There are few series that earn reputation among anime fans that earn “classic” or “must watch” statuses, especially at a time when “moe” anime, whether you acknowledge it or not, has dominated a scene of anime once held by powerhouses that pioneered the 80’s and 90’s before setting the stage with what we watch today. For a title like Tenchi Muyo!, it had the unique fortune of being among Cartoon Network’s Toonami lineup in the late 90’s and early 00’s, and again, whether you acknowledge it or not, was responsible for helping to bring in and cement a lot of fans to this fandom, myself included. So I felt it was appropriate to re-launch my “Classic Reviews” category with a review on a classic franchise that still continues to be awesome, to this day.
This is Part One of a Two Part review, the second part will focus on Tenchi Universe and the Universe-based movie Tenchi Muyo In Love! I’ll try to have that done in the next couple weeks, I still have to find a source for Universe, be it subs or DVD.
Tenchi-Muyo! is actually three OVAs called Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki which aired between September 1992 and March 2005, though the first two OVAs aired between 1992 and 1993, and the final OVA between 2003 and 2005, hence the differing animation styles. For most people, including those who saw the show on Toonami, the first two OVAs are common knowledge among all Tenchi fans, as that was what was available at the time. The third OVA, which aired later, tied up a lot of the loose ends from the first two OVAs, but probably created more questions by the end.
Tenchi Muyo! is the story of Masaki Tenchi, a normal Japanese high-school kid living outside of Tokyo with his father in a house designed and built by his father, an architect. His grandfather lived far outside of the city home to a shrine kept within the family for generations, and every summer Tenchi would help his grandfather while training in various sword and hand-to-hand fighting styles. On the shrine grounds lies a cave that according to legends told by his grandfather, lay a demon that once terrorized the countyside before being subdued by their ancestors, a man named Yosho. A great sword seals the demon and is protected by the shrine grounds. Having spent many summers curious of what was inside, but never having been able to get the keys to check it out, Tenchi manages to steal the keys one day and venture forth into the cave.
After finding a rusted old sword within a small shrine inside, Tenchi was convinced the legend was a fake, until he revealed a hidden passage that was surrounded in water and light. Having felt the embrace of something dark and sinister, he hightailed it out. The next evening on the school roof, he encountered a dimensional being who immediately attacked him and chased him throughout the school. This turned out to be Ryoko. After causing significant damage trying to get away from her, he eventually confronts her with the hilt of the sword he took from the cave earlier, which generates a beam sword, unexpectedly cutting her hand off. She retreats, but shows up again later in his bedroom, begging for him to release one of the three jewels on the hilt so that she could “save” them from another impending crisis, and that crisis was Ayeka Masaki Jurai and her ship, Ryo-Oh. Releasing her own ship, Ryo-Ohki, the “space pirate” Ryoko shrinks the house and brings it with them on their escape, but locked in a battle with Ryo-Oh, the two ensnare each other and end up at the bottom of the lake next to the shrine, placing the house flat next to the lake, intact.
Now stuck with the house being next to his grandfather’s shrine, in the middle of nowhere, Tenchi tries to get his life back in order while dealing with Ryoko, Ayeka, and her sister Sasami all living under one roof. While initially cold and angry, Ayeka warms up to Tenchi after she learns they are of the same family. This angers Ryoko, who is also vying for Tenchi’s affections, locking her and Ayeka into a perpetual battle. Sasami on the other hand, tries to keep order in the house and contributes by making all of the meals, since no one else can. During a hot-springs trip, a Ryoko-Ayeka battle causes Ryoko to summon an uncontrollable monster, which is ensnared by another addition to the harem, Kuramitsu Mihoshi, a Galaxy Police operative and influential daughter of the Kuramitsu family who oversees most of the GP’s fleet. The accident causes her ship to be sucked into subspace, stranding her on Earth with everyone else.
But before anyone can get too comfy, Kagato, another space pirate and the target of Mihoshi’s original investigation into Earth’s solar system, suddenly attacks, forcing Tenchi’s grandfather to defend Tenchi and the girls, and reveal that he is actually Yosho, the man from the legends he told Tenchi about before, a crown prince to Jurai, and Ayeka’s fiancee. 700 years prior, when Ryoko attacked Jurai, he drew Ryoko away from Jurai to Earth and sealed her away on the planet, until Tenchi revived her. Kagato, of course, is after Ryoko and her power, but is also after a stronger power, one that was unaware of by anyone until he kills Tenchi while he, Ayeka, and Mihoshi were aboard Ryo-Ohki trying to save Ryoko from his ship. Sasami invokes her hidden power, that of Tsunami, the power of the first tree of Jurai.
