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! – 40

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The day of the big debate is here, and while Tenchi gives Momo some last-minute encouragement (without picking a side), he gets a flash of past young Momo wearing vintage garb when they shake hands, as Momo tells him she feels like he’s always been there protecting her. Probably because I guess he technically has!

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With the live polling numbers displayed above the stage showing Momo and Yuki exactly tied, this is both their time to grab the lead. Yuki starts off with flashy poses and promises both she and the voters probably know she can’t keep.

Then she brings up the newspaper scandal she cooked up, which proves to be a critical mistake, because Momo turns it around and delivers a monologue about how everything comes from love, so there’s nothing wrong with showing it.

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The speech isn’t that sophisticated, and she completely skirts over things like inappropriate underage relations, but that’s not what’s going on between her and Tenchi anyway, and she’s so earnest and cute she wins the crowd over immediately, leaving Yuki looking like a steaming stick-in-the-mud.

Victory seems well in hand for Momo…until her entire body seems to shimmer in and out of cohesion, Kurihara’s earring glows, and that huge spaceship we saw a few eps back appears in Earth orbit. Looks like they’ve come for the ‘temporal fugitive(s).’

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 39

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As expected, Tenchi gets pulled from a gaggle of student reporters (why are there so many?) into the faculty lounge, where Kurihara seems primed to administer some lashes with her whip. She doesn’t really care if the rumors are true; the mere fact an article was published at all compromises his position in the school. And she did warn him not to get too close to the students…many times.

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It looks bad for Tenchi, until a determined, true-with-it Momo enters the lounge defiantly and confirms she’s the student in the picture, opening herself up for disciplinary action. But it isn’t anything out of character for Momo. She’s all about helping people, and right now Tenchi is the one in a bind.

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The perpetually sandal-wearing Prez goes face-to-face with Kurihara and explains her position: accident or not and regardless of their positions in the school, there was nothing wrong with what she and Tenchi did. Impressed by her chutzpah, Kurihara agrees to drop the matter…but only if Momo wins the election.

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Momo reflects on the roof with Tenchi. As a person who understands her own undeniable charisma and power to bring people together – even people who’d normally be enemies – Momo wants to remain in the spotlight so everyone who needs to can see her and feed off of her light and positive energy. Tenchi cheers her up and gets her pumped for what is sure to be an animated and fierce debate with Yuki.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 38

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For the first time in a while on ATM!, three minutes still felt too long for what we got this time. Most of it is just Momo, Touri, Hana in the dark council room looking through all the illicit electoral cheating paraphernalia confiscated from the Fuka campaign, a scene that drags. Yeah, we get it, Yuki is a trickster!

The episodelet does redeem itself somewhat when Hachiko arrives with a newspaper not published by the newspaper club with a big spread about an affair between Momo and Tenchi, which is ridiculous for anyone who’s watched the two interact in context, but out of context is pretty convincing to the average student.

I just wish they’d gone further, having incriminating photos of every out-of-context instance in which Momo and Tenchi ended up close and personal, since there are a lot of them; enough to create enough of a misunderstanding to get Tenchi canned, to be sure.

The newspaper makes the paraphernalia look like a distraction for the council, and shows that Yuki is serious about winning at any cost, even hurting Tenchi. It also looks like Momo is going to try to convince the school administration (read: Kurihara) that Tenchi is innocent, but will her pleas fall on deaf ears?

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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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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 32

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Another piece of the puzzle falls into place, as Mihoshi explains her reason for being in the mines: she came to investigate a possible time crime, and decided to give Yuki a hand trying to find a treasure, even though she doubts there’s anything there.

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Yuki begs to differ, and flanked by Beni, Rui, and Gouriki, offers to show Tenchi and the others proof. Meanwhile, Touri, Hachiko and Hana are convinced Tenchi was taken away for nefarious purposes and formulate a rescue plan as an incredulous Momo looks on.

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Yuki produces a smartphone that was found deep in the caverns and has determined it is from 1,300 years ago, making it an OOPArt (not ‘oppai’, Ryouko. That was too easy). This, of course, is the phone Tenchi dropped into a chasm when he was in the past.

When Yuki switches it on, everyone is less shocked that Tenchi is on the 1,300 -year-old wallpaper than they are skeeved out by the fact he’s posing shirtless with a loli swimsuit-wearing Sasami.

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Up above the caverns, Touri, Hachiko and Hana begin their mission, starting with getting past an improved Gouriki. How far will they go before they realize they’ve got the wrong idea?

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 31

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After that lovely communal barbecue/bonding exercise, the science club is back to confering with a giant black monolith with a glowing red crab insignia, telling them to “find the treasure.” Again with this nebulous treasure? What could it be? I’m assuming it’s not Momo here.

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Seeing the science club in the spot they’re in, unofficial member Beni does what she can to help them by getting on her non animal print boot-adorned knees and begging Tenchi, Ayeka, Sasami and Ryouko to help her search for the treasure, knowing they’re different from ordinary people.

Surprised by her seriousness and deference, they agree. When Tenchi doesn’t show up in the faculty lounge later, Kurihara-sensei assumes he’s been kidnapped.

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Beni leads them to the caverns deep under the school, a setting we haven’t been to since episode 5. There, the gang is surprised to find Kuramitsu Mihoshi of the galaxy police, someone we haven’t seen since she and Ryouko dueled in the past back in episode 13.

She doesn’t seem to be making much progress with her pickaxe — unless she’s the one who carved out the whole of these tunnels — but nor does she seemed to concerned about it. So…Treasure Hunt on!

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 22

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The next, and what Tenchi believes to be the final event in the sports festival is devised by StuCo Prez Momo herself: Butt Sumo. If you think this is a blatant opportunity for fanservice, well, you’re only half-right, since there isn’t much to see—it’s pretty tame stuff. Instead, it puts Tenchi in the awkward position of having to referee a butt sumo match between to high school girls without staring at their asses too long.

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Momo chose Butt Sumo because she wanted to engage in activity that would put her in close proximity to her adversary (in this case Beni, whose ass is not as strong as her arms and hands), because she wants to talk and be friends. Beni doesn’t want to talk, just win, but both girls fall off the platform (and onto Tenchi’s face), leaving the White and Red teams still knotted up at 1050, necessitating a night overtime.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 21

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The next event in the sports festival is mock cavalry, something I never did in high school. Predictably, things get chaotic fast.

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The pre-fight conflict is whether Gouriki should be allowed to participate, as he’s neither an enrolled student or human. But lord knows who’s human and who’s not among all these kooky characters, and Kurihara wants a good show, so Tenchi allows it.

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Hachiko holds onto her sword, so there are no more tears, and the teams are pretty evenly matched…until Yuki pulls out her latest trump card: a fake spider upon Rui’s face unleashes a terrifying power. The StuCo loses, but Momo never lets go of Hachiko’s hand. Meanwhile, Washuu seems to be monitoring proceedings, and interested in Kinojou Beni in particular.

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