Tenchi Muyo is still in many fans' eyes the first and last name in harem anime, for better or worse. It helped jumpstart the popularity of the genre which in the 2000s dominated anime, much to the chagrin of many. As harem finally began to die down in popularity, so too did the Tenchi Muyo franchise, which is no longer quite as ubiquitous.
Beginning with a popular OVA, the series was also broadcast on Toonami, pushing anime to a generation of kids. The series is now almost three decades old, making it the perfect time to look back on how it got so popular and what became of it.
What Was Tenchi Muyo?
The franchise began with 1992's Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki, which was a 3-part OVA. The story involves the eponymous Tenchi, a teenager who releases a sword that his grandfather supposedly used to seal a demon. This demon was actually an alien woman named Ryouko, who takes a liking to Tenchi after he saves her. Deciding to live with Tenchi, Ryouko is soon joined by several other alien women who all develop an attraction for their new male roommate.
The OVA was a huge success, eventually being aired in a heavily edited format on Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block. It's currently available on Crunchyroll for streaming, and was succeeded by several movies and spinoffs. These included Tenchi Universe, Tenchi Muyo! GXP and Love Tenchi Muyo!. While these series are all tentatively in the "same" universe, there are several noteworthy differences between the events shown in the movies and the TV shows. However, as a whole, the franchise formed the base of a larger, then-oncoming wave of harem anime, one that didn't recede until years later.
What Happened to Tenchi Muyo?
Tenchi Muyo was massively popular largely thanks to its combination of comedy and beautiful women, all of whom seemed to hopelessly pine after Tenchi. Their colorful, unique designs quickly became iconic, especially in the then-burgeoning American anime fandom. Given the popularity of Tenchi Muyo, the boom of imitators was inevitable. Production companies smelled blood in the water, and harem anime after harem anime hit the market in rapid succession, eventually coming to dominate the medium, not unlike how isekai does today, even being a genre that often capitalizes on harem tropes.
However, harem burnout wasn't the only reason for Tenchi Muyo's fall from grace. The franchise began spawning new micro-continuities with later entries, starting with Tenchi In Tokyo. Many assumed it to be a sequel to the previous productions, but it was actually a brand new timeline. It didn't help that it generally wasn't seen as being up to par with the previous stories. Tenchi Forever continued this downward trend, failing to please fans with its darker, more serious story, rather than relying on the franchise's comedy.
Another OVA tried to recapture the magic, but it only left tons of unanswered questions. Since then, the franchise has limped along and squirted out new stories, but has ultimately failed to recapture the acclaim and success of its early days.