TENCHI UNIVERSE, also know as TENCHI TV is a solid retelling of the Tenchi saga, although it lacks the magic and spirit of the original OAV. It is saved, however, by some wonderful and touching moments, and a nearly perfect ending. In between those moments are a lot of flaws though... Basically, I will compare this show to the OAV... Be aware, major spoilers are coming ahead... First of all, to those that aren't aware, TENCHI UNIVERSE is a "retelling" of the story told in the original OAV series. What this means is that we have the same basic characters (with the adddition of Mihoshi's partner, Kiyone, who does add a lot to the series), the same basic personalities and conflicts, although with lots of little and significant changes. For starters, Washu is now the demon trapped in the Masaki Shrine instead of Ryoko, who is now a space pirate being chased by Mihoshi who crash lands on earth. Ayeka's role is more or less the same, except that she's basically running away from her duties of a royal marriage.
Besides the slight changes in the characters backgrounds, there's also the significant change that only Ayeka and Ryoko are really after Tenchi (Mihoshi and her partner even move away into an apartment). In my opinion, this takes out a significant portion of the drama of the series, and makes Ayeka and Ryoko seem a bit more petty. Kagato also goes through some major changes, both good and bad. While his new backstory is interesting, he's not handled very well,is less sophisticated, and just isn't as cool of a supreme baddies as he was in the OAV (he was SUCH a great villain in the OAV!). As for the plot of the show...well, there's certainly a lot more to it than there was in the OAV, but unfortunately, TENCHI UNIVERSE feels VERY padded. The last couple episodes of the earth saga go nowhere, and eps 17-19 could have easily been tossed out and improved the show. Also, the "Time and Space Adventures" eps 11-13 are basically standalone, but I also think they're one of the highlights of the show (and a rare instance of significant character development) and are worthwhile if one for Ryoko's touching moments in "her" world in eps 13. The biggest factor which makes this series inferior to the OAV though is the lack of character development. To be honest, I'm really not sure who the creaters where making this series for, as it shortcuts to much on character introductions and growth to be worthwhile as an introduction to Tenchi (For God's sake, watch the OAV first!!!), yet the boneheaded changes are sure to drive many Tenchi devotees crazy. My biggest complain of all is how little time is devoted to character development. While the OAV may have lacked in plot, it was a character driven show that devoted significant time and emotion to each character (especially Washu, who sadly never gets beyond a caricature here). The change is Ryoko is the most dubious. As opposed to her 700-year-imprisonement in the OAV (which leads to a touching moment in which she remembers watching him grow up), this Ryoko doesn't get the set-up she deserves to make way for her later touching moments. She basically falls into Tenchi's lap in the first moments of the show, and with no explanation, falls for him immediately. One of the best things about the OAV was how all the characters developed their affection for Tenchi, especially Ryoko and Ayeka, who is also given less development here. I just can't understand how a series twice as long as the OAV doesn't come close in its character development. The tone of the show is also a bit off too. While the OAV was always touching in some way, either in its humor, romance, or melodrama, there is a streak of melancholy that permeates TENCHI UNIVERSE. The difference is I watched the OAV with a smile on my face the whole time, whereas TENCHI UNIVERSE, while still light and funny, just doesn't compare.
You may think in these comments that I didn't enjoy TENCHI UNVERSE. Well I did. It certainly had a lot of weaknesses, and was a long slog in places, but it had its virtues as well. First of all, Kiyone is an appealing and funny new character, and her relationship with Mihoshi was a highlight of the show. The plot is certainly a lot clearer than the OAV as well. And, although nowhere near as affecting as the OAV, there were some very touching moments as well. "No Need For Ryoko" in particular was a highlight, possibly the saddest and most tragic chapter in any of the Tenchi saga. Let me just say though, its robbed a bit by the fact that accepting Ryoko as "dead" is impossible to believe. Her last lines in the episode are truly touching though, and this is one of the few times in this series that we get to see her loneliness and depth of emotion. And then there's the final episode...to be honest, if not for the wonderful conclusion to this sage, I'd be borderline on a recommendation. But it's just so...perfect. A nostalgic and surprisngly somber episode, it emotionally connects in a way most of the series lacks. Just at that moment that hope seems lost...well, safe to say, the Tenchi saga always seems to end up at the same place, and Tenchi's final moments with Ryoko are truly touching (as is seeing everyone else on their way back!) In closing, I'll also add that this series makes a significant change in showing Tenchi's attitudes towards Ryoko. In the OAV, he never even remotely shows a preference for any of the women, but in TENCHI UNIVERSE, the ending in particular makes him and Ryoko seem destined to be together. I certainly liked that, and to be honest, I wish this ended could be transplanted to the OAV. Overall, for "Tenchi" fans, TENCHI UNIVERSE is fun and worthwhile, but realize its a definite step back from the OAV. And please, to those looking for a starting point in Tenchi watching, get the OAV! You'll be introduced to one of the most affecting groups of characters in Anime (or any genre, for that matter).