Sunday, April 1, 2012

Anime Review No. 27, “Tenamonya Voyagers” (April Fool’s Day Special Review)

Hello, I’m the Eclectic Dude I review it for the lols.

Well, Happy April Fool’s Day everyone! This special day calls for a special review, because why the heck not. I know the perfect thing to review-Tenamonya Voyagers!!!!!

DVD Cover with the main characters (L-R: Wakana, Ayako, and  Space Trash Paraila) with Inspector Yokoyama near top
Never heard of it? I don’t blame you. Tenamonya Voyagers, a Sci-Fi 1999 OVA done by Studio Pierrot is in that category of ‘rare, obscure” in anime. It also has the distinction for being one of the early titles of anime released exclusively on DVD back in the late 90s/early 00s. But being one of the first, does that make it good?

The story behind Tenamonya Voyagers involves the adventures of 3 young women in space, at some point far in the future. Two of them are humans-Ayako, a new teacher and Wakana, a student athlete. Both ended up at a school on a far off planet of Meldonia, Ayako having a teacher job and Wakana getting there via an athletic scholarship.  However, once they get to Meldonia, the school got shutted down (valid since it took them light years to get there). Anyway, without much to do, the two decides to return back to Earth, despite their limited resources to do so.

Fortunately, a solution comes from above, literally. A giant mecha falls onto the planet, demolishing the school. Out of it comes Paraila, a mysterious young girl who seems more than she appears. Together, they are determined to get back to Earth, the home in a vast universe so to speak. But, it turns out Paraila is a former boss of the Space Mafia who is hoping to get back to Earth for her own selfish reasons. Turns out, some past space treaty left Earth as ‘neutral territory’ wherein any criminal that lands there has ALL their criminal charges wiped clean. In addition to be pursuing by the Mafia, the Space Police have someone on her trail as well-an obsessive policewoman from Hiroshima, Yokoyama.

Sounds pretty good, eh? Well, unfortunately, not only it is rare/obscure it is also unfinished. Only 4 episodes got made. Yeah, spoiler alert, they don’t make it back to Earth and the final episode ends on a cliffhanger. However, unlike Legend of the Last Labyrinth, which suffered from cutbacks it seems, this title suffered from probably low sales. A sad fact of life for OVA collectors, in that a lot of them were released by video every few weeks or months and the continuation of many titles depended on sales of the videos. If sales were good, then OVAs got more episodes and vice versa.

Which is a shame, as Tenamonya Voyagers is a very good OVA. The animation is quite excellent, for its time. Upon first watching it, I did a double take when the fact that this was made back in 1999. It looks good enough to be something made from the early to mid 00s. Characters are extremely expressive and back grounds are well done in every scene of the 4 episodes.

The direction is also something of note as well. Akiyuki Shinbou directed this OVA, yes the same guy who was involved in Galaxy Fraulien Yuna OVAs and Detatoko Princess (both I have reviewed previously). Here, in my opinion, is the best OVA/series he did pre-Studio Shaft. His trademarks are on full display here, be it use of texts on screen, interesting camera angles and wacky/tippy lighting and color effects. He gives it some pacing and quality that one should view the OVA as all 4 episodes at once, as it feels like a movie at times.

The story and characters are well a mixed bag.  It is essential a ‘girls on the run in space’ story, but with a few unique twists thrown in for good measure. The writing is filled with lots of humor, both sophomoric and more subtle. The characters are overall fun and enjoyable to watch. Ayako is a distressed young teacher who is in way over her head at times, but gives enough laughs at times so the audience is totally annoyed at her. Wakana and Paraila basically serves as bouncing boards off each other, Wakana wondering why go through the hassle of going to Earth with a known criminal and Paraila just not giving a crud about what anyone thinks or says. And Yokoyama, the policewoman on the trail of Paraila is basically a crazy badass who probably joined the police just so she could capture/kill people, making her a passable antagonist.

Finally, the music is also worthy of note. In particular, the opening, which it is basically a marching band tune set to well weird imagery. The rest of the soundtrack is very much like the OVA-space epic and all that. Granted, they do recycle some soundtrack parts a few times but thankfully it’s not too annoyingly overused.

Not that to say it’s all good. The story is rather unfinished and this fact is no more evident than in the fourth and last episode, where the production team just threw their arms up in the air and said “Feck the plot, we’ll just do something ridiculously awesome”, apparently. Now, there has to be the best way to end an OVA that probably had no chance: Just end on a note of ridiculously awesomeness. Check it out for yourself, I am not spoiling here.

This gets a good recommendation, if you are a sci-fi fan or like parody series as well. It is not that hard to find it, as has it for dirt cheap. It is well worth it, as Tenamonya Voyagers is a joke; a huge, entertaining joke, to be fair, but a joke nonetheless

‘Til next time ^_^  

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