The OVA series Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki (simply Tenchi Muyo! in the United States) follows the life of Tenchi Masaki, the teenage grandson of a Shinto priest (who has taken it upon himself to teach Tenchi an ancient form of swordplay). When Tenchi steals the keys to — and intrudes upon — a sealed cave on the shrine grounds that legends say holds a sleeping demon, he accidentally releases Ryoko, a Space Pirate who lied in suspended animation for seven centuries. This lone act begins a cascade of events that results in Tenchi moving from Kurashiki to the Okayama countryside, acquiring a half-dozen alien girls in an Unwanted Harem, discovering his own secret heritage, and becoming involved in events of literally cosmic proportions.Tenchi Muyo!, a classic "harem" anime of the '90s, rose to popularity during the second major Anime wave. The action/comedy science-fiction franchise started in 1992 as a six-episode OVA series; an additional seven episodes quickly followed after the first six's success, although the second set of episodes ended the OVA's story on something of a Cliffhanger.Viewers did not lack for Tenchi material in the decade-plus between OVAs, however. In addition to the OVA, Tenchi Muyo! spawned:
A third OVA series, which continued the original OVA's plot — and unveiled a lot of new surprises in the process — was produced in 2004.Throughout the majority of the franchise, the story revolves around the same basic core cast:
Tenchi's somewhat perverted widower father Nobuyuki
The characters and the exact relationships between them may vary from show to show (in the OVAs, Washu is Ryoko's mother; in the TV shows, she's a simply a partner in crime; in Pretty Sammy, she's her high school teacher), but one thing never changes — Tenchi is always getting chased by far more girls than he can handle.Funimation has the American rights to the vast majority of the mainline Tenchi franchise. The group released Tenchi Muyo GXP, the third OVA series (as Tenchi Muyo Ryo-Oh-Ki), and Isekai No Seikishi Monogatari (renamed Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar for North America) on DVD (and Blu-ray for Geminar); it also secured the licenses for and re-released the original OVA series (a Blu-ray and DVD combo set), Universe (DVD), Tokyo (DVD), and the three films (a Blu-ray and DVD combo set containing all the films) after the original American licenses fell into limbo.
This series provides examples of:
A-Cup Angst: Ayeka gets a little of this when she realizes that Sasami will look like Tsunami when she grows up.
In one issue of the manga, after some freakiness from Mihoshi breaking one of Washu's inventions causes Tenchi to revert to a baby and characters from one of Mihoshi's 50s sci-fi books to come to life, Ayeka complains that one of the sci-fi characters is suffocating baby Tenchi with her breasts and snatches him away. The character responds that there's "no danger of suffocation if he's with you" and Ayeka does not take it well.
Alien Blood: Subverted in episode 3 of the first OVA. When Ayeka injures her leg, Tenchi is genuinely surprised to see that her blood is red.
Washu's hair (Which is really out of proportion with her usual body) combines an extreme version of Ryoko's style with apparent inspiration from the crablegs-design for a kabuki mask, and a dash of You Gotta Have Pink Hair.
Washu's highly-appropriate nickname for Dr. Clay? "Octopus-head!" Clay's hair is unqiue, because he combines his admittedly epic curls with some kind of Badass Beard. (Ironic, because he's about as far from Bad Ass as Tenchi Muyo ever gets.)
Kagato gets some form of...Poofy mullet in the back when absorbing Ryoko's power.
Somehow, he still manages to remain intimidating; despite looking less like he's cruelly draining Ryoko's energy and more like he stuck his finger in an electrical socket.
Seiryo Tennan, the man who was chosen as Ayeka's second fiance gets a mention because his hair is the exact same color as the sakura petals that he makes his entrance with.
And is shaped exactly like Mihoshi's: like someone tied together the ropes of two identical loofas and stuck them on their head.
And Tenchi himself still manages to be somewhat of a badass despite having a rat-tail.
Art Shift: the third OVA, being produced some time after the rest uses a simplified art style that seems to split the difference between the normal style of the OVA's (and Tenchi Universe) and that of Tenchi in Tokyo.
Berserk Button: The wise know to not insult Ayeka or Sasami in front of Misaki if they value their lives. No matter how strong, as Misaki seems to have the ability to negate other people's super-strength and invulnerability.
