Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 50 (Fin)

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In our final bite-size installment of ATM!, Tenchi is back home at his temple/shrine pad with Ryouko, Ayeka, and Sasami, with Kuromitsu still around for a spell.

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As a peach pedal flies through the air, Tenchi remembers saying goodbye both to Momo and Beni, who got on their ship and left Earth, and the high school, where Hana took over as StuCo president and the council and science club continued their friendly rivalry.

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So yay me; I stuck with this thing the whole way (which honestly isn’t that much of a feat; all’s said and done we’re talking eight full-length episodes, max), and ATM!  actually wasn’t terrible. Heck, it was even good on a couple of occasions. But mostly it was just…er…fine. Let’s just say it won’t be making the World Heritage List.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 49

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Aw shucks, ATM! got all serious and dramatic on us and…well, having Tenchi and Momo separate after finally meeting up in the same timeline works about as well as you expect in a four-minute episode. There’s just not enough time for the impact to really land.

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Due magical objects like the lightsabers and the cloud of petals, everything is fixed about as quickly as it broke, eliciting not much more than a shrug. Momo and Tenchi return, with Momo back to her original young age. Hugs for all, etc.

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It always seemed like she was a deal younger than the other high school girls anyway, and now it makes sense why they protected her so; her mind really was younger. With the return of Tenchi and Lil’ Momo, the rift engulfing Earth vanishes and everything pretty much goes back to normal.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 48

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Okay: so the peach tree is actually Beni and Momo’s ship, which Washuu needs in order to set everything straight. They start the start-up process as Yuki tries to hack into the warhead. They’re confronted by troops, but Touri, Hana, and Hachiko take care of them. When more arrive, Kurihara orders a retreat, warning the girls to get as far away as they can.

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Something tells me with Washuu on their side, they won’t have to worry about anything going BANG, at least in this situation. When Beni gets the ship started, Tenchi and Momo finally ‘synchronize’ in the same time, much to Momo’s tearful delight. Some progress at last!

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 47

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With the rift widening, the Galaxy Police commander has no choice but to swallow his pride and ask for Washuu’s help. Washuu, understandably smug, agrees to ‘bring the situation under control’, but only if the GP drops all the charges against her. With no leverage to negotiate, the commander caves completely.

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Meanwhile (if that’s even the right term to use in this situation), Momo and Tenchi are ships passing in the night, only the ‘night’ in question is a variety of random timelines, all presented in different color palettes. Tenchi doesn’t know what the heck is going on, only that he has to try to stick with Momo through it all.

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As Washuu gets in her spacetime manipulation chair (or whatever), cracks her knuckles and gets started, Ryouko and Beni finally soft-land at the bottom of that cavern, where they find an enormous blossoming peach tree. What does it mean? Err…I’ll have to get back to you on that.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 46

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Things start to get a little weird on ATM! this time around, with Tenchi traveling to different times and places like an animated Desmond. His first stop is a snowy, black-and-white world where he’s the only one in color, aside from the red umbrella of a Momo how doesn’t recognize him until they come into contact, which causes Tenchi to jump to a new place.

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Back in the world we know, Beni is gung-ho about descending into the ship she and Momo first arrived in, and Ryouko is there to make sure she doesn’t fall to her death. Meanwhile, Washuu is in custody, but the Galaxy Police is running into complications what with time being out of joint, the earth being cleaved into at least two parts, and earthquakes raging. Washuu sits in her cage, unconcerned and pompous as ever.

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Tenchi ends up in a colored world this time, though the school before him is unfamiliar, and a young Momo sits on a swing. This is clearly not what he had in mind when he wanted to set things straight. I wonder if the Galaxy Police will swallow their pride and release Washuu…or if Beni getting to her ship will do anything.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 45

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ATM! is best described as a show in which a lot of stuff happens. That stuff doesn’t always make sense or have any kind of narrative substance to it, but it does happen. There’s so much crammed into the show, apportioned a few scant minutes at a time, most everyone is bound to find something interesting. And I do, just about every time.

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ATM! throws stuff out there and sees what sticks. The Alien-inspired “facehugger” scene is one of its funnier pop culture references, and it only takes up a few moments.

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Less subtle is the lightsaber ‘duel’ between Tenchi and Momo, with ‘duel’ in quotes because they’re not really fighting; he’s trying to stabilize her physical form…or something.

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Like Washuu’s Alienesque booby trap, there’s an attempt to repurpose well-known icons to fit the bizarre story.

