My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!), which aired during the Autumn 2014 anime season.
Everything is by and large as it was when I originally wrote them in the Hangers category when the show was airing. They have been sewn together and provided here for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click and scan through numerous pages of unrelated material.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episode one and two]
There is a borderline mathematical proof for the rapid decay of Tenchi particles past a certain half life of the entries in its franchise over the decades.
Let us see what this tourism advertising experiment has wrought.
Forgive me for far higher than average image use. This series did not sit well with me.
The school uniforms in this future Tenchi line and/or local Takahashi, Okayama academies seem to be of a rather generous standard.
Please ensure all are tongues stowed during school working hours with their safety lock on.
Given everything else surrounding him in the show, Tenchi just saying what his name is so proudly is borderline deadpan snark, given how far it has derailed since the original series. because I want to know what is going on too.
Because of course, when inducing someone as being Treasurer on the student council, the denotative band is has to be wrapped here and in turn demanding this is where the camera needs to go.
In case anyone forgot about panty shots. I’m pretty sure they intentionally designed it to look like the peach was a little stick figure head they wanted to have us watch, given how much this keeps happening. If I did not know “momo” as related to things like Momotarō from folklore, I would not know what character is being referred to here.
“What am I looking at?” you ask? A Nietzschean abyss of a show, ma’am.
The gentle tourism of Takahashi, Okayama, if the sales pitch synopsis of this show is to be trusted on any level, seems a lot like some clubs I know.
Fin. Roll credits. I assume the series has gained sentience, taken command of the situation at hand from its human creative overlords, and decided to conclude itself by force.
The first episode alone, I should point out, introduces us to no less than seven new girls. None of them from anywhere else in the spaghetti dinner continuity of this franchise.
Like, were this just some neato tourism gag videos for Takahashi, Okayama (which is what I was under the assumption this series had been greenlit for), I could see a place for that. Roll out the same cast, do some new costumes or altered designs, and run them through some sightseeing. Days out as a group in some local park having shenanigans, maybe they crash land near enough to something like the Raikyū-ji temple or Bitchū Matsuyama Castle and make a romp of it. Simple enough, easy to execute in four minutes, minimal fuss even if one did not know the usual characters. Heck, even the student teaching angle would give Tenchi an excuse to be in the show for minimal franchise advertising purposes, and he could go places with the class via field trips or teach things to humorous bit comedy effect.
So… what in the hell were these eight minutes or so?
For as much as the original series can be sniped as the progenitor for thousands of harem series ships to come later, it was never this, well, mind numbingly dumb. It was a science fiction fantasy run about with a harem mechanic and generic enough central dude, but it also had not been able to be utterly consumed by the tropes it would go on to codify. Other series went and later ran with its ideas and archetypes, and the Tenchi line would in turn try to mimic them back, and we just have this entirely dangerous feedback loop over years. And here we are, in 2014, ramming ever more exclusionary otaku bait in here than any time prior.
This series is a void.
A black hole created by an anime particle accelerator.
I have no idea how the tourism promotion angle is supposed to tie into this, or even be helpful to the municipality in any fashion. Most audiences watching this would turn it off, switch channels, or look away.
Honest, I have zero clues as to how I would motivate myself to cover this for another forty eight episodes in the coming weeks. Maybe, I could return after another dozen or so have dropped, but even then this is a series that would be a harsh grind to write about at length.
Stranger things have happened, but I can not see myself having much positive to say about this production.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes three through seven]
This series has an awful, terrible distribution model.
Episodes seem to be chucked out of a careening van, given the volume over a mere seven days. This does, admittedly, begin to create something of a psychological effect when one realizes they have five episodes of a show like this to watch. Despite them only being four minutes apiece, even a little less if you cut the credits, it feels like a lot more intensive an endeavor as a series of mechanical motions than if one settles in for a single twenty minute episode. Which, for a series like this which was already a sour experience for me, is not a good thing.
Even if one tries to tie the first five episodes together as a single package, as some have argued for (even series director Hiroshi Negishi himself), that still seems out of alignment with the actual flow of these segments or what they are focusing on.
Episode three veers off to an unrelated alternative timeline. Outside of a time travel nod the series may explore later (maybe for the tourism vehicle this is supposed to be?), this serves little but to showcase old standby resident series mad scientist Washu for a bit before having Tenchi go through the same intro he had with Momo again. But this time in a more feudal setting and she is even younger. Episode four and six swing back to the school setting, which Tenchi getting away from his capture for a student run torture cell and/or BDSM chamber, and a massive underground student council run excavation project.
Episode five is a recap episode, of all things.
I honest to goodness can not think of another short series off the top of my head that felt a need to deploy such a measure, let alone so early in its run. And I like to think I have seen at least a reasonable amount of anime to be rather surprised by this.
Episode seven is Tenchi returning home from a day of student teaching. Which is, in many ways, even more depressing than any of the previous six episodes.
You see, this is the episode where we get to see the most members of the original core cast again in one spot. Washu had a little nod earlier, but here the production also rolls out (in order) Sasami, Ayeka, and Ryoko.
And it seems downright insulting, from a certain perspective.
Scratch that. It is insulting.
One has to sit through numerous panty shots and cleavage heaves of all manner of new and barely named characters this production wants to push just to get to any additional members of the core characters that anyone who does remember this franchise in this day and age recalls it for. Characters whose introductions are now seen as secondary even against having a recap episode for a series which had only aired four episodes of a few minutes each, or strapping Tenchi into ball gag situations with his aforementioned students.
Some would say the franchise as a whole has long since lost any edge its early 1990’s progenitors had. I would point out that Ryoko does not even have spiky hair anymore.
