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! – 28

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There’s a basic sincerity to ATM!. For all the panty shots, unintended compromising positions Tenchi ends up in, and occasionally clunky delivery of plot or exchanges of dialogue, it’s heart is almost always in the right place. It’s not just here to titillate us or make us laugh; it wants us to care about its characters too, because they care about each other. Specifically, Tenchi cares about his students, and won’t sit by while one sits on the roof suffering.

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Kinojou Beni’s story isn’t complicated: she came to this planet charged with protecting Momo and hence possessing immense strength, but she lost her memories and fell in with the sworn enemy of Momo’s Student Council. She knows she’s not a normal human, and she fears truly hurting someone someday with her power. Someone…not Tenchi.

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When Tenchi arrived, it set something into motion for Beni: suddenly, there was someone else with freakish strength, who stands (or tries to stand) alone, above all the warring clubs and school rivalries. Only unlike her, he almost never uses them, except to prevent harm or protect others. She resents his passivity, and wont say anything to him unless he demonstrates his strength, which means swinging her spiked club at him.

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Tenchi won’t rise to her violence, however, and the precise thing she fears occurs when Momo suddenly pops on the roof to see what the ruckus is about. Tenchi manages to block the terrifying blow, and he and the two girls end up on the ground, and appear to be sharing a loving embrace, but we know Tenchi is only holding them to protect them. Such subtleties do not move Kurihara-sensei, who drags Tenchi away.

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That leaves Beni with Momo, who takes her hand, concerned about her cuts. In that moment, Beni gets a flash from the past of a baby clutching her finger in apparent friendship. But Momo backs away from Momo, either unready to remember or unwilling to risk hurting her again. What she hasn’t grasped yet is that maybe it’s okay to be friends with Momo.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 27

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The higher-pitched flute during the title card announced that this would be the first “period” episode of ATM! since the 13th, but it decided to go back even farther than that to show us the connection between Momo and Beni. Beni, AKA Kurenai, was appointed the guardian of a baby Momo and the Jurai Royal Family gave her a spaceship, which she proceeded to crash land on Earth.

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Tenchi, it would seem, hasn’t been as clueless as we thought, and once his mission of finding both Momo and Beni is complete, he hits the Reset Button on his smartphone (God, I love it when literal reset buttons pop up in shows!). An error occurs (he probably forgot to update the OS), everything goes dark, and a tear in the sky appears, sucking Tenchi and Momo in.

You gettin’ all this? Good. I guess the show will pick this back up in episode 41.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 26

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Tenchi patrols the hallways after lights-out, notices lights on, and discovers Yuki and Rui bent over some contraband ramen like a couple of junkies. However, they offer him a cup and he goes easy on them. As they tuck in, Tenchi learns a lot more about the Science Club girls.

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For instance, while Fuka built Gouriki’s basic structure, she has no idea what powers him; that Kinojou isn’t technically a club member and has no memory of her past, and Fuka and Rui are simply helping her look for…something. Gouriki’s head’s “treasure detector” indicates is below their dorm, but they find nothing and Yuki shoos Tenchi away.

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