Tenchi Muyo was my first deep dive into anime. I was entranced by the show, which was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was of course more adult than other animation I had grown up with, but there was also unexpected depth to the series. In fact, upon my initial zigzagged viewing of the show—missing an episode here and there, watching the TV series one week and the OVAs the next—I didn’t piece together the whole story. I didn’t realize that these characters didn’t just exist in the here and now—they were a result of tens of thousands of years of Jurain history, some of it their own and some of relatives and other connected characters.
Washu, the diminutive “angel of mercy” from the series, has perhaps the most expansive background of all. Though many of the characters are centuries old, Washu is older than most by thousands of years. She’s a special being, indeed, and we find out how as the series progresses. Layer up on layer is revealed—genius scientist, yes, but also Ryoko’s mother and a literal goddess.
Volume three of the True Tenchi Muyo light novels goes even further, outlining much of her life before the events of the anime series. We see the same old Washu in certain parts, that deviousness that contributes to making her fan favorite (and my personal favorite among the canon girls), but we also get to see more of her humanity, which is most on display in only one episode of the original OVAs, “Hello Baby” (episode eight). Tenderness, fear, love—these common components to the human condition, not seen enough in a series that’s not centered on Washu, come through more fully in a light novel that is.
It’s refreshing to see this part of the sly goddess. Tenchi enjoys seeing this side as well, and treats Washu with more gentleness during episode eight when hearing about her life story some (much to the chagrin of the others). That’s very much like Tenchi, though—he’s a simple guy who generally only sees what you present before him. He doesn’t look beneath the surface. He doesn’t look to the past. Washu is “mad scientist Washu” until she explains she isn’t; otherwise, Tenchi would have continued interacting with her the same way he always had.
I have a habit of having that same simple mind when I’m around others. A close friend recently explained that though I see the best in people, at first I usually view them with more judgmental eyes. I see the actions and don’t consider the motive behind them, the background and thought that leads people to do the things they do, the human frailty and life experiences that might lead someone down this path or that.
I see people for what they are in the moment; I don’t always see them for who they really are.
When I do that, I unfortunately miss the richer story—and I can’t get to know that unless I seek to get to know that person better, to throw away preconceived notions and look beyond the cover of the book. Like Washu, I need to dive into the light novel of others lives instead of just merely looking at the cover.
I know that when I do so, it’s almost always ultimately worth it. I only need to be less like Tenchi—and in doing so, I can see people not only as some mad scientist, but as a goddess—or better, the in-between of who they really are.
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 three of True Tenchi Muyo! and join us on May 31st here on the blog and on Twitter to discuss the book!