Type: OVA x 3; Special x 2
Episode Count: OVAs: 6 / Specials: 1
Vintage: OVAs: 1992 / 1994 / 2003
Specials: 1993 / 2005
Version reviewed: English Dubbed / Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 21 May 2007
Perhaps AIC’s flagship title, Tenchi Muyo! has a long and storied history. Countless shows have taken a page out of the formula virtually invented here – unassuming guy becomes surrounded by multiple girls seeking his attention – but Tenchi Muyo! is likely still the king of the ‘harem’ genre, despite not technically being one itself.
Tenchi Masaki is an ordinary high school student who also trains in an ancient sword technique at his grandfather’s shrine. One day while visiting the shrine, he enters a forbidden cave that is located there. In it, he re-awakens what he believes to be a demon named Ryoko that had been defeated long ago by Tenchi’s ancestor Yosho. This sets off a chain of events that will introduce princesses from a far away planet, a Galaxy Police officer, a universally renowned genius scientist, and many others into his daily life. All of a sudden, Tenchi’s life isn’t so ordinary anymore.
It’s hard to decide the best way to sum up a series that spans multiple OVA cycles, two specials, and a nine year gap between parts. The first two OVAs and first special are steeped in nostalgia for me, as Tenchi Muyo! is one of the titles I cut my anime teeth on. Then, years later, a third installment comes along in this same continuity that helps tie up many of the loose ends left by the cliffhanger ending of the second OVA series. This third OVA does not have the benefit of nostalgia going for it, yet it does manage to fit in after a little bit of acclimation. Only time will tell if the third installment becomes as legendary as the first two.
The first OVA is mainly to introduce the characters. Aside from Tenchi and his family, there are six more main characters to introduce in six episodes. This is accomplished fairly well, as is the story arc involving the show’s first villain. The first special is a side story that plays on the infamous rivalry between Ryoko and Princess Ayeka of planet Jurai for Tenchi’s attention. The second OVA starts as standalone episodes that offer some more character development before a new conflict arises, and leads to a cliffhanger ending. Until a few years ago, this was all that we knew of the Tenchi Muyo! story in this continuity. As any Tenchi fan knows, there are many different continuities and retellings and spinoffs with these same characters and settings, but the OVA is the original, and many fans argue it is the best.
With a handful of alternate universes out of the way, nine years after the conclusion of the second OVA, we were finally promised an answer to all of the questions, and the third OVA was born. As could almost be expected for Tenchi Muyo!, the final (it is presumed) story arc begins with the introduction of more new characters to occupy Tenchi’s hapless life. What follows is a story arc mostly independent of what has happened previously, though by the finale, elements are brought in from the first two OVAs in an effort to tie most of the storylines up.
My high score for Tenchi Muyo! is weighted heavily in favor of the 1990s material, which is generally regarded as a classic across much of the anime fan community. The final installment will take some more viewings to fully appreciate its place in the series, but as a whole, this is an excellent series worth checking out.