Threatening Tenchi in front of Ryoko or Ayeka can also be hazardous to one's health.
Bigger on the Inside: Any space that Washu has had a chance to manipulate. And in the OVAs, all Juraian tree-ships, which are about 170 meters long on the outside, while the interior is a subspace pocket containing several planets.
Boobs of Steel: Surprisingly appropriate, by appearances — Misaki is not only older than the actual harem in general (Save for Washu), but due to some circumstance, Misaki seems unbeatable by any of the other girls as far as protecting her daughters is concerned.
Bowdlerization: In order to air on Toonami, lots of material had to be censored or excised from the OVAs (not so much with Tenchi Universe and Tenchi in Tokyo, though they didn't get away scot-free); this notably included the hot tub scenes in the OVA, a problem which was solved by rotoscoping bikinis onto the requisite areas.
When [adult swim] first started, they ran several Toonami shows that Cartoon Network still had the rights to; sadly, while they did air Tenchi Muyo!, they aired the Bowdlerized versions.
Part of the problem was that the OVAs are 30-ish minutes long each (except for the 7th and 13th episodes). To make most of the series fit onto TV, enough had to be chopped to make room for commercials, resulting in about 3-5 minutes worth of material being lost per episode (the 7th and 13th episodes, when aired, had sort of the opposite problem, in that they left a GAP at the end that Cartoon Network had to fill with short subjects).
Brawler Lock: Ayeka and Ryoko during the 7th OVA, The Night Before the Carnival. And other times as well.
Broke Episode: Tenchi Universe and Tenchi in Tokyo have episodes related to this. The first manga series has this across a few volumes, too.
Ayeka and Yosho's engagement can be explained for political reasons. The way the Royal Family works, Ayeka could have been used by family members who disapproved of Yosho to place her as a rival for the throne. Namely, Yosho belongs to the currently ruling Masaki branch of the royal house, while Aeka is a heir to the other branch, Kamiki, which historically wasn't on the best terms with Masaki house. The only way to prevent that was a marriage between them, just like in the previous generation, where the ruling Emperor, Azusa Masaki Jurai, married the Kamiki princess, Misaki Kamiki Jurai. Which ironically made him the father of both his and his wife's clans' heirs.
Somehow, the one-word answer of "Jurai" feels like enough to describe this trope. The fact that this family is ultimately stronger whereas inbreeding humans would actually more susceptible to disease proves that Juraian customs are indeed in line with Juraian genetics.
Character Exaggeration: Some bits in Universe from Ryoko and Ayeka. For the latter, we have a case where Tenchi is kidnapped and Ayeka is more angered by Nagi referring to Tenchi as "Ryoko's man" than her kidnapping him, and the former has a case where she's given money to got and buy food for everyone and she uses all of it on herself, forgetting how hungry everyone else was.
Chekhov M.I.A.: A very subtle example. In episode 4 of the OAV, Mihoshi's computer lists a few of Kagato's past crimes. If you pay attention to it as it fades into background noise, one of the crimes is the kidnapping of a "female student" from the Science Academy. Two episodes later, this turns out to be Washu (though she was actually a professor)
Mihoshi asks Washu if she is the students, and Washu face-faults. Her students are pranksters...
Chekhov's Gun: During the first part of the original series, Ryoko's earring flew completely under the radar. As it would be revealed in the final episode of the first season, it's actually a 'false gem' to balance her powers if she doesn't have all of the three gems that fuel her abilities.
The 3rd series has Chekhov's Death Star. Mihoshi's brother Misao brought a planetoid-sized battle station as part of his plan to "rescue" his sister. It goes unfired - in the first timeline. After the Z incident ends with the timeline reset, everyone just plays around once Misao's team shows up again - until Noike gets Mind-Control Eyes and sets the station's main gun to fire straight at Earth. Ultimately, the point was to make sure Tenchi got knocked out of space-time "again" by tanking the blast, so he could meet little-girl-Kagato on schedule.
Cherry Blossoms: Episode 8 of the OVA series, Tenchi Muyo! in Love, and episode 25 of Tenchi in Tokyo.
Chick Magnet: Tenchi, and later Seina in GXP. Also, Kenshi in Isekai Seikishi Monogatari and, generally, most of the protagonists in various Multiverse titles.
