Well, we've finally reached the end (sort of) of Tenchi Muyo. Then again, there are so many questions left to be answered, so we know that Tenchi Muyo isn't really going to end anytime soon. There's the Tenchi movie coming out in Japan as well as Magical Girl Pretty Sammy #2, so there's plenty to keep Tenchi otaku happy for a little while, at least. =)
Tonight's Tenchi Muyo feature is OAV #13, in which very important people from Jurai come to visit Tenchi and the gang. These characters are none other than Queen Funaho (Yosho's mother) and Queen Misaki (Aeka and Sasami's "mommy"), as well as King Azusa himself. While the presence of these powerful people is interesting, it is how the regular characters behave in relation to them which is most telling, so pay attention, and maybe you'll say to yourself, "so thatís what they were thinking!"
So after 13 OAVs, what can we say we've learned about the characters?
(Some of the following ideas I've borrowed from my friend Nils Dahl)
Tenchi: The "master key." His ability to generate light-hawk wings has captured the attention of Washuu, Tokimi, and Tsunami, possibly the most powerful entities in the universe. Believe it or not, the story is about Tenchi, his coming of age, and how he affects those around him. For some reason, girls love him.
Ryoko: Even though she has been called a monster by some, she is a very human character. The creation of Washuu, she has just come to accept her mother's role in her life. With her power gems, she and Ryo-oh-ki will eventually have power to equal that of Tsunami, but very few people in the Tenchi universe know this.
Ryo-Oh-Ki: Ryoko's ship. Ryo-oh-ki is the show's newest humanoid character. She seems to like Sasami and Tenchi the most. Do not forget that Ryo-oh-ki is potentially very powerful.
Aeka: The rich and spoiled princess. She's very concerned about her physical appearance. She seems slightly sadistic. Just listen to that psychotic laugh. You might see a similar type of dementia in Misaki, her mother. Who is the monster, we must ask, Ryoko or Aeka?
Sasami: The only "normal" girl living in the household, but she's actually Tsunami, the original tree of Jurai and its most powerful ship. What will happen when Sasami comes of age? Sasami has also shown herself capable of manipulating events just for the fun of it. Her opinion of Tenchi? "I like him a lot!" Is the presence of Tsunami affecting her actions at all?
Mihoshi: The wild card of the series. She seems like a ditz, but she's actually a genius, her ability manifesting itself at the most strangely appropriate times. Even Washuu has recognized Mihoshi's power and has allied with her accordingly.
Washuu: The galaxy's number one scientist. She has a hidden past, and we can't tell how powerful she really is. So far, no one has been able to defeat her. Her childish appearance is deceiving. Washuu's power is great enough that Tokimi calls her "Lady Washuu."
Yosho: After this episode, you'll understand his intentions a little better. Notice his manipulation of events, and notice how his mother, Funaho, seems to surpass him in this respect.
Funaho: Azusa's human wife. She's the head of Jurai's intelligence network. She's ultra-smart. Like Yosho, she's very calm.
Misaki: Azusa's Jurai wife. The king's bodyguard (or something like that). She has a great love of life, but will behave violently under certain circumstances. The personalities of Aeka and Sasami make sense when you look at Misaki.
Azusa: King of Jurai. Very kingly. =) Note his attitude towards Tenchi.
What have we gotten out of this remarkable series? What can we say about it? A lot, and there's so much more that we don't know yet. If I can say anything about Tenchi Muyo, I'd say that it is deep, not in the sense that the Patlabor movies are deep, but deep in the sense that apart from what we see in the episodes, there is actually a world behind the story. Most of the important features of the Tenchi universe are not revealed to us directly; rather, they are only hinted at, implied, and we slowly infer what we can about its intricacies. At the same time, we can enjoy the light-hearted but well-crafted stories.
Tenchi Muyo is not a puzzle to be solved, but a world to be discovered, and I must praise the creators for their magnificent skill in creating a detailed fantasy world which is totally believable. Even though the world of Tenchi is young and there are many details left to be filled in, it has the potential to grow considerably. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is the best example of world-creation one will ever find. Tolkien called the Lord of the Rings a "tale that grew in the telling." Tenchi Muyo, while not yet a classic of that scale, is such a story. As anime fans, we've been present to watch and be part of that tale as it was told.
"We were there," we can say, and even though others might not care, the story is still our own to enjoy and cherish. Even better, the story is not done. The scripts haven't been written yet. Like the creators of the series, we've only begun our journey. Watch on!
[12/16/04 Update: For further articles by Lawrence Eng, see his anime page.]