Brief Guide to the Tenchi Universe

by Theron Martin, Jul 14th 2005
The Tenchi Muyo! franchise originally began partly as a parody of earlier series, but the 1992-93 release of the original OAV series instead became one of the seminal events in anime production in the '90s. It is often credited with/accused of spawning the trend of “harem” series still popular to this day in anime. It has also proved to be one of the most popular and enduring anime franchises on both sides of the Pacific, due in part to its heavy exposure on Cartoon Network in the late '90s through early 2000s.

The core continuum of the Tenchi Universe consists of three series:

Tenchi Muyo! (aka Tenchi Muyo! Ryo Ohki OVA 1 and 2) – Though originally released in Japan as two separate OVA series and a pair of specials, it is currently being marketed in North America as a single 13-episode series with an attached special (known as the Mihoshi Special). The new OVA series is a continuation of this material.

Tenchi Universe – The first 26-episode TV series. The first and third movies (Tenchi Muyo! In Love and Tenchi Forever, aka Tenchi Muyo! In Love 2) fall in line with this series. The TV series is not a continuation of the original OAVs, but rather an alternate story involving the same characters and premise.

Tenchi in Tokyo – The second 26-episode TV series, it takes place a year or two later in the timeline than the previous series.

The continuum has become convoluted over the years because each series represent a different incarnation of the same characters and basic story themes rather than a single contiguous story. That one of the three movies (Tenchi Muyo: Daughter of Darkness, aka Tenchi The Movie 2) seems to combine elements of both the OVA series and the first TV series further complicates matters. Though most of the cast, and their personalities, remain consistent between each series, back story and the exact nature of some of the characters can vary quite a bit. Keeping details straight can be confusing even for a veteran fan, so let's take a look at some key people and story elements.

What's it all about?

All core Tenchi material focuses on seemingly ordinary teenager Tenchi Masaki, a practicing student of kendo who lives with his architect father Noboyuki and Shinto priest grandfather Katsuhito. Through various odd circumstances (which vary from series to series), Tenchi becomes surrounded by a bevy of young beauties, most of whom are aliens and many of whom take a distinct romantic interest in the young hero. At some point in each series it also becomes clear that Tenchi is more than just ordinary; he is actually, unbeknownst to him at first, a Prince of an interstellar power called the Jurai Empire. Thus only half-human himself, this means that he has access to the potent power that is the Jurai royal family's birthright. He is living in obscurity on Earth because his grandfather, a Jurai Prince in his own day, went into self-imposed exile in Japan many years before and married a local girl with whom he had a daughter, who became Tenchi's mother.

Jurai
The Jurai come from a planet of the same name, which is the heart and capital of the interstellar Jurai Empire, one of the most powerful members of the Galactic Union. Among spacefaring powers, the Jurai are peculiar in that they channel power through sentient trees. Bonding with such a tree grants Jurai rulers incredibly long life spans. Trees are also at the heart of their spaceships. Those with royal blood possess a potent energy manipulation power which can be used for offense or defense. Most commonly this power is manifested as energy blades; in the original OVA series, these energy blades are referred to as light hawk wings.

Keys
These are special devices used by Jurain royal family members to channel the energy of their bonded trees. They can take any form, but the one used by Yosho and Tenchi, which is a master key, looks like the hilt of a sword and can be used to channel one's power to generate a sword blade. Though these keys appear throughout the core material, they are only mentioned by name in the OVA series.

Galaxy Police
The Galaxy Police is a massive, heavily bureaucratic interstellar police force charged with protecting and policing the spaceways of the Galactic Union.

For a quick look at all the different characters that populate the franchise, hop on over to the
Character Guide.

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