Cool House: once Washu shows up, the Masaki residence is never the same.
Cool Starship: The Juraian Royal treeships/starships. Dear GOD the Juraian Royal ships.
The Galaxy Police shipyards are no slouches either. Though their products don't get to be powered by one of the Universe's creators.
Cowboy Episode: Tenchi in Space. After Tenchi's been kidnapped by the bounty hunter bent on defeating Ryoko, the two agree to meet at a location suspiciously similar to a small western town, complete with tumbleweed, saloons, and an eerie sunset.
Kagato was well on his way and able to smack around Ryoko and Ayeka while obviously not taking it seriously. Tenchi got smacked around, too. But throw in Tenchi's Lighthawk Wings, and we've got whipped Kagato.
Drum Bathing: In Tenchi Muyo! In Love, Kiyone is seen in one just before being teleported out of it by Washu.
Epunymous Title: The title "Tenchi Muyo" [天地無用] is a Japanese phrase that is equivalent to saying "This Side Up." When [天地] and [無用] are interpreted as separate words (the former means "heaven and earth", the latter means "useless" ["no use"]), it can mean "No Need for Tenchi"/"Tenchi is Useless" or "No Need for Heaven and Earth"/"Heaven and Earth are Useless".
Excalibur in the Rust: When Tenchi first sees the Master Key, a physical blade had been affixed to the hilt. This blade was in a state of extreme disrepair, prompting Tenchi to exclaim, "What a rusty old piece of junk!"
Facial Markings: Tenchi, Ryoko, and Ayeka get these whenever they transform into their battle stances, and Achika gets some in her Juraian form in Tenchi Muyo in Love.
Fantastic Racism: In the OAV, Yosho is half-human. Thus the prejudice he suffered on Jurai, and they would not accept his marriage with Ayeka. Another reason why he never returned. Ayeka was more than upset when she learned of this.
Faux Affably Evil: Kagato has wiped out planets, wreaked chaos throughout the galaxy, enslaved Ryoko, and come very close to killing Tenchi. However, that doesn't mean he can't apologize to the girls for walking in on them in the Onsen, tossing off one liner's in battle, or even congratulating Tenchi on his victory after he is mortally wounded and just before he evaporates.
Ayeka: Scumbag Kagato: Is that a term of affection, Princess, or do you just not like me?
Also Tenchi Muyo Extra Chapter: Galaxy Police Mihoshi's Space Adventure (aka The Mihoshi Special).
Frothy Mugs of Water: Part of the Bowdlerization of the various series for American television included turning all references of drinking saki to drinking "tea". Must have been pretty strong tea to lay the entire cast out like that....
One episode of Universe had her become a liability in three different ways, one of which could've ended quite badly if they hadn't had some inside help. In Universe at least, she's graduated to a full-blown case of The Millstone.
Genre Shift: The series is a romantic comedy with plenty of action. The third and final movie is a romantic drama with zero action.
Hot Springs Episode: Two in the original. The first causes massive property damage. The second? Hammers are passed around...
Hotter and Sexier: Masaki Kajishima's series of self-published Light Novels and Doujinshis, not only it is made all too clear than Tenchi doesMarry Them All, but also doesn't hold back in showing/narrating him consumating with his harem.
Since Kajishima doesn't actually own the series (his employer does), this puts him in the somewhat unusual situation of essentially writing fanfics of a series that he created. A situation that, presuming the continuation of the series, allows him to definitively canonize more and more of his self-published stories by linking events in the anime.
How Dare You Die on Me!: Manga-only antagonist Yume's response to one of her genetically engineered villains sacrificing himself to save her? Angrily declaring that she hadn't given him permission to die, then breaking down in tears.
Human Aliens: Most of the cast even Tenchi as it turns out, except in Tenchi In Tokyo.
Humongous Mecha: Ryo-Ohki in Tenchi in Tokyo and the Galaxy Police powered armour in Tenchi Universe.
The original Japanese titles in Tenchi in Tokyo take on the form of haiku.
Image Song: Most of the major characters have at least one.
