What You Need To Know
In the United States, it also was one of several very popular anime series to be released here in the mid-90s, and helped jump-start Pioneer's media division (later Geneon USA)
The StoryWhile the series has several differing continuities, the basics of the series are the same.
Tenchi Masaki is an ordinary high school student in rural Japan, who with his father, a widower, and works and trains at his grandfather's shrine. One day Tenchi encounters Ryoko, a beautiful woman and an alien space pirate, who falls in love with him. Ryoko also has a living space ship, Ryo-ohki, which can also take the form of a cabbit, a cuddly animal that is half cat, half rabbit. Shortly after-wards, Ayeka along with her sister, Sasami, members of the royal family of Jurai come to Earth. There they also encounter Tenchi, and Ayeka falls in love with him as well, and begins fighting with Ryoko.
In the course Tenchi soon discovers that he too is part of the royal family of the house of Jurai, through his grandfather. He also meets Washu, a super-genius, and something of a mad scientist, along with Mihoshi (and Kiyone) of the Galaxy Police.
On ContinuitiesLike Patlabor, the Tenchi Muyo franchise has multiple continuities. The continuities have different lineups, and the characters themselves change somewhat between continuities, so before we talk about characters, we need to talk about the series and what continuities they fall into.
|Series and Films||Kajishima Continuity||Hasegawa Continuity||Tenchi TV||Tenchi In Tokyo|
|Tenchi Muyo: Ryo-Ohki||Tenchi Muyo: Ryo-Ohki||First 6 Episodes of Tenchi Muyo: Ryo-Ohki||Tenchi TV||Tenchi in Tokyo|
|Tenchi TV||Tenchi Muyo: GXP||Tenchi Muyo: Daughter of Darkness||Tenchi Muyo In Love|
|Tenchi in Tokyo||Tenchi Muyo In Love II|
|Tenchi Muyo GXP|
|Tenchi Muyo in Love|
|Tenchi Muyo: Daughter of Darkness|
|Tenchi Muyo In Love II|
There is also a manga, released in the US as " No Need for Tenchi", which is similar to the Kajishima continuity, with a few differences, and isn't included in any other continuities outside of its own. However, for all intents and purposes, the characters in the manga are identical to the versions of the characters in the Kajishima Continuity. It is unclear what continuity the All-New Tenchi Muyo manga falls into - but it likely falls into Kajishima or Hasegawa continuity.
CharactersThroughout the continuities, the main characters stay the same, though their personalities and powers vary somewhat.
Tenchi Masaki: Tenchi Masaki spent most of his life thinking he was a, more or less, ordinary kid. His mother died when he was very young, so he was raised by his father and grandfather, and spent a lot of time around his grandfather's shrine. He would later discover that his grandfather was actually an alien, a member of the royal family of the Empire of Jurai, and because of this Tenchi, and his mother before him, had inherited great power. The first of the other characters he meets (outside of his own family) is always Ryoko.
In OVA Continuity (Kajishima and Hasegawa) : Tenchi's great power is in the form of the “Light Hawk Wings”, a combined energy shield and beam weapon, which can normally only be created by a ship. In this version Tenchi cares for all the girls as friends.
In TV Continuity : Tenchi's Great Power is the Jurai Power, a special ability held by all in the Jurai Royal Family. In this version Tenchi has legitimate affection for both Ryoko and Ayeka.
In Tenchi In Tokyo : Tenchi is a full human in this series, with no alien heritage. Instead, Tenchi is the latest in a long line of defenders of the planet, who can use special jewels to create a magic sword. Additionally, in this version Tenchi rejects all of the girls, in favor of an ordinary human girl in Tokyo, and he asks them all to leave.
Ryoko & Ryo-Ohki: An alien space pirate, who travels around the galaxy with Ryo-Ohki, a living ship that can also transform into a cabbit, a cute and cuddly animal that's half rabbit, and half cat, and has a carrot fixation.
In OVA Continuity : Ryoko came to Earth after being pursued by Yosho in retaliation on an attack against the Jurai capital, 700 years before the series began. Yosho forced Ryoko to crash, defeated Ryoko, and then imprisoned her. At the start of the series she was accidentally released by Tenchi. In addition to being able to turn into a ship in this continuity, Ryo-Ohki can also turn into a girl around Sasami's age with the features of a Cabbit. She also possesses the ability to summon and command demons.
In TV Continuity : Tenchi meets Ryoko after she crash lands on Earth after fighting Mihoshi and Kiyone. Ryoko no longer can command demons. From a personality standpoint, she's less violent then in the OVAs, but her affection for Tenchi is deeper.
In Tenchi in Tokyo : Tenchi meets Ryoko after she crash lands on Earth with the Jurai Light Stone, along with Washu, while being pursued by the rest of the main characters. Ryoko's personality is more violent then in prior versions of the character, but she's also more deeply in love with Tenchi.