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Meanwhile, we’re meant to root for Washuu, even though she’s kinda guilty of murder on a mass scale…or crimes so diabolical there aren’t even laws in place for them. And in a nod to the show’s penchant for irrationality, Washuu is arrested by basically failing to account for Mihoshi’s utter lack of rationality. Airheads have baffled eggheads since time immemorial!

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That brings us to the big finish: the entire world appears to be halved, or possibly split between two dimensions. Tenchi and Momo are dangling precariously over the fissure, from which spouts peach flower petals. It could just be my depraved mind, but I can’t get over the possibility this is all elaborate symbolism for a ‘girl entering womanhood’, with Momo’s protector Beni being unable to ‘stop nature’.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 44

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With only five minutes left till the warhead hits its target, Ryouko is having trouble grabbing the dimensional controller (her body is too voluptuous to fit through the gap in the rock, ironically). While waiting, Momo’s body appears to de-compile before Tenchi touches her with his lightsaber, which cures her, at least temporarily. He’s trying to keep her together, but a more permanent solution is indicated.

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With Yuki and Rui in custody, Kurihara continues her reign of terror, but is stopped by the Jurai sisters, who exercise their authority as members of the royal family. Kurihara is unmoved and calls for their arrest too…

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…and then Gouriki shows up. Forgot about that guy! Washuu has him absorb the wreckage of a building to grow to enormous size and brandish a bat with which to knock out the warhead. He makes contact, and there’s a huge explosion, which the caves are shielded from — but the warhead remains intact and embedded in the earth. Crisis averted…for now. But now will be over soon.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 43

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The Galaxy Police SWAT team starts to besiege Washuu’s hideout in the old school buiding as Tenchi, Momo, Ryouko, Yuki, Rui and Beni arrive. The latter three learn who the voice of the monolith is as she recruits them to launch a counterattack.

Outside, a veteran GP officer tells a rookie that Washuu is responsible for the disappearance of several planets and solar systems, and should neither be taken lightly nor shown mercy.

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The SWAT team neutralizes Washuu’s booby traps, but Yuki is ready with some kind of cannon, while Rui has been fitted with a small spider dangling in front of her head, causing her to go into berserk mode on anyone in range of her stick – all to buy time for the others heading to the caverns.

Tenchi tells Momo and Beni that they’re really aliens who crashed there 1,300 years ago. He enlists Ryouko to climb through the fissure in the rock, where she finds the glowing, dildo-like “dimensional controller” that is supposedly the key to fixing everything.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 42

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As Ryouko surveys Takahashi from a high vantage point, you get the sense she senses something’s up. So when Yuki turns out to be absolutely right about there being a big government conspiracy (though people always sound crazy when they say that) and Kurihara has the Science Club and Momo arrested, Ryouko doesn’t stand idly by.

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Kurihara puts a lightsaber to Tenchi’s throat, insisting she’s done with his games, but Ryouko busts in and uses her diversionary magic to allow Tenchi to escape with the girls.

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Meanwhile, the GP Commander in charge of the operation to extract the “singularity points” finally zeroes in on Washuu, as the warhead is less than 45 minutes from reaching its target. But Washuu isn’t concerned…that is, with anything other than the fact these GP jokers are on her turf. Time and Space are her ‘playground’, and she won’t have interlopers. So what’s she got up her sleeves?

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 41

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Half of this episode is spent aboard the Galaxy Police flagship now in orbit around earth, which has come to arrest the “singularity points” (Momo, Beni, and Washuu) before the “dimensional deficiency” they’re causing rises to catastrophic levels and the entire universe implodes. Are these stakes high enough for ya?!

There’s a great Star Trek-like feel to these space proceedings, helped not just by the barely-coherent technobabble, but by the prominent presence of okudagrams, which, to the non-Trekkie crowd, are cost-effective yet sleek and futuristic displays invented by technical adviser, scenic artist, and Japanese-American Michael Okuda.

The going-over of the mission is also a clever way to name-drop the show’s sponsor, Takahashi, Okayama, I believe for the first time.

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Okayama is where the GP is headed, and in cooperation with the government, has created an entire cover story for the operation: a old Russian space station’s orbit decaying. The debate and election are cancelled and the school is evacuated by what look like JSDF troops but are really GP officers in disguise.

