional background characters how seemed to be little more than cheerleaders to the main plot. In fact most of the cast had gotten this treatment, given that Tenchi had moved to Tokyo (thus the title), leaving many of the girls back at home. I suppose I should have been more annoyed with this show than GXP. However since ‘Tenchi in Tokyo’ seemed to be such a failed addition to the series, I guess I had simply written it off.
However in 2002 murmurings of hope had reached my ears. There was talk of a new Tenchi show on the horizon, a show that had a focus on none other than the Galaxy Police itself. This show was Tenchi Muyo GXP.
Oooooh, where to start with this? First it is important to point out that GXP wasn’t that bad an anime. No really, it wasn’t. It was as well animated as the OVA, and it did benefit from the master touch of Shinichi Watanabe of Excel Saga fame. In fact there was an awful lot of things going for it. However for myself, after half a decade of waiting, I had expected something else from the spin-off that was focusing on my favourite element of Tenchi lore.
At this point I should warn you that there will be spoilers, including the very end of GXP. So proceed at your own peril!
Tenchi Muyo GXP, despite the name, did not follow the trials of the titular Tenchi Misaki. No, it instead followed a hap-hazard Tenchi look-alike named Seina Yamada. Seina was from the same rural community in which most of the Tenchi Muyo OVA was set and also happened to be the single most unlucky 15-year-old you would ever encounter. The Universe it seemed was hell-bent on killing the guy, or at least seriously injuring him. Even the closing credits of the show were a cavalcade of disaster that had befallen our hero of the hour.
I kinda liked Seina, he was a rather in-offensive clone of Tenchi who one would actually hope would get a better lot in life, and in a way that is exactly what happens. Thanks to his bad-luck, the Galaxy Police crash down one day, mistake him for being Tenchi (because they are damn near friggin’ identical) and shanghai Seina into joining the force, with the complete support of his entire jerk family. Honestly, the parents seemed a little too pleased to be sending him out to possible death in the vacuum of space. There must be a lot of ‘tough love’ in this part of Japan...
Before long he is brought before the Galaxy Police to be promptly enrolled in the Galaxy Police Academy. It was at around about this point when I had become most excited in the series. I had hoped for a regular cop-show like many of the 80’s anime I had enjoyed, but the prospect of a show that was ‘Police Academy – in Spaaaaace’ was very exhilarating. I had imagined all manner of High-School style tomfoolery while Seina and his new cadet friends tried to become space-cops while cooking up hair-brained schemes to get lucky with the female cadets.
Alas, my lofty dreams were to be dashed.
It seemed that Seina’s unluckiness was actually quite useful to the Galaxy Police as a means of finding Space Pirates. So, instead of hanging around the academy and learning how to be a cop (pfft…education, who needs that?!) he was promptly promoted to captain of a Galaxy Police patrol vessel.
That was one issue I had with GXP straight away, but the destruction of my Police Academy dream had already started thanks to this show’s obligatory harem. As I had mentioned in the last review, a harem was a group of the opposite sex who would be obsessed with a single person, usually an everyman. GXP was no exception to this, and I had expected a harem of female cadets to be chasing Siena, but instead it was his instructing staff. That’s right his harem was made up of his teachers….and he also ended up living with them in their apartment after a handful of episodes.
At this point I guess I really should talk about this show’s harem, shouldn’t I? The rules of harem design were mostly adhered to in GXP and we got some standard harem members with a couple of tweaks.
Amane – as the Hard to Get Primary Love-interest. Essentially she was this show’s Ayeka and happens to have more history with Seina back on Earth. Despite being aggravated with the guy due to him being the reason for her being demoted, she very suddenly started to actively seek Seina. Like Ayeka, she also had a bit of a Jurai Royal Family thing going on…which is something I will cover later.
Kiriko – as the Sultry Old Girl. You could have said that she was the ‘Ryoko’ of this show, but that would just confuse matters as you will soon learn. She was Okay I guess, but her infatuation with Seina seemed to make very little sense, especially given she really seemed to resent dealing with him. Beyond that, I didn’t have too many issues with her.
Ryoko – as the Space Pirate / Furry? Yea, this is where things started to get bit odd. In GXP we also had a Ryoko, who was also a space pirate, but was not the Ryoko from Tenchi Muyo. This was Ryoko Balta, who spent her first appearances disguised as a ‘Furry’ Police Academy instructor as well as being a creepy paedophile. She is caught out eventually as a Space Pirate and imprisoned for that (I did warn about spoilers). However she gets out later for good behaviour thanks to her love for Seina transforming into a good person. I wish I made that bit up.