Tsunami restores Tenchi’s body and mind, allowing him to fight, but notices he now generates a new power, the power of the Light Hawk Wings. Infiltrating Kagato’s ship, Tenchi and the gang are not only successful at retrieving Ryoko, but also retrieving Hakubi Washu, genius inventor, philosopher, and “mad scientist” that had been missing for a number of years, imprisoned by Kagato. The gang learns that Washu was Kagato’s mentor in the Science Academy, and that his true purpose was to assimilate Tsunami’s power for his own. The plan fails when Tenchi disposes of him using the power of The Light Hawk Wings, which allowed him to generate shields and swords using metamorphosis.
With Kagato out of the way, everyone, shacks up with Tenchi, including Mihoshi and Washu, though Washu resides in another dimension linked to a closet door in the house. Between carrot fields and school, Tenchi is kept busy trying to live his daily life with five other girls constantly vying for his attention. From interfering with his routines to trying to court him, and win his affections through taking care of his baby cousin, the girls can’t find a way to break through to him amidst all the daily chaos. But before everyone can settle down again, another event pops up. Another one of Washu’s former colleagues, Dr. Clay, uses advanced technology similar to Washu’s to duplicate Ryoko with the attempts to kidnap Washu and bring her before Tokimi, some kind of interdimensional being with limitless foresight and power.
Unfortunately for Dr. Clay, Washu is much smarter than she lets her enemies know, and while allowing the capture of Ryoko, tracks her back to Clay’s ship with Tenchi and Ayeka in tow. Aboard his ship, Clay tries to explain the need to bring her to Tokimi, but she refuses. A malfunction in Zero, the robot Clay used to duplicate Ryoko, causes her to have feelings for Tenchi, and stops his plan cold when he threatens to kill him. Taking advantage of the situation, Washu grabs Ryoko and Zero and escapes while Clay escapes, only to run into Mihoshi and be captured and turned over to the GP.
The final episode of the second OVA has Tenchi meeting the Emperor of Jurai and his wife, parents of Ayeka and Sasami, to bring the girls home. Unfortunately they do not want to leave, and even with another man picked out for Ayeka, who ends up battling Tenchi and losing due to Mihoshi’s interference, thus winning out the chance to stay with Tenchi. Meanwhile in Tokimi’s dimension, she speaks of Clay’s failure to secure Washu, and of Tenchi and the Light Hawk Wings, but remarks there is another with the same power, only stronger. It is unknown what her goals are, but she intends to further them. The OVA closes out with the Emperor of Jurai cackling to himself about what he has in store for Tenchi soon.
The third OVA opens up with the usual Tenchi Muyo surroundings, all of the girls and Tenchi under one roof. Introduced early on, Z, as he is known, turns out to be the man who can generate five Light Hawk Wings, and is tasked with performing tasks for Tokimi. Ordered not to kill Tenchi, he instead tries to manipulate others around Tenchi to influence his elimination without his direct contact. He starts by changing the letter Mihoshi was writing home, which changes the actions the GP and Jurai will take. Meanwhile new challengers to Ryoko and Ayeka arrive in the form of Noike Kamiki Jurai, Tenchi’s “fiancee” and Masaki Tennyo, Rea, and Airi, all relatives of Tenchi, even Tennyo looks like his mother, whom he mistakes her for. While Tenchi’s life continues to be shaken six ways of Sunday, Z continues to manipulate people and things behind-the-scenes by pitting Mihoshi’s brother Kuramitsu Misao against Tenchi as he tries to get Mihoshi back.
The original plan was hatched by Kuramitsu Minami, Mihoshi and Misao’s grandfather, whom after receiving Mihoshi’s letters about being “abused” by Tenchi, dispatches Misao aboard the strongest ship, the Choubimaru. The original plan was to rescue Mihoshi and destroy the planet, but his plans were discovered by other family members and by Lady Seto of Jurai and the mission threatened to kick off a war between the Kuramitsu and Jurai. Instead, with Makibi Mashisu’s intervention, they attempted to lure Mihoshi and Tenchi to the ship and use Ryoko to attack and destroy the ship, eliminating Tenchi, without drawing the Earth into the battle. Once again, all of the plans were foiled by Washu and the others who dispatched of all of the goons under Mashisu’s command, and Mashisu herself. Mihoshi and Tenchi didn’t even leave because of a Mihoshi classic blunder.