The two may as well mean one and the same.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes eight through twelve]
(This is slightly behind the current broadcast as I adjust my posting schedule shift, and will be rectified next time)
In trying to break down how to talk about this series over the long term, as I seem to be stuck with this selection at this point, I keep spinning around in circles.
It does not play too well to episodic breakdown bits, as they are not self contained gag episodes like a Miss Monochrome. The general connective tissue is rather free flowing. They do not really work as a collected soup. It seems to be a running theme that about once a week I will have at least one episode taking place in an entirely different time period that is directly narratively connected to the other episodes which take place in the past, but with large gaps between them and as of this time little connection to the events of the present. There will also be at least one recap episode per week, should the present release course be maintained.
I suppose I can start with the recap, which by my count is episode ten, as their presence is what will continue to confuse me the most going forwards.
Due to the release schedule, and as episode five was itself also a recap, this encapsulates episodes six through nine. So, it covers some of what I went over last week, due to the cycle. What gets me though, more so this time that last when I was reeling at other matters, is these are not “full” condensed recaps. Which is to say: episode eight of this batch, which is the one that takes place in the past, does not appear in the episode ten recap at all. Likewise, episode seven from the previous week, where Tenchi went home and we were able to see some more of the familiar franchise faces? Present, but their bit is framed very weirdly from the rest of the episodes included. With the narrator of these being Momo, they are all done from her point of view. Not just from a speaking role, mind you, but her insight and commentary is all based around was was going on in her head at the time (like holding Tenchi’s hand when they escapes the underground mining caverns last week).
She flat out has no palpable information to provide regarding what went on during the going home at the end of the day episode. Some remarks about how it was a hectic day, so rest is important, but otherwise she goes off on a tangent regarding a time she ate a bunch of white peaches. On the one hand, this sorta works from the perspective that narratively she would not have seen these events. At the same time however, well, this is a recap episode for a handful of episodes which individually amount to four minutes or less.
What slays me the most is it is here, where Momo really has no clue where to take the narration, this is where they plug Okayama prefecture. In this case, that it apparently has tasty peaches which are number one in the country, in the opinion of Touri as relayed to use by Momo. So, not even maybe a regional contest, festival, whatnot they may have been received well in. Not even perhaps some words said to be from an established character of the franchise, really. This is about as flimsy as a connection to the regional area or tourism aspect of the series inception as one can get without full on forgetting to plug at all.
I had to look up who Touri even was. The series has dumped so many new characters out and speeds along such where names and adequate attention can be difficult to make the mental sticky note. As it turns out, she is the deep green haired student with the computer notation habit for everything she observes. It is not quite the same as if, say, Washu or someone had remarked that there are some good peaches out there.
The one other major sticking point that hits me with this set, going back to the episode eight adventures in the past for whatever location transmitters Tenchi is seeking there.
Namely, his coming upon and meeting with Ryoko in the past. And she has no idea who he is but finds the idea that someone knows her name (and thus assumingly her space pirate reputation) intriguing. For all the shuffling of chronology and timelines in the larger series, this itself I have very little problem with. Really, it is within the more relevant things the series could choose to do in the past. Ryoko landing on Earth in distant days of yore is a certain chain of events in the original OVA series for instance (though the circumstances of her mental state were wildly different). If that was to be remixed here in its own way, well, I am fine with that on the whole. Whatever media empire this franchise has managed to carve out over the years is more of a loose collection of ideas and flexible central characters than anything else.
None of the other episodes this week deal with this potentially interesting little nugget any further though. The other four afterward are either back to slapdash student council events in the present, or the recap episode. Which, since the recap does not mention the episode which took place in the past, had someone genuinely missed out on watching some episodes that entire event would go by without so much as a nod. The recaps effectively fail as summaries.
Finally, it has been quite a while since I have been as disappointed to see a robot as I was here.
From the moment it rolls in at the end of episode eight, one with much of any experience with the franchise knows it is a mobile armor belonging to officers of the Galaxy Police. And out pops Mihoshi, looking for Ryoko as she is. As Mihoshi was always portrayed as the ditziest or most airheaded of the group in even her earliest appearances back in the 1990’s Tenchi Muyo entries, I am already dreading what sort of exaggeration her characterization or camera angles will go through here in this series of freewheeling panty shots and ball gags.
Whenever it happens to remember getting back around to that secondary timeline, of course.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes thirteen through eighteen]
This bundle of episodes was a whole board of emotions for me.
Given, a collection of negative ones, mind you. But, a lot of reminders of things that I do honestly want to like on some level.
I just… can not.
Of the often maligned Tenchi in Tokyo part of the franchise for instance, one of the only episodes of that show I can say I enjoyed was the one where Ryoko and Tenchi have a date. It is a nice enough episode that shoves a lot of the extraneous material from that season to the side to focus instead on two core characters. So, as far as Tenchi Muyo! Love should be considered, an episode where Ryoko makes dinner for Tenchi should be a pretty easy ball to pitch for either more serious (however unlikely) or comedic effect. This show is directed by Hiroshi Negishi, who for whatever shocking failings this series possess he has directed better material in this franchise. He should have something of a well to draw from here, particularly for episodes about characters he has worked with before.
And here, the episode in question (fourteen) just stumbled along with a plodding pace and sense of disinterest. Ryoko can not cook, which is an established part of her character elsewhere to be sure. But, in previous instances where this has occurred, she has merely made generically bad food folks have bad reactions to. And there is comedy in that which can be derived. But she was not wrestling with tentacle beasts or the like, the series were never so overbearing in how Alien And Wrong her food selections were. People feared Ryoko’s cooking because she was terrible with flavors clashing, not because her food may pose an active fight to the death. It is comes across tonally as an exceedingly low effort attempt to make the situation funny without having to actively write comedic timing for the scenario.
