[A Need for Tenchi] Tenchi Muyo OVA, episode 5: “Kagato Attacks”

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Synopsis

Tenchi is out picking a field of carrots, and chasing Ryo-Ohki out of the basket before she can eat them all. Ryo-Ohki suddenly shrieks and runs, which Tenchi writes off as her reaction to the season’s first snowfall.

In an alien manufactured hot spring (!?) on the Masaki property, Ayeka enters to find Ryoko already there. The princess turns to leave, but the pirate talks her into joining her for a drink. As they throw back sake, Ryoko reminisces on her time imprisoned in the shrine, where, in spirit form, she watched Tenchi grows up as he kept finding himself drawn to the spot. All she ever wanted to do was play with him, but now he avoids her like she’s a monster. Which leads Ayeka, who’s quite drunk by this point, to tease her about being an old monster. Mihoshi joins them and throws back a few, and Ryoko and Ayeka roll their eyes as Mihoshi goes on about how she must be destined to be with Tenchi because he rescued her.

Sasami barges in, badgering them for bathing so long and getting wasted. Ryo-Ohki also pounces at Ryoko, trying to give her a warning just as a sphere appears, within which is Kagato. Ryoko tries to slip away, but he causes electricity to rip across her body, wracking her with pain, before he teleports himself and Ryoko away. Tenchi arrives as Mihoshi uses her sensors to confirm Kagato’s identity.

Mihoshi arms herself (and dresses) and uses her computer to lead the others to the Jurai tree at the heart of the Masaki shrine. Kagato is there, with Ryoko, and he invites the Jurai royal family to join them on his ship. Mihoshi tries fighting him off, then Tenchi breaks out the sword, but both are ineffective. Ryoko tries to rescue Tenchi, but Kagato uses her power bead to take control of her mind, causing her to restrain the young hero. Kagato wants the sword, which is a key to great power, but knows it can only be released in the hands of a suitable owner, and he wants to know if Tenchi is such. When Ryo-Ohki causes a distraction, Tenchi breaks free and dives in to attack Kagato, slicing open the sorcerer’s cheek.

Kagato creates his own blade, and batters Tenchi down. Just before Kagato can retrieve the royal sword hilt, it springs across the pond and into the hand of Tenchi’s grandfather, who’s finally revealed to be the aged Yosho. Both Kagato and Ryoko attack, their bolts and energy blades all deflected by Yosho’s impressive skills and mastery of the Jurai sword’s abilities. He eventually frees Ryoko by severing her hand and releasing her power bead, but when Kagato realizes he’s outmatched, he takes Ryoko and retreats to his ship, telling the others he’ll be ready and waiting for them.

Ayeka confronts Yosho, and he reveals he didn’t know she was so deeply attached to him. He never intended to return to Jurai because his half-Earthling status would have created dissension among the populace over those willing to accept him on the throne. So he stayed on Earth and fell in love, fully accepting that his lack of exposure to the Tree of Life of Jurai would cause him to age and one day die. But now there’s Tenchi, who he tries to nudge Ayeka towards as a potential suitor.

Tenchi vows to rescue Ryoko, and when he retrieves the royal sword hilt, it flares, declare him its new master. Mihoshi and Sasami pledge to go with him. Ayeka is reluctant because of her wealth of baggage with the space pirate, but eventually relents. When they question how they’ll get there, Ryo-Okhi flares into her ship form, even absorbing the central dome of Ayeka’s sunken ship.

Ryoko comes to, encased in an hour glass cell of some sort in the main chamber of Kagato’s ship. He sees the heroes approaching and laughs, dismissing Ryoko’s claims of humanity and independence by threatening to turn her into a stone. After all, he’s the one who created her and Ryo-Ohki in the first place. She rages at him.

Kagato fires a volley of shots at Ryo-Ohki, and everyone tries their hardest to evade, but none of them have a clue how to operate the ship. Ayeka barks a bunch of orders that all prove ineffective. Mihoshi tries in vain to interpret the controls. She then just resorts to getting herself and the ship drunk, causing the craft to waver around and impressively manage to miss most hits.

Tenchi decides to go down and interface with the portion from Ayeka’s ship, and she guides him into releasing the Light-Hawk wings, an energy shield that deflects the blows and also has an offensive function, but one that leaves the ship vulnerable. The two ships unleash their big blast, and Kagato’s proves triumphant as it rips through the defenses and destroys the spire of Ryo-Ohki containing Ayeka’s ship.

