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Tenchi Muyô! Ryô Ôki (1992)
Starts off strong, but quickly loses steam
When the Tenchi series first came out on Cartoon Network, I loved it. I was just about ten at the time, and it was my favorite anime series for a long time. But time passes and eventually after a few years I lost interest in the series. Years later, I decided to go back and watch the OAV. To my pleasure, I learned that they had actually created more of the OAV. I had always wondered why they never finished it. Unfortunately, if I had known what I know now, I would have let my fond memories of Tenchi rest in peace without revisiting the series.
As my summary says, the series starts off very strong. There's the introduction of the girls, which is great. Then there's the arc with Kagato, which I enjoyed a lot. I'm such a Ryoko fan, so of course I liked hearing about her back story. I also really liked the relationship between her and Washu. But other than Ryoko, I enjoyed all the interaction between the girls and Tenchi in those first few episodes.
Unfortunately, after Kagato is defeated, we enter the Clay arc. This is when things start to go a bit downhill. The Clay arc really doesn't bring anything new to the table, I'm sorry to say. Ryoko is barely home for a few days before she gets kidnapped yet again, and we get Zero, the "girly" version of Ryoko. Why that was necessary, I have no idea, I thought Ryoko was fine the way she was. Admittedly, there are some things that redeem this storyline. The scenes between Washu and Dr. Clay are really funny and I enjoyed them a lot. We also get introduced to the goddess Tokimi, which is interesting. While I didn't love this part of the series quite as much as the first part, I still enjoyed watching it. There's a cute interlude after Clay is defeated where Ayeka's parents come to visit, and of course chaos occurs.
But this is where the real problems in the series begin, and it starts to fall apart. Like I said earlier, there was an extremely long hiatus before the third part of the OAV was made. In that time, Pioneer has gone under and FUNimation has taken over. If you're expecting the third part of the OAV to be anything like the old Tenchi, to wrap things up, and to explain the storyline, you're severely mistaken. This is going to be the longest part of the review, because this is the part I had the most problems with.
The first issue is that it feels to me like the creators only ever watched one episode of Tenchi: the episode where Ayeka's parents visit. Why? Primarily because of the way they characterize Ryoko in the new OAV. In the original series, though Ryoko could be quite funny at some points, she also had deeper aspects to her personality and she always played quite a large role. In the third OAV, forget about that. Her only use is purely for comedy relief. In fact, it follows a formula: Ryoko makes a timely sarcastic remark, and she either gets slapped, her face pulled, or tied up. Hurray for slapstick. There's a tiny redeeming moment for her towards the end (when she fights by Tenchi's side) but if you blink you'll miss it. I can hardly even say anything about poor Ayeka. She barely has any role whatsoever in the third portion of the OAV. She mostly just hangs out with the other characters. In fact, she never even has a scene alone or with Tenchi. Why not? I have no idea.
The third OAV's major issue and weakness is all the new characters it introduced in a short amount of time. We have Noike, Mihoshi's brother and his girlfriend, Tenchi's sister, Tenchi's Dad's girlfriend, Tenchi's grandma (and Yosho's wife), Kagato's female half, Seto, some new girl with a new cabbit and Z. I'm sure I'm forgetting some people here, but that's just to give you an estimate of how many new characters were introduced in the span of seven episodes. Noike was the worst of the new additions. She's the definition of a Mary Sue. She's introduced as a love interest for Tenchi, she can cook even better than Sasami, she's a registered nurse, she can drive a car despite being from Jurai, she can break up a fight between Ryoko and Ayeka and make them obey her with just a glance, and she's running the household by the first night. I can only wonder why a character like this was necessary for the series and I spent most of the time fast forwarding through scenes she was in. As for the rest of the characters, like Mihoshi's brother and Z, the third OAV spends a ton of time giving them back stories, which I also don't understand. Personally, I don't know these characters, I don't care about these characters, so why waste time with them? I'll tell you why: publicity for GXP, a series of Tenchi created by FUNimation where the new characters are focused on more heavily (in fact, the original Tenchi cast isn't even in GXP, if I've heard correctly.) It's very disappointing, fans waited such a long time for these new episodes. I feel cheated. There was finally a new addition and I barely got to spend any time watching the characters I had grown to love and care about over the course of two seasons. It's just so frustrating. I prefer Tenchi Universe, to be honest. At least that series wasn't confused about it's own identity.