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! – 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! – 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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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 25

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For some reason, Tenchi’s duties as Dorm Supervisor include cleaning the girls’ bath dangerously close to bath time. Why can the girls keep their own bath clean? Like LostAi Tenchi Muyo! isn’t interested in answering questions, only posing new ones, like ‘Why doesn’t Tenchi simply stay out in the open and explain his innocent presence there?’

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How about ‘Why is Hana massaging Momo’s boobs when Momo’s boobs aren’t really that small at all?’ It’s not all that surprising the innocent Momo isn’t upset to find Tenchi in there at all, but it is rather odd that the other three student council members don’t notice the fully-clothed guy lurking behind her, especially when he and Momo talk. It’s as if just because those characters are out of that particular shot, they cannot see or hear anything going on three feet away from them!

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Anyway, enough with cataloging the illogic; somehow, Momo gets Tenchi out of there without him being detected (or drowning). And while he’s in there, Tenchi gains another piece of the school’s puzzle: the student council and science clubs are locked in a struggle for some kind of “treasure”, treasure he may or may not also be looking for. This may be another case of being in the dark because this is my first exposure to the franchise and I have no idea what Tenchi is really up to, but unlike Hatoko, I’m content to stay in the dark and see what happens.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 24

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Tenchi has come to a dangerous place, fenced in by barbed wire and covered in “No Trespassing” and “No Boys” signs. Tenchi may be a boy, but he’s also the dorm supervisor, and as such, he must brave the dorm, no matter what horrors await him.

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Momo shows him around, and everything is pretty docile, and then they cross paths with Hana and Beni taking full advantage of the lack of a dress code (not that they follow it that closely at school!). Hana seems to be trying to impress Tenchi, while Beni has a perfectly reasonable explanation for her near-nudity: she’s going to take a bath. Thus, Tenchi’s demands that they put clothes on fall on deaf ears.

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A less showy plot is also afoot: perhaps in an effort to blackmail/seduce Tenchi to their side, Yuki uses poor, shapely, innocent Rui for nefarious purposes, telling her to accidentally fall off a ladder and into Tenchi’s arms. When a real spider descends in her face, she loses it, clutching Tenchi so close to her chest he passes out. Yup; definitely a dangerous place. For him. For the girls, it’s just home.

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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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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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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 20

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ATM! plunges us straight into the first sports festival event, an obstacle course between Hachiko and Yuki that quickly spirals into an extremely free-wheeling affair, what with the use of Hachiko’s bokken and Yuki’s Gouriki-kun.

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There’s order within the chaos, though, as each character acts according to their strengths – and weaknesses. When Gouriki snatches Hachiko’s sword, she reverts to a scared little girl…but Momo, ever the cheerful, inspiring leader, is able to get Hachiko to carry on long enough to recover her sword – and her normal personality.

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Thanks to Touri’s hacking of Gouriki, Hachiko is able to defeat Gouriki and win the race, while Yuki can only slap her cheeks in disbelief and outrage at her defeat. 50 points to the White Team. On to the next event!

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