Which, for a an episode which is built around a single joke (Ryoko is known to be bad at cooking, so nobody wants to eat her dinner), screams all the more of the lackadaisical handling of this entire show.
The recap episode has thirty seconds of outright dead air from Momo’s narration commentary, in an episode that is three minutes in length if you cut out the credits. Not to make these write-ups a constant refrain on these sequences, but, the recaps serve seemingly no purpose outside of eating up a fifth of the total running time of the series. We have episodes at school, Tenchi’s home, and the past, and even with breaks every five episodes for selective summation they are a rather confusing assortment of clips and commentary if someone was actually relying on them to be filled in from. Momo, again, is not so much talking about what went on in these episodes so much as she is talking about what she was feeling at the time (assuming she was in or near the scene in question, which which case she says nothing). Which are not one and the same, leaving one all the more lost if they missed episodes.
This is relatively basic creative writing material we are talking about here.
And this series botches even that.
Elsewhere, we have the making of a school festival arc. Which is a painful prospect to consider, as I tend to look forward to festival settings and I do not trust this production anywhere near enough for the kinds of events it may have going forwards.
For now though, I can say I had precisely one laugh from this series, which be marked within episode seventeen. As our older cast members are running something of a for profit cafe at the school event, Ryoko gets be high step gamboling around as a cartoony black suited suited bouncer enforcer type. So the sight of that is indication at least one animator was having something of a fun day at at work.
As something of a secondary positive, the show does seem to have a responsible handling on Sasami’s character. Given that teenage height Sasami is by and large a novelty, given how much physically younger she was before in the franchise, it is nice to see that aspect of the show has not been warped into some sort of unrecognizable pandering mush.
This does mean I am effectively complementing the show on relatively basic matters of not horrifying or depressing me with its execution. But, small drops of victories here I feel should be appreciated given the general desert it is lost within.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episode nineteen through twenty three]
The school festival antic continue, which I am at least somewhat ok with.
It is a situation which provides for a natural crossing point between the old cast and new girls, which on a mechanics level is pretty key if it ever wishes to cut back on the amount of compartmentalization in this show (dedicated episode settings in Tenchi’s house, school, the past, and recaps). Incidentally, none of the episodes this week deal in any matters relating to the side / sub plot involving the past. I did not bring the one from last week up, given some other matters I wanted to touch base on, but here now there are no further developments on that front. I could understand it from the point of view of wanting to deal more with the school festival episodes, but that does inherently raise the issue of why we had the subplot going at all if it too would likely be better served by a multi-episode run. Naturally, I am saying this now with just over twenty five episodes of the series remaining, but any and all foreshadowing being done in the past relating to Momo and such is likely at risk to be forgotten or hard to dredge up from the memory banks depending on how long it may be sidelined.
As for what does in fact happen within this set: outside of the regulation recap, every episode here deals with the school festival. So, here perhaps is where we may be getting to a point where viewing collections of episodes as a single unit begins to feel somewhat cohesive when I look at what to write about. It took the series almost half its run to do so, but, if the situation at the moment is I am not at a total loss on what I have to focus on at the expense of all else I can consider that at least something of an improvement.
The biggest feature of these episodes, as it takes up three of the five, is the setup, execution, and aftermath of the school beauty pageant. So, an excuse to trot out the girls, make overt remarks on their bodies, and so on.
Which, for a show which pretty much introduced the closest thing it has to a central female lead via crotch shots and slow motion panty displays, does seem kind of superfluous. It never needed to justify its displays before, of course. It is something which has been gnawing at me over time, in that if one just wanted to watch a fanservice show, that are just flat out better budgeted options for one to consider than this series.
There is a market for fanservice shows of varying types, it keeps a lot of companies running in between more ambitious work, and there are ones out there with rather high production values to boot.
Why then, for a series which claims on some level to be financed for local tourism purposes, does this show try time and again to compete in an arena it is just not armed to handle?
It does not look particularly great, and one would think that would be a primary aim for either producers of fanservice shows or the consumer. As most of the fanservice does not even feature established characters of the Tenchi Muyo! franchise, it does not even fill some sort of niche area on that side of things. The generic archetype fresh faces get all that time, so one signing up just to ogle ladies would be doing so for some of the most hacked filler style folks imaginable. And would not be getting particularly lavish animation of them for their trouble.
Tenchi, by virtue of romantic comedy “Put him in a dress and shove him out on stage” antics allowing him to win the competition, so the show does not need to pick a girl to win the day, I am perfectly fine with. For what it is worth, when I was in university the single largest student body campus event each year consisted of a male cross dressing show.
What we did not have much of though, I have to say, in the way of students drawing the contestants and making their own self insert hentai doujinshi out of the affair. And presenting them to their newfound muse with heartfelt requests like “May I call you onee-sama?”
So that is apparently quite a boat I missed out on, if we are to take this series as indeed a tourism feature for the economic welfare of a prefectural community!
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes twenty four through twenty eight]
The sports festival episodes continue through this entire set. So the timeline and subplot involving the events of these same or similar characters in the past seems well and truly to have fallen off the wagon, given its no show last week as well.
In an effort to show I do not feel I am being disproportionately off regarding the older and new characters, you will hopefully recall I mentioned in the thirteen through eighteen batch a lot about the episode where Ryoko makes dinner. On a core level, it was an episode which just had to deliver on a single joke, and it could not manage the energy to do so creatively. Similarly, we have an episode here which does itself also revolve around a single, but easy to execute upon with the right creative mindset, joke.
Here then, the gag is effectively supposed to be that a robot has been allowed into the sport festival obstacle course competition. While a robot is not a member of the student body, it could be taken as a kind of extension of the body of a member of the school. As a non person, it would of course also not be consider to be human member of another school. So, the machine gets to enter and we have one of those rather handwave centric but justified for sake of antics bit of cartoon wordplay shenanigans. And that would work, and be reasonably fine.
