January 27, 2013

[A Need for Tenchi] Tenchi Muyo OVA, episode 4 "Mihoshi Falls to the Land of Stars"

(this article was previously published at Second Time Around)


The massive ship of feared uber villain Kagato passes through space. It's surrounded by Galaxy Police cruisers, but casually blasts them all away. The Marshall of the GP contacts the Commander of a station in the solar system in which Kagato is heading (ours), informing him of the incident and ordering a search for the villain. The Commander's Lieutenant informs him the nearest officer is Mihoshi, which isn't taken well as the Commander's desk is littered with expensive damage reports from Mihoshi's previous cases. Nonetheless, the Lieutenant suggests sending Mihoshi after Kagato might be an opportune way to get rid of her.

On her cruiser, the ditzy Mihoshi is watching cartoons when the emergency call comes in. Quite a mess is made in her attempt to fumble into her uniform and answer the call. It's the Lieutenant, ordering her to watch for traces of Kagato in the area, which she interprets as orders to directly capture the criminal on her own. She ends the call before he can correct her, and Mihoshi has her ship's computer call up the file on Kagato, a 5,000 year old sorcerer known for having stolen or destroyed thousands of historical relics and ruins.

It's winter on Earth, and Tenchi's father, Nobuyuki, brings his son and their female alien guests to the local hotsprings for a weekend getaway. While he's unpacking the bags, Tenchi's stuck having to deal with Ryoko, who's jealous he's not giving her any attention and suspects something happened between Ayeka and he during the last episode's events.

While Tenchi's just trying to relax in the Boys spring, Nobuyuki is trying to initiate his son in the grand tradition of peeping on the Girls spring. Nobuyuki is quickly rendered unconscious by a brash Ryoko, who makes her way over to Tenchi's side and doesn't get why it's a big deal that she's fully nude. Since he's uncomfortable with her there, she drags him over to the Girls side, and starts trying to ravish him. Sasami and Ayeka, clad in towels, enter, but Ayeka zips away the moment she sees Tenchi. Ryoko starts teasing her, but just as soon as Ayeka warms to the idea of sharing a hot spring with Tenchi, Ryoko's mood flips and she yanks the princess's towel off. Right in front of Tenchi, who keels over with a nosebleed.

Tenchi and Sasami retreat behind a rock as the showdown between Ayeka and Ryoko escalates to taunts, then slaps, then each breaking out their supernatural superpowers in a show of force. Ryoko summons a spirit monster from the surrounding spring... then realizes too late that she's still missing the power gem that would control it, sending it on a berserk rampage as it tears about the inn built around the spring, and even tramples the elderly hostess. Tenchi finally gets the royal sword, but after a struggle to get it to work, isn't able to damage the monster. Then the sky opens up.

The summoning of the monster created an energy pocket that grabbed Mihoshi's ship and yanked her towards Earth. I'm a little confused on what happens here as there's almost a tunnel that opens up, destroying the monster and sending Tenchi and Ryoko into the air, where they grab Mihoshi, who's just floating there. Her ship didn't crash, and I'm not sure what the red ring of death was.

Anyways, Mihoshi comes to with the other ladies of our cast surrounding her. She thinks they're just locals, and is baffled that Ryoko not only knows about the Galaxy Police but was also able to fix the officer's broken computer watch. The watch suddenly gives off a warning that Ryo-Ohki, infamous for past acts of mass devastation, is in the room, and is surprised to discover the ship in the form of the tiny cabbit... who takes a bite out of her gun. Mihoshi passes out. Tenchi finally comes to, just in time for the hostess of the inn to demand an explanation for everything.

That night, Sasami has a dream. She's beneath a royal family tree on Jurai, looking up at the shadow of a massive ship in the sky above. A cloaked, bespectacled figure (Kagato) suddenly attacks her with an energy blade and she calls out for help from Tsunami. Sasami wakes up and steps outside, only to find the shadow of Kagato's massive ship in the night sky. Ryoko is sitting on the roof, also taking in the sight.

Kagato is in the chamber where Ryoko was held for hundreds of years. He beams back to his ship, smiling at the revelation that Yosho, the Jurai princesses, and the latest blood heir (Tenchi) are all gathered in one place. All thanks to Ryoko.

*evil laugh is evil*


Every harem anime has to have a bathhouse episode with which they show off the skin of its female cast. While I've pointed out a few ways in which Tenchi Muyo doesn't follow all of the harem trends of the shows which came in its wake, here, we're pretty much spot-on. Sort of.