Neju – as the Younger Girl who has a crush on the everyman…and then turns out to be an 9000 year old midget witch. Ah yes, Neju wasn’t exactly Sasami, but they were going in that direction since she was always paired with the ship’s cabbot ‘Fuku’. Things took a slightly disturbing turn with this character given that she was drawn as a young girl, but was revealed to be an adult with ominous desires towards Seina. We thankfully are spared at lot of the potential nastiness of this in GXP, but her presence was particularly off-putting when we learn truth about her.
Together with the various members of the harem we did get a fairly decent ensemble of additional characters. My own favourite was an apparent Watanabe self-entry in the form of the morally corrupt Police robot ‘NB’. This seemed to be an abbreviation of his Excel Saga persona ‘Nabeshin’ and in a way appeared to be a very sleazy version of that character. He made for some very welcome comic relief.
As our primary antagonists we were given the Space Pirates, led by a familiar face from the Tenchi Muyo OVA. This was Seiryo Tennan, who some may have remembered as one of Ayeka’s suitors who arrived in the OVA episode ‘Here comes Jurai’. In order to win Ayeka’s hand in marriage, Sieryo challenges and then loses a dual to Tenchi (mostly due to Mihoshi in fairness). Thereafter Sieryo develops a deep hatred for earthlings, which he directs towards Seina. He did not make for a very good villain alas, and together with the pirates were about a villainous as Team Rocket on a ‘bad day’ (I’m not sure if they’ve ever had good days…)
But none of that mattered. No, most of GXP wasn’t really about Space Pirates it seemed. Instead we would get plots revolving around how their Ryo-Oki clone was really a ship, poorly constructed harem humour with the girls trying one-up each other, and lots of scenes of women slow walking down corridors while discussing Jurai politics.
This was another sticking point for me. Although this series was intended to focus on the Galaxy Police, and that it was seemingly set far off from Ayeka’s family issues, the whole ins-and-outs of the Jurai Royal Family was present here too. It seemed that Amane had some kind of convoluted link to Jurai and that her interest in Seina could yield some political dividends for the Royal Family.
And on that note we come to the end of the series, and by far the biggest spoiler I think I’ll ever spill. (Remember, you were warned) After the final battle of GXP, and as a ‘political arrangement’ for ‘political reasons’ Seina was arranged to marry his entire harem (including Neju and Fuku no less). Also, just for the fun of it he is kidnapped from the wedding by a group of women who want him for themselves. So, in order to resolve that, his kidnappers are permitted to marry him too. Thus we end the series with Seina married to damn nearly a dozen women and they lived happily ever after for the rest of their lives.... (or Seina ended up spending the rest of his life going through divorce-court…which ever came first…)
I was both fascinated and disappointed by that ending. It was fascinating to actually see a harem series resolve itself by not actually resolving any of its love-triangles and instead just going, ‘to hell with it, he can have them all!’ But that was also disappointing, because part of the fun of harem stories was following how the relationships would unfold and ultimately resolve themselves. Just having Seina felt like a ‘cop-out’ and not a real resolution to story. I felt somewhat cheated there.
But, I feel that I am being too harsh on GXP. As I stated at the beginning, it was an OK anime, and its own sense of humor was in its heart very good. However, in general I had felt that a lot of the show was very rushed. Seina was rushed out of the academy. He was then rushed into living with his harem, before being rushed into command of a vessel populated by his ever-growing harem, only to be rushed into marriage in the end. Sometimes even the dialogue was rushed, with some interactions moving at a nearly alarming rate. Thus GXP lacked the pacing of the original Tenchi Muyo shows.
Pair all his together with my own expectations of what I thought this show have been, and I’ve got a very mixed bag when it comes to GXP. However, one certain saving grace was the touch of Shinichi Watanabe within the show’s humour.
His sense of fun was ever-present, and despite my misgivings about GXP, it was certainly fun. So, with Shinichi Watanabe in mind, my next retrospective will be my favourite example of his work. Prepare to hold onto your keyboards next time, while we jump into the ‘Quack Experimental’ depths of the insane “Excel Saga”.
Until then, please remember that in most countries your are only allowed to marry one person…in case you were getting any ideas…