Tenchi the Movie: Tenchi Muyo in Love!
Way, way back in the day, when anime was still relatively new to the US, and Cartoon Network was just beginning to toy with the idea that young adults might be a great source of income, there was “Tenchi Muyo”. I still rather vividly recall the first “Tenchi” commercial that was aired for Toonami / Adult Swim: A silent afternoon, snowy, and there walks Tenchi, up a set of temple stairs, under the cover of a paper umbrella, then he turns, glances at the screen, and that was it. It was mind blowing at the time – so, so pretty and simple!
After that, Cartoon Network popped out “Tenchi Muyo”, “Tenchi Universe”, and “Tenchi in Tokyo”. There are other versions of “Tenchi” available, too, plus spin-offs, including “Dual!” (which I think was on TechTV for awhile?), and random nods to the universe in “El-Hazard“.
But… I don’t actually own any of the series. I only own the movies.
I’m kinda old…
Given that I can barely remember the actual plot of “Tenchi Muyo” or “Tenchi Universe”, my comprehension of what the deal is with all of the characters is a hint cloudy (Which is absolutely ridiculous, because now that I’m thinking about it, I’m realizing how much of an influence “Tenchi” had on me, way back in the day!). The main character is Tenchi, a high-school-aged boy who lives in a temple, way out in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with his grandfather, a handful of alien female visitors with variously violent (or clumsy, or jealous) personal tendencies, and who finds himself randomly caught up in haphazardly odd situations. Then there’s Ryoko, the blue-haired space pirate who’s in love with Tenchi; she’s a bit of an overwhelming yankee, and I vaugely recall her being one of my favorites. There’s Ayeka, a princess from the same alien kingdom that Tenchi, his mother, and his grandfather hail from – except that Tenchi and his mother typically fail to know about their genetic history – who is also in love with Tenchi, and who’s hairstyle I randomly adopted off and on for a few years. There’s Sasami, Ayeka’s younger sister; Ryo-Ohki, the bunny-like spaceship thing that’s too cute for comprehension; Washu, the pink-haired, wickedly insane and mouthy scientist; Kiyone, the level-headed officer from the space police; and Mihoshi, her idiot partner who always reminds me of myself.
…I recall this being a series that appealed to both boys and girls, but a friend of mine from Japan scoffed and insisted this had been a series that catered strictly to boys. I guess it had something to do with all the girls in their interesting clothes, and maybe the fact that there are a lot of objects that are awfully phallic in design.
“Tenchi the Movie: Tenchi Muyo in Love!” is the story of Techi and his posse going back to the seventies to save his mother from being killed by an evil villain. You can get the plot here, if you want. I’m not gonna bother summarizing, ’cause… Blah. Don’t feel like it.
What I am going to do is just kinda run through a few random tidbits:
If you’re looking for an old-school, yet terribly pretty anime, this is a great place to go. Tenchi’s mom is just a very neat character. She’s drawn with a lot of care, and while the world around her might be a bit sloppy, she’s always graceful, and pleasant, and even a little amusing.
The scenes take place in autumn, so there’s lots of neat scenery: leaves and foliage and stuff. Plus, you get all of that awesome mid-90s anime stuff, like signs and decorations and vehicles and clothes… Stuff that you barely notice in modern anime, but that totally stuck out back then.
There’s a love story between Tenchi’s mom and dad that’s really cute, too. You see it slowly forming, and it’s fun to watch his mom nudge his dad into noticing her.
Things that have stuck with me include the weird, weird, werid toilet that Mihoshi crashes into when Kiyone falls on her. That thing has freaked me out ever since I first saw it, but I’ve never really seen any explanations of why it looks like it does. Is that how Japanese toilets used to be made?!?
Also, the end has sort’ve permanently been burned into my head. I think this is because my mom happened to stumble in while I was watching it one time, and she kept mocking the scene (She always used to love making fun of “Tenchi” whenever I happened to be watching it on TV.). I assume in the Japanese version, Tenchi’s grandfather keeps saying, “So desu ka?”, and it’s always in his voice that I hear that phrase when it pops into my head. (Yes, I hear his English voice saying Japanese phrases.)
The English dubbing is… curious. I’m not sure how it compares to the subtitles, ’cause I’ve got it on VHS, and you can only have one or the other on those things. There are really random reactions to sentences, awkward pauses, and dialogue that just doesn’t fit. …But, on the other hand, that’s part of the draw of watching something so ancient: to see what anime used to be like before it exploded in popularity. All anime used to be kinda weird – that’s what made it awesome!
Anyway… I wound up watching this because I wanted some old-school anime. It only managed to lightly scratch the itch, though. Now I want more. I want to watch the series I used to watch back in the early 2000s on TV, then obsess about via my new found addiction with the internet! I’m really up for something somewhat slow, stunningly pretty, and with a hefty dose of romance. Something shoujo, really. (Actually, I’d love something yuri, but that’s a whole other story…)
So, in the end… This wasn’t really a review. More like a trip down memory lane.
Think I might have to dig out the other two “Tenchi” movies from my pile and check those out, now!