Young Tenchi Masaki always wanted to know what was in the forbidden cave near his family’s shrine. So one day he sneaks in. Big mistake, as the cave contains the fabled Demon Ryoko. Ryoko only wants to play with Tenchi, if you consider massive property damage to be “play.”
Let’s now turn our eyes towards Japan. There, the Magical Girlfriend trope is much more alive than here in America. More, it is attached to another story archetype, that of the Harem Anime/Manga. Let’s pause a moment to discuss this new Archetype in regards to the subject at hand.
In the regular Harem stories, the loveliest of ladies all but surround our Hero. Between the male and the females exists a certain type of bond. Call it love, call it lust, call it whatever you want, the two groups1 can’t bear to be parted. Or perhaps one group can’t bear to be parted, but the other group doesn’t quite see it that way. You know how Archetypes are. Sometimes rigid, sometimes variable.
The main thrust of the Harem stories is the eventual choice Our Hero must make. Will he choose the tomboy? The Silent One? The Free Spirit? The girl whom he has a mutual hatred going for but deep down there’s a definite sense of attraction and/or love? Oh the burden he must have. Oh the stories that will result.
Now, for me, for my own personal viewing habits, I’ve found that our Hero inevitably chooses the wrong freaking girl. Meaning, of course, that the one I like is left crying in the distance while chump and chumpette go marching off into the distance. This has happened so often that, as a rule, I should stay away from Harem stories. For my ulcer’s sake.
I should also stay away from Bad Movies, but we all know how well that’s been worked for me.
The other problem with Harem stories is that the viewer inevitably wonders why Our Hero won’t just make a choice already. The Creators often try to give an explanation for this. The Hero is clueless to the girls’ feelings, he doesn’t want to chose, or he wants them all. That sort of thing. It doesn’t matter. The viewer still tears out his/her hair while that nitwit dithers over a choice.
I hasten to add that a good Harem story will lessen these self destructive habits, and actually is enjoyable. Despite the fact the nitwit never chooses the right girl.
Now when you have a Magical Girlfriend Harem story (shortened to MG Harem), you don’t just have one Magical Girlfriend causing havoc. Of course not. See, almost every single females attached to the hero has her own special ability, and they are not afraid to use it. On this, like all Magical Girlfriends, they are not only jealous of the time Our Hero spends with other Females, they are hell-bent on getting him alone and working their wiles upon him.
Cory Anders had no idea how lucky he had it.
All of this is a long-winded way to head to poor Tenchi Masaki. All he wanted to know was what was hidden in the cave behind the family shrine. Mainly because his grandfather said he couldn’t, but also because of the legends attached to his family. But, like so many forbidden secrets in Genre, there’s something to the legends. Trapped there in suspended animation is the Space Pirate Ryoko, the demon of legend. And, through his curious search, Our Hero releases her.
Well, like almost all Magical Girlfriends, Ryoko fixes on her rescuer and wants to play. Her version of “play” results in the destruction of Tenchi’s school and his own near death. More, her presences on Earth draws more aliens, including the Princess Ayeka (who, despite being the polar opposite of Ryoko, is almost as destructive as the Space Pirate) and the Space Cop Mihoshi (if intelligence was light, she would be the center of a black hole). Tenchi’s nice and simple life is now gone.
I’m not sure, but I seem to recall that this was one of the anime Brother Eric tried to introduce me to. I thought it looked dumb. But, like oh so many things Eric has pointed my way, it’s actually quite enjoyable. Tenchi is extremely likable, and while Ryoko is extremely selfish and destructive, I like her, too. Which means that, at least with the first six episodes, the creators pushed Ayeka as the “right choice.”
The skin chills at the notion. Ayeka’s first appearance has her shooting without provocation, false arrest, torturing a helpless captive, and theft.
Which is much worse than blowing up an empty school and trying to cause harm to the man she loves.
Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki is one of the best MG Harem stories out there. While it started out as a OVA, it inspired a hell of a lot of TV series, one of which (Tenchi Universe) is far better than the source. Both the Japanese voice cast and the American cast are excellent, or, at least they never grated quite as much as Mark Hamill does in Jeannie (no, I’m not letting that go.)
I must add one cavat. I’m only talking about the first six episodes. While mileage may vary between the view, I really didn’t care for the second OVA series. The third and latest adds at least one new cast member. Tenchi’s new fiancée.
- Back in the day, these things came out on VHS one episode per tape. On this, the subtitled version (my family’s preferred version) cost more than the dubbed. Hard to think about, in this age of DVDs
- I don’t mention it above, but avoid Tenchi in Tokyo. It’s just painful