Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki (Season 1-2)

Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki; animated science-fiction comedy series, Japan, 1992-1995; D: Hiroki Hayashi, S: Masami Kikuchi, Yumi Takada, Ai Orikasa, Chisa Yokoyama, Yuko Mizutani

Curiosity was just too big for teenager Tenchi. When he hears from his grandfather about a legend that a demon was sealed off in a cave by one of their ancestors centuries ago, Tenchi unlocks the cave and stumbles upon female demon Ryoko who attacks him in school at night. However, when Tenchi defeats her, Ryoko changes and falls in love with him. It turns out she is actually a space renegade who attacked planet Jurai 700 years ago, and Princess Ayeka and her sister Sasami travel with their spaceship from Jurai to Earth to confront Ryoko because they are looking for Ayeka's brother and fiance, Yosho. Even clumsy space police officer, blond Mihoshi, arrives to Earth to capture Ryoko. They all fall in love with Tenchi and decide to live in his house. It turns out that Tenchi's grandfather is Yosho, who fled to Earth. Space villains Kagato and Dr. Clay attack Tenchi's house, but they are defeated in the spaceship.

One of the most popular animes from the 90s, "Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki" is still in reality a notch bellow of all the high hype that surrounds it. More beloved by male than female viewers, "Tenchi Muyo" is funny and amusing, yet basically just a prototype of the future harem animes, a cryptic adolescent male fantasy in which the protagonist is surrounded by three women who are all in love with him, while a fourth one also shows potential interest in him (Mihoshi). In episode 7, Ryoko even accuses Ayeka of trying to steal Tenchi away from her, saying: "I can smell your pheromones!" It doesn't take much intellect to conclude that this was written by a man. Disregarding the disparity stemming from this cliche concept — if Tenchi likes one of them, why not simply be honest and announce which girl he loves? Otherwise, he displays a rather rotten, dishonest nature for playing all the three girls against each other ad nauseam, and also ignores their feelings — "Tenchi Muyo" also has other flaws which are often overlooked, among them an extremely meandering storyline which doesn't know where it is going, leading to several subplots that all unravel in sometimes just two episodes and are then forgotten for the rest of the show.

One moment, Ryoko is a space pirate that must be arrested by Mihoshi, and then this is all forgotten. Another time, villain Kagato shows up, attacks and this all leads to a giant space battle for two episodes, and is never mentioned again afterwards. Another time, Sasami admits to Ayeka that she is not her sister, but all of this doesn't matter, anyway, since it is never mentioned again in later episodes, and is thus without weight. Such arbitrary tone just consolidates the impression that the author was making this stuff up as he went along, and that it doesn't matter that all the girls are aliens, since all that matters is to establish a plot about three girls "hanging" over a guy. Several fan service moments seem to confirm this (for instance, in episode 3, Ryoko backs up, while Tenchi's grandfather sneaks up behind her and grabs her breasts). This anime works the best when it actually abandons the "harem" concept and simply enjoys its pure comedy. For instance, when bounty hunter Mihoshi lands on Earth, she picks up a signal of her "scary" target and aims at it, which turns out to be an adorable, cat-rabbit like creature, Ryo-Ohki, which bites a third of her gun. In episode 10, the girls are watching a TV romance in which two alien, egg like creatures start passionately kissing, upon which Sasami covers the eyes of the little Ryo-Ohki, while her sister, Ayeka, covers Sasami's eyes. More of such humor would have been welcomed, since the gags about wacky spaceships crashing in the lake or the girls making grimaces can only go so far. The animation is excellent, while a highlight is definitely the song in the closing credits, "Talent for Love", one of the most positive and contagious songs from the 90s, a small gem. Overall, a good comedy anime, yet since this plays out in an isolated house, in which many girls are trying to get the affection of a guy, one cannot shake away the impression that one is watching "The Bachelor" reality show at times.


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