Everyone but the laughing Kagato is stunned. Ayeka sinks into desperation as she frantically scans the wreckage for some sign of Tenchi. Ryoko flies into a rage, breaking free from Kagato’s ship and teleporting throughout the debris field. She searches and searches…

But all she finds is Tenchi’s blood-stained headband.

After shedding her tears, she turns to Kagato’s ship and vows to make him pay.

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Review

As I said in the last piece, I’d only seen this episode once before, a little over a decade back when Pioneer first released the OVA collection on dvd (the DVD set I still own and am currently watching, but which includes only the first 13 episode as the final stretch of 14-20 hadn’t yet been made). Watching this episode again was a lot like seeing it for the first time, except for one bit that rang so many bells in my memory as I suddenly recalled how long the moment had stuck with me way back then. It’s when Ayeka is looking out at the blasted wreckage of Ryo-Ohki, and she just starts saying Tenchi’s name over and over again, slowly evolving from muted shock to shrieking horror before she flat out screams. And then we cut to Ryoko, also screaming as the sudden flood of emotion allows her to break free, and all she can do is teleport around the wreckage, searching in vain for her friend, an only finds a bloodied headband. It’s a damn powerful moment and really cements just how much the seemingly meaningless hero has come to mean to both women, and I credit the maturity of occasional moments like this for giving weight to the character relationships which separate it from the lighter, jokier air of harems to follow.

We’ve already seen the bond develop between Ayeka and Tenchi during the great episode where they took shelter from the rain. Here, she finally finds the long-lost brother she’s spent the majority of her life saving herself for, only to find out the feeling wasn’t exactly mutual and that he’d moved on, forcing her to now have to do the same. And Tenchi is the only one around who has a sliver of the same bond she found with Yosho, making him an easy and comfortable rebound to slip into. But not just a rebound, as it’s playing off the bond we’ve already seen the two start to forge. As for Ryoko, we finally get a lovely explanation of her attachment to Tenchi through the montage of watching him grow up. Her having a fully aware spirit form while trapped in the shrine is maybe a bit much, but it’s wonderfully executed, as this boy becomes one of the few familiar faces she’s experienced in her 700 years of imprisonment, and I love that he’s fully able to see her as a child, but as he grows, the perception becomes more of a feeling, which explains why he kept finding himself drawn to explore the cave back in Episode 1. It’s a perfect retroactive motivation for him… but it doesn’t explain why Ryoko didn’t know who he was in Episode 1 and chased him around the school with the intent to kill him. The creators are doing their best, but I do still suspect they were making this show up, at least in part, as they went along.

It’s agonizing, but I’m also impressed at how dark they go with Ryoko here. I think it robs her character a bit to suggest much of the bad stuff she did in the past was as a result of Kagato’s control instead of her rebellious personality, but it’s still well executed as we see her completely robbed of her will and hover slack-limbed like a marionette as Kagato turns her on her friends, then seals her away again in his ship. Kagato himself is otherwise a pretty meh presence as a villain. He’s not bad, and I like how his light coloring and bookishly handsome appearance with the beady little reading glasses is a bit of a different look for a baddie, but he’s your typical “I’m bad because I’m bad and so I do bad things to you” space warlock who doesn’t have much personality beyond his badness and is merely an obstacle for our heroes to overcome.

To swing back to Yosho, while I wish we’d gotten a little more of him in earlier episodes to build the twist of his reveal off of, I like that he doesn’t go through a complete personality change. He’s still the wise old coot with a playful, easy-going sense of humor, who can totally kick some ass when he needs to. When he gets his hands on the royal sword and takes on Kagato and Ryoko, we not only see the fabled hero of lore, expertly slicing and shielding himself, but a glimpse of the warrior Tenchi will one day have the potential to be. Shame his voice acting is a bit weak. It’s awkward and a little too high pitched given his long and trim design.

The entire episode is a bit of a mixed bag for me. I mostly like it, but there’s aspects that I like the idea of more than I do the execution. I like how Ryo-Ohki rips into her spaceship form, and that she’s so young that she needs to merge with the remains of Ayeka’s spaceship, but I wish they’d done more to make the design a fusion of the two instead of just having the full-size Ryo-Ohki we’ve already seen who just so happens to have the dome of the other ship embedded in one of her crystal spires. And she’s suddenly even bigger than her earlier form, because that dome was far larger in relation to Ryo-Ohki in Episode 2 than it is here. I like that we finally get an explanation as to what the hell it was we saw when Mihoshi arrived on Earth, that it was a black hole that temporarily opened up, but I still don’t know the reason for it. Was it a way for her craft to stop itself before hitting the atmosphere? Was it a self-destruct to prevent it from crashing into the planet? I absolutely love that we get to see Mihoshi drop the ditziness for a few seconds and go dead serious when she finds herself face-to-face with Kagato, but when she’s trying to figure out the controls to operate Ryo-Ohki, why the hell does she suddenly get herself and the ship drunk, and where did she get the booze?

