I started watching Anime in the early to mid 1990’s, which was about the time I ended junior high and was starting high school. Anime was only a small niche group then, where finding it was only limited to VHS tapes only being sold by comic book or import stores (which finding an import store in itself was hard), or finding import goods the same way. Shows like Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z were only on syndicated channels, usually early in the morning (7am time slot), and because of that, wouldn’t get past the first quarter of episodes due to cancellation from lack of viewers.
I remember even the first Anime Expo I went to in 1998. It was very small (not like it is now), and didn’t have much going for it. It was mostly vendors and there were a few companies starting to publish manga in english and bring anime to domestic home video. I remember my moms shocked reaction when a white girl my age came over to the table we were pursuing and started speaking and having a full conversation in Japanese with the vendor.
So nearly 20 years later, most of the Anime I’ve watched are having their major anniversaries. Sailor Moon turned 25, and Revolutionary Girl Utena 20. Now another Anime is turning the big 25, and that is Tenchi Muyo.
Tenchi Muyo was made by Pioneer and has been spun off into many different TV shows, OVA’s, and manga. The first OVA premiered in 1992 and the more recent vignette anime premiering in 2014. So if interested, here’s an introduction to the Tenchi Universe.
*Warning: Spoilers Ahead.*
For a majority of the Tenchi shows, there is the same group of characters.
Tenchi Masaki is just an ordinary guy from Earth, or so he thought. In a couple versions of the show, Tenchi finds out through his grandfather that blood from the Jurai royal family runs through his veins. Most of the girls that start falling from space (literally) somehow fall in love with this plain guy. But that’s the great thing about the show. While being the forbearer of Harem anime, Tenchi started the formula of a plain joe schmoe who somehow gets exotic girls to fall in love and fight over him.
The Space Pirate Ryoko:
Ryoko is the first one to fall for Tenchi hard. While she’s a wanted criminal and hot headed space pirate, there’s something about Tenchi that calms her down. She is constantly fighting over Tenchi with Princess Ayeka. In a few of the show/movie incarnations, Tenchi eventually chooses Ryoko. It’s not said in words, but kinda of a visual sort of way. She also pilots the spaceship Ryo-Oki.
Princess Ayeka hails from the planet Jurai. She and her sister Sasami are heirs to the Jurai throne. She comes to earth after receiving a distress signal from galaxy policewoman Mihoshi. Her and Ryoko become quick rivals for Tenchi’s affections.
Sasami is the younger sister of Ayeka and also a princess of Jurai. She ends up on Earth after Ayeka goes missing, and tries to bring Ayeka back to Jurai. Of course after some hilarious shenanigans, she too ends up stranded on Earth. She is very good at cooking and cleaning, and is always seen spoiling Ryo-Oki with carrots.
Even though she is a member of the Galaxy Police, Mihoshi is the poster child for the phrase “dumb blond.” In certain timelines, it is found out that she comes from a prestigious family, which probably had some influence into her getting a position in the Galaxy Police. She is the first to crash land on Earth, and it is her homing signal that brings most of the more outwardly girls to Tenchi’s backyard. She seems to only get things right when she has help from her partner Kiyone.
Kiyone is the partner of Mihoshi. She has a soft spot for her, even though some of Mihoshi’s antics and screw ups drive her up a wall. She is only seen in a couple timelines in the Tenchi Universe. She is also the only one out of the group of girls who shows no or has little affection for Tenchi romantically even though they are good friends.
Washu is the groups crazy mad scientist. She usually performs experiments on Tenchi and the others, and it is her that gets them through some of their dimension time traveling in some of the shows. She also claims to be over 900 years old. In one instance, she also claims to have created Ryoko. She also doesn’t really show that much affection towards Tenchi unless she wants him to do something for her.
Shows and Movies:
The Tenchi universe has various series with very different timelines. Some of those timelines do intertwine, as much of the different incarnations deal with time travel and dimension hopping.
Tenchi Muyo OVA:
Debuting in 1992, the Tenchi Muyo OVA starts out with Tenchi accidentally releasing a “demon” on the outskirts of his family’s shrine. That “demon” ends up to be Ryoko. This in turn gets some from space to take notice. When mad scientist Washu shows up, she claims that she created Ryoko 700 years ago, and it was because of her antics that she got locked away on Earth. Tenchi finds out in this OVA that he has some Jurai blood in him as he can recreate some of Jurai’s powers.
This 26 episode television series debuted in 1995 and was a loosely based, longer retelling of the OVA series with some changes. In this version, galaxy policewoman Mihoshi crash lands on Earth in Tenchi’s backyard. It is her homing signal that brings forth Ryoko, Ayeka, Kiyone, and Sasami to Earth. Washu ends up being the “demon” that was locked away at the shrine near Tenchi’s home. Tenchi’s Jurai family reveal also stays intact in this series.
Tenchi Muyo in Love:
Tenchi Muyo in Love was a movie sequel (in a sense), to the television series. The space criminal Kain breaks out of his prison made by the Galaxy police and the Jurai royal family. First he destroys the Galaxy police headquarters, then hops to the past, hoping to destroy any with Jurai blood so they do not exist in the future. Back in the present, Tenchi shows the girls old home movies of his parents when they were in high school. As one plays, Tenchi’s mother, Achika disappears. Then he himself starts to as well. Washu figures out that something happens in his parents past to make him not exist in the present. She sends the group to the past in order to save Tenchi’s future.
