Anime of the Past: Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

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Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness

Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness is a 1997 feature film produced by AIC. The second Tenchi Muyo theatrical feature after 1996’s Tenchi Muyo in Love, it tells the tale of a bizarre intrusion into the usual, already pretty violent love triangle of Tenchi, Ayeka and Ryoko. It’s also a film that I found incredibly confusing the first time that I watched it.

Though, that confusion wasn’t really the film’s fault. When I first watched Daughter of Darkness back in its original North American release, my familiarity with Tenchi Muyo as a whole was limited to Tenchi Muyo in Love, the Tenchi Universe TV series, and a little bit of exposure to the OVA. I had no way of knowing that Daughter of Darkness exists in its own separate continuity bubble from every other production in the already fragmented franchise. It also didn’t help that the original western marketing for the two theatrical films titled them as Tenchi the Movie and Tenchi the Movie 2.

Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness

Collective visual representation of my reaction the first time I watched Daughter of Darkness.

But separate continuity aside, it’s not that difficult to get up to speed. Tenchi still lives at home with his lecherous dad, his Juraian grandfather, and a gaggle (Cluster?  Murder?) of girls from space. Only this time around, a strange new girl shows up and creates all sorts of new havoc.

Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness - Mayuka

Meet Mayuka!

Mayuka doesn’t simply invite herself into Tenchi’s household. She insists that Tenchi is her father. A revelation that’s concerning not only due to the fact that Tenchi hasn’t fathered any children, but also due to the fact that Mayuka appears to be about Tenchi’s age. So what the heck is going on here?

It’s actually revealed early on that Mayuka is the creation of Yuzuha, a creature of darkness seeking revenge against the Jurai. She mixed some of Tenchi’s hair with her own in order to create Mayuka and implanted false memories of her “father” into her mind. And voila, she has a puppet capable of getting close to everyone. A perfect vessel of revenge!

Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness

Meet the mother/angry space-witch antagonist.

Only it’s not as simple as Yuzuha would like, as Mayuka has also developed a will of her own. She has a childlike mind, but she honestly thinks of Tenchi as her father, and her attempts to get close to him result in some comic tension between herself, Ayeka, and especially Ryoko. As well as some very awkward scenes where Mayuka is perhaps a bit too eager to get close to her dad.

Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness

Juuuuust a little.

Things eventually go south for Mayuka as Yuzuha attempts to assert her will over her, changing her from an innocent girl into a puppet of violent death that kidnaps Ayeka’s sister Sasami. This ultimately leads to a final showdown in which Tenchi and Ryoko infiltrate the dark world Yuzuha calls home in order to stop her. Merry Christmas.

Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness

Santa brought her a soulless desire to murder!  Yay!

No, really. Daughter of Darkness is, in its own way, a Christmas film. It ties the Japanese manner of celebrating the holiday, which has less to do with worshiping Christ and more to do with cake and presents, with Startica, a Juraian summer holiday of a similar manner. And that theme carries over into the fight with Yuzuha, who uses traps and magic that contain as much holiday cheer as they do potential for death. Mayuka is ultimately able to break free of Yuzuha’s control through her desire to experience Christmas with her new friends.

Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness

Yuzuha loves holiday-themed death-traps more than the kid from Home Alone.

Unfortunately, Mayuka doesn’t make it out alive. But in the film’s conclusion, Washu uses the gem that remains of her to allow her to be reborn as an infant, which the whole gang raises together. An undoubtedly major reason why this production exists in its own little corner outside of the other timelines.

Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness

Little Mayuka has an almost terrifying number of mothers now.

Enjoyment of Daughter of Darkness hinges on one’s familiarity with and enjoyment of Tenchi Muyo in general. I said before that Tenchi Muyo in Love was my introduction to the franchise, but I never felt as though I were lost watching it even though it was made for an audience already familiar with the characters. Daughter of Darkness never feels the same way. It requires a greater sense of familiarity to enjoy, particularly in regard to the relationships of the primary characters. Ayeka and Ryoko’s fawning over Tenchi in Tenchi Muyo in Love isn’t that important in terms of its narrative. But the establishment of Mayuka as a character in Daughter of Darkness heavily involves getting in their way of Tenchi, and Ryoko’s more adversarial and violent responses to her provide the greatest conflict between the primary characters.

Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness

This is Ryoko’s reaction to Mayuka for about two thirds of the movie.

That being said, Daughter of Darkness is an entertaining movie, though not in the same manner as the more nostalgia-minded Tenchi Muyo in Love. Those that enjoy the characters and are familiar with their relationships might find it to be a fun way to get a little holiday cheer. Otherwise, it’s best to get an introduction to the franchise elsewhere before taking this one in.

Tenchi Muyo: The Daughter of Darkness was released on DVD and Blu-ray in North America by Geneon Universal in conjunction with Funimation as part of a box set also containing Tenchi Muyo in Love and Tenchi Muyo in Love 2. The release contains both the original Japanese with English subtitles, as well as the English dub originally produced by Pioneer Entertainment. The film is not rated, but contains nudity and violence.

About Justin Graham

Justin joined Oprainfall through…belligerence. (Note to others: This is not a good way to get noticed. This sort of thing only works once.) When he’s not writing about games or waxing nostalgic about anime older than a large portion of the site’s audience, he can be found playing JRPGs or beating up lots of dudes in Dynasty Warriors.