Tenchi Forever! Anime Review
天地無用! in LOVE 2 遥かなる想い
Tenchi Muyou! in Love 2 - Haruka Naru Omoi
This End Up! in Love 2 - Distant Memories
US Release By
Sci-Fi Romantic Drama
One fine spring day, after fleeing yet another of Ryoko and Ayeka's little tiffs, Tenchi vanishes. After six months of searching, the crew has gone their separate ways to help track him down; Sasami is exerting her influence in the Juraian Empire, Washu is overseeing the whole thing from the Science Academy, Kiyone and Mihoshi are playing lackey to Washu, and Ayeka and Ryoko have set aside their rivalry to search far and wide for their lost love. Washu has narrowed it down to one city--Tokyo--and Ryoko and Ayeka have been scraping by on a part time job while continuing the search. When they finally do spot Tenchi, something is very wrong; not only has he aged several years, he seems to be living the quiet life with a beautiful woman named Haruna. Worse yet, he doesn't even seem to remember them. Was Tenchi kidnapped, or did he come here to flee the conflict at home, and what will become of him in the hands of this mysterious new love?
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The apparent sequel to the first theatrical Tenchi Muyo film, Tenchi Forever was billed as the final installment of the series, and though it actually isn't, it fills that role in the way I think it should: A conclusion without really ending the saga. The movie is also drastically more serious and has a much more subdued mood than any previous Tenchi Muyo incarnation, so I'm somewhat torn; it's an interesting take on the characters and a good movie, but it seems to have sacrificed some of the Tenchi Muyo spirit to make it work. To give the movie its due, the more subdued mood allows for some very interesting character development. Something of a detached love story, we get to see Tenchi in a very different light, but the film is as much about is the relationship between Ryoko and Ayeka. The new level of character depth is carried very well by the classic Japanese voice cast, and backed by refined, somewhat more realistic character designs and beautiful background art, as well as a mellow but sufficiently theatrical score that backs the story without being overpowering.
In all, Tenchi Forever is a very different, character-development-focused take on the series. As a "final installment" in the beloved saga, I was disappointed that it loses something of the series' spirit, but pleased by the way it handles everything else. Some Tenchi fans will hate it, many will love it, but it's a quality production, and I'd say it's interesting and creative enough to be worth at least a shot by any fan. This is not, however, the place to start if you're not already indoctrinated.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Tenchi Forever was billed as the final installment in the Tenchi Muyo series, and though it actually isn't, it fills that role in the way I think it should: A conclusion that isn't really an ending.
Of course, the whole idea of "concluding" Tenchi Muyo is futile. The first TV series had one conclusion, the OAVs are wide open, and Tenchi in Tokyo is off in left field doing its own thing. Tenchi Forever is essentially a sequel to the first movie, and as such seems to fit into the movie continuity (or lack thereof--no Mayuka for those who might have been hoping). As with the other two movies, it requires at least a modicum of familiarity with the characters to really be appreciated.
Subtitled "Tenchi Muyo in Love 2," that's a much more appropriate title than it was for the first movie--Tenchi is indeed in love, and most of the movie is a sort of detached love story. It's a very different, more mature take on the characters, rather like the New Kimagure Orange Road movie in a number of ways. This will no doubt appeal to some of the more romantically- or dramatically-inclined fans, but the drastic change of pace goes against the high adventure and higher spirits of every other installment in the series, and I felt like it sacrificed a part of the Tenchi Muyo spirit to pull it off.
It's not a bad movie, but my dilemma is that Tenchi Muyo is defined by its slightly romantic, generally funny, and always upbeat feel, and this... well, isn't. There are humorous moments (it would be hard to have Mihoshi onscreen without a joke happening somehow), but even the few gags it has seem out of place. There's no banter, nothing anywhere near a physical fight, and it's not even fair to call the tragic antagonist a villain. It's also more sexually mature than the casual nudity, nosebleeds, and dirty jokes of every previous incarnation--a couple of tastefully handled but surprisingly explicit scenes put this film into an entirely different category.
To give Tenchi Forever its due, the more subdued mood allows for some very interesting character development. Although we get to see Tenchi himself in a very different light, the film is more about is the relationship between Ryoko and Ayeka. Struck by tragedy--the loss of Tenchi--they are forced to grow up, and a subtle, surprisingly touching friendship emerges. The changes are believable; they have a plausible reason and a lot of elapsed time. We also get to see some of the pair making their living in the real world, like a much more serious version of the "Money" episode of Tenchi in Tokyo. To me at least, seeing Ryoko and Ayeka working as waitresses (and not immediately blowing the place up) was worth the price of admission. We also get to see a bit more of Tenchi's grandfather, and one explanation (of many, depending on the series) about how he ended up on Earth.
If all this sounds more like a low-key character drama than the Tenchi madness you've grown to love, you're right. That's why I'm torn between saying Tenchi Forever is an interesting, more serious take on the characters and a travesty. Either way, it is certainly a new, deeper look at the characters.
Looking at the story on its own merits, the movie wisely takes its time getting going. It could have easily been cut down to about an hour, but spending an extra half hour on slow set-up eases you into the Tenchi-deprived mood that his absence has left behind and properly prepares you for the substantial part.
