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! – 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! – 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! – 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! – 34

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Wait, I don’t understand, what the heck is going on?

It’s really quite simple, Fuka-san: Momo and Beni activate a new search app on the smartphone that shows them the treasure they’re looking for is directly beneath them, despite the face they were standing on a totally random spot. Also, Touri has a thing for Sasami. Upstairs, Ryouko destroys Hachiko’s swords, inadvertantly turning her into a bawling child. I guess she hadn’t overcome that weakness after all!

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They dig and hit paydirt: a Juria Sword, which when grabbed by both Momo and Beni completes the tripartite sword that unlocks the Jurai starship buried below; the very ship that brought Momo and Beni to the planet to begin with. Now we’re getting somewhere!

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Like Ryouko, Ayeka has no trouble making her opponent tap out (and swear fealty). Then they feel the upheaval going on downstairs as if it were and earthquake. The earth does indeed quake and rend below, and Beni must make a choice between grabbing the sword and ‘taking back who she really is’, or accepting Tenchi’s hand and accepting who she is, who Momo loves regardless. She choses the hand, and the ruins and the building above them collapse. Perhaps it was for the best.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 33

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Hachiko and Hana take on Gouriki, demonstrating that x-acto knives and wooden swords are curiously effective against killbots while allowing Momo and Touri to get to the caves.

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Down there, the Science Club and Tenchi’s crew join forces to try to find the treasure, whatever it is. Yuki points out that while she just wants money, the treasure is more important to Beni. Also, as things would work out, Momo happens to land her tush on Tenchi’s face and bounce into Beni’s arms.

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Above ground, Ryouko and Ayeka take up arms against Hachiko and Hana in Tenchi’s name, and Hana even pisses off Ayeka by calling her ‘Auntie’. Down below, having seen the photo of Tenchi and Sasami, Touri throws the smartphone at Tenchi, but misses. It ends up in the hands of Momo and Beni, who start to glow, then Washuu elatedly reports that “It’s happening!”

What’s happening? Not sure. Temporal re-alignment? The reveal of the treasure? We must watch on to find out.

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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! – 30

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This is RABUJOI’s 3,000th anime review!

Wow, has it already been thirty episodes? How time flies when you watch something four minutes at a time. For the first twenty-nine, we’d only gotten the slightest hints about what exactly was going on, and not much at all about precisely what Tenchi was up to.

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Now we get those answers all at once in an episode that does wonders for the cohesion of the overall show. The events of this episode take place before all the Junai High stuff, so it would have worked just fine as the first episode, in fact, but that would have been too dull. No, I like it right here, three-fifths of the way in, after we’ve already gone through many adventures with Tenchi and his students.

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As it happens, Momo and likely Beni, are “temporal castaways” Tenchi was sent into the past to rescue and return to their rightful time and place. When that mission failed and another temporal rift opened, he found himself back in Washuu’s lab, while Momo and Beni ended up in the present day at Junai High.

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Washuu convenes a family meeting with Tenchi, Ryouko, and the Jurai sisters, and formulate a new plan: Tenchi will infiltrate the school posing as a student teacher and gather information. That brings us to the actual, baffling first episode of the show, with Tenchi ending up in the middle of the forest. (Ha, I thought Kurihara-sensei was Washuu…what a FOOL I was!)

So yeah, this was a very informative episode that puts everything we’d seen before in a new and more coherent light, and will inform the show’s final two-fifths.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 29

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So now we know the school administrators (if there even are any) are so cheap, the leave the roof repairs to Tenchi. Tenchi does his best, but he’s no roofer. Meanwhile, down below his home harem prepares a barbecue to cheer him up.

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Normally no non-students are allowed on dorm grounds under any circumstances, but Sasami’s over-the-shoulder smile is enough to melt Touri’s heart, and allows the incursion.

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It’s not just a barbecue for Tenchi, but for everyone (presumably there are no vegetarians among the main cast), even the science club, who happens upon the party. Yuki tries to graciously retreat, not wanting to start another fight but Momo invites them to join them; the more the merrier. Not to mention Aoi can’t resist the smell of the meat, nor can Beni pass up the opportunity to duel with Ryouko — with meat (and without collateral damage) this time.

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It’s another gesture that speaks to Momo’s inherent decency, diplomatic skills, and desire not to be alone like she once was in the past. She never wanted war with the science club. It’s a lightweight but feel-good episode, and as is usually the case, the grilling meat made my mouth water.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 23

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The Sports Festival “Super Playoff” becomes an interminable, all-night marathon of totally non-sporting events such as trivia, whack-a-mole, eating, and chess. But what matters is that both the Red and White Teams agreed on something: that they should keep fighting for victory.

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In the process, neither side really achieves victory, but they do achieve a kind of détente, which is what Momo wanted all along. The festival thus a success, the President nods off on Tenchi’s shoulder and her head gradually slips into his lap…drawing the ire of Ryouko, who retaliates…against Tenchi.

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Some time in the wee hours of the morning, as Sasami patches him up she brings up how Tenchi will be overseeing the dorms soon, though she was told to relay the warning that any member of the opposite sex caught there will be beaten severely. It’s quite the Catch-22 for the already-bruised Tenchi…but it’s also par for the course.

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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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