But, much like how someone may over explain their own joke, the characters themselves keep reminding themselves (and in turn the viewer) of how the robot should (arguably) not be involved in the competition. Effectively, the script and characters are restating the joke several times not so much for impact, or for the new ways in which a repeated joke can be funny, but to merely ensure everyone got the joke. Which, invariably, sucks a lot of the air and any momentum it could have right out of the room.
Given how short these episodes are, this means that by the time it is done ensuring as many people as possible understand the (potential there was for a) joke, that particular episode concludes.
Elsewhere, there is a mock cavalry battle event as a part of the sporting activities.
That is, rather than horses it is a competition in which the students are on two opposing sides, and two people must hold up a third with their arms and shoulders and attempt to topple others from their perches. By extension, this means any given shot of most character faces in this situation then also includes butt and crotch shots just due to the physical geometry involved. On the subject of butts particularly, another event covered in these episodes is that of butt sumo wrestling, where the competitors need to nudge each other out of small elevated ring with their posteriors. Which, I am pretty sure that last time I saw that in a form of entertainment media was a video which was using selected clips from Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball.
Of note: Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball was never, to the best of my knowledge, funded by a prefectural board so as to promote itself. Thinking it over, I am still not entirely sure why this series had to use Tenchi Muyo! characters at all. It could have been a Dead or Alive schoolyard sitcom entry by the sea for fanservice, fights, and swimsuits, and probably at least be justifiable for Okayama’s oceanside.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes twenty nine through thirty three]
I feel commenting on this series as a weekly endeavor is something that always risks becoming more about general framing and the handling of fanservice concepts. Which, as the series clearly wants to be a fanservice show, I do not consider unwarranted.
Once one gets past the initial distaste for what it does to barely make use a fictional universe which has had much stronger and creatively driven endeavors, there is the matter of needing to comment on what is before them and what the production in question wants to be. And Love wants to be a fanservice show, regardless of however much it was greenlit and promoted as a tourism marketing piece. Fair enough, and it is something anyone watching (let alone writing) about the show would have had to come to terms with long ago. But, as has been mentioned before as well, there is still something of an art and artistry to trying to do fanservice works. Direction, tone, all that still matters if we wish to consider the series effective or not at the job it wants to take on (however ill advised its objective may be)
So, even when the series cuts to a full frame panty shot while playing a long low trombone noise, I have questions.
I feel what the show wants in a moment like that is the sense of embarrassment. In practice though, given connotations in other productions across the vast span of animation and general motion picture history, it comes across to me more like the character is farting in the viewers face.
And to be frank, the series does enough work dehumanizing the girls that even mentioning it was Rui feels like more work than the show puts in for sequences like this. Even that aside though, baring very hyper specific fetish groups, the correlation and association one makes from the visuals and the sound effects in a scene are equite questionable. They should probably not make one recall certain butt based bodily functions and consider if they are being thrown in the viewers face. I do not think that is what Hiroshi Negishi and his team were going for, but it is the effect that comes across.
The fanservice misadventures continue across the episodes, as the series has transitioned in Tenchi working the maintenance and upkeep of the girls dormitory. Folks walking around with minimal clothing, Tenchi getting caught in the bathroom as girls walk in to clean themselves off, and so on down the line. It is the sort of thing which, even when it does make even passing situational sense, still does not sit all that right from the perspective that this is Tenchi as a teacher and the constant sexual juxtapositions of the students. Who are themselves created specifically for this series, so it is not like they are even legacy figures the show is trying to shoehorn in however it can. When the bath episode invariably turns to the tired old “Girls talking about breasts and forcefully massaging each other” routine, it seems as exhausted as the production itself has been with trotting out these generic archetypal roles.
Straining for every harem cliche in the book due to lacking any guiding spark to this creative process.
The one episode which does stand out from this set would be the last one, thirty three.
Returning to the events of the past, which we have not brought up in several weeks, it can largely focus on Momo and Beni. Specifically, Momo as a baby girl and Beni being assigned as her slightly older caretaker. The implication, given the visual trappings and vocabulary used, are that Momo is a daughter of the royal family of Jurai. Given how this whole timeline mishmash could work, and with the name of the Jurain ruler trusting their daughter kept nonestablished, there are two ways this could go down. The broadest scope would be that Momo is at minimum related in some capacity (past, present, or future) to Tenchi, Aeka, Sasami, and so on. Such would be the way of royal bloodlines. On a more specific level, it could well be angling to mean Momo is herself Tenchi’s daughter, so all these misadventures in the feudal past and student teaching present have been for allowing him to save her in some capacity (Beni and Momo crashing on Earth, captured by a dark void force, etc).
This would be the angle I am expecting the show to go with. The Tenchi timelines are sprawled out all over anyway, and Tenchi the Movie 2: The Daughter of Darkness is the only one of the three theatrical films Negishi did not direct. So, he may well want to put his own spin on that plot idea.
As a result though, such events then in turn mean every Momo shot takes on a radically different read. Rather than just being another generic fanservice high school character in a cast of many, being some oddball timeline daughter of the leading man alters a lot. Every angle where they shove her butt into Tenchi’s face, every frame she has her chest slammed into him.
I do not know at this stage if they are well and truly going with the “Momo is Tenchi’s daugher” thread. I do not think they can pull it off, even if it is true. But, that has yet to stop the series in any of its other capacities so far.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes thirty four through thirty nine]
The recap episode in this batch, which I have slightly expanded due to the Thanksgiving holiday throwing me off a bit, mostly involves Momo discussing her thoughts regarding the breast sizes of the various girls in the cast.
