Ahhhh, what a fantastic little series. This is actually two 6 episode story arcs with a connecting longer special episode connecting them.
Arc 1 introduces us to Tenchi Masaki, the titular character. He is training under his grandfather to be the next shrine priest. There is a cave that contains a demon that the priest Yosho defeated 700 years ago. Tenchi explores it against his grandfather’s will and ends up setting free the demon, who turns out to be the space pirate Ryoko and her sentient spaceship Ryo-Ohki. This in turns sets off an alarm that alerts Princess Ayeka of the planet Jurai. She and her little sister Sasami travel to Earth to apprehend Ryoko. The Galaxy Police also send their top agent, Mihoshi, who while being their top agent, is also a bubblehead and leaves a trail of destruction wherever she goes. Arc 1 ends with the villain Kagato trying to capture the legendary power of Jurai. Tenchi defeats him after it is revealed that Tenchi is descended from Jurai. Kagato’s defeat frees Washu, the universe’s greatest genius and mother to Ryoko.
Arc 2 starts out with three standalone episodes and then morphs into a story about a Lady Tokimi, a higher order being, who wants to capture Washu and the power of the Light Hawk Wings. Ryoko is replaced by a robot, known as Zero Ryoko and Tenchi must rescue the original Ryoko. When Tenchi faces Tokimi down during the rescue, this brings him to the attention of the Royal Jurai Family and the King and Queens of Jurai come to Earth. They force Tenchi to fight against Ayeka’s fiance, who is a complete fop and Mihoshi ends up crashing her ship on the fop, thus ending the fight before it even begins.
Tenchi, while not necessarily the very first, was definitely one of the first in the Comedy Harem genre. All the girls like him and while fighting amongst themselves, will immediately gang up on ANY outsider who looks like they might take Tenchi’s attention. The emotions are ramped up to 11 and range from the romantic to the desire to protect. I think if I were to watch this for the first time now, I’d be rolling my eyes like there was no tomorrow. But having watched this in my early 20’s, it has imprinted itself into my emotional makeup and even now I like that 11 ramp!
The music aptly captures the pathos and the light humor. Some pieces are so emotionally laden that they practically drip. When Tenchi is fighting Kagato there is some great organ music and when Tenchi dramatically unveils his ability to use the Wings of the Light Hawk, the music is perfectly synthesized to match the mood. The ending songs are extremely up beat, bouncy and positive. You could easily imagine an 11 year old girl dancing around with her favorite stuffed animal. When Zero Ryoko is supposed to kill Tenchi, the music captures the battle inside of her and perfectly sets the mood for her despair and shows her emotions for Tenchi overcoming even her programming. Here is the soundtrack for Ryoko’s theme. Hope it comes through.
I’ve watched this both subbed and dubbed and I must say, the english crew were cast perfectly. Specifically, Petrea Burchard’s voice as Ryoko, perfectly captures everything you’d expect from the character. Sadly, she didn’t reprise her role in the future OVA’s and I know that influenced my opinion of them.
The art style is the (now) old fashioned hand drawn art. I absolutely love it and it is part of why this particular ova still appeals to me. They don’t create anime like this any more, more’s the pity. The only thing to be aware of is there is some nudity in this. The North American release was edited so Ryoko wasn’t dancing around in the nude but with the new bluray release, I don’t know which version they went with.
While the ending was a bit ambiguous, it WAS an ending that every fan could live with. However, it was so popular that it spun off a large number of other series. Tenchi Universe, Tenchi In Tokyo, Tenchi: GXP, War on Geminar, two more OVA’s and The Mihoshi Special/Magical Girl Pretty Sammy, were all produced. 3 movies were also created, Tenchi in Love, Tenchi 2: Daughter of Darkness and Tenchi Forever. Sadly, none of them quite captured the spirit and romance of the original OVA. Some of them went so far afield as to be barely connected. More recently, a fifth OVA was announced, so the Tenchi franchise is alive and well.
I thoroughly enjoyed this and I’m sure I’ll be watching this again.