I mean, we do indeed have a bathhouse, Tenchi's father trying to pass on the proud tradition of peeping to his son, and Ryoko spending half her screen time buck-ass naked (Ayeka is shed of her towel for a shot, too), but it still manages to not feel exploitative, at least not to the degree of, say, Love Hina (a manga I love, so don't think I'm knocking it). Tenchi has zero interest in his father's peeping, and any glimpse of nudity he sees sends him running from it in embarrassment. Until he gets used to it, because Ryoko's naked for so long that it even stops being an issue that anyone responds to, which I like. I also like how they don't overdo her nudity with forced framing or poses. She acts as she always acts, just sans clothes, though she does take advantage of having a little fun with the reactions her state gets out of people. So while it's fan service, it's not gratuitous fan service, and still feels perfectly in character, especially Sasami's non-exploitative innocence (thank you, thank you, thank you for none of the loli shots of current moe trends) and Ayeka's equal embarrassment to Tenchi's.

And all the exposed skin shenanigans don't last long before the focus of the sequence shifts to the central conflict between Ayeka and Ryoko, where the two keep trading insults until it escalates to the level of a full battle. I love it when Ayeka slaps Ryoko for saying something totally out of line, and Ryoko's response is to slap her twice right back, never once considering if it was justified or not. And then the fight starts and the two display their impressive powers once again, and Ryoko's lack of beads comes into play with the great sequence of the spirit monster going amok. There's a lot of seemingly random stuff being thrown at us in this episode, but most of it does indeed tie into the established narrative as we see the primary dynamics fall into place. Ryoko and Ayeka hate each other, Tenchi is often at the center of the battles, and is also the thing that begrudgingly forces them to work together. Often unwillingly, as Tenchi is still a very passive figure, only once springing into action, and even then ineffectively. He's back to the buffoon mode of the first two episodes, and is totally overshadowed by the the two captivating ladies. Even Sasami comes off as sharper and more effective than he does. Granted, the accurate translation of this series' title is No Need for Tenchi, so that may be by intent.

And because we don't already have enough going on with our lead cast, a good chunk of this story is dedicated to introducing yet another player: Galaxy Police Officer Mihoshi. Who is, of course, a ditzy blonde. It's an old gag, but her introduction is masterfully played as she pretty much destroys her whole room in her desperation to spring to action in the name of justice. They play it out a bit much at times, with her failing to properly understand her orders, being slow on the uptake that her ship is about to crash into Earth, and the whole bit where she thinks Ryoko is a watch maker, but she's still a decent addition to the cast, and I like the bit of her tracking the notorious space pirate Ryo-Ohki, only to find the cute little cabbit snacking on her pistol.

They also break out some impressive design work for the organization of the Galaxy Police, throwing in a variety of species, with well-designed ships and uniforms (I especially like the fluffy bunny tails that turn into reality-warping Rubik's cubes). The main HQ looks a bit sloppily lopsided for such a button-down organization, but it's made up for by great bits like the holo-watch, the dog-headed commander, and the A.I. robot thing on Mihoshi's ship.

This episode is also noteworthy for setting up a few threads. The looming threat of Kagato is first mentioned early in the episode, then slowly comes to center stage as a lead in for the climax we'll be focusing on for the remainder of this initial OVA series, and Sasami's dream starts hinting at the appearance of Tsunami. I don't recall all too well the specifics of both and how they played out, but look forward to seeing them. The upcoming last two episodes are a chunk I never owned on video tape, so I didn't watch them nearly as much as the initial four installments. I have seen them before, but only once and it was about a decade ago, so they aren't as deeply instilled in me as the four I've covered.

Overall, this is a good episode. It's a total tonal shift from the previous one, but still handles itself well. The animation is a little rough at times, but it still looks nice and the action is exciting and fun.

Additional thoughts:
  • Ryoko's two outfits (when she's actually wearing them) are really neat, and hearken back to the strong look she had in the first two episodes. The ridiculously long pointy boots are a bit funny, but I love the belt that suddenly comes to life as though she has a tail.
  • Spock with an eyepatch cameo alert!
  • There's a little gaff in the episode in that Mihoshi's boss (called him Lieutenant in the synopsis, but he's never given any name or title) first seems thrilled with the notion of sending her to her death against Kagato, then suddenly tries to yell her out of it because she's the big boss's, the Marshall's, granddaughter. Make up your mind, dude! Though the familial connection does explain why Mihoshi gets away with being Mihoshi.
  • And, wait, why is Ryo-Ohki the one being flagged as an infamous space pirate instead of Ryoko, when Ryo-Ohki is just her ship? And why are charges still out on Ryo-Ohki when all of Ryoko's passed their statue of limitations in episode two? Also, the watch is programmed to read for something that hasn't been seen for 700 years?
  • And, after everything that happened, the hostess still let them spend the night at her inn?

Dub Notes

The dub is still pretty good, and all my previous comments on the lead cast still stand. The actress who plays Mihoshi is also quite good, capturing the ditzy uncertainty of the character without playing it too over the top. Kagato has a nice taste of menace, and I love the way Tenchi's father draws out the word "Peeeeping".

This is the first time I've noticed that the end theme song has been dubbed into English, too. It's fine. It's not the greatest song to begin with, and this doesn't make it any better or worse.

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