Name: Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar (Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari)
Studio: Collaboration between AIC Spirits (Tenchi franchise, Blue Gender, Persona 4) and BeSTACK
Director: Masaki Kishijima (Tenchi franchise, Dual!)
The Tenchi Muyo franchise is one of those shows that will always hold a special place in my heart because I grew up watching it. A harem anime that follows the misadventures of a teenage boy living with a bunch of alien women out to win his heart, Tenchi Muyo is the perfect combination of comedy, action, and romance. Ever since the original OVA, the story has been re-told again (and again and again) and has had a number of successful and not-so-successful spin-offs. You can only tell a story so many different ways before it becomes stale and I thought I was content with just sticking with the original OVAs and the the first re-telling, Tenchi Universe! However, the pull of Tenchi is strong and I couldn’t stay away from the latest installment in the franchise, Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar.
After the disappointment of GXP, I doubted that any series set in this universe could work that didn’t focus on Tenchi or the girls, so I approached War on Geminar with much trepidation. A spin-off of the original OVAs, War on Geminar focuses on Tenchi’s younger half-brother, Kenshi Masaki. He gets transported to a mysterious world called Geminar where countries fight using mechs called Sacred Mechanoids. A secret organization promises to send him home if he assasinates the princess of the Shtrayu empire, Lashara Earth, but the plan goes awry and he ends up becoming her servant instead. He accompanies Lashara to the Holy Land, a school for the elite and the Sacred Mechamasters, the pilots of the Mechanoids, most of whom are girls. Let the hijinks begin.
Since this is a spin-off and set in an entirely different universe, it’s not necessary to watch the Tenchi Muyo OVAs or GXP, but if you have seen them, then Kenshi doesn’t seem like such a Gary Stu. Though he has no training, Kenshi is one of the few males that can pilot a Mechanoid and is incredibly powerful, not to mention adept at completing even the most menial tasks. He seems almost too perfect, but when you take into account he was raised by two princesses, a space pirate, a mad scientist, a police officer, and a cabbit spaceship (not to mention his brother is a god…or something) it would be stranger if he wasn’t good at all these things.
Unlike Tenchi, who has about as much personality as a plank of wood, Kenshi’s a fun protagonist who manages to carry the show on his charm alone. Usually the harem hero lacks any remarkable qualities and you scratch your head trying to figure out why all these girls like him so much. I didn’t feel like that with Kenshi; he’s adorably innocent and a little naive, but he’s not unbelievably incompetent or stupid. He doesn’t undergo any striking character development, though he does become more independent later on in the story. I wouldn’t say he’s a particularly layered character, but at least he doesn’t feel like an object used to incite conflict (though that is his purpose in some of the less memorable episodes).
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the girls surrounding Kenshi. I wonder if this is the downfall of creating an interesting harem lead since the reverse (a boring lead surrounded by a more riveting group of boys/girls) is usually the case. Part of the problem may also be that there are so many girls and even with forty-five minutes per epsiode, we never really get to know any of them and the few times the focus is on one of the girls, I’m just not engaged. First, there’s Lashara, Kenshi’s master who is fighting to keep her kingdom and despite her young age, is smart and capable, though her petty and childish side tends to emerge when there’s a chance to torture Kenshi or use him for profit. Chiaia is Lashara’s bodyguard and a Mechamaster that watches over Kenshi like he’s her younger brother and is generally in charge of disciplining him. Wahan is another Mechamaster that enjoys tinkering with machines and comes out with a new one just about every other episode. Aura is the stoic princess of the Shurifon Kingodm and Litihia is the class president that doesn’t really like Kenshi. There’s also Maria, Lashara’s cousin who she frequently clashes with and the princess of Havoniwa and her servant Yukine, and Mexiah, Chiaia’s older sister and a teacher in the Holy Land that delights in sexually harassing Kenshi. There isn’t really a main girl, though if I had to choose one that stuck out, it would be Lashara because she’s the most complex. Besides these girls, there are a number of other characters that move in and out of the story like Maria’s crazy mother and male characters who actually serve a purpose beyond competing for the other girls’ affections, but none of them are worth mentioning or at least can’t be mentioned without spoilers.
I can’t say much for the plot. While the first episode is tense and exciting with the introduction of a strange new world and the Big Bad, Lashara’s uncle Babalun and his servant Doll, they’re put on the backburner for mildly amusing school antics until the second half starts. The story is still weak, but the awesome fights in part two more than make up for it.
War on Geminar isn’t so bad that it’s unwatchable, but it’s not a show I’ll watch again anytime soon or spend a lot of time pondering. Still, I think it’s a good addition to the Tenchi franchise and if you’re looking for a mindless way to entertain yourself for two or three days, then you might want to check it out.