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Tenchi The Movie: Tenchi Forever

director: Hiroshi Negishi

94 minutes (12) 1999
MVM DVD Region 2 retail
[released 20 February]

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
An offshoot to the popular anime series, I suspect that this feature-length adventure intended for the cinemas is a step up from the animation settled for in the series. Trailers for the series, unseen by your reviewer, suggest the usual big-eyed, sci-fi, fight-a-thon, though I am doubtlessly doing Tenchi a disservice by wrongly making such unimaginative assumptions of it. Tenchi The Movie: Tenchi Forever is a surprise. It is astonishingly romantic, perhaps the most romantic film I have ever seen. Love is elementally integral to the concept, as strangely consuming of it as great love itself is. The film opens with the gross assumption that anyone interested enough to rent will already be familiar with the characters and mythos, and so to the uninitiated it is a first impression of the usual agile, female alien moppets flitting between their world and ours, and perhaps not far wrong at that.

What we can quickly surmise is that the boy Lord Tenchi is very popular amongst the super-girls that comprise most of his court, particularly Aeka, the pretty Princess and Ryoko, the spiky blonde alien with the rectangular ears, who spend their adventure-free days driving him mad in petty arguments over who loves him more. Tenchi disappears into a blossoming tree and, everyone else in the team unaware of his fate and with no other universe shattering threat to busy them give over the next six months to tracing him. A possible location on Earth is fixed and Aeka and Ryoko take work as waitresses in a cafeteria occasionally prompted into action only to lose sight of Tenchi each time. Meanwhile Lord Tenchi is in the arms of another, Haruna, a beautiful young woman who is also devotedly in love with him. He is as in love with her as much as he can be too, short of 100 percent only out of confusion. He is several years older than the six months absence should have him and has no memory of his other life. An incredibly decent solution and plot develops. Haruna is the former fatal love of Lord Katsuhito, who perished in transit from the home planet to Earth. Each person on the home world has a personal tree and Lord Katshito planted hers close to his new home, continuing to plant cut-offs. Her lonely soul continues to love and need love. Unquenched she returns to the Katsuhito bloodline for fulfilment, her love powerful enough to model a new dimension twinning it to the one the others reside in. That universe discovered places it in a more perilous state than already in as Aeka and Ryoko repeatedly enter it in attempts to recover him.

It sounds straightforward and to a certain extent it is, but it is superior anime on several levels. The artwork is splendid, the backgrounds of the quality of the Ghibli studio. Illumination can rob you of details so watch this as you would in a cinema, as it was originally intended, with the lights out, otherwise you will lose out on fabulous details like the luminous hours and hands of the alarm clock, the frosted stars in the door glass, the rays of sunshine that invade the bus and the reflective shine and glint on the carving knife. From experience, Christmas tree lights in the corner opposite the television set in a large lounge is the minimum additional illumination you can get away with before jeopardising the film's full effect and the magic. The colours are sumptuous. The anime effect is sometimes three-dimensional and would look great seen through a View-Master.

The film opens unassumingly and the magic slowly washes over one. The romanticism is phenomenal, the concept born of love and the actions of most of the characters driven by it. Bizarrely it has something plot-wise in common with Christopher Boe's Reconstruction, still appearing on odd art house cinema screens, though the resemblances terminate there. Three female characters adore Tenchi and the love and passion of each is supremely conveyed and come the conclusion there should be no villain, only victims. On one return from a dimensional jump, an exhausted Ryoko is flat on her back, the mission successful in jogging significant portions of Tenchi's memory but he rejecting them and the old world. She is on the verge of surrendering. Her mouth and thick tears are the only things moving in the frame. It hurts. The film has an amazingly persistent emotional intensity. The words too are important. The dialogue can sometimes be irksome as characters bicker and the drippy sci-fi textbook is dipped into for key words, but very often the dialogue is just right too. The film is dubbed, the voices American.

DVD extras include trailers for the film and for other anime releases, in addition to a gallery of line drawings for the feature.

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