What would Ryoko and Ayeka do without Tenchi? "Fall apart," I hear you shout. In a sense that's true, but in another way we're about to see that it makes them stronger. After yet another fight over nothing, Tenchi runs off into the mountains and doesn't return. Six months later, he's still gone.
Despite its original Japanese title, this is indeed the third Tenchi Muyo film. It's just the second one to be a direct sequel to Tenchi Universe
continuity. Both of them were 94 minutes long, which I still find a little odd. It's also the weakest of the movies, which is entirely because it stinks of someone trying to make "A Proper Movie". If you're a Tenchi Muyo fan, prepare to abandon pretty much everything you might find appealing about the franchise. This film is a dreary, depressing plod that thinks Real Films are all about characters being miserable at length instead of anything so plebian as a story. It has its points of interest, but basically it bored me.
Knowing that this was the finale for Tenchi Universe
, for a while I dared to hope that this would actually dare to resolve the show's romantic tensions. That might actually have made the film worthwhile. We begin with Ryoko and Ayeka pestering Tenchi to choose between them, even though actually doing so would pretty much take an axe to the roots of the Tenchi Muyo franchise. Would they dare, I wondered. It's the last film. Would they actually make Tenchi choose between Ayeka and Ryoko?
Well, yes and no. The film cheats. Tenchi does indeed settle down... but with a complete stranger, having been kidnapped and brainwashed. Ryoko and Ayeka eventually track Tenchi down after abandoning their old lives and dedicating themselves full-time to looking for him. It takes them six months even to get a sniff, during which time they're reduced to doing part-time work as waitresses. It's tough for them. I liked this fresh look at the Ayeka-Ryoko relationship, which contains some genuine emotion. In the end the film hints at an answer to the franchise's central question, at least in this branch of the continuity. I suppose that was always the best we could hope to get. It's Ryoko, by the way. It's rather sweet. After all, she was always the first. All the others, even Ayeka, came after.
However for most of the film, Tenchi is doing something unprecedented. He's growing up, in the arms of another girl called Haruna. He has sex! Presumably that means he's not gay after all, then. I don't particularly like this film, but I will give it credit for stepping out of the usual genre. Tenchi's no longer the straight man to a harem of comedy characters in comedy sitcom land. He has an apartment and a girlfriend. He's left school and started art college. In short, he's becoming an adult. This film is deliberately slow, focusing on mundane domesticity and the little things. Haruna takes a spare umbrella to wait for Tenchi in the rain.
What's more, the art reflects this. As with the other two movies, a different visual style represents a different world. This time the magic ingredient is realism! The Tenchi crew become less cartoonish over the course of the film as they abandon their usual hijinks and travel into a more grown-up world. Sometimes it's almost disconcerting, but it's nicely done.
All this makes for a film that's certainly different. The villain isn't evil. Her story's tragic too. Unfortunately all these good intentions don't add up to anything particularly interesting. The film has laudable ambition and undoubtedly has its merits, but it's an "unreal reality" story that stretches a half-hour plot out to ninety minutes. Too much emotion, not enough motion. Everyone keeps doing the same thing over and over again without ever getting anywhere. I wouldn't even be surprised if the director had meant that to be a theme. Tenchi's grandfather in particular could have solved everyone's problems sooner if he'd just pulled his head out of his arse. Hmm. Well, maybe that's not entirely fair. Washu had to track down the alternate reality before Katsuhito killed Haruna's tree, or else Tenchi would have been permanently lost.
Oh, and all seriousness is shattered whenever Mihoshi speaks. I love what Yuko Mizutani has done with the character over the years, but it must be admitted that she's created a persona who barely even qualifies as sentient, let alone intelligent.
As with the first movie, there are strong links with Tenchi Universe
continuity. We meet the revived Azaka and Kamidake, for instance. If you viewed each movie as the equivalent of four extra episodes, that would raise the running time of this branch of the continuity to 34 episodes' worth. That makes it the longest if we ignore Tenchi Muyo GXP
, which I think we can.
There's quite a lot to say about this film, but that's unfortunately because it's more interesting to discuss than to watch. It's the weakest Tenchi movie, taking the franchise somewhere that frankly doesn't quite work. It could have been good, but it gets boring. It's far from worthless, with a tragic villain and nice character studies of Ayeka and Ryoko, but a ruthless editor could have improved it no end by halving the running time. It's too static. It has some good individual scenes, but it's nowhere near as strong as Tenchi in Tokyo
, for starters.