I still make a point to always watch the recaps, because as they crop up every five episodes I would consider my task here grossly unfinished otherwise were I to always skip them. I may as well get the fullest possible experience, after all, and I am only going to be watching this series this one time near as I can ever imagine. But goodness golly gracious do they drill new ways to fill these sequences, which already fail as actual proper recaps of previous events, with mind bogglingly tedious material.
What do we have on tap regarding the more substantial content then? Well, it depends.
This is the set of episodes which is most focused on the larger plot and what the driving forces of the series are, which I am fair enough to recognize. Thirty four has Beni and Tenchi talking and chatting on the dormitory roof, and she has serious concerns about who Tenchi is and his abilities with his energy sword that he deployed many, many episodes ago during a warehouse brawl with a robot. Oddly, while Beni was supposedly knocked out during this scene (and it is fine it bring up that she was not), the other characters who were framed as conscious at the time have never brought the clearly witnessed energy sword up since.
Thirty seven brings us back to Washu’s lab, where the dimension rift the Tenchi rummaging about in the past for temporal anomalies is established as being the Tenchi from the present having been in a device of Washu’s. Having failed the mission to rescue the Momo and Beni in the past, but Washu locating them in the present, Tenchi’s establishment as a student teacher is revealed to have been part of this operation to locate them, ascertain their dimensional or timeline situation, and aim to resolve it.
So, this re-contextualizes at least a little of even the first scene of the show, where Tenchi is complaining about being teleported into the bushes. Though why Momo then fell out of the sky on to his face, as she is part of the duo he is looking for and Washu already knew she was in this dimension so she could not have just popped in, remains unknown. The other girls, which is to say our normal Tenchi Muyo! cast of Ryoko, Aeka, and so on, are a part of all this as well, insofar that they are involved in the conference meeting where they settle on the student teacher route for Tenchi and are assigned to provide him aid of various types. That said, outside of the rare “normal” domestic camaraderie or collisions at home, we have never actually seen them do a whole lot.
I imagine this is supposed to re-contextualize elements like when they sought to attend the school festival and had a cafe and everything, which could be considered a form of supportive recon or observation is retrospect, but that line of heavy narrative lifting is not performed in this batch of episodes.
Episodes thirty eight and thirty nine bring us back to the underground digging site of the Science Club, where Mihoshi is already mining away as well. Galaxy Police is aware of someone or something messing around with temporal forces, so here she is undercover and on the case (to be best of her ability), which is admittedly more than I expected this show to do with remembering her at this point. The Science Club is looking for a crucial treasure, and the other girls of the Student Council end of the cast aim to undermine the club and get Tenchi away from them. Via the encouragement and apparent technological supplies of a force on the other end of a talking black monolith with a crab-like insignia. A similar crab-like visual is also found on the loading screen of Tenchi’s temporal reset equipped phone, which he lost in the past but is dug but by the cast in the present.
So given those associations and symbols, the clear implication I feel is Washu is two-timing everyone, be it either knowingly and on purpose or for other reasons. Washu has found herself captured and locked away even in the events of the original OVA, and her daugher Ryoko used as a mind controlled living weapon of mass destruction by the same entity, so it would not be impossible to consider someone pulling some form of Washu’s strings somehow and to have that occur in a separate timeline colliding with our own.
This entire series may well also just be revealed to be nothing more than a massive trolling attempt by the mad scientist she did for little more than her own amusement. Which, given that the entire series does still feel like a drawn out joke nobody asked to be told, would be somewhat appropriate on some grand level.
But that would not make it good.
Episode thirty six I saved for this part of the write-up, because it really does indicate a lot of the misfires this series has had.
It is a simple episode, the characters old and new having a barbeque as Tenchi repairs damage to the dormitory roof. So we have instances like Ryoko and Beni fighting for the same piece of meat, Hachiko slicing up greens in midair to fall into a Sasami-held salad bowl, and so on. Outside of the baseline character costumes themselves, and considering how aggressive and in your face so much of the fanservice in this show has been, even the camera framing settles down to just let them be characters more. It is the sort of episode one could deploy either as a season finale in its own right, or (as would be the case here) right before an arc that would put these groups more head to head against each other.
But I just do not care about any of the new characters.
Despite how much screen time they have had compared to the classic cast, the show has so hamfistedly used them as nothing more than a generic stable of sexualized camera shot machines for nearly forty episodes by the time of this barbeque scene.
In another show, this would be a great moment, or at least a pleasant time. But here it feels like a desperate mechanical throw to connect the old and the new, or at best trying to perhaps ignore everything which came before. And proving all the more how far off track this series has been.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes forty through forty four]
An episode within this batch (forty four, specifically, if you count the recap episodes as I have been) has the following line in its introduction:
“It’s very rude for you to have gathered us all here, only to keep us waiting for so long.”
Which goes a long way towards almost being a metatextual commentary on this entire endeavor. The whole series bringing back everyone we used to know, voices and all, and what amounts to brief flashes of the occasional known character from years ago in favor of so much animation blown on an avalanche of unfamiliar faces. The near complete lack of what I would consider to be anything close to tourism promotion for either Takahashi as a city in particular or Okayama Prefecture on the whole, so as to instead roll out fanservice shots and the situations to bring more of them about. Now, as the series begins to attempt to bring some sort of narrative conclusion to all of this (and indeed, as with last week, there is more plot in this batch), its engine room finds itself without enough power to see us through. Not that there was hope of recovery to begin with, but we are indeed quite stuck.
To put it bluntly: this is easily the worst the show has looked up to this point.
