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 subject of this book may come as a surprise, given that the first two books in this series focused, not on Ayeka and Ryoko, but on Ayeka’s father and Tenchi’s grandfather. But yes, the third book is out, and finally we have one that gives us backstory on one of the main cast. The prologue to this story takes place after the Tenchi OAV episode where they all have to take care of the baby, and expands on Washu’s past that came out in that episode, which was that she’d had a husband and child, but they were immediately taken from her. As such, the bulk of the book goes back in time – way back – and shows us Washu as a young woman, leaving her adopted home planet and going to the Imperial Academy’s Department of Philosophy… at the age of eighteen, smashing all records. There she meets a familiar young man…
First of all, it’s simply odd to have most of the book dealing with a Washu that isn’t 20,000 years old (cryofreezing notwithstanding). Washu here is young and idealistic, though she’s already starting to work on her snarky side. This is helped along by her sempai at the academy, Naja, who seems to be another one of those characters that all Tenchi fans should know about because they read the ancillary material. Naja basically fulfills the function of Airi in the last book, only without the romance (mostly: there is a hint that Naja’s moaning about boyfriends is a front for something else, but it never goes anywhere and also plays into uncomfortable “watch out for the predatory lesbian” territory once or twice). No, the romance comes from a young man who has a knack of walking in on Washu even when she’s in libraries with very tight security. They fall in love quickly, and have a child, but he has a Secret Past (a theme in all these books), and their love is quickly shattered.
It is, to me at least, a bit disconcerting that Washu’s husband is basically a Rule 63 Mihoshi. It’s a bit less surprising for those who’ve seen the other OAVs and know that Mihoshi’s family and ancestors all look almost exactly the same, but disconcerting nonetheless. The best part of the book is simply watching Washu have to deal with being a big fish in a very big pond – everyone wants to treat her like a VIP, and she hates that. It’s also amusing to see Dr. Clay, the pathetic villain in the 2nd Tenchi OAV series, as a pathetic younger villain in these books – well, villain is the wrong word. Jerk? The best part of the book may be Washu’s covert meeting with her husband’s new wife, which leads to a jaw-dropping bit that the narrative, thankfully (if sadly), did not take. Very well done.
There were supposed to be three more books after this one. I believe the fourth was about Mihoshi’s family, and may have finally given us the backstory to her that only the OAVs really had (it was hinted she was a crack, serious police officer till something broke her). Alas, it’s been twenty years, so I think this is all we get. Still, it’s a wonderful nostalgia trip for Tenchi fans.