The student council stops being a counter-scheming squad and fulfills their actual duty as student authorities. But when the last people besides them who have yet to evacuate are the Science Club of Rui, Yuki and Beni, Momo and Tenchi go after them…just as the GP launches a space-time fluctuation warhead. And those, my friend, are not something to be trifled with. I guess?

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 37

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In the last InoBato, Sagami warned Sayumi that she wouldn’t win the battle for Jurai by playing clean, and whether or not he’s right about that, Fuka Yuki seems to be of the same mind when it comes to winning the StuCo presidential election. Starting with falsifying her ‘assets’ in her sexy election poster, and now bribing voters with counterfeit meal tickets, Yuki is doing whatever it takes to win, with the greater goal of having the resources to unearth the treasure her mysterious contact demands.

Well, the incumbent StuCo won’t stand for this corruption, and once Touri connects the decreased cafeteria revenues and Hana goes undercover to get a ‘handshake’ from Yuki, it doesn’t take long for the crimes to be exposed.

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Rui is also caught red-handed making fake meal tickets. Yuki’s response is to produce a fake bug which freaks out not only Touri, but makes Rui flip out, giving the candidate the diversion she needs to slip away. She even digs her hole deeper by gluing Hana to a bomb (which is really a firework, but still, dangerous!)

Thanks to some quick thinking from Tenchi, Beni, and Hachiko, the firework goes off in the sky, but Yuki still must be found and dealt with.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 36

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You know, I’m glad I watched this right after Gundam Recon in G, because this particular episode of ATM! demonstrated how Sci-fi Bureaucracy meeting should be done: with clarity, irreverence and humor, and above all, with speed. The show tells us these guys are after Washuu in the space of less than a minute. Brevity is the soul of wit. Don’t waste my time. ATM! doesn’t.

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Back down on earth, Touri and Hachiko are working on most important part of the upcoming presidential elections: the poster. Hana rejects their goal to make a sexy poster, making them do something more conventional. She knows they have to be on their guard where the Science Club is concerned.

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Ironically, Fuka Yuki goes right down the very avenue Hana rejected, photoshopping her slight bust into something far more, well, Hana-like in scale for her sexy poster. The gloves are coming off. The bras, too!

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 35

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35 episodes in, I’m wondering, is Takahashi, Okayama satisfied with their arrangement with this anime? Do they feel they’re getting their money’s worth? I mean, the wooded environs of Junai High seem like a nice enough place, but they don’t feel like a specific place; they feel pretty generic, to be honest. I guess it depends on how much money they contributed, of if the “sponsorship” was more of a ceremonial thing. In any case, I’m not quite sure how this show is promoting tourism.

That aside, we haven’t had an episode in which students try to have a sleepover at Tenchi’s house yet, and this episode rectifies that by having Momo, Touri, Hachiko, and Hana insist on spending the night in case the Science Club decides to kidnap him again.

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If ATM! excels at one thing (it actually excels at more than one thing, but bear with me), it’s consistency of its characters. Momo has the innocent good girl with a heart of gold; Hachiko is deeply loyal and up for any challenge; Touri is highly analytical, except where Samami is involved, with whom she’s almost disturbingly smitten. In fact, let’s leave out  the almost! And Hana, well, she’s a fujoshi, but also a masochist in her interactions with the older, stronger Ayeka. Everyone makes sense as a character, and watching the wildly clashing personalities is a lot of fun.

I also like the idea of Ryouko, Momo, and Hachiko getting all gung-ho about a cook-off, but spend so much time preparing, Tenchi, Ayeka, and Sasami make do with cup noodles instead. It’s a nice little bait-and-switch. Also, Touri seems to derive all the nourishment (and pleasure) she needs (and wants) by plunging her face in Sasami’s bathwater, which…GROSS.

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In other news, the Science Club’s secret contact urges them to continue their efforts to recover the treasure, even though the caverns have collapsed. The contact suggests they become active in the upcoming election to choose a new Student Council. We also learn that Kurihara-sensei is a member of the Galaxy Police, and both Momo and Beni are in her crosshairs as ‘time anomaly suspects’ or some-such. Between her continued investigations and the upcoming election, ATM! seems to be in for more upheaval in its home stretch.

Note: Again, I don’t count the “Looking Back” recaps in my episode numbering. But if I did, this would be episode 43, with at least one more recap in store. So we kinda are in the home stretch despite this being only the 35th ‘real’ episode. Here is a handy episode list to clarify what the heck I’m on about.

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