Magical Girl Pretty Sammy is probably the most “spun off” of the Tenchi Muyo! franchises because it bears so little resemblance to any of the others. For all of the alternate universes, the Tenchi story is pretty constant. Magical Girl Pretty Sammy is the second incarnation of the Pretty Sammy legend, and the first one that was developed beyond a throwaway joke. The best thing about the legends of the Pretty Sammy character is that they’re satirical and subversive while remaining perfect magical girl fare.
In the magical world of Jurai-helm, the time has come to appoint a queen. The council of elders has decided that Tsunami would be most suitable, and she must pass the final test: to do this, she appoints Kawai Sasami of Earth to use her powers for good by becoming Pretty Sammy. The other candidate for queen, Ramiya, is not happy with this at all and creates a magical girl of her own: Pixy Misa, born of Sasami’s best friend.
Oddly enough, Pretty Sammy works better if you’ve seen the alternate TV series Magical Project S: that goes somewhere, which gives this OVA licence to be a few short stories without having to really delve into Misao’s sadness or her home life. It doesn’t really try, and probably shouldn’t have really made allusions to these things, because that’s not what this is all about. It’s about Ryoko and Ayeka fighting over Tenchi, Tenchi inexplicably not making a move on either of the two girls who are totally into him, Ayeka having a team of school girl servants (highly reminiscent of B-ko) and the power of Sasami’s friendship.
It’s not an emotional series; the third episode has some saddening moments, but primarily this is all about the laughter. Any scenes with Sasami’s mother (different to the TV version; the Kawai family is here a single parent household) are guaranteed hilarity as she is obsessed with karaoke and takes every opportunity to sing subversive enka songs (the second ED is about a woman crying over losing her love to another man – the hook being “Gay love is making me sad”).
The second episode’s villain, Bif Standard, is hooked on the idea of standardising computers and software throughout the world. When criticised for the slowness of his system, he yells that speed must be sacrificed for stability. For some reason, his idea of stability is crashing the moon into the Earth, thus doing away with war and poverty. When he sees the error of his ways, it’s that he hasn’t aimed high enough – at which point Sammy asks if she can beat him up.
Matsumoto Rika is great as Kawai Chihiro, the woman who simply can not function without some karaoke in her life, and the rest of the traditional Tenchi Muyo! cast do their jobs and do them well. There’s a little bit of fan service, only one real naked transformation sequence, and some very disturbing animation in the OP that Sasami has to block by laughing it off. Creator Hayashi Hiroki did a good job of integrating all of the elements to make a very Tenchified yet independent OVA series, and directors Hirokawa Kazuyuki and Kikuchi Yasuhito direct with finesse. Hit and miss writer Kuroda Yosuke (Okay, he’s only had one real dud) is sharp and to the point, making for an ultimately very enjoyable comedy.
It may not be as “good” as Magical Project S, but because that TV series exists it doesn’t have to be. Magical Girl Pretty Sammy is a frequently hilarious three episode OVA that comes highly recommended for all people who like this kind of stuff. Watching this makes one reflect on how unfortunate it was that Magical Project S wasn’t dubbed; this Tenchi property could have conquered the world.
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