Tenchi the Movie 2: Daughter of Darkness:
A separate movie in itself and in no relation to Tenchi Muyo in Love, the quality of this one is less than it’s predecessor and is a seemingly different timeline (again) than any series that have come before it. Released in Japan one year after in Love (1997), Daughter of Darkness was actually known as Tenchi Muyo: Midsummer’s Eve in Japan. A mysterious girl named Mayuka visits the shrine and claims she is the daughter of Tenchi, This throws the whole group into a frenzy, considering he never committed to a relationship to any of them. Ryoko doesn’t believe Mayuka and it takes a DNA test peformed by Washu that proves she’s his daughter. It is found out later on that Mayuka was made by the demon Yuzuha, and that Yuzuha wanted revenge for something that happened between her and Tenchi’s grandfather Yosho years ago.
Magical Girl Pretty Sammy:
In-between most of the series, there were magical girl spinoffs staring Ayeka’s younger sister Sasami. What started as an OVA and then later a 26 episode anime series, Magical Project S takes place in another alternate timeline where Sasami is a magical girl super hero representing the planet Jurai. We see Sasami’s father, who is helps her out of major binds, like a Tuxedo mask persona if you will. She also has a rival, another magical girl by the name of Pixy Misa, who Sasami finds out later on is really her best friend Misao Amano.
Tenchi in Tokyo:
Set in yet another alternate timeline, Tenchi in Tokyo shows Tenchi relocating to Tokyo for school and becoming a trainee at a Shinto Shrine. All the girls from the original series are included and have been living at the Masaki household for two years after an incident brought them all there. A new love interest has been added into the mix by way of Tenchi’s classmate Sakuya, much to the other girls dismay. It is found out that Sakuya is really a project of the villain Yugi, who is set on separating the Masaki family forever.
Tenchi Muyo: Tenchi Forever:
Referred to in Japan as Tenchi Muyo in Love 2, Tenchi Forever was the third and last of the movies made for the franchise. Many like myself thought this was the end of Tenchi (forever!), as the ending seem to solidify that feeling. More serious and adult than it’s previous comedic predecessors, Tenchi Forever shows the possibility of the girls knowing a life without the man they fight over. After intervening in yet another fight between Ryoko and Ayeka, Tenchi lets them know how sick he is of their constant bickering and runs off to the forest near his family shrine. He then vanishes. Six months goes by, and still no Tenchi, the girls worry that he is gone forever and regret having their squabbles that sent him away in the first place. Through much investigation and circumstance, Washu finds out that Tenchi has been living in a parallel world that has been bordering on their own. Tenchi’s grandfather finds out that his lover, whom he suspected was dead for years before they landed on Earth, kidnapped his grandson and has taken him from the present.
Tenchi Muyo: GXP:
In 2002, a spin off series was created that took place within the Tenchi Universe, but only showed the main characters in passing. Galaxy Police Officer Amane are sent to Earth to recruit Tenchi to the Galaxy Police force. After a mishap, she encounters a boy named Seina, and presents him with the application. Seina goes home and after a misunderstanding in telling his mom and sister, they force him to fill it out. The next day Amane picks him up and welcomes him to the police force. There are a case of characters similar from previous series (like another space pirate named Ryoko), but is essentially a stand alone series.
Tenchi Muyo Ryo Ohki OVA 2:
A direct sequel to the original OVA series that debut in 1992, Ryo Ohki continues where the first OVA left off. Tenchi and the girls have been living in seemingly domestic bliss when they get a mysterious visitor. Tenchi nearly breaks down when he sees her, as she exactly resembles his mother Achika. His father Nobuyuki informs him that she is his older sister Tenno. Tenno has brought along another guest and informs Tenchi that Noike is his new fiancé, arranged by the Jurai royal family.
Tenchi Muyo: War on Geminar:
Taking place 15 years after Tenchi Muyo GXP, War on Geminar continues the timeline set forth by the OVA series. Tenchi’s younger half brother Kenshi becomes involved unwillingly with the battle on Geminar due to his talent for piloting the Sacred Meconoid. Upon his arrival, he is tricked into killing the heir to the Shtrayu empire, Lashara Earth. When he spares her life after realizing she’s not the enemy, Lashara puts him under her protection. Like his older brother, when on Geminar, he amasses a harem of girls who love him for some oddball reason or another. The series ran 13 episodes.
Ai Tenchi Muyo:
The last known series to star Tenchi and the gang is Ai Tenchi Muyo. A series of 60 four minute long episodes, Ai Tenchi Muyo was made to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the franchise. Many of the original voice actors returned for the series, except for Ayeka, who was replaced. In this series, the world is thrown into chaos thanks to Washu. In order to fix it, Washu sends Tenchi to go undercover as a teacher for an all girls school. A new set of girls falls head over heels for their new Sensi or Senpai if you will, much to Tenchi’s dismay as he tries to save the world.
And there you have it. If you haven’t taken a look at Tenchi, it’s worth your time. While the first few series may seem dated, just remember that without this 90’s staple, we might not have some of the series you see today.
Happy 25th Anniversary Tenchi!