Apparently all of the not-very-good-to-begin-with fanservice animation from the rest of the series blew the budget away. As our bonafide fight sequences of Ryoko and Aeka versus counterparts from the Student Council play out, we have what should be some neat little highlights straining at the seams. The key animation frames are shoddy to the point of looking unfinished, the linework is lacking, the in-betweening either nonexistent or barely making up transition and movement at all. While they never needed to be blockbuster action demonstrations, Ryoko taking up her beam sword or Aeka using her Juraian abilities against named characters in what is supposed to be a struggle to defend Tenchi should never be this boring a storyboard to execute on and missing so much visual definition.
We end up in this weird mode where the composite of the characters, their weapons, and the backgrounds, are all very much not blending together and stand starkly opposed against one another.
To more closely go down the lapse in animation attention of this batch though, one could claim I should perhaps instead compare fanservice shots to, well, other fanservice sequences rather than action forays. Which is fair, and I have ammo to work with there.
If one has seen the original Tenchi Muyo! OVA series, of which this is a fork from, they likely remember that for any of the dresses Ryoko has in her character wardrobe she sometimes goes without much in the way of clothes at all. She is a more sexually assertive woman than the others in the cast, and it fits for the way she is written. So, especially given that there already was a bath episode for the new Student Council cast in this series, that this series would turn back around and give one to the established characters like Ryoko is at least fair. I can not fault it for that, given the mode so much of the show has wanted to be in anyway.
Here is a NSFW-ish screen of Ryoko and Tenchi from episode forty three, as she is presented post-bath but with appropriate towel.
If you look, consider Tenchi’s arm, or the frontal long locks of Ryoko’s hair. Examine the oddities of the linework, the shading. This episode, as with the whole batch, looks closer to something someone makes when they do not have enough time to go back for readjustment or the money to spend on perhaps even the bare minimum. Everything with the animation and its constituent parts looks harsh, flat, jagged, often lacking in depth perception, and not out of sake for a given art direction or vision.
I have said it before and I will say it again: even if the series wanted on a top level to be nothing more than fanservice bait, it would at least need to look nicer than this, right? There would have to be some kind of animation standard, one would think, if the cheesecake shots are being planned as the biggest gun in a series given arsenal. This series never looked particularly swell even on its best days, and this is still quite a downturn.
In moving towards hypothesizing where this goes out from here plotwise, since all the episodes follow a linear chain of events now: Washu, as suspected, is the main perpetrator messing with the timeline.
That is Galaxy Police intelligence anyway, and baring some rug pull moment in its last days should be the storyline it wants to go with. The domination fascinated Ukan, Tenchi’s superior for his student teacher term, is also revealed to be Galaxy Police herself. Which is about as uninspiring and flat reveal as it is plot convenient to wrap this all up with so few episodes to go.
The treasure under the school involves the Jurain spaceship Beni and Momo are connected to historically. It is now buried again, after the cavern collapsed from the Student Council attack.
So what do we do? How do we end this in the coming days?
Momo’s connection to the royal family I still feel is being held close as a Big Reveal, as I do not see the series ending without it establishing where she fits. Is she a distant grandmother type figure from elsewhere in the timeline, some much later daughter of Jurai generations from now, or if she is herself supposed to be Tenchi’s direct kid. That last option keeps standing out to me, as it fits both what would arguably be the worst and creepiest narrative choice for it to run with.
Despite calling it already, I still can not even begin to wrap my head around where Washu is going with her plan. If she is trying to steal some technological elements of the Jurain ship for herself to examine. Perhaps she has some intended well meaning, if Momo is indeed Tenchi’s kid and maybe there is some sort of doomed future there in her teenage years he would never see otherwise. Or if Washu is just doing any and all of this for giggles and laughs. And anything in between.
I have a written a whole lot of words about this show over the weeks it has been airing. Arguing with it, with myself, with any mental association I may still have with the franchise from its better days.
I just want it to end. To be over. Finished.
Which is not something I write out of screaming malice, or to be a funny person on the internet.
I say that with a sense of sadly shading my head.
Because whatever Ai Tenchi Muyo! does next week, I am certain it will be but the final notes of a direly troubled and mishandled production. That out of every odd road the science fiction harem franchise as a whole has taken over twenty years, this may well be the least disagreeable one to travel down of all.
Which is a most terrible fate in general, and all the more so for a tourism series.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes forty-five through forty-nine]
I have come to understand in recent weeks that the recap episodes do not, in fact, count towards the complete projected length of this series. While that does mean I can effectively use this show to eventually bump my anime series list management tracker of choice up by two for the price of one when the time comes, that is still a rather foul bargain.
The entire block of episodes this time around involves the Student Council election that was addresses slightly before. As a result, outside of the odd flashback (or the recap itself), we never see any of the classic cast again aside from Tenchi himself. My usual issues with this remain, and are doubled down on now in that these characters were so sold as fanservice shot fodder for so long that when the series makes an aim for something more serious it does not have the muscles to lift the material up to where it thinks it has to go.
Some of these episodes are relatively stale, but in the grand scheme of this show rather harmless, in their own right. Forty-six dealing in challenger Yuki trying to bribe the student population with free (and counterfeit) meal tickets and being found out for it by the incumbent forces. It has some odd structural issues in its flow, in that when the found out Yuki replaces herself with a bomb the device is hurled out to… Tenchi and Beni, who had never been established as being in the scene prior. Let alone having taken up respective positions on a baseball diamond as pitcher and batter, like they were waiting and ready for just such an occasion. One can perhaps handwave some of that, given that Rui spilled the beans on the whole counterfeiting thing so perhaps one could see a mean by which the Student Council would bring Tenchi and Beni along. But it is still rather poor editing and delivery.
