Pretty much sums up mine & Tenchi's initial thoughts on this new iteration of the classic Harem, Sci-Fi, Comedy...
Ai Tenchi Muyo! I could not tell where it actually fit into the Tenchi timeline; neither could I tell whether it was one story containing a flashback, or two completely separate stories, until near the very end of the series. Either-way this Takahashi, Okayama PV anime was enjoyable enough to not drop right away... to some extent.
The mangled storyline did not help me enjoy the series, since what I could tell is that this all has something to do with
"time-slips", "dimensional disruptions" and other sci-fi mumbo-jumbo they happened to make up. However all you'll know from the first couple episodes is that it's all just a roundabout way to get Tenchi, into his own girl school harem, as the sole male teacher. There's very little explanation as to what Tenchi seems to be up to and why he's been sent there, early into the series. As for the most part we just follow the usual high school high-jinks, with pantsu, and the nonsensical conflict between the school's student council & science club. Yet the confusing aspect of Ai Tenchi Muyo is that every now and again it will random cut to another story, where Tenchi has been sent back in time and seems to be looking for two people, lost in space & time. Knowing exactly how these two stories intertwine will take a lot of your own time & patience.
Now this all could have been interesting, if the writers knew how to structure the damn story. Instead it will leave you feeling baffled until things eventually start making sense, but by then you'd probably have given up on this series, which turns out to be nothing more but a promotion for the city of Takahashi, Okayama in order to promote tourism for the city.
Whether it achieved its goal or not, may never be known to us Western viewers and neither do we care, because all we care about is the story, characters & animation. Well pretty much the entirety of the new cast are rather uninteresting, except maybe Momo & Beni but little was done to fully flesh out those two. Even the old cast that fans know and love were underutilized. The animation is okay for what it is, but it's easily surpassed by the original 22 year old Tenchi OVA.
Honestly after watching Ai Tenchi Muyo, all I wanted to do was re-watch some old Tenchi Muyo: Ryo-Ohki to remind myself of why I got into this franchise. Because all this series does, is to tell its fans that the franchise has run its course and it is about time to abandon ship. In the end it felt like an insult to fans, as nothing about it harkened back to the Tenchi Muyo of old, nor did it bring anything interesting to the table like another spin-off series (Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari). Plus it felt like an insult to the general viewer, by having a re-cap episode every 5th episode, as if the viewers forgot what happen during the previous 4 episodes that week. Being a series with a bunch of 4 min long episodes, I wasn't expecting much, but I was expecting more than mediocrity.
Ai Tenchi Muyo! is yet another spin-off in this franchise. Though, I admit it is the least annoying one made by this director, Hiroshi Negishi, but that's from having such low expectations to begin with.
I did find some positive things about it. The artwork is decent. I did come to like some new characters such as Yuki and Rui. They were amusing. I liked some episodes and my favorite part was the election of a new president for the school. Also, I didn't think the old characters were too bastardized except for Tenchi himself, who is too weak here and comes
off like a modern-day generic male harem lead, one who gets repeatedly punched by the girls, something that never happened before in any previous Tenchi Muyo series.
Sadly, the story has many problems that make it subpar. I didn't care for and about most of the rest of the new characters, including Beni who was hyped as the main girl along with Momo, but it seemed most of the other girls had more screentime than her.
The big problem is that the structure of the story is a mess. During the first half of the series, it jumps around to different time periods, without explanation, and then in the latter half when the writers try to connect all those random scenes, they fail to make it coherent. Another problem is that it had too much filler, but now I think about this, I realize I enjoyed the filler way more than the main story.
This isn't the worst series I've seen, including within the Tenchi Franchise, and the result is just okay. But for an anniversary series, it's a joke.
Ai Tenchi Muyo is another Tenchi Alternate Universe (AU) that is a product of veteran Tenchi AU director Hiroshi Negishi. Mr. Negishi directed 1995's Tenchi Universe and it's two movie sequels, Tenchi Muyo in Love and Tenchi Forever. AiTM may be part of the TU-verse, some things like the design of Tenchi-ken (the sword) and other such details point that way but it may be intended as stand-alone.
We're basically thrown into a situation where this Tenchi becomes a student teacher, not that a minute of this anime is spent in the classroom, and encounters a group of new girls and we slog through
that story and have some time jumps to see what's up and what's happening.
The art is just okay, but I'm not enthralled by the character redesigns although it's not as bad as Sasami: Magical Girls Club from 2007. Especially not for Ayeka or Sasami. And the new characters look generic. The is some really bad animation in this but overall the quality is acceptable for 3-1/2 minute episodes, surprisingly good sometimes. Likewise, the music didn't distract me one way or another.
