Light Novel Kindling: When Your Journey Leads to Ryoko

What am I supposed to do with my life?

I struggled with that question throughout college and into my mid-twenties. Although I set solid plans for how my career would lay out, they would shift every couple of years as I learned that maybe my plans were based on what I saw myself doing rather than on what I really should do. Some young people know what they want to be from an early age, but others, like me, struggle with that question—some into middle age or further.

I never figured out the answer to that question, meaning that where I ended up wasn’t the result of a plan I personally developed. It was, in a sense, chosen for me, similarly to how a young character from a favorite series of mine found what we wanted to do (though without the whole royal family / demon-chasing / sci-fi element).

In volume two of the True Tenchi Muyo! light novel series, which is the next selection for our Beneath the Tangles light novel club, Yosho, known to most casual fans of Tenchi Muyo as Tenchi’s grandfather (Katsuhito), has to deal with that question. As the volume that bears his name begins, Yosho is a responsible, calm, and thoughtful 12-year-old, living relatively peaceably as the next-in-line for the throne of Jurai. But something is nagging him…something is calling to him. At first, it seems to be love—Yosho is somewhat distraught that he can no longer have the same intimacy with Misaki, his step-mother (the world of Tenchi Muyo! is a web of complicated and often incestuous relationships—in other words, a world of old-time royalty), after learning that he will be betrothed to her daughter, Ayeka. To further push away that longing he feels, Misaki’s mother, Seto, has Yosho sent to the Galaxy Police Academy.

The plan is a smart one (Seto is a genius strategist) and it helps, but it also creates further complication when Yosho becomes close to Airi, a fellow student and daughter of the ruler of a planet that has poor relations with Jurai. As their relationship deepens, Yosho is pulled in all directions, and eventually away from the academy permanently, called home to Jurai to fulfill his duties.

So what is it that Yosho wants? Misaki? Airi? Ayeka? The crown? Yes to some of those, but even when it comes to the relationship he values most (I’ll avoid spoilers here), it’s really almost a secondary concern—there’s something that Yosho desires above all. Something of which he may not even be aware.

Isn’t life just like that sometimes? When it came to career, I wanted to do something I was passionate about, something I could be proud of, and in fact, I was given an opportunity to do my dream job, to work in the position I had literally daydreamed of doing throughout my teens for the organization I hoped to serve. For various reasons, though, I turned the offer down. At the time, I was crushed, but later I realized it was for the best. God was preparing me for something he wanted me to do in my career, in a position where I now feel an unexpected satisfaction in a place I don’t deserve to be, being challenged to grow daily as an employee and as a person.

Sometimes challenge is an opportunity

I would say my path there was unusual—I’ll tell you the story if you ever ask—but Yosho’s journey was even more winding (this is anime, after all). Jurai is attacked by the demonic Ryoko, under control of Kagato, and only Yosho is able to respond. He manages to chase Ryoko away from the planet, where she had done great harm (the effects of her attack have impacts that reach centuries later and into the time of Tenchi Masaki), but in contemplating his plan to defeat his enemy, another thought arose: he could use this an opportunity to “escape Jurai.”

In Yosho’s heart of hearts, the crown prince who was always obedient (quite the opposite of his father) secretly longed for freedom. It was not found in academy with Airi, nor on Jurai with Misaki or Ayeka. It was found instead with his enemy, Ryoko. The two leapt to the Milky Way galaxy and by Yosho’s choice, landed on earth. Ryoko was locked away in the cave in which she’s found at the start of Tenchi Muyo OVAs, and Yosho begins a long life hiding on the planet.

What would have happened if Ryoko had never attacked Jurai, if she has finally rebelled against Kagato and somehow escaped his clutches and lived life as a pirate without any ambition or sense of vengeance against Yosho’s world? Yosho may not have ever left Jurai…he may have remained true to that which he exhibited on the outside, as a model crown prince. But for the boy—just entering adulthood when these events occurred—the intrusion led him to the place he wanted to go, even if he didn’t yet know it.

Sometimes that’s the same with us—we don’t know where we want to go or where we belong until we get there. And even if that might cause us worry, or look like listlessness or indecisiveness to the world, maybe It’s not the worst thing in the galaxy after all.

Thanks for reading along with this “Light Novel Kindling” article, a piece that will hopefully get you excited and remind you that our light novel discussion is just around the corner. We encourage you to pick up volume two of True Tenchi Muyo! and join us on December 28th here on the blog to discuss the book!

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