Implied Love Interest: Ryoko in the Tenchi Universe continuity. The series ends with Ryoko showing up at Tenchi's house after supposedly dying, and vowing to him that she's going to win his heart fair and square. In the second movie in that continuity, Ayeka basically concedes defeat to Ryoko and allows her to be the one to rescue Tenchi from Haruna's alternate dimension. The film then ends with a shot of Tenchi and Ryoko enjoying a quiet moment together as a wind shakes the trees, mirroring a scene involving Tenchi's parents from the film Tenchi Muyo in Love. Although it's ambiguous in other continuities which girl Tenchi likes the most, the Tenchi Universe continuity drops some pretty big hints that he will end up with Ryoko.
Incest Is Relative: Oh boy...where to begin? The original OVA series alone has Ayeka, who is engaged to marry her elder half-brother Yosho. She later tracked him to Earth, found out that he had aged physically to a point where she no longer considered him attractive, then fell in love with Tenchi...who happens to be the grandson of Yosho (or Katsuhito, as he knew him), making Ayeka (and her little sister Sasami, who is also interested) his great-aunts. Ryoko is technically Washu's daughter, as she was created by fusing an egg-cell from Washu with an amorphous entity called "Mass"; Washu herself is actually a goddess and a sister of Tsunami, which technically makes her Sasami's sister and thus makes both Ayeka and Sasami Ryoko's aunts. Word of God is that Tenchi's father is Katsuhito's descendant by an earlier marriage, and this earlier marriage was with his cousin and both her mother and his mother are from Earth descendants of Masaki Jurai, and also that Mihoshi is Washu's descendant by her grandfather, the result of a marriage that Washu was in before she created Ryoko. The third OAV series and Tenchi Muyo GXP only complicate the web of relationships even further.
Insistent Terminology: "No! I'm not gonna help you unless you call me Little Washu!" (Replace "Little Washu" with "Washu-chan" in the Japanese version.)
Misaki practically demands that her daughters Ayeka and Sasami call her Oka-san ("Mommy") in a high-pitched voice withTender Tears, though this applies more to Ayeka. Failure to do so invokes a Death Glare.
Kabuki Sounds: Tenchi Universe would use them for the title card, and for the eyecatches.
Karaoke Box: Happens in Tenchi Universe and Tenchi in Tokyo
Large Ham: Kagato. And he plays a pipe organ like only a super villain can, too.
Laser Blade: Many, most notably the Tenchi sword in the OVA continuity.
Lethal Chef: Ryoko. Her first attempt at cooking in the OVA ends up foaming up an odd pink froth that dissolves the stove. Judging by the ingredients, she was trying to make vegetable soup. It gets toned down considerably in the manga (though she still does things like fry fish by hurling energy bolts at them), which also created the character of Asahi, who meets this criteria with her belief that each helping of dinner should be seasoned with four or five tubes of wasabi, something that makes her cooking inedible to anyone other than her and her boyfriend.
Maligned Mixed Marriage: Mixed marriages are looked down upon by Jurai in the OVA continuity. Its the main reason why Yosho left Jurai because he couldn't stand the prejudice. When Ryoko attacked Jurai, he saw it as an opportunity to leave and never return despite his promise to Ayeka that he'd return and marry her.
Mood Dissonance: During her introduction, Mihoshi's scanner discovers "the infamous criminal" Ryo-Ohki in the immediate vicinity, and she seriously lists the atrocities committed by the ship (and Ryoko), including blowing up a few hundred planets. She then realizes that Ryo-Ohki is the cabbit sitting on Sasami's head. An incomprehending Ryo-Ohki happily eats her gun.
The Movie: 1996's Tenchi Muyo! in Love and 1999's Tenchi Forever!, both of which were set in the Tenchi Universe canon, and 1997's Tenchi Muyo! The Daughter of Darkness, set in its own continuity but based mostly on the OVAs.
Daughter of Darkness is actually set in the continuity of a series of novels that spun off from the first OVA series. Though those novels (unlike the prequel novels by Kajishima) are fairly obscure even in Japan.
My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Although all of the girls want Tenchi (even Sasami likes him), Washu makes the most blunt advances on him in the second OVA when she assumes a more adult form at the end of an episode and states she wants him to get her pregnant.
And eventually succeeds, being the first of his wives to bear a child, if Kajishima's LNs and doujinshis are to be trusted.
