I'm writing this review about episode 1-13 of the original OVAs.
The last 7 episodes were written in order to accomodate the GXP storyline and were created over 10 years later, so I personally consider them almost a separate series.
This is my favorite anime...period. I know I'm not in the majority on this, but it succeeds on every level. It is the definitive "harem" anime, while maintaining a great plot and fascinating universe/backstory. The fact that each of the women have complex and fascinating pasts and facets to their character is something unique to this genre. It's heartwarming, romantic, raunchy, funny, dramatic, and even is a mystery at times.
Story: The story starts with Tenchi, mischievous grandson of a shrinekeeper, stealing the keys to the shrine from his grandpa. He then explores a cave that family lore claims to house a "demon". Of course he accidentally frees the demon which sets into motion a complex series events that involves all the great powers of the universe. As Noike mentions in the 3rd OVA, the Masaki household rates as a galatic superpower by the end of the series. The interesting question is, how much of this did Grandpa plan out?
Art: Done in the mid-90's it's cel animation. That being said it's beautifully animated though the characters sometimes are simple looking due to the style at the time. All of them are uniquely animated, wear different outfits and hairstyles which helps show the attention to detail.
Sound: Nothing to rock out to, but it all works. I have to add that the original voice acting english cast was great, and funimation really screwed up with the 3rd OVA and will burn in the fiery pits for the abomination of the GXP crossover.
Character: The main character is Tenchi, high school student and usually studious, courteous, and not very rebellious except for the carefully nutured interest in the cave. In true anime teen fashion, he acts a perfect gentleman around the ladies and though not oblivious to their charms, he refuses some very blatant offers
Now for the ladies:
Ryoko, the demon from the cave and former space pirate. She's linked to her ship/ pet cabbit (rabbit/cat) Ryo-Ohki and has quite the interesting pedigree from both parents. She's the first to fall for Tenchi and is very aggressive in her affection for him. Washu implies that her aggressive sexuality is a front to protect her sensitive feelings for Tenchi.
Ayeka, is the pampered princess of Jurai who arrives on Earth to arrest Ryoko; but instead ends up her primary rival for his affections. Presenting herself as younger and more proper than Ryoko, it's often hinted that her mind isn't as chaste as her act.
Sasami, is Ayeka's younger sister. Despite being the youngest in the house, she often displays the most maturity. She bonds quickly with Ryo-Ohki and cooks most of the meals for the household. All this while holding back a secret that she fears will tear her from the others.
Mihoshi, the hapless GXP policeperson. Referred to by Washu as a "genius of pure luck". She's clumsy and not very diligent in her duties but her luck seems to land her in trouble and good fortune simultaneously. She plays the dumb blond of the group, but her forthright nature wins many over. She's somewhat interested in Tenchi, but isn't focused enough to compete with the highly competitive duo of Ryoko and Ayeka.
Lastly there is Washu. Washu is in her own words "so many things really..." some of these include being Ryoko's mother, the greatest scientific mind in the universe, and the one person who sees all that is going on behind the scenes. It's a measure of her self-confidence and maturity that she does not blow everyone's secrets out of the water take control. She has some designs on Tenchi, even shedding her disguise as a young girl and returning to adult form to offer to bear his child. Of course he declines, and she remains in her guise from there on. It's never stated, but her interest in Tenchi is mostly scholarly and only acts romantically interested to keep Ryoko and Ayeka on their toes.
It's clear that the storytellers intended to include some traits of the ideal woman in each of the women, but also included flaws that prevented that.
Enjoyment: As I said before, this series strength lies in a great plot and rich world for the characters to interract in. The story never stagnates and the few times things slow down is to reveal a great deal about one of the characters. The blend of action and comedy goes well together and the rapidly expanding plot never leaves the viewer bored.
Overall: I've yet to see an anime do so much with so little. The closest I've seen yet is Code Geass, but it's apples and oranges to this. Just when you think you understand everything about a character they reveal a new leaf...well Mihoshi is pretty straightforward and Tenchi's dad is pretty much a middle-age perv. Everyone else though not only reveals their past, but also grow and change during the series. My fav character is Ryoko, as with many other people. She displays a depth of character and obviously is head over heels for Tenchi but has a very hard time showing him how she really feels.
I would recommend this to anyone! I will mention that the uncensored version can be risque at times (Ryoko isn't familiar with nudity taboos) so I qualify everyone as everyone over 17.