It’s movies like this that really show that the harem genre isn’t inherently bad. There just are a lot of harem shows that are badly executed. I really like how every different installment of Tenchi Muyo so far has chosen three or four characters to flesh out and give depth. The first Tenchi Movie may have a bit of a misleading title: none of Tenchi’s romances are really developed here. Instead, we get to look at his parents. And it turned out to be a great family movie.
The charm of this movie is that it just gets better and better as it goes on. The transition from a silly story of harem hi-jinks to the more serious tale of Tenchi’s parents is really smooth, and well built-up. The former is a bit tedious at times, but it’s fun and innocent enough, while the latter is simple but effective.
The animation during the action-scenes is also exceptionally well done, and really shows the great things that can be done with traditional Cell animation. It’s smooth, it’s imaginative and powerful, and it makes something that would have been a cliched end boss into something really threatening. Seriously, it if wasn’t for the great animation, this guy would have made far lesser impact. Anime has enough badly animated monsters as it is already.
I wouldn’t exactly label this movie as one of the best movies ever, but what it does, it does pretty well, and it is a great way to spend an hour and a half. For me, it loses a few points with the exposition, which for the most part isn’t that interesting, and the harem hi-jinks, while not bad, were done better in the OVAs. Where this movie excels over the OVAs is the animation, storyline, balance and the action. Plus, it makes well use of the fact that the characters have already been fleshed out.