If you original discovered anime during the halcyon Toonami days you might remember a little show called Tenchi Muyo. It was a bit of an oddball sandwiched in amongst shonen giants like Dragon Ball Z, Inuyasha, and Rurouni Kenshin. Toonami always did have sci-fi representation though too though; In addition to its own branding, shows like Gundam Wing and The Big O were mainstays of anime’s most famous after-school broadcast block. That’s probably why the powers that be originally sought out the Tenchi franchise with its uncommon mix of traditional Japanese culture and its own vast sci-fi lore.
However, it’d be a mistake to assume that these science fiction elements were why people liked Tenchi. No, it was and always will be baby’s first harem anime and arguably it’s the most quintessential of them all. So much so that the franchise has actually spawned about a dozen series and a handful of films over the years. Yes, those who dropped off after Tenchi In Tokyo when Toonami originally fell by the wayside might be surprised to hear that the series has continued on and off to this day. More than one magical girl spin-off, multiple canons with its mainline series having all sorts of novels, doujinshi, and other supplementary material fleshing out its universe, and even two films that on their own really hold up as some prime 90s anime cuts. The latest in the franchise is another mainline title, Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki OVA 5 which is set to start coming out early next year Despite it being a core canon offering, unfortunately, we’re not the least bit excited.
Why aren’t we excited? Well that’s the whole point of the article, isn’t it? Look at the image above. That’s the biggest promo image AIC, the studio behind the Tenchi Muyo franchise, associated with the new OVA. Is anything about this recognizable as Tenchi? Toonami flooded its fan-base with Tenchi material over the years with the first two OVAs, Tenchi Universe, and Tenchi In Tokyo. Despite all three having different stories and canons, you always had your bumbling do-gooder Tenchi, your obnoxious space pirate Ryoko, and the notoriously uptight Princess Ayeka. As you can plainly see, none of those characters are pictured above.
On the right, you have Kiriko Masaki, one of the leads in the Tenchi Muyo! GXP spin-off. The bottom? Kenshi Masaki, half brother of Tenchi, who didn’t exist during the show’s golden era. He got his own show earlier this decade in the, and I’m laughing as I type this, Tenchi Isekai spin off Tenchi Muyo! War On Geminar. Finally on the left? Some new character that I’m sure we’re all just excited to get to know. Nothing about this is recognizable as the weird light-hearted not-quite a space opera series that we grew up with.
Look, I’m not saying shows and story-tellers can’t change as they go on. On the flip side to my ‘this is too different and unrecognizable as Tenchi Muyo thus it’s alienating whether it’s good or bad’, you wouldn’t just want more of the same either. If any of the post-millennium Tenchi spin-offs and entries were worth writing home about I wouldn’t be so negative in tone. Tenchi Universe, Tenchi In Tokyo, and the films all take place in alternate canons and weren’t created by the original series mastermind Masaki Kajishima yet they’re all decidedly worth watching if outdated alien harem shows are your thing anyway. These weird extended universe spin-offs like War In Geminar or GXP? I find it hard to say a good thing about them.
For clarification’s sake, the first two Tenchi Muyo! Ryo Ohki OVAs were packaged together and aired as the single Tenchi Muyo show us older fans all know. The third OVA series was licensed in America by Funimation who, while they do now, didn’t have the license for the originals at the time. Thus when I say Tenchi Muyo! on its own, I am just referring to those first two OVAs. That third OVA didn’t even come out in Japan till years after the second and when we finally got it? My 14-year-old self was heart-broken. Finally, a return to the series that started it all but all the heart and charm, not to mention the killer soundtrack was gone. No one’s bothered to subtitle it in English yet but the 4th OVA series which came out in 2017 is apparently even worse.
Apparently, there are still some people in the world who are dedicated to creator Masaki Kajishima’s vision of this vast Tenchi Muyo canon lore. Those who don’t know Japanese eat up any crudely translated dojinshi and light novel tidbit they can get their hands on. OVAs 3, 4, and seemingly 5 increasingly rely on knowledge of this extended canon that not only did English audiences not get at all(until Seven Seas. put out one Tenchi Muyo light novel trilogy in 2019) but even if they had, it makes these OVAs and spin-offs fragments of a greater whole that certainly don’t stand up on their own. It’s a shame, Tenchi had a big part in my early weeb days and seeing this husk of its former self put out on display again and again hurts.
Tenchi Muyo! Ryo Ohki OVA 5 will come out in Winter 2020.