Ryoko ends up destroying the Choubimaru anyway, but immediately after, Z attacks the planet and destroys a chunk of the Earth along with a chunk of the moon, forcing everyone to take cover in Washu’s subspace and Tenchi tries to confront Z. Z sacrifices three of his wings to eliminate Tenchi’s and sends him flying out near Saturn. Still alive, Tenchi tries to fight back, but is imprisoned by Tokimi. Z continues to try to kill Tenchi, offering to “free” him from his suffering, with the belief that Tsunami or Washu will revive him. Tsunami shows up in the same astral form Tokimi is seen in and contends with Tokimi over Tenchi. After Ryoko shows up and attempts to battle Z, just before she is hit by Z, Tenchi steps in and is cut open by Z’s attack. A large scale dimensional distortion attempts to break out due to Tenchi’s powers and will, and it’s here Washu appears the same as the other two, attempting to contain Tenchi’s power from breaking space and time. Inside the distortion, Tenchi encounters a girl named Kagato, and attempts to set her free. Outside the explosion eliminates Z, but is still thwarting the three goddesses ability to contain it. After a few minutes, they are able to contain Tenchi and save him, as well as the planet and surroundings. The three reveal themselves to be something of the universe’s “creators”, being responsible for everything that goes on in the universe. In performing countless experiments to find beings with power to surpass their own, or other higher-dimensional beings, they each conducted independent experiments. Washu sealed her gems and started life over as a human from birth, Tsunami infused herself in the first generation of Jurai’s trees, and Tokimi remained in her original form, manipulating subspace and dimensions to achieve certain results. Z was one of her creations, but she learned she did not invest in him similar to Tenchi with Washu and Tsunami, and instead re-created Z and sent him back in time to his planet to live a new life. All three goddesses remain with the rest in a slightly altered timeline where Z’s interference was not had, but similar events occurred due to Noike’s interference. The series ends with Tenchi’s father and Rea getting married.
To summerize Tenchi in 2200 words, whoof. It’s a show with incredible depth and complexity to it, and even watching the first two OVAs countless times and the third OVA a couple times, I’m still vague on some parts of the story. The original OVAs always left me with that burning question of who Tokimi, and by proxy, Tsunami and Washu really were. Even when you realize who they are and the role they played, it’s still confusing in a way. This was the one thing Tenchi Universe really did well on, was to re-adapt the space and alien race aspect of the universe and adapt it to Tenchi and family, a review I will get to when I get through Universe.
The two things about watching older shows is the voices, and the characters. When you consider that Mihosi, voiced by Mizutani Yuko, is the same voice as Chocolate in Bakuretsu Hunters, Luchs in Saber Marionette J, Excellen Browning in all of the Super Robot Taisen OG shows (fuck yeah), and most recently, Run’s Mother in A Channel, among so many other titles, suddenly you are watching a show for the characters again and not who voices them. We all love our modern VAs in our shows, but watching the classics means removing those modern VAs from the equation and watching the last generation of successful VAs voice some quality characters. There aren’t many wasted characters in Tenchi Muyo, every one of them serves a purpose for the most part and plays into the story. I love any show that has to do with space, but to be able to meld space and science fiction on this kind of scale, it’s something to behold.
When I was a huge fan of this show in high school, I was especially drawn to Washu and Ryoko, a combination of technological genius, and raw power. A lot of my early drawings mimicked Ryoko’s beam saber abilities, and I was also expecially fascinated by the light-shields Yosho and Tenchi used as well. Today, while some of that remains the same, I found more reasons to like Mihoshi’s character, as well as Ayeka and Sasami, pretty much the whole core cast. There was an SNES game made way back when that was never translated or published in the US, but made its way in as a hacked rom with partial English on it, used to play that game for hours on my laptop whenever I could, finally “beating it” (reached the end of the translation) while vacationing in The Outerbanks in 2001. Good times.
I could mince another couple hundred words, but the short of this first review into the Tenchi OVAs is that when it comes to definitive shows to watch in the anime fandom, especially if you’re new to the fandom, or maybe not an anime fan but interested in science fiction with a twist, Tenchi Muyo! is a recommended step in the right direction. It might take some understanding at first, but once you see it, you’ll shit bricks.
Title: Tenchi Muyo!
Sub Group I Watched: N/A (Official Pioneer/Geneon DVDs)
Episodes: 18 episode in 3 OVAS (6/6/6)
Rating (1-10): 9-9-8
Favorite Character: Hakibi Washu
Least Favorite Character: Noike Kamiki Jurai
Favorite Fighter: Ryoko
FORCED SHIPPING WORKS: Tenchi and Mihoshi
Could They Ever Make More? Considering the end of the third OVA, and the endless amounts of ideas you could make for a spin-off, it’s entirely possible that if Japan ever gets on to a kick of reviving old franchises and making new shows, Tenchi would be a prime candidate for a new face-lift. A lot of the cast is still arund, albeit in their 40s and 50s, so I am not sure if “getting the band back together” would work, but that shouldn’t stop them from trying, I’d love to see some new adventures.