Article Quick Information
|Title:||Beginners Guide to Tenchi Muyo!|
|Published:||Mon, 29 Aug 2005|
Red XIII's article
Masaki Kajashima’s original concept sounds deceptively simple- take one teenage boy living a quiet life in the mountains of Okayama, Japan, and subject him to a series of events that see him end up living with a group of powerful girls from outer space, some of whom seem ready to stop at nothing to become his girlfriend. It sounds like a familiar setup (with regards to anime, anyway), and yet somehow Tenchi has grown into a franchise whose complexities can leave even the most dedicated fans nursing a headache. This article, while by no means meant to be an exhaustive encyclopaedia of all things Tenchi, will hopefully ensure that everyone can tell their GXPs from their Pretty Sammies.
Arguably the heart of the franchise, the characters are the one thing that remain relatively constant from one incarnation to the next (give or take a few tweaks in their back stories), so where better to start than with a quick introduction to the main cast?
Tenchi Masaki: A thoughtful and hard-working teenager who enjoyed a quiet life living with his father and grandfather- at least until the girls showed up. Although he has formed close friendships with all of the new arrivals, he seems uninterested in pursuing any romantic relationships with them.
Ryoko: An infamous and powerful space pirate with an array of special abilities, from teleportation to creating energy blasts and swords. Despite being able to hold her own in any battle, Ryoko is quick to run away whenever there’s any threat of menial labour, preferring to indulge in a few bottles of sake instead. Her apparently selfish nature does however conceal deeper emotions, such as her feelings for Tenchi (not to mention her desire to keep him out the hands of rival Ayeka).
Ayeka: First Princess of the planet Jurai, Ayeka usually tries to uphold the poise and nobility associated with royalty, although the veneer of civilisation is quick to slip whenever she gets angry. Tenchi’s kindness helps her settle in after her first awkward days on Earth, and she soon finds herself developing feelings for him, feelings that are only intensified by the thought that her long-time adversary Ryoko might end up with Tenchi instead.
Sasami: Ayeka’s little sister, Sasami may be the youngest of the girls, but she is also the most practical, taking care of all the cooking and making sure the other girls pitch in with the chores. Her pure and innocent nature has been known to win over the most distant of hearts, even if her uncanny ability to always be the first to hug Tenchi is a constant source of annoyance to Ayeka and Ryoko.
Washu: A genius scientist who spends most of her time in her subspace lab (accessible from Tenchi’s broom closet). Washu’s willingness to pursue any avenue in the name of science has led to some brilliant inventions, even if some of her projects get out of control at times.
Mihoshi: A ditzy Galaxy Police officer who, through a combination of luck and family connections, has made it to the rank of first class detective. Despite being generally good-natured and well-intentioned, Mihoshi’s general clumsiness usually spells trouble for those around her, even though Mihoshi herself always seems to weather any crisis unscathed.
Kiyone: Mihoshi’s level-headed and long suffering partner in the Galaxy Police, Kiyone wants nothing more than to ditch Mihoshi and advance her career with a nice big promotion. Sadly, those plans seem doomed to failure, and more often than not Kiyone ends up reluctantly playing ‘big sister’ to her ditzy partner.
Note: Kiyone is not a part of the original OVA continuity and hence only appears in the alternate timelines.
Ryo-Ohki: A cabbit (cat-rabbit creature), Ryo-Ohki is much more than a simple mascot- she also has the ability to transform into a spaceship. Despite technically belonging to Ryoko, Ryo-Ohki spends most of her time with Sasami, although she’ll follow anyone if they’re willing to provide her with a ready supply of carrots. Over the course of the various series, Ryo-Ohki has also demonstrated the ability to transform into other forms, including a control crystal (OVA), humanoid girl (OVA 2 onwards) and a giant pink mecha (Tenchi in Tokyo).
Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki OVAs 1+2 (13 episodes, 1992-5)
Also called “Tenchi OVAs” (and variations thereof) for short, this is where it all began. The first OVA (episodes 1-6) sees Tenchi meet up with the girls, uncover some family secrets and even battle the nefarious Kagato. Following a short break in the form of a “Ryo-Ohki special”, Tenchi’s adventures continue as he begins to learn a little more about the girls’ pasts; whilst in deep space, the mysterious and powerful being known as Lady Tokimi begins taking an interest in events.
