At a Glance: Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki
Intro & Summary:
Tenchi is an average high school male, bummed out that he has to spend his summer helping his grandfather run a remote Shinto shrine up in the mountains. Boring, right?
Nope! The old family shrine is said to contain a sealed-away demon. Turns out that's true, but the "demon" is a hot lady space pirate, Ryoko, from a distant planet called Jurai. What's more, when she is loosed by Tenchi, it alerts the Jurai princess Ayeka, and soon things get a lot weirder, and a lot more interesting, at Tenchi's place. Over time, various Jurai girls move in with and attempt to seduce Tenchi, falling for him for various personal reasons. Ayeka likes him because she was set to marry her older brother who died, and Tenchi, through his grandfather, is a descendant of that brother. Yep, it's an anime! Ryoko, as it turns out, watched Tenchi visit the mountain where she was imprisoned in a spirit form from childhood.
The show whips back and forth between a lewd, joking tone and a heartwarming, feelings-focused tone. It set many of the tropes you see in current harem shows.
Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki
Manga, "No Need for Tenchi!" by Hitoshi Okuda
1992 - 2017 (sequel stories continued until 2017)
Numerous movies, sequels, spin-offs, etc.
Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki is fun. Sure, it's fantasy wish-fulfillment for adolescent boys with raging hormones. You know what else it is? A surprisingly cool and interesting space opera drama surrounding the concerns of aliens and their relationship to a strange new world, Earth. One thing I think this show does well is character development and characterization. In many harem shows, the girls are just types - they don't do anything you wouldn't expect from them based on their character type. In Tenchi Muyo! the girls feel real and more fleshed out as people. They're not just bodies, and they're not just assemblages of character clichés. They feel like agents with real human emotions, opinions, and flaws.
One issue I have, is I kind of see the main conflict as between Ryoko and Ayeka. Other girls exist, but they kind of seem like they only show up in the story to further complicate or add layers to this primary conflict. I heard that Tenchi Muyo! has a "marry them all" ending, and I'm kind of curious why not just marrying Ryoko and Ayeka, with whom he clearly has the highest levels of emotional connection and mutual affection, isn't enough as a potential ending. But whatever. Marry them all? Seriously? Even the little girl? Bleh... But this is, oddities aside, a timeless anime classic.