After plowing through just about everything else Tenchi Muyo, the time has finally come to watch the films in the series. Following the Tenchi Universe TV series, director Hiroshi Negishi gets things started with 1996’s Tenchi Muyo In Love. The second film, The Daughter of Darkness, was released as part of a double feature, along with Slayers Great in 1997. Finally, Negishi returns to wrap things up in the series with Tenchi Muyo in Love 2: Distant Memories in 1999. With these films being over a decade old, I wondered how well they would hold up, as well as me being recently introduced to the series through Funimation’s reissues. The end result was a solid time spent with the Tenchi crew, with a few moments of greatness, a few of mediocrity and a pure stoke of genius that made the Tenchi Muyo: Movie Collection boxed set part of an enjoyable afternoon.
Tenchi Muyo in Love gets the set started in the right direction, with it showcasing many of the elements that make the TV and OVA’s work. A super criminal, named Kain, that was imprisoned by the Jurai Emperor and the Galaxy space police breaks free from his sub-space prison cell and travels back in time to destroy the Jurai bloodline. Once Tenchi and the rest of the group see that he and other remnants of his lineage are being erased, Washu decides to send them back in time to find out what the problem is in order to restore order. They come to realize that Kain is trying to destroy Tenchi’s mother, before she can establish a relationship with Nobuyuki, Tenchi’s father.
While the film certainly feels like a knock off of Back to the Future, there’s some really fantastic elements within this first film. A major one being that Tenchi is both able to have more of a link with his mother and a larger and intricate focus on her as well. We see her for one episode in the original TVseries, but this certainly helped solidify her within the Tenchi universe. The animation is very exceptional, especially during the opening breakout scene and the final battle with the Kain. There are some comedic bits, but this film certainly feels like a grand adventure, much like the latter half of the TV series and something that the entire OVA handled extremely well.
The Daughter of Darkness is certainly the weakest film of the entire set and feels more like a lost OVA episode, than a solid movie. The film follows a young demon named Yuzuha, that had befriended Prince Yosho when he was a very young boy. After being chased away by Royal guards and remaining in slumber for several hundred years, Yuzuha has shown up on Earth to try and steal Tenchi for herself . While the film manages to maintain the level of hijinks the series is used to, The Daughter of Darkness doesn’t seem to bring much else to the table. The animation is still pretty solid from AIC, but it never attains the same heights as Tenchi Muyo in Love. Granted, I’m sure that watching this film with the intended Slayers film would have much more of an impact, but thrown into this set, it can’t hold its own when sitting right next to the two In Love films.
The final entry, shows Negishi returning into the directors chair, in order to helm a true sequel and one of the most interesting entries in the entirety of Tenchi Muyo. Tenchi Muyo in Love 2: Distant Memories opens with a beautiful image of a red camellia flower blooming rapidly, that sets the tone immediately into a different direction. While we get the some of the goofy interactions between Ayeka and Ryoko in the first few minutes, the film slowly turns into a melodrama, that gives insight to the nature of the relationships that Ryoko and Ayeka have with Tenchi. The film really feels like a true sequel, from the focus of the first film being Tenchi’s mother, this film showed us a bit of history on Yosho’s love interests and why he came to Earth in the first place. I don’t know how long time fans feel about this entry, but I rather like and respect the direction that Negishi and Screenwriter Masaharu Ayano chose. The depth that Tenchi Muyo in Love 2 gives to its characters and the situations make them feel all the more real and manages to break the mold that plague most popular anime.
This boxed set presents a complete variety of what Tenchi Muyo has to offer as an anime. There’s some great sci-fi, solid action, silly romance and an overall depth that cannot be ignored. While I’ve spent a better portion of my anime years staying far away from shows like this, I can certainly say that Tenchi has its merits and high points and this boxed set is one of them. While its not a great place to start, if you’ve made the plunge into the TV series or OVA and you’ve already enjoyed it, then you just might like the Tenchi Muyo Movie Collection. Recommended!