Forty-seven is similarly odd. The Student Council confiscates a whole lot of election materials rigged by the Science Club (pens that write ink that disappears, a mini stamp machine in ballot boxes to inflate votes, etc). The group also clearly confuses some sort of walking robot or other machine, designed to rigidly go about and spout Yuki’s name as some sort of repetition engine to drive votes. Touri hops around in what I assume to be her mimicking it, but we never come to see the device, which comes up again later in the same episode. Unless the supplier is someone other than Washu (who is the prime suspect of the Galaxy Police in this time distortion matter), and that same someone sent a machine that looks like themselves but while also using Washu’s crab logo aesthetic on all the other devices we have been privy to, there is not much a story or narrative reason for this. So it is, again, really odd from an editing and flow perspective once one notices we never get to see the machine folks are reacting to and acting like.
Larger issues loom elsewhere however.
The rest of the episodes make their way back around to a scene from the school festival, when Momo was shoved into Tenchi.
A photo of the situation was published in the school paper, and allegations of misconduct come out in force. Which itself gets into student-teacher relationship vectors that are far beyond what this show is outfitted for, even if it were to do something like drop it at that and just using a scandal smokescreen to do something like call the impacted parties to the office for some larger Galaxy Police initiative that might take them out of school for a while. Even if it wanted to use it to try and make some cheap overblown gag out of a misunderstanding from a crowded school festival hallway far and away after the fact, it would still be out of line and lackadaisical at best. But that is not where it goes.
The rest of these episode deal in Momo giving an impassioned defense for love and relationships others find unethical.
If you have seen these arguments before in other circumstances, the usual suspects come out. People being people first and foremost over the societal positions, what is so wrong with people loving each other, and so on. Even in the face that there are clear power differentials that would be in play, such as a student-teacher scenario. Consider then also that Momo is framed not just as a high school girl, but a rather infantile one at that who effectively acts like a small child most of the time, and with the further consideration that she may well be Tenchi’s daughter or similar relative. A very brief temporal flash even occurs from Tenchi’s point of view, when a toddler Momo is leading what can be assumed to be an adult Tenchi, after she mentions she feels like his hands have protected her elsewhere at other times. And we already know she is of the Jurai royal family in some capacity from some era, even with the time scrambling obscuring from when exactly. Momo, effectively, can be embodying both a student-teacher relationship area and an incestuous one all at the same time (even space royal blood aside).
This series has Yuki trying to challenge her on the ethical points of what she is saying, and the Science Club leader is framed as a raving bombastic lunatic while the more reserved Momo gets a full auditorium applause.
This framing does not sit well with me.
This alarms me.
The series already had numerous issues in my book for what it was up to, but here the philosophical core comes ever more into play. The most prominent of all the new characters, and clearly the most important and elevated of all, while she is simultaneously also among the most childishly naive and sexualized at the same time. Here being delivered in-universe as a praiseworthy defender of love with those who hold direct responsibilities and power over you.
It would make sense if I was watching, say, adults having a conversation about best BDSM practices. But I am not.
Momo is congratulating the viewer, she is assuring those who have such moe girl student power fantasies that everything they may be doing is fine.
As it turns out, I am deeply glad that the classic cast did not show up for these episodes. The only possible way such a speech could have come off as more tone deaf and bending over backwards for such a minimal core of hyper niche viewers would be if it were delivered by Sasami “Actually 700 Years Old” Jurai Masaki herself.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes fifty through fifty-four]
As a reminder for those who may not be entirely up to speed on how my numbering works: Tenchi Muyo! Love is indeed scheduled for a fifty episode run. However, with a weekly recap episode, I include its number in the count as well, given their frequency and their original narration.
If feels easier that way to be able to talk about them as much as I need to as the weeks flow in and out, though by this point the recaps are no better or worse than they have ever been. I have voiced my grievances with them several times before, and nothing on that front as changed. At least they are consistent then, I suppose.
Plot wise, things have taken quite a turn since Momo’s big Student Council speech about why she thinks it is beautiful for teachers and students to be together in circumstances which can be construed as an unethical relationship. The Galaxy Police have not only showed up in full force with a space station of thousands of personnel, under a liberal interpretation of the previously never mentioned Okayama Protocol which would allow for them to perform operations within the prefecture. It is probably in the very best interests of this show at this time to stick to using buildings and other background locations for unmentioned Okayama flavor, rather than bringing it up in such a hamfisted manner. I recognize that this is a series funded in part by tourism goals, but for the series to by and large make little dialogue use of the location and then throw bombs out there like this feels incredibly forced.
Speaking of which: The Galaxy Police does drop a literal bomb on the prefecture as a means of drawing out Washu.
In related news: I grew up in New Jersey, but very close to the city of Philadelphia. The police aerial bombing the MOVE building in 1985 as a means of trying to end an armed standoff, resulting in the destruction of over sixty houses in the ensuing fire. The consequences of this action still comes up to this day in various law enforcement news stories.
Now, I should also note that I do not think Tenchi Muyo! Love is promoting such tactics as a grand solution. The scale and degree of what the Galaxy Police are doing is seen as being a positive preemptive move against who knows what manner of Washu’s inventions, sure. And this is, ostensibly, also framed as a comedy series. By the end of this set of episodes, Washu is firing a black hole canon out of the satellite dish and Gouriki the robot grows to giant size to swing a baseball bat at said bomb.
I am willing to see this all as the show intending to go for a vast over the top event for effect.
The thing which sticks out to me with this however is I can not recall much president with any Galaxy Police action from the across the Tenchi Muyo! franchise that approaches this kind of aggression.
They have mecha, sure, and their spaceships have played roles in various fights as well. But this bombing run by the Galaxy Police against the Earth is extreme on a level where I have difficulty even buying into it as a set of actions they would conceivably pull. Even if this show is a comedy, and this being played for exaggerated effect, the overwhelming majority of other Tenchi Muyo! productions are comedies as well.