In OVA Continuity : Ayeka & Sasami came to Earth while looking for Yosho, her fiancee (and Tenchi's grandfather). She encounters Tenchi after discovering the energy released by Ryoko being freed. In this continuity, Sasami has the power of Tsunami, the Tree-Ship that is the parent of all the Jurai Tree-Ships, and is the most powerful of them all.
In TV Continuity : Ayeka and Sasami came to Earth after receiving a distress call from Mihoshi and Kiyone. Ayeka possesses the Jurai Power and is accompanied by two bodyguards, Azaka and Kamidake. Sasami, on the other hand, does not and by all appearances is an ordinary 13 year old.
In Tenchi in Tokyo : Ayeka and Sasami came to Earth attempting to recover the Jurai Light Stone. Rather than possessing the Jurai Power, Ayeka simply has a force field, and Azaka and Kamidake do the fighting for her. Additionally, Sasami is more aggressive and prone to get angry and later sulk if she doesn't get her way. Ayeka, on the other hand, is more accepting of Tenchi's “new girlfriend”.Pretty Sammy: Sasami has her own separate continuity where she is a Magical Girl, called Magical Girl Pretty Sammy. Most of the other Tenchi regulars appear here with radically different personalities. However, this should not be considered a main part of the Tenchi Continuity. The Pretty Sammy character did make a brief appearance in Tenchi TV, during the "Adventures in Time & Space" episodes, which essentially consisted of a series of alternate universe stories.
Mihoshi & Kiyone: Mihoshi and Kiyone are members of the Galaxy Police, currently teamed together. Their personalities, and presence in the series depending on the continuity. However, Mihoshi is universally clumsy in all continuities. Similarly, Kiyone is universally incredibly competent in all continuities in which she appears.
In Kajishima Continuity : Kiyone does not appear. Mihoshi is competent, though she is also clumsy, and disorganized in her life and her work, though she is also absurdly lucky. She originally arrived on Earth while perusing the space pirate Kagato (one of the series enemies), and crashed landed due to a vortex created by one of Ryoko's demons. Following that storyline, she's assigned to monitor Earth, and during this time she falls in love with Tenchi. She also lives with Tenchi and the rest of the girls in this continuity.
In Hasegawa Continuity: Kiyone appears in this continuity. As with Kajishima Continuity, Mihoshi is competent, though clumsy and disorganized. Mihoshi also falls in love with Tenchi, though Kiyone does not. Also, as in Kajishima Continuity, Mihoshi and Kiyone live in the Masaki household. Kiyone's role in the continuity is minimal.
In TV Continuity : Mihoshi crash lands on Earth while perusing Ryoko, and Kiyone comes to rescue her after receiving her distress call, finding her living in the Masaki household. Following Kiyone's arrival on earth, both Kiyone and Mihoshi are assigned to this sector, and Kiyone and Mihoshi move out of the Masaki household into a low rent apartment, and have to support themselves doing part-time jobs. In this continuity, Mihoshi's clumsiness is due to her being incompetent and ditzy, while Kiyone has to cover for Mihoshi's mistakes and correct her (sometimes physically), making them a Manzai duo.
In Tenchi in Tokyo : The characters come to Earth while pursuing Ryoko and Washu. In this continuity, both Mihoshi and Kiyone have crushes on Tenchi. Mihoshi regains some of her luck from the OVA series, while Kiyone becomes something of a manic depressive.
Washu: Washu is a mad scientist, and one of the most intelligent minds in the galaxy. She is also older then Ryoko, and most other characters in the setting, though she takes on a child-like appearance. She also has the ability to create hyper-dimensional spaces, which she typically uses to build a lab in the closet under Tenchi's stairs.
In OVA Continuity : Washu is one of the oldest characters in the setting, being over 20,000 years old. Ryoko is her daughter, having been created in a test tube from Washu's own cells. Washu also is revealed to have had a biological daughter as well, the child was taken away from her by the father's family. Washu was imprisoned by Kagato, and is released on accident by Mihoshi. After this she moves to the Masaki house, to perform scientific research on Tenchi, while also falling in love with him.
In TV Continuity : Washu is the one imprisoned at the Masaki shrine, instead of Ryoko. She is released after a particularly violent fight between Ryoko and Ayeka. She isn't nearly as old or as powerful as she is in other series, though she is older then most of the other characters. Washu's personality is much more egotistical, and she has two small puppets that follow her around and compliment her in her moments of triumph.
In Tenchi in Tokyo : Washu is Ryoko's co-conspirator in the theft of the Jurai light stone. In this continuity Washu is still a mad scientist, though she's more mellow than in the other continuities.
Which Series Should I Watch or Read?The Tenchi OVAs and Tenchi Universe are the most highly regarded series due to their quality. They're also easily available through Rightstuf and similar sites. They're also the most commonly watched series in the franchise, as they've been around the longest, and were broadcast in re-runs the longest on Cartoon Network's Toonami block. The manga are also still in print, though they assume the reader has some familiarity with the OVA series.
Alexander Case (Count_Zero) writes about science fiction for Bureau42.com when he isn't writing stuff here, and he can also be found on Twitter (@Count_ZeroOR)