Review of Tenchi Muyo: The Movie Tenchi In Love
The original Tenchi OVA series, while an enjoyable watch in its own right, left more than a few loose ends worthy of exploration. And given the interest in the franchise, with plenty of tie-in series, alternate universes, and most recently the third OVA series, there has been no hesitation in exploring. Perhaps one of the biggest untold stories at the end of the original OVA concerned Tenchi`s mother, so it`s almost poetic that the first theatrical movie spin-off in 1996 dove right into that back-story.
If you`ve read the other Tenchi reviews on this site, then you`ll be familiar with the set-up. Tenchi Masaki is a hapless teen that through circumstance has wound up sharing his home with a bevy of alien beauties, who all lust after him. Fortunately Tenchi is the most rare of male teenagers, libido free, otherwise the show would be in a completely different genre, and the franchise would probably be a whole lot shorter.
The galactic arch-criminal Kain has escaped, and with it has erased the entire Galaxy Police HQ. He`s intent on vengeance against the Jurai family that imprisoned him, and his first destination is Earth. Back home, Tenchi is introducing his friends to the concept of the home movie, and reminiscing about his mother. Suddenly, as they watch, Achika vanishes from the film, and Tenchi is about to follow her into oblivion. Washu saves him just in time with one of her inventions, but the world around them is now unrecognisable. Washu determines that history has been changed, Achika has vanished, and with her the Masaki family. To set things to rights, they will have to travel back in time to 1970 and save Tenchi`s mother from whatever misfortune awaits her. With Tenchi`s existence temporarily stabilised, the gang step into a convenient time machine and set forth, but they aren`t the only time travellers making the trip.
A 1.85:1 letterbox transfer graces this disc. That aside, the image isn`t bad, it`s clear and colourful throughout and with only a hint of softness to proceedings. It`s also apparent from the off that the animation is larger scale than the OVA, with a lot more fluidity and scope. Kain is an impressive villain, an indeterminate mass of black with a white mask would seem impossible to animate, but they really excel here.
You get a choice of DD 5.1 soundtracks in both English and Japanese, as well as a DD 2.0 English track. It`s a fair surround track, with plenty of action to make use of the soundstage. The Tenchi dub isn`t one of my favourites, I don`t like the English voices for Ayeka and Ryoko one bit, so as usual I opt for Japanese with the translated subs. The music suits the film well for the most part, but there are hints of Babylon 5 during the more strident moments, not surprising given that Christopher Franke is the composer. Sadly, given the age of the disc, the subtitles aren`t zoom friendly, making this film a chore to watch in the original language on a widescreen set. In addition, a couple of the subtitle captions exceed the screen edges, resulting in missing text.
There are a smattering of extras to go with this disc, the theatrical trailer, a couple of TV spots, 6 pages of text that comprise the director`s comments and a 4 minute interview with composer Christopher Franke. The interview has the jerky look of a webcam, but is clear enough. Three pages of text comprising his bio also accompany it.
Tenchi Muyo does Back To The Future, and it`s fine. With Tenchi`s mother having passed away by the time of the OVA series, there was no other way that the character could have been brought into the movie. To his credit, Tenchi is a whole lot more successful than Marty McFly in staying out of the way of history, and there is a villain behind all this to defeat. It`s just that before we get to the action filled climax, there is the fun of seeing all the familiar characters trying to fit in undercover at Achika`s high school.
The strength of this film is that it continues with that strong sense of humour from the OVA series, so we see ditzy Mihoshi as a school teacher, while the more level headed Kiyone (Mihoshi`s Galaxy Police partner who appeared Mihoshi special in the OVA boxset) is stuck sweeping floors as a janitor. At the same time, Ayeka and Ryoko are feuding students, inadvertently getting in the way of Tenchi`s parents first falling in love. There are plenty of laughs to be had, but that focus on emotions is also tangible, with Tenchi getting to know his parents again, especially the mother he never really got to know, albeit from a discreet distance.
Things get dramatic for the climax of course, when Kain makes his appearance, but the plot hangs together well, the fractured narrative of the typical time travel movie is compelling rather than confusing, and the film is just as entertaining as the series. Fun, epic, and sentimental, the first Tenchi movie is everything a movie spin-off should be.