Naginatas Are Feminine: When Tenchi or his grandfather uses the weapon Tenchi, it's used as a sword with a Laser Blade. When his mother Achika uses it in the first movie, its handle extends to naginata-like lengths.
Noodle Incident: In OVA Episode 3, Tenchi and Ayeka talk in a remote work shed during a rainstorm. Nothing terribly affectionate is seen happening, but in Episode 4, Ryoko (who read Ryo-Ohki's memory) claims Ayeka was "rather aggressive" with him. While it could be a joke, Ayeka's flustered reaction suggests it might have credence...
No Periods, Period: Subtle hints are dropped with this for Sasami in OVA Episodes 8 and 9.
Off Model: While the franchise as a whole tends to have consistently good animation, animators tend to forget whether or not Sasami has freckles. They can be there one episode, gone the next, and it can even change from scene to scene. This is most glaring in the Pretty SammyOV As, where Sasami's freckles appear fairly consistently in episodes one and two, but disappear completely in episode 3, even though they appear in the opening sequence!
Older than They Look: In the OVA, EVERYONE except Tenchi. This includes his father. There, Tenchi's older sister is over 80 years old...
Tenchi too, considering that he is the being that created the Choushin. Sort of.
Mihoshi seems relatively normal, agewise. (One manga scene has her claiming to be 24, take that how you will.)
The fact that Mihoshi's grandfather is several thousand years old (and the immortal Washu is her great-great grandmother) indicates that she'll get to be older than she looks eventually, even if she's not currently.
The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Nagi in Tenchi Universe; she wanted to be the only person to defeat Ryoko, and she would even help Tenchi's crew just to protect Ryoko from her other enemies.
Organic TechnologyShips: The Juraian spacecraft are powered by living, semi-sapient trees. The parent of them all is not only fully sentient, but a goddess - and the alter ego of a main character. Also, Ryo-Ohki, who is the cute mascot character that transforms into a Living Ship.
The Other Darrin: Rebecca Forstadt and Wendee Lee took over the roles of Mihoshi and Kiyone, respectively, in the English dub from Tenchi in Tokyo onwards; Mona Marshall replaced Petrea Burchard in the role of Ryoko from Tenchi GXP onwards.
While Wendee Lee took over the role of Kiyone, the original actress - Sherry Lynn - was still voicing Sasami. This was because doing Kiyone's deeper voice was hurting Lynn's throat; her natural voice is actually very close to Sasami's.
Every major character in the series has been his with this at least once. This is because GXP was not dubbed by the series original dubbers, but Funimation, who used an all new cast. Then, for Sasami: Magical Girls Club, the few characters carried over from other works got newer voices again.
Overprotective Dad: Played comically in the manga, when Azusa threatens to kill a boy who flipped up Sasami's skirt. Washu later implants Azusa's angry face in the boy's mind, which triggers whenever he tries to do it again. It's an effective deterrent.
Product Placement: Pioneer camcorders are prominently featured. And are generally very detailed pieces of electronic hardware while onscreen.
Ramming Always Works: In the early episodes of the original OVA and Universe... between Ayeka and Ryoko both times, naturally.
In the OVA, Ryoko uses Ryo-Ohki to ram Ayeka's Ryu-Oh, sending both of them plummeting to Earth in order to either kill her or remove her as a serious threat. In Universe, Ayeka snaps (with maniacal laughter) during a ship duel and rams Ryo-Ohki out of the sky. Both ships in both situations end up out of commission for a long while.
This also serves to strand the both of them on Earth.
Removing the Rival: Being a harem anime, this happens quite frequently in both the original and its various spin-offs. Ryoko and Ayeka in particular often try to use all manner of underhanded tricks to dispose of one another and get Tenchi to themselves.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Jurainote Or at least, the Masaki and Kamiki houses; the Tatsuki and Amaki houses don't seem to be doing anything productive and in fact nobody from the Tatsuki house even shows up. and Kuramitsu clans. Seto, for example, is actually much more effective in a fight than the whole fleet of Federation warships. And let's not start on Tenchi...
Sealed Evil in a Can: Ryoko, who (In the original series) was sealed in the Masaki family shrine; she turned into a 'good guy' pretty quickly, although isn't always 'good'. Also in the original series, Washu was trapped within a crystal in the Soja's reverse-dimension; that could be a subversion of the evil part, depending on how far Washu is willing to take the Mad Scientist thing.