But the story left a lot to be desired. It's hard to get attached to new characters in a series that feel they'll be disposed of by the end. I ended up really liking Momo and Hachiko. Oddly, despite art showing her as a new main character along with Momo, Beni actually feels hardly there, even when on screen compared to the other new girls. She's really flat and the anime hints at more in her personality but never really delivers.
That happens a lot. Things I took as hints for further development never got developed. Plot devices left dangling. And the characters: Hachiko developed certain feelings in week 2 and 3, which took time to show, and then got dropped as a human character to be dealt with and afterwards only stayed around as a body that had convenient abilities to be exploited or as a gag. Some new girls only get little more than a single episode to be explored. Some more.
The show wasted a lot of time in many places on what felt like nonsense, the last example being a over a week of episodes on a student election that simply didn't matter in the end. There is a lot of fanservice and Tenchi getting abused for laughs and Sasami having an, eh, female admirer, all used well past the point when it's not really funny anymore.
The last 2 weeks of the show started with promising action, and felt like it's finally where it should have been much earlier and then it dropped the ball again.
Throughout, things happen but we don't know why. The entire overarching premise is never explained. And Negishi falls back on his time and space rifts, an overused device he used in the TU series and both movies to fix it up all but without a convincing explanation.
At 180 minutes, because of the filler, it could probably be cut down in half, to a okay movie hurt dragged down by a untidy conclusion by a talented editor. As it is...
I have a feeling that it will do better in the west than in Japan, just because the Tenchi Muyo nostalgia runs deeper. Tenchi completionists will want to watch. That's why I watched.
But new fans? Idk. Maybe they will like the show for itself outside of considerations about the Tenchi Muyo series, but there are many way better ones out there. The puzzling story here just doesn't justify a viewing.
Towards the end, Momo felt a lot like Sakuya/Yugi from Tenchi in Tokyo in the role she was to play. And the whole thing felt like a reenactment of the 30 minute Mihoshi Special done poorly considering Washu and the GXP.
Incomplete. That would be my one word review. Too many missing pieces. It's not like a mystery, where the viewer is challenged to puzzle everything together. Just not that type of story. The pieces were just never made to begin with in a rush to shove this out the door.
The story is, in it of itself. not to bad but the execution is sloppy. The habit of jumping around between plot points at the beginning of the story was annoying. Normally it is acceptable to have a flashback to see the events that started the plot, but Ai Tenchi Muyuo overuses it. This is more a directing fault than writing, and I'm sure that if I had watched the episodes out of order so that they were in chronological order I would have probably given this section a better score. The beginning of the series is also a
little slow to start, lacking major conflicts, and several elements that made the original Tenchi Muyuo so entertaining, although some of said elements (sci-fi themes, in-universe mythology continuity) do show up in the last dozen episodes that do make the show feel like a true Tenchi Muyuo plot with a finale that was rather enjoyable.
The art is not bad by any means. However, it lacks a certain something that made the original Tenchi series truly shine. If you are fan of the previous series you will probably find it a little more cartoonish. The redesigns of the classic Tenchi Characters (Tenchi, Ryoko, Ayeka, etc.) really did not bother me that much, but die hard fans are probably not going to care for them.
Good sounds and voice over work, no weird errors and audio sinks up pretty well with the movements of characters but nothing really that make it stand out. Not a lot to say, good or bad here.
Sadly the Characters were the biggest disappointment for me. Tenchi is more of a clown in this series than his earlier series counterparts. Previous Tenchis did have their foolish moments but always seemed to role with the punches and when push came to shove would put their foot down if things became serious, they were more believable and approached things to how a person would. This Tenchi is more of a punching bad and doormat who falls into the stereotypical accidental pervert jokes you see in many modern harem stories but they just do not seem to lands.
Classic Characters like Ryoko and Ayeka are mitigated to background roles which feel like they were just added into the show to pander fans of the old show with no real interest in taking full advantage the characterization built for them over the course of several series.
New Characters are numerous and each has a unique personalities, but the problem is there are to many new characters with no real focus on any of them for long, making them seem like 1 dimensional with no real development.
Sadly the problems with the beginning of the story and characters really kept me from getting to invested into the series. The comedy seems to fail hitting any joke that are laugh worthy and there is no romance what so ever. It was not until the last episodes were more traditional Tenchi Muyuo plot points were used did I start enjoying things.
Overall Rating: 5/10
With scores of 5, 7, 7, 5, and 4. The series rounds out to a 5 for me. The problems with the way the story is told (not the story itself) and the misuse of characters were the biggest flaws for me. If you are into the Tenchi franchise this is one who can probably skip over and not feel to bad about it.
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