The other interpretation, if the series is intending to play this straight, is far more dire. The line of thought that because Washu has committed various atrocities over the years in between her scientific and other galactic advancements, it does not matter what law enforcement does. Or what agreements they break, insofar as that Okayama Protocol goes. Tenchi Muyo! is very much not a franchise where that sort of argument holds potential debate water. This is not exactly Psycho-Pass season one material.
That various visual production elements continue to slowly slip do not help sell this in either direction, silly or serious. Increasing numbers of voiceovers to relay a conversation even when all the same characters are themselves on screen, and it is just framed as a prior conversation. Point of view running shots that do not match up with the speeds characters are moving when we cut back to them. Things which as individual elements would not be a big deal, and do indeed have very legitimate uses. But as they tally up, it becomes harder to discount them as part of larger issue.
All things considered, something as simple as Ryoko’s teleportation ability being used as it was established in previous Tenchi Muyo! series is in fact deployed properly and I found myself pleased with seeing that.
Which is such a low point for a series to be at, that it can be praised for at times remembering how its own characters abilities function.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes fifty five through sixty]
One last rotation, and though my numbering includes the recap episodes there are none to be had in this final set.
I am not an impenetrable force field, so I am able to acklowagle in full that this series of episodes is by far the most focused the series has been. Wobbly animation and the like seen not that long ago is in short supply here, with the storyboarding and general shot framing aiming to be more ambitious as well. Most of the fanservice and leering body shots are tossed aside. Hiroshi Negishi and his team attempt to steer this in for a multidimensional time and space continuum landing, as the device dropped by the Galaxy Police (and in short order taken over by Washu) attempts to fight a tear in the universe which could consume our entire star system while Tenchi ends up encountering different Momo’s of varying ages in assorted places.
It all sounds (perhaps) compelling on paper, and again to be sure it is the most poignant the show has ever tried to be. Tenchi meeting a lonely Momo at different stages of life to give encouraging words and the like, culminating in these becoming memories the Momo of the present then has rush back into her so she can thank him before being zapped back to the past for good (with Beni in tow). In isolation, it is not a terrible series of events, and indeed is about as pleasant of an ending as I could have been able to imagine. All the more given how much I have not enjoyed the overall show.
It also though, at the same time, does reveal just how extraneous a lot of the material is.
Momo and Beni aside, all the other new girls introduced via this series have nothing to contribute to the finale.
They barely even appear in these episodes at all, by and large placed to the side while the core Momo and Beni issue is resolved. The most significant appearance they do make is part of a chain where Washu is granted permission by the Galaxy Police to stop the dimensional rift issue (in exchange for her charges being dropped). Free from custody, she deploys the Science Club via Yuki and Aoi to plug into the law enforcement equipment so she can make use of it. Cue cursory scene of police trying to stop them, the remaining Student Council members arriving to stop the police, and Ukan breaking the whole thing up as the police withdrawal.
While perhaps justifiable, in the sense Washu would have been speaking with high level Galaxy Police leadership and the troopers on the ground may not have gotten the message yet for who has allowed to do what, episodes of this show are also not very long. In practice, this sort of thing eats up a lot of time. When considering further this scene of the show is on a base level the most involvement any of these individuals have on the ending and the most screen time they receive as a part of this last package of episodes, it seems more like a lackadaisical way of thinking they need to be to shoehorned in somehow rather than a compelling narrative need.
By contrast, consider how the finale of a packed to the gills with girls series like Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara at least gives everyone an individual scene and line readings as part of a larger ending push. No matter which character a given viewer may have become a fan of, there will be a little something for them and there is the feeling everyone gets to participate in the conclusion. Heck, even in Tenchi Universe, which Negishi himself also directed, the escapades that are a part of the last push to the final boss are designed in such a way where characters get to individually shine through a line of varying encounters.
For this iteration of Tenchi Muyo! then, this ending shoving so many other characters out of the way shows us something. All of the service shots, cleavage heaves, upskirts, groping, wardrobe malfunctions and so on are solidified as the sole reason for any of these characters to have been introduced at all. When the sexualization mode switches almost entirely off (and to be sure, this ranks among the most service oriented of the vast array of Tenchi Muyo! productions), the production has virtually nothing else for these characters to do.
And that is a real shame, when considering the whole cloth of the show.
Their inclusion into this series gets to amount to so little as active agents. The series spinning its wheels for so long for the promotion and championing of these characters with so much screen time over their classic counterparts. It is not even a matter of being disappointed to not see a well liked personal favorite participate in the finale as much as it is the thought that these new characters were never utilized in a manner where I was able to find myself attached their personalities and antics at all.
That Tenchi Muyo! Love is designed in such a way where they are so shoved to the side at the end rather than woven into the proceeding in a more comprehensive manner reminds me of al the glut and bloat that permeates this show. The recap episodes, the barrage of how many shorts were released each week, even the heavy redesign work applied to the classic characters while at the same time trying to prop this work up as a twentieth anniversary piece.
This series was, again, funded in large part through by the city of Takahashi, Okayama as part of an initiative to promote tourism. I doubt this was ever the legacy they wished to be attached to. I have to wonder if there was such a time and space rift occurring near the real world analogues of a lot of these sets, if the local board responsible would consider making use of it for entirely different purposes relative to their support of this show.
Perhaps all the worse, as someone who did have the core Tenchi Muyo! entries as a part of their more formative years with anime as an entertainment option, for all the anniversary trimmings this show never felt like a celebration of the franchise. It never even came across an an obligatory office party in the break room, let alone a festive time at home with loved ones. The experience has instead been one largely consisting of alienation and isolation.
We used to be friends, Tenchi Muyo!
But this latest entry really does feel like it came from a different world.