Reviews: Tenchi Muyo Ryo Ohki

One of the grandaddies of harem anime still does it the best

Ah, harem anime. Could there be a more divisive subject in anime fandom, than about its relative merits? Most harem anime nowadays are derivatives of eroge, and often just string together dull, overplayed archetypes with fanservice for the benefit of the people who played the game. Apart from these type of harem shows, there are 3 others whose names are synonymous with harem anime: Urusei Yatsura, Ah, My Goddess! and Tenchi Muyo!

Tenchi Muyo!'s first OVA came out in 1992. Despite its vintage, it still holds up today because of the strength of its characters. Today they would be relatively recognizable archetypes—Ayeka the tsundere, Sasami the adorable one, Mihoshi the clumsy dunce, Washuu the nutty scientist. And yet, there's more to them than that, but not in the typical hackneyed ways (dead parents, etc.) The characters aren't defined by these archetypes in the way that they would often be in this type of show, and remain relatively grounded. The romance plot is also not the only attraction; it's an adventure story in addition to that. It's pretty good, and we get a very compelling villain in Kagato.

The music is mostly synth, with some classical Japanese influence mixed in. The mechanical designs, though, are really standout. It's hard to forget a wooden ship with a bridge that looks part-sunroom part-temple part-Kabuki stage.

Now, what about the 3rd series? Honestly, I think even though they technically were in the TV continuity, Forever was a better coda for the series. The 3rd OVA is certainly watchable and entertaining but, as with many OV As with staff changes between episodes, it feels disjointed compared to the previous two. This fits if you expect the party to never break up, but it just doesn't feel like an "ending." A lot of new characters and plot threads are introduced that could easily fill a 4th series.

Actually, why am I reviewing this? If you came of age in the 90s or early 2000s, you probably saw this, maybe even on TV. I guess if you're a modern fan who's looking for a fun, more nuanced harem show and are OK with pre-digipaint animation, give this a whirl.