Note:Please be advised that because the light novels go into material concerning major plot and character elements of the Tenchi Muyo OVA series, there is the likelihood that I will dabble into spoilers concerning these throughout this review. Unless you have seen at least the first two Tenchi Muyo OVAs, I’d advise against reading this review at the risk of spoiling your experience watching the series.
The True Tenchi Muyo light novel series is supplementary material for the classic OVA series that explores elements of the series lore never dabbled into for the anime and is written by series creator Masaki Kajishima. It helps to bridge the gap between the second and third sets of OVAs within the OVA continuity for the Tenchi franchise.
The set comes in three volumes: Jurai, Yosho, and Washu. Jurai explores how Azusa, the father of Yosho, Ayeka, and Sasami, would travel to Earth during Japan’s feudal era to meet and bring his first wife, Funaho, to Jurai. Yosho explores the hardships that the prince faced being raised on Jurai due to his half-Earth, half-Jurai bloodline and his times at the Imperial Science Academy, where he’d meet his future wife Airi. Washu explores the times of our “greatest scientific genius” at the Imperial Science Academy after being raised at an orphanage, with focus mainly on the bond she establishes with close friend Naja Akara and the relationship she has with student Mikamo Kuramitsu, whom OVA fans will know as Washu’s former husband brought up from episode 8 of the OVA series.
The True Tenchi Muyo light novels have their place in the lore of the Tenchi OVA continuity, as they go into a good deal of detail on major elements of the series timeline that the anime doesn’t dabble too heavily into. Major elements of the series such as the formation of the Juraian Empire and the Imperial Science Academy gaining independence from Jurai rule are mentioned and explored at points during the novels. But the central focus of each novel is the exploration of each individual character’s pasts and their contribution to events that would shape things for later within the OVA timeline with Tenchi and the girls. Like the Tenchi anime, the novels strike a decent balance of both humor and serious moments as it explores the pasts of Azusa, Yosho, and Washu in each novel. The story developments explored with each character add more dimension to elements of their backstory and other characters who are affected by them in some capacity. Each novel also has a prologue featuring Tenchi and the girls within the present relating to an event connected to the character story that would be explored in each novel.
There is one thing that may be a big issue to Western fans with the novel series. While the Jurai and Yosho stories largely resolve themselves by their end, the Washu novel covering parts of Washu’s backstory doesn’t cover everything about her origins. As Washu’s character backstory is a rather complicated one compared to many characters within the Tenchi OVA continuity, parts of her origins are covered in a number of other doujin and interviews by Masaki Kajishima that have largely never left Japan, limiting the amount of known information that those outside the country can get to know about Washu. The lack of access to other supplementary material outside Japan for the Tenchi franchise has been an issue for recent anime installments of the OVA continuity, and it seems this issue also extends to further exploring other elements of Washu’s past beyond the True Tenchi Muyo novels.
While the limited access of supplementary materials for Tenchi OVA Western fans is a major issue, I suppose you could consider it a surprising miracle that one of the materials finally received a Western release with the True Tenchi Muyo light novels. They offer a solid look into the pasts of important characters within the Jurai Royal Family and some parts of Washu’s past, offering the OVA’s engaging balance of humor and serious developments throughout each novel. But it’s still a shame many Western fans won’t get easy access to additional materials that dabble more into Washu’s past, as well as stuff that dabbles into later events of the OVA continuity for Western fans that have stuck to the Tenchi Muyo franchise over the past couple decades. The True Tenchi Muyo novels are a definite recommendation for those that dabble into the Tenchi franchise. Just be warned that it doesn’t dabble into everything regarding the origins of some major characters within the OVA continuity.