Friday 19 March 2010

Anime REVIEW: Saint Knight's Tale

The Tenchi Muyo franchise will always hold a special place in my heart. Aside from the obvious Pokemon/Digimon/Dragonball Z I watched as a child, it was the first anime series I watched entirely and gained a significant love for. So after many years since the last instalment of canon OVA series Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki and only the less than impressive spin off series Sasami Magical Girls Club (reviewed earlier in this blog) to fill the void in that time, it’s nice to see a new iteration in the franchise that’s canon at long last, even if it doesn’t involve any of the characters from the series.

Saint Knight’s Tale (or Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari if you prefer) takes place 15 years after the events of OVA 3 of Ryo-Ohki, and centers around Kenshi Masaki, half brother to Tenchi Masaki (the child of Rea, whom Noboyuki married at the end of OVA 3). Kenshi is somehow transported to the magical world of Geminar, and is deceived by a mysterious organization to participate in an attempt to assassinate Lashara Aasu XXVIII, the young princess of the Shitoreiyu Empire. After failing this attempt and being captured Lasara and her servants take pity on Kenshi and offer him aid. Disguised as Lashara's servant, Kenshi moves with her to the "Holy Land", a virtually impregnable fortress that serves as an academy to train Seikijin (humanoid mecha style weapons. Think EVAs, but less ugly) pilots selected from around the world. However, the same organization who deceived Kenshi is secretly working behind the shadows inside the academy, and a wide scale conflict which will engulf the entire world of Geminar is about to begin.

If you were to watch the series and not realise it was related to Tenchi Muyo, I wouldn’t blame you. Episode 1 throws the viewer in straight at the deep end, with Kenshi having already arrived in Geminar and under control of the series antagonists. No mention is made of his mysterious arrival there until much later in the episode, and glimpses of Kenshi’s home world are not shown until several episodes later, finally adding some relation to the Tenchi Muyo series, even if very briefly.

This is not the only problem with the series, as most of the characters seem to have carbon copy personalities of the Tenchi Muyo cast (switched around of course – but they’re all still there), making it seem like something we’ve all seen before, only better. If you thought Tenchi was overpowered, Kenshi takes this to extreme – in both physical attributes and Seikijin piloting skills. The female characters aren’t particularly memorable either, with the most of my laughs going to the money hungry Lashara, who I’ve deemed the most likeable character of the series.

Much like earlier spin off series Tenchi Muyo! GXP the sex factor is highly overplayed, and since Saint Knight’s Tale is an OVA series, it’s painfully apparent that they could get away with much more. From the female Seikijin pilots to wearing barely anything to a whole episode dedicated to Kenshi’s “massage skills”, this takes Tenchi Muyo!’s ecchi factor to new levels. And do you know what the biggest problem with this is? It just isn’t funny. While GXP had some wonderful comedy moments with the rather forward Amane (and later Ryoko) in contrast with the more reserved Kiriko, Saint Knight’s Tale just feels like it’s trying too hard for the sake of pleasing its male audience.

This isn’t to say Saint Knight’s Tale is a COMPLETE failure. Its animation is fluid and beautiful, with some great character designs (the Seikijin are especially impressive). The latter episodes are also a step up from the earlier ones in terms of plot and characterisation, it’s just a shame you have to sit through eight or nine 45-minute episodes to get there. And finally, what little it does relate back to Tenchi Muyo does also raise some interesting questions as to what to expect from OVA 4 (should it ever be made).

If Saint Knight’s Tale was a standalone series, MAYBE I’d rank it a little higher, but then it would get lost among the other (better) magical/mecha animes that are out there. Its position as a canon Tenchi spin off is what brought the series to my attention, and as a spin off it just misses the mark. Not as badly as Sasami did admittedly, but GXP still vastly superior to this, and that was the one creator Masaki Kajishima was unhappy with. Most curious…

N.B: Currently I have only watched 10 out of 13 episodes of the series. Episodes 11 and 12 are yet to be dubbed, and 13 isn’t out yet. This entry will be updated as soon as the episodes are available. And maybe, just maybe it’ll go up in my estimations following it.


Dinobolt1 said...

Hello, can you answer a question I have about the Tenchi franchise? Is there a single show or movie which doesn't have any real nudity (which I count as showing bare butts or even naked but covered breasts) in it? I'd just like to know if you could tell me if the TV show has any actual nudity in it. I'd be interested in watching any part of the franchise as long as there wasn't any nudity in it. I know the original OAVs do so they're scratched off. Thanks in advance

Alex said...

Hmmm, it’s been a while since I watched it but I think Tenchi in Tokyo might be the only one. The TV shows are a bit less fanservice heavy than the OVAs for obvious reasons, but Tenchi Universe has bathhouse scenes and an episode entirely dedicated to a bikini competition. I can’t guarantee but nothing like that springs to mind from In Tokyo.

Dinobolt1 said...

Thank you very much for your response. I'm probably going to go ahead and buy Tenchi Universe if I see the box set cheap enough. The bathhouse scenes may or may not bother me, but I shouldn't have any problems with the swimsuit competition episode. I've got nothing against showing women in bikinis or underwear (as long as they're not too skimpy) since I tolerate it when they show men dressed like that. Fair's fair right? I don't like nudity, but I'm not a prude; otherwise there'd be a lot less anime I could watch.