A short ‘picture book episode’ is included at the end of episode 13 (sometimes called episode 13a or 13.5)- comprised of a series of stills and a vocal track, it ties up some loose ends from the second OVA and lays a little groundwork for OVA 3.
DVD: MVM released all 13 episodes on 3 discs in 2004 (to be released together as a boxset in November 2005). The US release spanned 4 discs but contains the same number of episodes.
Mihoshi Special (1 episode, 1995)
A 25 minute special loosely based on the OVAs (not to be considered an official part of the story) in which Mihoshi relates an increasingly improbable account of a Galaxy Police mission she and her partner Kiyone once undertook- with the Tenchi main characters cast as the heroes and villains of the piece.
DVD: Geneon released this together with the Pretty Sammy OVA on a single disc. In the UK, it will be released as part of MVM’s Tenchi boxset in November 2005. No plans for a standalone UK release have been announced.
Tenchi Universe (26 episodes, 1995)
Taking place in an alternate universe, the first TV series starts the story all over again, retelling how the girls came to meet Tenchi and their adventures together on Earth and in space. Although some scenes have been practically lifted from the first OVA, the series has its fair share of original standalone stories.
DVD: All 8 discs are available to import singly or as a complete boxset; there are no plans for a UK release.
Tenchi in Tokyo (26 episodes, 1997)
The second TV series is set in yet another alternate universe, although this time around Tenchi and the girls have been living together for almost a year when we first meet them (partway through the series we get to see yet another version of Tenchi’s first meeting with the girls). Rather than borrowing from the OVA, however, Tenchi in Tokyo has its own storyline that sees Tenchi heading off to study in Tokyo. But even as the girls go out of their way to find excuses to check up on Tenchi (and make sure he isn’t getting too close to classmate Sakuya), in the background, a newly awakened evil force seems determined to make additional trouble for everyone.
DVD: All 8 discs are available to import singly; there are no plans for a UK release.
Tenchi Muyo! GXP (26 episodes, 2002)
GXP may be the only TV series set in the same continuity as the original OVAs, but despite the name, Tenchi isn’t even the main character! Taking place about a year after the third OVA (see below), GXP follows the adventures of Seina Yamada, an incredibly unlucky young man who ends up getting recruited into the Galaxy Police. Accompanied by his bad luck, Seina begins training at the Galaxy Police Academy, where he becomes infamous for his skill at attracting space pirates- a skill that can also be put to good use in catching them. And, in typical Tenchi fashion, that isn’t the only the thing Seina is good at attracting- if anything, he has more girls after him than Tenchi ever had!
Despite having an all-new cast of main characters, GXP includes cameos from more than a few familiar faces from the OVAs, including Tenchi himself.
DVD: all 8 discs are available to import (FUNimation will be releasing a boxset later in the year); MVM have UK distribution rights for this series but have yet to announce a specific release date.
Tenchi Muyo Ryo-Ohki OVA 3 (6 episodes, 2003-5)
A direct continuation of the first two OVA series that sees Tenchi’s life gets ever more hectic, starting with the arrival of a whole host of new extended family members from outer space, including a fiancée for Tenchi! And, as if that weren’t enough, events take a turn for the worse when Mihoshi’s brother arrives on the scene, in the mistaken belief that his sister needs rescuing from imprisonment in Tenchi’s harem.
The third OVA is to be followed up by a special episode released in Japan this autumn; a fourth OVA will most likely be on its way after that.
DVD: the first three episodes were released in July by FUNimation, with the final three to follow later in the year. MVM have UK distribution rights for this series but have yet to announce a specific release date.
Tenchi Muyo in Love (95 minutes, 1996)
Officially considered to be a continuation of the Tenchi Universe storyline, the first movie sees Tenchi and the gang travel back in time to the 1970’s to save Tenchi’s mother from an evil force out to kill her and ensure that Tenchi is never even born.
DVD: already released in the UK by MVM.
Tenchi Muyo: Daughter of Darkness (60 minutes, 1997)
Loosely based on the OVAs (or more specifically on Naoko Hasegawa’s novels- see below), this time around Tenchi has to deal with the arrival of Mayuka, a girl claiming to be his daughter! Whilst Ryoko and the others adjust to Mayuka with varying degrees of enthusiasm, Tenchi enlists Washu’s aid to try to find out the real story behind this mysterious newcomer.
DVD: available on import only; there are no plans for a UK release.
