True Tenchi Muyo!: Yosho

By Yousuke Kuroda and Masaki Kajishima. Released in Japan as “Shin Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-o-ki” by Kadokawa Shoten. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Lillian Olsen. Adapted by AstroNerdBoy.

The three novels in this series came out around 1997-99 or so in Japan, which was between the 2nd OAV series (the one that came out here when Tenchi was still huge) and the 3rd OAV series (which came out here when Tenchi’s popularity was waning). As such, they serve as both a ‘filling in the blanks’ backstory for what we’ve already seen and a ‘taste of what’s to come’ teaser for future episodes. The first book was something that I enjoyed but it didn’t reach out and say “that was great”, partly as I don’t find Azusa all that likeable. The second volume is a much better book, partly as Yosho may be staid but he’s also a lot of fun, and partly as this volume features Ryoko’s attack on Jurai and everything that comes along with it, so the book ends with an epic battle sequence before it settles down on Earth. We’re also introduced to Airi, who is Yosho’s first love… well, OK, second love, but first consummated love.

Yosho is the 12-year-old crown prince of Jurai, and is being sent off to Galactic Boarding School, essentially, mostly as he’s developing a crush on his stepmother, who has no sense of personal space. (If this surprises you, you’ve never seen Tenchi, which uses incest as a spice – liberally). While there he meets Airi, an older student who’s there to show him around and also comes from a planet of religious zealots. The book balances its time between Yosho coming out of his shell and he and Airi falling in love and the political machinations of Jurai, which is still dealing with the shock and horror of having Funaho as the First Empress. Their relationship is a bad idea politically, at least for now, and what’s more Ryoko attacks Jurai at the behest of Kagato, so Yosho rapidly vanishes to that he can bring her down – and also, it has to be said, to get away from the repressive heritage that he really doesn’t want to deal with.

Lest you think the book is all romantic drama and action movie sequences, there’s also a great deal of humor here as well. Airi is a loud, blunt girl who tells you that she likes you by putting you in a wrestling lock, and she pairs very well with Yosho, who even at his most emotional exhibits a certain Mr. Spock quality. There is a repeated sequence with puppies that is both adorable and hilarious. And I can’t not mention Funaho’s drunken duel with someone who insulted her son, which shows off why you should never, ever get Funaho drunk. In other words, it’s very much still a Tenchi book. It also shows off Ayeka’s massive crush on her brother, and why he finds it uncomfortable (because it reminds him of his crush on Misaki). I haven’t seen the 3rd OAV series, which I understand has Airi in it, but for those who only recall 90s Tenchi, this is also a great read, with a good look at Ryoko’s personality pre-Tenchi.

There’s one last book in the series, which will focus on Washuu. I’m looking forward to it. These books have been a real treat for Tenchi Muyo fans, especially because it reminds them of the time when the series walked the anime fandom like a colossus.

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