Full disclosure: I’m solidly in the Team Ayeka camp, but that’s not why I don’t like this movie.
Synopsis: Tenchi Forever (or Tenchi In Love 2)is the third Tenchi movie, and was originally intended to be the conclusion of the franchise, although it obviously continued anyway. As anyone who has spent any time watching Tenchi Muyo knows, the franchise is divided into multiple alternate universe story lines. Forever follows in the Tenchi Universe ( TV series) story line.
Tenchi is kidnapped by a ghost living in a tree near his house <spoiler> who ends up being his grandfather’s long dead girlfriend </spoiler>. Tenchi’s harem of space hotties have to cooperate to find and save their mutual love interest. For the most part, the searching and rescuing is done by Ayeka and Ryoko, who have correctly deduced that Tenchi has moved off to Tokyo again. Oh wait, that was another reality. Ayeka and Ryoko have to put aside their differences and cooperate (even living in the same small apartment). Comedy gold, right? No.
In the meantime, Tenchi is tormented(?) by Haruna, his captor. She cooks for him, takes care of him, treats him like a beloved husband, and generally makes him content in a way that none of the other lunatic alien chicks back home could ever do. <super spoiler>But in the end, everyone’s efforts are in vain because grandfather just uses his sword to cut down the tree, solving the entire problem.</super spoiler>
You should know that this installment of the Tenchi franchise is a complete departure from the successful harem/romantic comedy pattern we have come to expect. It is a drama. It has practically no funny moments, and it certainly has no action to speak of. What it does have is character development.
Let’s break it down:
Animation: 8.5 It looks great! This is drawn in a more realistic style than previous Tenchi installments, probably to match the more dramatic plot. It would be more difficult to take the events seriously if it had been drawn like the rest of the franchise. This is probably the best animation of any Tenchi offering, and I liked it. The characters look detailed, scenery is rich, and the use of color is fantastic.
Sound: 7.0 The sound effects were very well done, especially when the parallel worlds separated. The voice acting was probably the best in the Tenchi franchise, because the actors finally got to show off their talents and deliver some serious performances. The music was beautiful. So why only a 7? Because the music was only beautiful. All of it was beautiful. None of it was dramatic. Some scenes called for a more attention grabbing, dramatic, energetic music, and we didn’t get it. It’s a drama. We need some dramatic music.
Story: 4.0 The story was simplistic, linear, and filled with unnecessary exposition (especially on the part of Washu). Not only that, but it really felt like the goal was to make a point of the departure from the previous pattern of action and comedy, to the point where expected action and comedy was left out, even when it made complete sense to have it. Not only that, but there was almost no tension in the story, mostly because the villain was MAKING TENCHI HAPPY! True, she kidnapped him, changed his memories, and as we find out, he will die when the false world eventually disappears, but still, the danger was vague and not immediate. Can you imagine how much tension would have been lost if the Death Star didn’t destroy planets, but rather ruined the planet’s environment over the course of twenty years? Yeah, you know you need to stop that thing, but maybe not today. And twice, Ayeka and Ryoko break into the false world to confront Haruna and save Tenchi. Do they fight? Does Ryoko break out her energy sword? No. The closest we get to conflict is some raised voices. Action was expected, perhaps even necessary, and it was not provided. Can you imagine a Star Wars movie with no light saber fights? That’s pretty much what they’re trying to sell you here. And how can Ayeka and Ryoko live in a small apartment together and not have at least some mild hijinks happen? It’s Tenchi Muyo not Madoka Magica. Give us at least an occasional chuckle.
Characters: 8.0 We do get to see a lot of character development. We get to see the lengths Ryoko and Ayeka will go to for Tenchi. They share some real moments together and Ayeka uncharacteristically allows Ryoko to be the hero. We get to see more of Yosho’s (grandfather’s) back story. We get to examine what Tenchi really wants in life. Still, I can’t give it higher than an 8 because the main characters are not behaving in a manner consistent with their established personalities.
Overall: 6.9 This is a movie in a comedy franchise which has no comedy. It has drama, but that drama is fairly slowly paced and the danger is not immediate or serious enough to drive any real tension. If this had actually been the finale of the franchise, it would have pissed me off. Fortunately, it’s just a hiccup in an otherwise successful series. Tenchi Forever’s real claim to fame is, unfortunately, not that it was good, but that it was different.