Tenchi The Movie 2: Daughter of Darkness

Does anybody not know about Tenchi Muyo by now? If not, stop and go read my review of the original OVA series. Then watch that and come back. If you don't, you'll be completely lost by Tenchi The Movie 2: Daughter of Darkness. Since that little bit of housekeeping is done, I can say that this second Tenchi film, released in 1997, is surprisingly different from the first, but is just about as enjoyable. Tenchi fans have probably long since purchased this DVD, but as I just recently saw and appreciated the first film, I figured it was about time to get to the second. And while Daughter of Darkness suffers from some minor early pacing problems, as well as a too-predictable plot, it manages to have the same gusto, energy, and even emotional impact of the first.

There's yet another creepy guy who's upset with the Jurai royal family, this one a greenish furry creature named Yuzuha who has a penchant for misdeeds and hanging around with his collection of bizarre toys. He's got a plan to take down his ancient rivals...meanwhile, things are almost normal back on Earth when a mysterious girl named Mayuka appears and calls Tenchi her papa! The girls are none too pleased by this, since none of them knows who the mother is. Since Mayuka is a teenager, they quickly agree that she must be from the future. As tests are done to her DNA, Mayuka tries to become a part of the family, but a secret buried deep inside her will threaten Tenchi and the friends that he's grown so close to.

Although not quite as beautifully animated as Tenchi Muyo In Love, this film still has quite a bit of superb detail and design, and a battle sequence in the final fourth of the film is absolutely great. Once again, AIC shows its stuff. I was also pleased to find the music dramatically appropriate, and the ending song actually kept me watching the credits!

The problems with Daughter of Darkness aren't serious, but they are important. The plot, such as it is, is a bit too rote and conventional, relying on the characters' likeability to sustain interest rather than the story. The villain Yuzuha certainly has more personality than the identity-free Kane of the first film, but he's not intimidating or threatening in and of himself. I really wish that Yuzuha looked less like a Yu-Gi-Oh reject because it's hard to take him seriously. There're also some slow bits in the first half that drag the film out a little too long. Are these show stoppers? No, but they do keep it out of the running for an "A" grade.

There are still plenty of things to admire in Daughter of Darkness. Once the movie really shifts gears about 35 minutes in, you won't want to pause a moment. When the tone turns dark and serious, the show really works. The movie's willingness to get a bit more violent than its predecessors makes sense, in this case, and adds to the dramatic element. In the gravity of the situation, we get some nice character development. Tenchi doesn't blurt out soliloquies of undying love, but we start to realize how much these individuals mean to each other. There are some nice softer moments between Ryoko and Ayeka, too. For once, we feel like the characters are actually growing, which is nice.

Obviously, Tenchi The Movie 2 is for fans who have at least experienced one of the TV or OVA series, but most won't be disappointed. Although I don't count myself as a devotee of the Tenchi continuum, the films are starting to really work their magic on me. It's still not top-tier anime in my book, but it's awfully close.

Tenchi The Movie 2: Daughter of Darkness -- violence, brief nudity -- B+