The original incarnation of Tenchi Muyo!, these two series soon became one of my firm favourites in anime. Here's why.
Tenchi Masaki is a pretty average high school student. However, over the summer he is staying with his grandfather at the family run shrine, and he has been forbidden to enter the cave at the site, which supposedly holds a demon captive. Naturally Tenchi wants to have a look, and manages to get the keys after being beaten (again) by his grandfather at martial arts. Unfortunately the legend is not as fictional as Tenchi thought it was, and he finds a mummified body in the cave that tries to reach for him. In a panic Tenchi flees and seals up the cave again, trying to put it out of his mind. However, this 'demon' is already free and ambushes Tenchi at his school. Now fully rejuvenated the rather voluptuous woman called Ryoko decides to take a little revenge, but Tenchi manages to defeat her when a relic he took from the cave turns out to be a mystical sword. From that point on Ryoko takes a fancy to Tenchi and decides to follow him home, only to be found by an alien princess, Ayeka, and her little sister Sasami, who have a long standing grudge against Ryoko. Add in a ditsy Galaxy Police detective and the self-proclaimed greatest genius in the universe (who happens to look twelve years old), not to mention the cat/rabbit/spaceship that Ryoko owns, and Tenchi's life becomes quite hectic!
Tenchi Muyo is one of the big names in early 90's OAVs and with good reason. It manages to blend romantic comedy and space action into a very enjoyable whole. I have yet to meet someone who hasn't found it entertaining. The premise is very simple; Tenchi, despite being a good guy at heart, isn't very good with women and is also very indecisive. Most of the female cast who turn up end up falling for him in one way or another. And somehow it works very well indeed. While the space battles and science fiction certainly appeal it is the interplay between the characters that make this so eminently watchable. In each of the two series, which were made several years apart, there is a two part story dealing with a bigger plot, and the rest is introducing the characters and getting them to interact. It's because the characters are so dynamic that it works well like this, and you will very quickly find yourself rooting for a favourite girl. In fact Tenchi himself takes a back seat to the girls' antics, being the most passive of the characters in this rather large core cast.
This show is really only for early teens and up. The violence can get a bit heavy at times, such as a character losing a limb (which will be regenerated) or some blood every now and then. There is also a fair bit of nudity, and the fourth episode is based around a hot spring, so expect plenty of fan-service. There are also some very sexual jokes, but they're are all done in good fun. Washu's 'Angel of Mercy' scene, although far from subtle, is often a favourite just for its sheer hilarity. On TV however all of the most sexual jokes have been removed, bikinis added to the girls in the onsen and bath scenes, and they seem to get drunk on tea rather than sake! If you see the edited version you are missing some good material though, so try and get to see the original if at all possible.
The animation on this show is very nice and often quite fluid, although the first seven episodes which make up the first series are not of quite such a high quality as the latter six. The character designs are all very nice and memorable, and in the second series in particular look absolutely stunning during the big character scenes. If anything the main problem people have is Tenchi himself, as he has a rather unusually drawn face, being very rounded.
Tenchi Muyo is one of the earliest dubs that actually was worth watching. Tenchi may have a resemblance to Kermit the frog, and I can assure you the will be at least one character's voice that you will never really like, but it is certainly above average as a whole. Ayeka and Washu's voices in particular take a lot of getting used to, but I have to admit all of them do fit the characters well and they are all well acted. It is also nice to see that the songs were dubbed as well since they are quite well done, but as usual the original Japanese is the better of the two.
I will admit to being hugely biased towards this show, but I will readily recommend this show to anyone because it has a great deal of appeal. It would be a great shame to miss this, since it is one of the best shows of its type out there. We can only hope that the third part (finally being made at the time of writing this) is as enjoyable as these were.