But the likes absolutely out-weight the dislikes, as I love moments like Ayeka refusing to help save Ryoko, then being instantly torn on her choice. Or the design of the Light-Hawk wings that Tenchi uses to shield the ship. Or how Mihoshi believes Tenchi is her destined love until she’s so deeply moved by seeing him and Ayeka together. It’s a solid episode, and a nice setup for the big (initial) finale.

Additional thoughts:

  • Love the idea that the family has changed all of their farmlands (they have farmlands, too!?) to nothing but carrots so as to keep Ryo-Ohki fed.
  • So wait, the dome where everyone’s bathing in the opening… where did that come from? It’s not a part of Ryo-Okhi. It’s not the central dome of Ayeka’s ship, which is still sunk in the lake when Ryo-Ohki retrieves it. What is this thing and where did it come from?
  • Ryoko grinning as she watches child Tenchi take a piss is both amusing and creepy.
  • When Ayeka turns deep pink upon drinking, is that just a visual gimmick, or an actual ability of her race? Because it only happens when she’s pointing out the quality of her skin, and then we visibly watch her fade to her regular tone. Granted, the same thing happens to drunk Ryo-Ohki, so probably just a visual cue.
  • I love Ryoko’s black and red jumpsuit.
  • Tenchi is back in dependable, budding hero mode.

Dub Notes

Absolutely fantastic work on the dub for this one, with everyone fully owning their characters by this point. When we get to the climax, with both Ayeka and Ryoko freaking out over Tenchi’s apparent death, Darling and Burchard nail it. Haunting scene, regardless of the language it’s available in.

Among the rest of the cast, the Grandfather is a definite improvement over the Japanese version, having a little more weight and aged heroism to his voice, while still capturing the sudden swings into humor. And Michael Scott Ryan (credited as Weston Reese) not only laces his Kagato with a perfect level of malicious menace, but the similarity between his voice and Kiefer Sutherland’s is uncanny.

4 thoughts on “[A Need for Tenchi] Tenchi Muyo OVA, episode 5: “Kagato Attacks”

  1. “So wait, the dome where everyone’s bathing in the opening… where did that come from? It’s not a part of Ryo-Okhi. It’s not the central dome of Ayeka’s ship, which is still sunk in the lake when Ryo-Ohki retrieves it. What is this thing and where did it come from?”

    Every time I watch this episode, that is my very first thought. “Where did it come from!?” There’s an explanation in the Tenchi Universe continuum, but that would not be applicable in the OVAs, no matter how you look at it.

    That scene at the end does tend to linger, especially in contrast to the mostly humorous antics leading up to this episode. Ayeka’s shock-into-horror was done very well. You can hear the growing hysteria in her voice as she searches for him, until it’s obvious she can’t hold it back and screams in horrified grief. I also really liked Ryoko’s reaction to seeing the headband.

    Also, heck yes to Ryoko’s red/black combat outfit. Very striking, and not an inch of exposed skin anywhere except her face. Compare that to far too many more recent series and their ‘space bikinis’. I suspect that if Ryoko had been designed today, she’d have had exposed cleavage and an exposed back down to just above her butt at the very least. I also liked that you’re not certain if the red portions are stylized flames or leaves. It could be argued either way.

    The scenes of Tenchi’s childhood as seen by Ryoko were oddly warming and domestic. Her amusement at watching Tenchi do something he knew he’d get in trouble for didn’t seem particularly creepy to me since he was probably still taking baths with his mother or father at that point. It did make me wonder if they lived there, then moved to the city or they just visited often. As for her “forgetting”, I’ve always thought that she never actually intended to hurt him in that attack. That she was “playing” with him the only way she knew how; that, and she WAS still irritated about being called an “old mummy”. I suspect that had she really wanted to hurt or kill Tenchi that night, she would have. Instead she chased him around the school, blowing things up but not doing any real damage to him. Doesn’t it seem odd how much she telegraphed her attacks? 🙂

    We also finally get to see Grandpa’s skills. I don’t doubt for a second that he could “ended” Ryoko in seconds and then taken out Kagato if he had wanted to.

