Welcome, dear readers, to the eleventh meeting of our Beneath the Tangles Light Novel Club. Up for discussion today is what is perhaps the least of the three True Tenchi Muyo! novels, but also the most satisfying in a number of ways. While Jurai and Yosho filled in important gaps that advanced the story of Tenchi Muyo!, Washu feels almost mid-story, a volume that raises more questions than answers while being the first of the books to focus on one of the main girls, and a fan favorite at that—the enigmatic genius, Washu Hakubi.
Framed in a unique way—reminiscent, actually, of the Mihoshi Special—the story begins by reminding us of “Hello Baby!”, the episode where we first got a glimpse into Washu’s sensitive side and learned that her back story was perhaps far fuller than we first imagined, far longer and deeper than any of the other girls’. The way into this tale is through none other than Mihoshi, who begins to regale the Masaki household with a family story that transitions into the main one, not realizing that her family’s account is part of Washu’s also.
Like the others in the series, Washu is a quick and exciting read. It is an absolute thrill to read about Washu’s childhood (or second childhood?) and her early years at the Academy. The story humanizes Washu, who in the original OVAs often flows between an absolutely lovable caricature of a mad scientist and a wise, ethereal being (note: only a very bit of her chousin origin is discussed here); the novel catches her during a time of innocence. In fact, the story really could be described as Washu’s loss of innocence, describing a journey from her years as a caretaker among orphans through education and her greatest loss, the one that still haunts her in the present time, as seen in “Hello Baby!” Covering so many years, the action often moves too fast and doesn’t necessarily feel like one big, coherent piece, though perhaps it wasn’t meant to—Washu continues to expand the world of Tenchi Muyo, which would of course later become larger and even more vast than fans would have imagined.
But enough from me—we want to jump into actual discussion. As we finish this series (the first we’ve completed!), I invite you all to answer the following questions in the comments. Feel free to answer some, all, or none, instead focusing on some other aspect of Washu which you’d like to discuss:
- In what ways do you better understand Washu after reading this novel?
- Do you see Mihoshi’s relationship with Washu differently after this novel?
- Why do you think Washu prefers to stay in the guise of a child after the events involving her family and into the modern day?
- Is Washu a more or less compelling character after you’ve read the novel?
- Did anything surprise you about Washu’s backstory?
- Do you understand Mikamo‘s decision to leave home with Mikumo?
- Did Washu make the right decision at the end of the book?
Jeskai Angel, our newest club member, also read along. Having never read the previous installments in the series nor watched the show, it presented a great opportunity to look at Washu as a standalone novel. I asked him some questions from that perspective:
And that’s it for us this time around! We highly encourage you to pick up the volume if you haven’t yet, and Jurai and Yosho as well, which I would describe as better written works and nearly as compelling. And stay tuned next week, as we announce our twelfth (!) selection for the BtT Light Novel Club!
Featured illustration by スギシン (reprinted w/permission)