Tenchi Muyo! The Daughter of Darkness

Tenchi Muyo! The Daughter of Darkness opens with a sequence about a young Jurai prince and one of his friends playing on a hilltop, enjoying the Startica festivities held in summer on the planet Jurai. Their enjoyment is shattered when a team of Special Forces blast onto the scene and brutally attack the small child, ignoring pleas from the Prince to stop. It turns out the small child is actually a demon called Yuzuha.

Fast forward a few hundred years and we arrive to see Yuzuha awakening in a room full of toys and TVs. In a flash all of the televisions burst into life and one seeps out of the wall. Peering into the screen, Yuzuha watches over the Masaki family celebrating Christmas on Earth. Everyone is having fun and enjoying their usual traits. Sasami is found baking a lovely Christmas cake, Ryoko is as drunk as ever and it wouldn’t be a Masaki event without Mihoshi causing some trouble. Remembering the events of her past Yuzuha is set on spoiling the fun and without Tenchi knowing she sneaks into their world and nabs a lock of his hair. With the help of some scientific equipment Yuzuha is able to combine her and Tenchi’s hair to create a “present” for our hero.

The story then jumps ahead again, this time forwarding the clocks six months. It’s another beautiful summer on Earth and while walking home from visiting his mothers grave. Tenchi is greeted by a strange girl who appears out of nowhere; her name is Mayuka. As if having a stranger appearing out of no where wasn’t bad enough she also claims to be Tenchi’s daughter! She is greeted into the family with mixed reactions, more notably from Ryoko and Ayeka. Mayuka claims to remember nothing about her past other than her daddy’s face and is oblivious as to why she’s here.

This new arrival leaves a lot of questions unanswered and it’s up to the Masaki family to find out the truth behind Mayuka and her link to Yuzuha.

Tenchi Muyo! Daughter of Darkness is the second of three films set in the Tenchi universe. However unlike the first and third films which carry on the story told in the Universe TV series, Tenchi Muyo! Daughter of Darkness is based around the tenth Tenchi novel written by one of the original OVA scriptwriters Naoko Hasegawa. This places our characters in the storyline after the first six episode OVA and disregards anything after that.

For anyone that has seen the Tenchi series before you will instantly recognize our cast of characters. However after watching this film you may see some of them in a different light than before. One of the things this movie manages to do is take what you think you know about some characters and shake those thoughts to their foundations. Unfortunately since there is only 60 minutes from start to finish there is a lot of characters left out of the loop and it begs the question if they were put into the story just to make things complete. Fans of Ryo Ohki, Mihoshi and Kiyone will be disappointed: they feel somewhat out of place and almost neglected. This is certainly the case for Ryo Ohki and Mihoshi, characters that were such a huge part of the series get around about 2 minutes of combined scenes. The new additions however fit right in. Mayuka is loveable and very cute – she and Sasami go hand in hand and watching their antics on screen is very enjoyable. Yazuha is also stuck in the rut of being an evil character but with whom the viewer can relate to. Unlike Kagato in the first OVAs, Yazuha is still merely a child and hasn’t developed one bit since the opening scene several hundred years ago. At the end of the movie you feel sorry for her that she has turned out this way due to the harsh treatment of others.

The story itself is fairly simple and is easy for the viewer to follow, but is very loosely based around the principles setup in the OVA. This film takes us down a very serious route: we can see as time goes by how the characters and their relationships with each other either bloom or begin to crumble at the edges. TM! DoD takes the dramatic side of things and runs with it, not that that’s a bad thing as this makes for some very good watching. This film contains one of the best scenes in the whole franchise, when Tenchi slaps Ryoko after fighting with Mayuka; by doing this the director Tetsu Kimura underlined the serious tone he wished to take with TM! DoD and I must say it makes for a refreshing change and a fantastic watch. However some elements of the story remain questionable; such as the inclusion of Kiyone. This can only be seen as a service to the fans that loved her in Universe. There is nothing wrong with Kiyone as a character but her inclusion in this story makes no real sense and she just feels out of place. After all Kiyone wasn’t introduced fully until Tenchi Universe.

One of the many things people tend to like about the Tenchi series is the script. I’m happy to say that nothing has changed and standards are relatively high. Some of the best one liners I’ve heard have came in this movie and there is no unnecessary looking back on events or filling up time with useless drivel. That, however, doesn’t mean the script is perfect. There are points where lines could have been written better and points could be made clearer.

The hardest thing for some movies to get right is to capture the animation of the source they are based on and implement it without flaw. The ending credits is also something worthy of note, the crude drawings are reminiscent of the endings we see in the OVA’s and do add a little story wise, which I think is a nice touch. One thing I have noticed over the whole Tenchi series and films is the animation quality is always kept to an amazing standard. TM! DoD has beautifully drawn backgrounds which have had time and effort put into them with nothing left out. After watching this film a few times you begin to notice little things that you didn’t before and it’s that attention to detail that really adds a polished finish to this movie.

The soundtrack in TM! DOD is frankly sub par and does leave a lot to be desired. In previous films and shows there were memorable tracks and the music added atmosphere. This is completely lacking in TM! DoD and there is nothing that you can identify with this film. Songs such as I’m a Pioneer and Talent for Love were incredibly catchy and great additions to the TV series but I feel with TM! DoD they spent a little to much time on everything else and left the soundtrack to the last minute, even with Ko Otani (Haibane Renmei, Outlaw Star) looking after the music there was still nothing that stood out from the general musical score we hear so often.

Overall Tenchi Muyo! Daughter of Darkness is an entertaining watch and is a worthwhile addition to the Tenchi series. The story adds little to what fans of the show already didn’t know, unlike the first film Tenchi Muyo – Tenchi in Love, where you actually learn about the history of Tenchi’s parents. But in saying that, it is solid and isn’t completely pointless. If you can look over some of the minor problems such as the neglect of the rest of the cast, the short running time and the ropey performance of the Dub voice actors then you will enjoy the film a lot more. However, I must add, if you are looking into TM! DoD and haven’t at least seen the first 6 episodes of the OVA then you will be slightly bemused at some of the goings on in this film. That is not to say you can’t enjoy it as it’s very easy to follow, but without some basic knowledge of the Tenchi Universe you may struggle to see this in its full potential.

In Summary

Tenchi Muyo! Daughter of Darkness is a must for any Tenchi fan: even if you have only seen a tiny part of what this franchise has to offer you will find something to like in this film. And with a new box set released by MVM which includes all three Tenchi Muyo movies there has never been a better time to pick up Tenchi Muyo! Daughter of Darkness.

6 / 10