A couple more questions. One is, what continuity does Tenchi In Tokyo belong to? Also, were any episodes of Tenchi Universe released edited on VHS or only uncut? If so, I could use Windows Live Movie Maker to splice the uncut episodes with edited scenes if there are any I feel the need to censor.

Finally, I just want to say you are the best blogger I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I have literally followed no other blogger from beginning to end since I discovered them. Yeah, one day I went to the beginning and just read whatever caught my eye. I'm sorry that I don't comment on these more often, but rest assured that I have been keeping up with them. I've been looking forward to what you have to say about the latest Sentai or Kamen Rider series for a while now. I'll try to comment on some of my favorite blogs of yours later this week.

Alex said...

Tenchi in Tokyo is its own unique continuity, so it's just the 26 episode series and that's it. Out of the three main Tenchi timelines it's probably my least favourite and the art isn't as good as the OVAs or Universe, but it's quite unique so definitely worth watching if you're interested in the franchise.

Glad you're going to give Universe a shot though! It's hands down my favourite Tenchi continuity (as controversial as that may be) because it's a lot less convoluted than the OVAs which seem to get progressively worse the more they add. Not too sure about whether edited versions were released on VHS as I didn't really get into the franchise until DVDs were around, but since Universe aired on Toonami like the OVAs cuts might have been made somewhere for airing. Probably not going to have much like finding those these days, but I think you'll be okay with Universe. Its fan service is fairly mild.

May be worth noting that Universe also has two movies that go with it, the second of which has very brief sex scenes. Not sure how you may feel about that!

And thank you for the kind words! Its really great to hear that you've been keeping up with the posts, and the reason why I'll keep writing. Thank you in advance for any comments you leave too - I may not reply to them straight away but I do read them, and reply when I have the chance!

Dinobolt1 said...

-Well if I like Universe enough and ever clear out the rest of my anime watch list I’ll try Tokyo.

-Why would Universe being somebody’s favorite series be so controversial? As far as I can tell, it would be either that or the original OAV series; they both have their own strengths and weaknesses. At least, that’s what I’ve been able to tell from the very little knowledge I have of the fandom. But regardless of whether or not edited VHS versions exist I’m trying it. It’s funny; my mother actually got Japanese Tenchi CDs from the library. She simply picked them up because they were anime CDs and looked rare. Kiyone is on them (I recognize her from some fanarts; she’s pretty, I like her overall design and she sounds like a very cool character), so I imagine it’s from Universe. I’ll try finding them on CDJapan (a website that lists Japanese anime and tokusatsu CDs, which has helped me a lot with collecting them) and see just what they are. I just might end up using them to make AMVs.

-Sorry, but I will not be watching the second movie; that’s just too much for me. I avoided Tenchi for so long because an anime encyclopedia I have marked it with an N rating for nudity (there’s also V for violence and L for language). Considering some of the stuff that didn’t get marked with an N rating (I kept trying to watch certain anime series, but either the show or the openings featured real anatomically correct nudity) I never wanted to touch the stuff marked N. But maybe Universe just got lumped in with the other series; the book doesn’t bother to give each part of a franchise its own individual listing.

-You’re welcome. I really will take a day out just to comment on them first then do other things when I’m done. Even when I don’t agree with your opinion (Martian Successor Nadesico is one of my favorite anime series) your reviews are always such good reads. You go into your opinion so well that nobody can call you out for not liking something.

Say just a question. I don’t know if you’ve done this sort of thing before, but have you done a top 10 best anime series list? I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Alex said...

I guess maybe it isn't that controversial, but I've noticed a lot of pushback in the fandom in the last couple of years about how the OVA is the best because it's the "one true canon" etc. Universe is definitely much better to me though - as I say, the more streamlined story is far more preferable and Kiyone is a great character, one of my favourites in the entire franchise. Good luck in finding the CDs!

That's fair about the second movie, I thought you might say that which I why I thought I'd let you know. It probably did get lumped in with the other series on that site - it does feel like there's a lot of places that don't differentiate between them.

I've never done a top 10 anime series, but I'll definitely give it some thought! Outside of my top 5 they change so often it might take some time just coming up with the list.

Dinobolt1 said...

Well that’s understandable, but Universe would probably get my vote too even if I wasn’t biased towards its lessened fanservice. I generally prefer TV versions anyways because there’s more time to know the characters.

Well thanks for letting me know. Yeah, movies and OVA episodes tend to get away with more. I’m a huge fan of Fairy Tail, but I’m never watching the movies because they show Lucy naked in the first one and probably in the second one as well. I’m staying as far away from the OVAs as possible. I didn’t even watch the series until last year because I once saw my cousin watching clips from the OVAs and they were so embarrassing and off-putting to me that I wanted to never have anything to do with franchise. All I can say is how wrong I was.

And it wasn’t a site I was talking about, it was a book. I checked it out of the library once and made a list of anime that I wanted to try then years later I bought it for $4 and went through it again, finding a few other interesting-sounding series I missed. It only goes up to 2005, but it is very handy and helpful for me to have. I’ve discovered some of my favorite anime series thanks to it like Nadesico, Kaleido Star, Fafner, Scrapped Princess and Slayers. I’ve also discovered 4 star gems like Kino’s Journey, Gad Guard and Elemental Gelade; series that aren’t too close to perfect but I’m still very glad I watched them. One of these days I’ve got to see about getting the updated edition, so that I can easily find more recent anime.

Even a top 5 would be nice, but the more the merrier. Regardless of whatever you end up doing, I am looking forward to it and will wait as long as it takes.