Aliens, Scientists, and Cops, Oh My! Tenchi Girls Revealed

by Justin Porter,
In the romantic comedy genre, a series is only as strong as its female leads. The success or failure of a series often hinges on the creators' abilities to make fun, attractive, desirable, and memorable female characters. Those series that do get this right often find their characters entering into the collective consciousness of fandom, such as Oh! My Goddess's Belldandy or Chobits's Chii.

Of course, every so often there's that rare series that manages to succeed with all of its female leads—Tenchi Muyo being one of them. It didn't just hit the spot with one of its lovable gals, but all five amazing ladies. From sultry Ryoko, to regal Ayeka, to the witty Washu, adorable Sasami, and naive Mihoshi, the core cast of women in the Tenchi OAVs has become a lasting presence in anime.

Of course, there has to be a reason why these lovely gals so naturally find a spot in everyone's heart. After much research and in-depth consultations with our panel of experts, we believe that we've cracked the case on why they're so popular and what makes them so incredibly appealing. Here's a look at their personalities, what makes them tick, why they act the way they do, and of course, how they feel about our (un?)lucky hero Tenchi.

Ryoko Hakubi
  • Occupation: Space Pirate
  • Age: Over 2,000 (exact number not known)
  • Height: 5'6"
  • Measurements: 31-21-32

Ahh, Ryoko, easily spottable by her wild mane of cyan hair and golden, feline-esque eyes. As the first girl in the series, both chronologically and star power-wise, Ryoko is a good-hearted bad girl, a lot like Urusei Yatsura's Lum, who has often been called her predecessor. While her exact origins are a little confusing (we know that she is Washu's daughter and that she was created by combining the genetic structure of “mass” with Washu's egg cells), it's her introduction into the series that gets our attention. Having being cooped up in a cave for 700 years after ransacking Jurai, Ryoko comes out swinging at our boy hero just to “let out her anger.”

However, what quickly becomes apparent is that Ryoko is no violent criminal. As the series goes on, we find that she is a shameless flirt, a heavy drinker, a bit of a slacker, a little vulgar at times, and incredibly impulsive... but no criminal. Instead, she's a victim of the supervillain Kagato, who had been controlling her as his pawn.

What's well done about Ryoko is her superb dual nature. Out in the open, particularly where her rival Ayeka can see, she's boastful and extroverted, flinging herself at Tenchi with aplomb. But there's a vulnerability to her character as well. As strong and powerful a pirate as she is, her real desire and her real strength is in the boy she'd watched grow up outside her cave. In one of Ryoko's most telling moments, she explains to Ayeka her feelings about watching Tenchi grow up, saying, "I'd always hoped we'd get to play together." With this one little turn of phrase, she explains away her destructive, but ultimately harmless, attack and her rambunctious antics. To her, she's making up for the seventeen years she didn't get to play with him.

It's never questioned that Ryoko adores Tenchi and is very possessive of him. Though she calls him "Darling" at every corner, it's when that bond is threatened that she shows just how deep the connection is. She calls him "the one most precious to me" when she believes him to be dead and announces a suicidal desire for vengeance. If not love - and it's highly doubtful it isn't - Ryoko has an admirable loyalty to Tenchi that roots her to his side...

...that is, when she's not pouncing on top of him.

Ayeka Jurai
  • Occupation: First Princess of the Planet Jurai
  • Age: A bit over 700
  • Height: 5'6"
  • Measurements: Not proper for a Princess to discuss.

Not introduced until the second episode, Ayeka is cast as Ryoko's opposite. Where Ryoko is brash, Ayeka is demure. Where Ryoko is provocative, Ayeka is innocent.......

.... and if you actually believe this typecasting, I also have a bridge to sell you.

In reality, Ayeka has as much of a dual nature as Ryoko, but plays the other side of the coin. She can be (and quite often is) as bold, petty, and juvenile as Ryoko, but is more frequently the sweet, reserved, and shy person we're meant to see. Just as Ryoko is only shy and reserved in private (for instance, when wearing Tenchi's mother's kimono), Ayeka is only brash and bold in private.

The best example of this, oddly enough, is when she's alone with Ryoko in the bathhouse. After Ryoko relates her feelings about Tenchi, Ayeka takes the oppurtunity to mercilessly taunt Ryoko about her age and brag about her own beauty. It's not a shining moment for the princess, but quite crucial to understanding her character.

Ayeka is hardly all snide and snobby though. In fact, as much as she bickers with Ryoko, disapproves of Mihoshi, and bosses Sasami, she proves time and time again that they are quite dear to her. Even more dear to her is Tenchi. In the beginning of the series, her fondness for him seems connected to her longing for her half-brother Yosho. But, as time within the series passes, it becomes clear that she admires him and his simpler lifestyle. With every passing moment on Earth, we see Ayeka become less concerned with royalty. She enjoys being a part of the family, and loves the casual freedom it affords her.

To Ayeka, Tenchi and the girls represents a freedom not allowed to princesses, and as such, she cherishes them for it.