Tenchi Forever (95 minutes, 1998)
Concluding the Tenchi Universe storyline, the third and final movie sees Tenchi disappear into the mountains following an argument in which Ryoko and Ayeka try to make him choose between them. After months of searching, the girls finally track him down, only to discover that not only has Tenchi apparently aged a few years since they last saw him, but he doesn’t even seem to recognise them anymore. Unable to give up on him so easily, Ryoko and Ayeka vow to do whatever it takes to get their Tenchi back.
DVD: already released in the UK by MVM.
Pretty Sammy (3 episodes, 1996)
As if there hadn’t been enough alternate universes already, this OVA takes the by-now familiar characters and recasts them in somewhat different roles! This time around, Sasami takes centre stage as an elementary school girl who is given the ability to transform into Magical Girl Pretty Sammy by Tsunami, heir to the throne of the magical kingdom of Juraihelm. Sammy’s mission is protect the Earth, a task that is only made more difficult when Ramia, a contender for the Juraihelm throne, forces Sasami’s best friend Misao to become rival magical girl Pixy Misa.
The rest of the Tenchi cast are also very much in evidence, although the parts they play in this spin-off can be considered to be completely separate from their other incarnations.
DVD: available to import as part of the combined Pretty Sammy/Mihoshi Special DVD (see above). A UK release is unlikely.
Magical Project S (26 episodes, 1996-7)
The TV series retelling of Pretty Sammy, Magical Project S has the same basic set up and main characters, but with some changes to the minor characters. In particular, Tenchi, Ryoko and Ayeka (the latter two renamed ‘Oryo’ and ‘Romio’) have greatly reduced roles, allowing the focus to fall more squarely on Sasami and Misao.
DVD: Geneon released the entire series in two 13 episode boxsets (sub only). A UK release is extremely unlikely.
Tenchi in Print
Naoko Hasegawa’s novels
A series of novels written by OVA screenwriter Naoko Hasegawa, these are based on the first OVA series but are not considered canon. They do however mark the first appearance of Kiyone, who later became a major character in the non-OVA timelines. These novels have never been translated into English.
‘True’ Tenchi novels
Written by Masaki Kajishima himself, these novels tie in with the OVAs, delving deeper into the histories of some of the characters. So far, three novels have been written, entitled “Jurai”, “Yosho” and “Washu”. Currently, no official English translation of these novels exists, although summaries can be found online.
No Need for Tenchi
Hitoshi Okuda’s twelve volume manga series carries on where the first six OVA episodes left off (although they’re not to be considered part of the official continuity) with some additional adventures for Tenchi and the gang. Also included are some Pretty Sammy chapters and a manga version of the first movie. The entire series has been released by Viz in flipped format; unflipped second editions are currently being released.
All New Tenchi Muyo
Basically a sequel to the No Need for Tenchi manga (once again penned by Hitoshi Okuda). So far six volumes have been released in English, with a seventh to follow in November 2005.
Tenchi GXP novels
Novelisations of the Tenchi GXP series written by Masaki Kajishima. No English translation exists, although scans of the artwork are available online.
A series of short comic strips featuring Kazuhiko Amagasake, Tenchi’s classmate in the OVAs and Tenchi in Tokyo (they were printed in the liner notes of the Japanese Laserdisc OVA releases). The strips follow Amagasaki’s generally unsuccessful attempts to emulate Tenchi’s success with the ladies, even to the point of moving to Tokyo himself.
Extensive as the above may seem, the world of Tenchi has yet more to offer, from doujinshi to videogames to rare and obscure merchandise only available from Japan. Rather than delve further into the world of Tenchi here, the following links are recommended:
Tenchi Muyo: Another Universe- a comprehensive guide to all of Tenchi’s animated incarnations.
Tenchi Muyo Ryo-Ohki- FUNimation’s official site for the third OVA series.
Tenchi Muyo GXP- FUNimation’s official Tenchi GXP site.
Tenchi Muyo- Pioneer (now Geneon) Entertainment’s official site, covering the first two OVAs, Tenchi Universe and Tenchi in Tokyo.
Wikipedia: Tenchi Muyo- Wikipedia entry with additional information and further links.
ANN: Tenchi Muyo OVA 3- a special Anime News Network feature on the third OVA and an overview of the series that preceded it. Also check the ANN encyclopaedia for detailed cast and crew listings.
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