    As for Ryoko’s past, I’ll just say the term ‘space pirate’ is incredibly misleading and rather inappropriate in my opinion. At least for the Ryoko in the OVAs.

    Kagato as a villain is extremely generic, except for his appearance. He’s all sneery and mocking and superior right up until someone shows up that can kick his butt, then he’s all cowardly and cheap-shottish and runs away.

    I did find it interesting that Ryoko’s sensitivity about her age and appearance is brought up again. It’s pretty clear that Ayeka’s taunting is hitting dead-on.

    Overall, I think this is the first episode that fully displays the underlying dark aspects of the story; aspects that follow-up harem series would often drop.

    • Every time I watch this episode, that is my very first thought. “Where did it come from!?” There’s an explanation in the Tenchi Universe continuum, but that would not be applicable in the OVAs, no matter how you look at it.

      It’s probably something they had an idea for, but just didn’t have the running time to explain until they got to the added length of the TV series. Either that, or it’s just a visual thing they then realized they forgot to come up with a reason for the first time around.

      Also, heck yes to Ryoko’s red/black combat outfit. Very striking, and not an inch of exposed skin anywhere except her face. Compare that to far too many more recent series and their ‘space bikinis’. I suspect that if Ryoko had been designed today, she’d have had exposed cleavage and an exposed back down to just above her butt at the very least.

      Even American superheroes that have a full bodysuit still feel exploitative because of ridiculous poses with arched backs and heaved bosoms. Ryoko – and this is also true of her prolonged nudity in Episode 4 – keeps a very natural pose, often hunching forward. This is what sells it and keeps it from calling undue attention to itself that would distract from the characterization.

      Her amusement at watching Tenchi do something he knew he’d get in trouble for didn’t seem particularly creepy…

      Fair point… but did they have to put her face right at his penis level? 😛

      As for her “forgetting”, I’ve always thought that she never actually intended to hurt him in that attack. That she was “playing” with him the only way she knew how; that, and she WAS still irritated about being called an “old mummy”. I suspect that had she really wanted to hurt or kill Tenchi that night, she would have. Instead she chased him around the school, blowing things up but not doing any real damage to him. Doesn’t it seem odd how much she telegraphed her attacks?

      Okay, I could buy that as a retroactive rationale for her actions. But I’d still be curious to know how much of the story was worked out by Episode 1, and how much was still being developed over the 7 months in which these episodes were gradually put together and released. Kagato and his involvement in everything feels a little tagged on, like they didn’t know where to take things after the first three episodes, and so threw in a villain who ties to everyone’s past.

      As for Ryoko’s past, I’ll just say the term ‘space pirate’ is incredibly misleading and rather inappropriate in my opinion. At least for the Ryoko in the OVAs.

      It is, now that I think about it. It’s just become an easy label to use as “demon” doesn’t seem particularly fitting, either. It’s a reference actually made by the show, and at least represents how the broader galaxy perceived her actions while ignorant of her connection to Kagato. Also, I personally prefer the initial idea of her actually being a space pirate over having been a tool of Kagato, which feels like a tie done just to connect her to the villain leading up to the finale. It also robs some of the depth of her conflict with Ayeka by making it far less personal on her side.

      Kagato as a villain is extremely generic, except for his appearance. He’s all sneery and mocking and superior right up until someone shows up that can kick his butt, then he’s all cowardly and cheap-shottish and runs away.

      Yeah, the Kiefer Sutherland-alike voice in the dub enhances his character in the same way the actor playing Tenchi does, but it’s still just a mask for an otherwise mediocre big bad.

      Overall, I think this is the first episode that fully displays the underlying dark aspects of the story; aspects that follow-up harem series would often drop.

      Agreed, and I’m curious to see again if this air is maintained throughout the franchise to follow (I strongly recall it controversially being amped up in the 3rd film). It’s definitely what sets this apart from the herd of followers.

      • ” But I’d still be curious to know how much of the story was worked out by Episode 1…”

        I think they were still making stuff up into War on Geminar. 😛

        If you’re open to suggestions, you might want to change your planned watching sequence with GXP and War on Geminar. Both are part of the OVA continuity. Timeline-wise it’s OVAs -> GXP -> War on Geminar. Unless you really want to repeat the experience of, “What universe is [insert series name] again?” 🙂

        There is a trick to knowing which it is, and it’s based on the color of the roof of Tenchi’s house.

      • Thanks for the suggestion, but a steady diet of American comics and tie-in novels has left me pretty good at handling multiple continuities, and seeing how the franchise juggles between them in its order of chronological release is one of the things I want to experience through this project.

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