Sasami Jurai
  • Occupation: Second Princess of the Planet Jurai
  • Age: Not quite as far over 700 as Ayeka.
  • Height: 4'0"
  • Measurements: Not of consequence at this point in time.

Sasami is cute. Really cute. You really couldn't imagine how cute she is. I mean, seriously, you can think of the ten cutest things you've ever thought, and that's just peanuts to Sasami.

Jurai's second princess is one of the franchise's most endearing characters. Though the "youngest" of the girls, she proves surprisingly mature and well-equipped to handle the various ups and downs of household life. What's most interesting is Sasami's role in the household. She quickly adopts an almost maternal position: cooking, cleaning, and looking after everyone else's well-being. It's a role that, as a young princess, she'd have little exposure to. However, it's one she performs admirably.

Sasami is also a very friendly and playful girl, and while she's mature for her age, she's still a young girl. Right from the start, she befriends Tenchi (a stranger) and Ryoko (an enemy of her sister's). It's this irrepressible goodness that makes her such a fun and sweet character, and has kept her popular even during times when the show's star had faded.

It's often debated as to whether or not Sasami is actually in love with Tenchi. There's a definite affection between them, but it's always seemed more familial than romantic. Perhaps the answer is this simple: Tenchi has no siblings, and Sasami's siblings are both much older than her, and caught up in political nonsense. As such, neither has ever truly been with siblings, and so there's a certain idyllic feel to their relationship. It's simple, it's cute, and it's perfectly Sasami.

Mihoshi Kuramitsu
  • Occupation: Galaxy Police Detective First Class
  • Age: 23
  • Height: 5'6"
  • Measurements: 33-22-34

Mihoshi is a polarizing character for most Tenchi Muyo fans. Some adore her spirit and demeanor, others abhor her inattentiveness and clumsiness. Some find her a fun and lovable addition to the cast, others regard her as excess or simply an excuse to have a well-racked blonde in the mix.

But, idiosyncracies aside, few would find the series improved without the eternally optimisitic officer. From the moment she "falls from the land of stars" - a fun play on her name, which actually means "beautiful star", it becomes clear that she's just a good natured girl who wants to make those around her happy.

Where Mihoshi makes her presence known is whenever unhappiness is rearing its ugly head. When Ryoko and Ayeka begin to bicker, Mihoshi is there to try and stop the fighting. When Tenchi needs a hand with chores, Mihoshi's there to pick up as much slack as she can. In fact, if anything, she proves to be infinitely capable at household work (perhaps moreso than at police work).

Blonde and bubbly, Mihoshi is the "regular girl" of the Masaki household. With only elven ears (and a pair of fairly pointed canines) to separate her from human, she becomes a fast friend to Tenchi and sets him more at ease. ... Of course one could imagine anyone not punching through staircases, summoning monsters, or commanding vine spewing logs would set him at ease.

As far as Mihoshi's interest in Tenchi, it's definitely clear that she's very fond of him. She states that from the moment she saw him; she felt he was her destiny, and is overwhelmed by emotion (even for Mihoshi) when she believes she has to leave the house permanently. Even though she's not nearly as aggressive as the other girls in the house (though I also know of rabid mongooses less aggressive than Ryoko and Ayeka) there's a sense that she truly loves Tenchi and would do anything for him ... Just no guarantees on how well she'll do it.

Washu Hakubi
  • Occupation: Scientist
  • Age: Indeterminate
  • Height: 4'4"
  • Measurements: vary (see episode 8)

Washu is a scientist, a mother, and an inventor. After those three definites, all bets are really off when discussing the petite red-head. Between maternal trauma and youthful zeal, the self-proclamied greatest genius in the universe is a delightfully madcap character. She's a bit manipulative (as evident by how she manages Zero) and more than a little vain, but is also very wise and sensitive to those around her.

What is most striking about Washu's character is how much she truly relishes her maternal side. Watching the episode "Here Comes Baby" is one long Washu character study, and in it she shines as a surrogate mother to Tenchi's cousin Taro. It's no small wonder then, why she - in her own cheeky way - wants to strengthen the mother/daughter bond between herself and Ryoko.

Another significant (and interesting) bond Washu has is with Mihoshi. Once again, we see a very motherly attitude out of Washu in regards to the blonde detective. She's at once proud of, and exasperated with Mihoshi's actions, just as any tried mother would be. But it's statements like "She's a genius" and "I actually think Mihoshi would handle them all" that really show how fond Washu is of the girl. So even when a little chaos goes off in the lab, Washu truly does appreciate her ersatz daughter.

Though, if you truly want to see her appreciate someone, look no further than Tenchi. She remains highly grateful to him for freeing both her, and her daughter, from Kagato's control, and maintains a high level of respect for him. She admits to being fascinated (and excited) by him, but there's not a particularly large amount of romantic interest from the scientist.

Or perhaps she's just making room for her daughter, as a loving mother would.

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