Etsuko KozakuraMasami KikuchiChisa YokoyamaYumi Takada
Tenchi Muyo movie 2: The Daughter of Darkness
Medium: film
Year: 1997
Director: Tetsu Kimura
Writer: Naoko Hasegawa
Actor: Ai Orikasa, Junko Iwao, Masami Kikuchi, Yumi Takada, Chisa Yokoyama, Etsuko Kozakura, You Inoue, Yuko Kobayashi, Yuko Mizutani, Yuri Amano, Masamichi Ota, Takeshi Aono
Keywords: anime, SF, harem, comedy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 58 minutes
Series: << Tenchi Muyo >>
Website category: Anime 1990s
Review date: 6 October 2008
"Daddy." That's a dangerous word, isn't it? Imagine the most explosive use of it in the Tenchi family. Yup, got it in one. When a blue-haired stranger called Mayuka shows up one day claiming to be Tenchi's daughter, everyone takes it exactly as well as you'd expect. Washu starts investigating her background, Ryoko becomes even more of a loose cannon than usual and in the end Tenchi turns out to be in actual danger.
Another good Tenchi film! Can the universe stand the strain? It's short, not quite an hour long, but lots of fun. There's less plot this time, but that's almost a good thing. It allows a stronger focus on the Tenchi family, in particular Ryoko and Sasami. Yay! Good choice. This would be a good starting point for newbies. The first movie gave us Tenchi's mother Achika, but this time the generation gap is in the opposite direction as a girl appears from nowhere and greets Tenchi with a cheery cry of "Papa!" Understandably the gang freaks. Wackiness ensues.
On first viewing, this felt less funny than I'd expected. Ironically though it's also perhaps the funniest of the movies, since none of them seem to have felt they could afford to be like a candyfloss TV episode. They want to have drama, not just mindless silliness. Fair enough. I can understand that. However I'm still glad to see that they squeezed in a few jokes, in particular with everyone's reactions to Mayuka. They're suspicious. Hell, I would be too. That's not just daughterly affection. I've never seen anyone get so steamy with Tenchi, not even in the Ryo-Ohki OVAs. If you're a hound for animated nudity, there's some decent stuff here. Of course poor Tenchi finds it all rather embarrassing, while Ryoko hates the girl on sight and at one point goes as far as attempted murder.
This is arguably where the film shows its roots. This film's Ryoko is probably the most unpredictable and dangerous we've seen to date. She's like a she-bear with her young. Admittedly her attempted murder isn't in cold blood, but with Ryoko it would never be. However that's never going to be much consolation for anyone at ground zero when she loses control.
Crucially this film wasn't based on manga, but on a novel. What's more, you can almost feel it. The character work goes further and deeper than usual, as one would expect from that medium. This is probably as good a point as any to talk about the film's origins. Unlike the first and third Tenchi Muyo movies, this isn't a sequel to Tenchi Universe but instead exists in a continuity bubble all its own. Once upon a time, there was a writer called Naoko Hasegawa. She co-wrote the first Tenchi OVA series and then continued its story in a series of thirteen novels. These are incompatible with everything except those early OVA episodes, but they introduce certain things to the mythology that would be picked up on (e.g. Kiyone) and one of them was a novel that would be adapted by Hasegawa herself into this film. And you thought Doctor Who's continuity was complicated.
That's the background. You can forget it all. Personally I'd have never guessed a word of it if I hadn't read it on the internet and would instead have just assumed it followed on from everything else as usual. Many fans have in fact assumed that it really is part of Tenchi Universe continuity, thanks to Kiyone's presence and a misleadingly translated line in the English version. Not so. It's solidly rooted in OVA continuity, complete with Grandad's tree, Tsunami, the light-hawk sword, etc. It's just that it's following its own little deviant path, largely thanks to the presence of Kiyone, and I'm sure all these continuity horrors wouldn't occur to any normal person. Admittedly she has at least a fictional existence in the Mihoshi special, but the third OVA series goes out of its way to overwrite her.
I suppose they could have written her out of the film. She does almost nothing, so it's not as if she's integral. However if you wanted to make this slot between the sixth and seventh OVA episodes, you'd also have to do something about the ending. I suppose it's not technically irreconcilable, but I think any fan theory to make it work would also undermine it. Personally I prefer the path they chose. The movie ends properly, rather than with a reset button. That's got to be the right decision, surely.
More importantly, I think this movie has considerable merit. I liked its disturbing opening. I like its strong use of the characters. It's fast-moving, if perhaps even a little too much so. I like this ending, but I can't help thinking that it should have been more effective. It hurries a little too much to be truly moving. I'm sure the original novel was more powerful, but maybe it was a mistake to get Hasegawa to adapt her own novel? The screenplay might have benefited from a fresh eye, seeing more clearly what to expand and where to flesh things out. It's good, don't get me wrong, but with another ten minutes it could have been terrific. It's not as if length was a problem. Both of the other two Tenchi movies are 94 minutes long, but this one doesn't even quite reach the hour mark.
Incidentally this is the only Tenchi Muyo to have an onscreen date. It's set in 1997, when the movie was released. Sasami identifies a 1996 Christmas photo album as "last year".
Again the animation reflects the story, this time with cartoonishness since the villain looks like one of Santa's furry elves escaped from Alice's Wonderland. In the end, Ryoko and Tenchi must venture into a fantasy dimension. Admittedly it's the least visually adventurous of the three Tenchi movies, but it's good to look at and faithful to the spirit of the franchise. That's the important thing.
Overall, another strong movie. It has heart, it's a good showcase for the characters and it has a few giggles along the way. What more could I want from 58 minutes?