In Universe Washu was the one sealed in the shrine. In this continuity she is also far less responsible and far more destructive than in the original OVA - she apparently got sealed for inventing world-destroying superweapons just because she could.
She does that kind of stuff in the OVA too. See 'Washu's Pore'. She's just nice enough not to USE it.
Yugi in Tenchi in Tokyo is eventually to have been this before Tenchi moved away from the other girls. Also, she ends the series sealed again, in the shrine, of her own volition as part of a finale Heel-Face Turn.
Sigil Spam: In the OVAs, Doctor Clay imprints his personal mark on virtually everything he owns. Washu knows this, and is able to first identify his clone of Ryoko thanks to his symbol on her ass, then locate the bridge of his spaceship because it is right behind said mark on the hull.
Token Yuri Girls: Parodied in one episode. After being cast into a High School AU, Magical Girl Sasami shoots the bickering Ayeka and Ryoko with a "beam of friendship". The sequence just gets more suggestive as two begin gazing into each other's eyes, proclaiming their mutual love and admiration, and almost kissing before being cut off by the end of the episode.
The Unfair Sex: Notably averted for all the universes. In fact, more often than not, the protagonist is put off by any of the girls' overt advances. Additionally, (most) of the other girls realize this and tend blame each other more than him, and Tenchi is usually portrayed as being in the right.
Unwanted Harem: The definitive example, and arguably the first — Atarudid want his harem, he just always failed relating with all the girls in it, due to his Jerk Ass personality, while Tenchi always was pretty ambivalent about the whole deal.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Ryoko and Ayeka seemingly make a favorite sport out of arguing and with each other about Tenchi and everything else, and in all continuities their hatred for each other started out as legitimate for some reason or another. Kiyone thinks of Mihoshi as nothing more than the incompetent idiot holding her career back, and no matter how many times she says this or how much she criticizes or chastises Mihoshi over some blunder, Mihoshi just agrees or apologizes and goes right back to merrily assuming their friendship. Despite all this, in both cases we see occasional moments of genuine friendship and whenever things get sticks and the time calls for it, they and everyone else in the Unwanted Harem usually tend to put themselves on the line for each other and fight together without question.
We Are as Mayflies: All of the alien characters live much longer than humans. The ultimate example is Washu, who looks like she's 12 and actually has been around since before the dawn of time, making her older than dirt.
But for the most part it's more about artificial life-extension than natural biology. One of Emperor Azusa's wives is a native Earthling who was born in the Feudal Japan. Also, the Juraians are biologically human; Earth is apparently a semi-forgotten colony of the Jurai Empire, kept mostly isolated for reasons unexplained.
Juraian royalty also have the Royal Trees, which further extend a person's life when bonded to them.
Wendee Lee: Kiyone Makibi (Tenchi in Tokyo, Tenchi Muyo! Daughter of Darkness, Tenchi Forever!), Little Girl Kagato (OVA 3), Kiyone Masaki (OVA 3), Kiriko Masaki, Vega.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Katsuhito's cat appears only in the first episode of the OVA. It was never seen again through the rest of that series. It is implied that Ryoko, upon her release, killed it. Also, Sasami's pet weasel-thing wasn't seen again after Sasami and Ayeki's introduction, it may have died in the crash.
Chibi, the cat, was a stray that Tenchi had found and Ryoko was using her powers to keep it alive. She later reabsorbed the power she gave it and used it as the base for the reborn Ryo-ohki. It made a cameo in Tenchi Universe.
The weasel can't be dead...the main part of the ship where it was, was in a pocket dimension. It's probably fine, and goofing off in Washu's lab. Offscreen at least.
White Mask of Doom: Kain from Tenchi Muyo in Love! has one of these; it's also an empathic mask. It becomes more creepy as he becomes more desperate in the final battle.
Washu sticks a spa in a pocket dimension for the women to use.
In the OAV continuity Ryoko used her molecular manipulation, and Washuu's designs from her and Ryo-Ohki's mental database, to create a giant luxury onsen, including waterfalls, hovering in the open above the house. While it's not explicitly women-only (as Tenchi himself has used it on occasion), most of the time only the girls are there. Somehow, the outside world never notices.