The plot borders on surreal. It definitely keeps you guessing early on, and although things are pretty well explained by the end, it leaves enough unspoken to keep a hint of mystery in the air (that, at least, is the same as always). A nice side effect of this being the "final" installment in the series is the sense that everything just might not work out at the end--that twinge of nervousness (I won't tell you if it's justified) is good.
Visually speaking, Tenchi Forever is less of a departure, though a more realistic look contributes to the serious mood. The character designs are something like refined, more sculpted takes on the OAV versions, while the physiques are more realistically proportioned but rather bulky in the feet. The two new characters--an older Tenchi and Haruna--are quite nice, and match each other well, though they look a tad out of synch with the rest of the characters. The character animation is on par with the rest of the series--meaning quite good--though the framerate isn't particularly fluid. Not that it's bad, but since everything else looks high budget, I was expecting slightly more expensive-looking animation.
What the animation it lacks in fluidity it makes up for in motion, however--there are absolutely no unnecessarily static characters, particularly impressive considering that the reserved pace could have easily allowed that. The art is quite nice, with the bright palette typical of the Tenchi series. The backgrounds are gorgeous; there are, as always, a variety of fanciful locations and settings on distant worlds, and the artistry is second-to-none. From the wildest alien building, to a simple forest, to the mundane streets of a Tokyo suburb, the backgrounds are beautifully rendered in exquisite detail. Even such dry locations as a tree surrounded by a guardrail are painted with painstaking care.
The background music, composed by Tsuneyoshi Saito, is mellow and very pretty. Even so, it has a theatrical force and volume (in terms of filling space, not being loud) that mesh very well with the story without being overpowering. The score also knows when to shut up during tense moments toward the end, letting the dialogue and silent images stand alone.
Last on the list is the voice acting. The casts in both languages are the same as the rest of the series, with the only addition being Haruna. I can't speak for the dub, but Kikuko Inoue's low-key performance--one of her best--gives Haruna a near-perfect blend of quiet happiness and, later, hidden pain. Ryoko and Ayeka are both handled very well, particularly considering that their characters aren't usually known for subtle emotion. I have always admired Ai Orikasa's ability to imbue Ryoko with an air of real emotion hiding beneath her overblown personality, and when that's brought a little closer to the surface, the result comes across well. Ayeka is a bit more of a surprise, since her character is more straightforward, but when the time comes for some real emotion Yumi Takeda handles it effectively. The supporting cast, in their small roles, does what they're required to do, with the only other two noteworthy opportunities being Washu (Yuuko Kobayashi), whose mixed-up personality is on display in many different flavors, and Tenchi's grandfather, who has a lot more to do than in previous stories, which Takeshi Aono deals with effectively.
In all, Tenchi Forever is a very different take on the series: A serious film focused solely on character development. As a "final installment" in the beloved saga, I was disappointed that it loses something of the series' spirit, but pleased by the way it handles everything else. Some Tenchi fans will hate it, many will love it, but it's a quality production, and I'd say it's interesting and creative enough to be worth at least a shot for any fan. This is not, however, the place to start if you're not already indoctrinated.
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As far as Tenchi Muyo goes, Tenchi Forever is much more serious than any previous incarnation, but ostensibly follows (and has the most in common with) the first movie. It also shares a bit of mood with the most serious parts of Tenchi in Tokyo. It has much more in common with the New Kimagure Orange Road movie--wild story, emotional depth, a different, more mature take on light characters, and a lot of focus on the relationship of the two female leads.
Notes and Trivia
Tenchi Forever is the third Tenchi Muyo theatrical movie. The only thing it can be said to be a direct sequel to is the first movie, hence its subtitle, "Tenchi Muyo in Love 2." Those two movies essentially have their own continuity; they don't align with either the original TV series or the OAVs, but borrow elements from both. The second movie, Daughter of Darkness, doesn't fit with the other two; it was based on a novel following the OAV continuity, although it doesn't actually quite fit there, either.
There is also a manga adaptation of this movie, written by the director, Hiroshi Negishi, that tells the story from a more Sasami-centric perspective. It's not available in English as of this writing.
The subtitle, "Haruka Naru Omoi," is most obviously translated as "Distant Memories." However, the word "omoi" (想い) can have a broad range of meanings, including "feelings," "sentiment," even "love," so the title could also be interpreted as something more along the lines of "Distant Love." An earlier version of this review claimed it might have been a play on Haruna's name; this was a flat-out mistake.
US DVD Review
A beautiful DVD from Pioneer; it includes attractive and slightly animated menus providing access to crystal-clear Japanese and English Dolby 5.1 THX soundtracks (yes, both of them are 5-channel), English subtitles and English captioning, a thorough scene index (with chapter stops picked by the director himself), and several production sketches. The video transfer is beautiful--one of the best I've seen--and the subtitles are done in a very nice-looking off-white. As with most Pioneer discs, it's intended for all of the Americas, being region 1 and 4. It has since been re-released in a Signature Series edition with no notable changes.
Less crude jokes, but more explicitly mature themes than the rest of the series; Pioneer appropriately calls it 16-up.
Violence: 1 - Not much physical violence.
Nudity: 3 - Not detailed at all, but a moderate amount of nudity.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - A couple of surprisingly explicit scenes.
Language: 1 - Not much.
Formerly available in North America from Geneon on a "Signature Series" hybrid DVD, which was a re-release of the previous Pioneer-label DVD. Had originally also been available on subtitled or dubbed VHS.