Miscellanea and Ephemeron
09/05/2005 Archived Entry: "Anime review: Only You, Urusei Yatsura: Movie 1"
Review by Kelly S. Taylor
I love Lum. It's kinda hard to explain why, though. She's really sort of a bitch. Well, then again, maybe that's what I like about her. Lum is the central character of Rumiko Takahashi's first successful manga series, Urusei Yatsura. The title literally translates as "The Noisy Aliens." However, since urusei is a somewhat impolite term, it might capture the feeling of the original better to say the title is "Shut Up, Aliens!" or "Those Damned, Trouble-Making, Noisy Aliens!"
The beginning of Only You is a perfect introduction to the series. After a flashback, the story starts with a big pink creature with a beak wearing white cap riding a bicycle through the air delivering wedding invitations that systematically throw the entire town into absolute panic. And that's Urusei Yatsura for you in a nutshell. Serene normalcy is cheerfully interrupted by the intrusion of the inexplicably -- though cutely -- bizarre.
Lum is a big-eyed, green-haired, tiger-striped bikini-wearing, alien princess. As an unexpected result of an interspecies game of tag played for the survival of Planet Earth, Lum becomes engaged to Ataru Moroboshi, the most lecherous high-school student to ever live... at least in the early 1980s. More lecherous high-school students may have come along by now... although I hope not. Lum winds up living in Ataru's closet, going to school, and driving most of the boys on her planet and ours mad with desire, while she remains stubbornly loyal to her "darling," whose lifelong dream is to have his own harem. Fortunately she has the power to fly and deliver high-voltage electrical bursts to shock some sense into Ataru's commitment-phobic, girl-crazy little ass when the situation calls for it. Her alien friends, family, and/or enemies visit and/or take up residence. Madcap adventures (that make you sound more than a little stoned when you try to recount them) ensue.
As you can tell, Urusei Yatsura is all about the zany. Although Only You is a cheerful, slapstick, bikini-clad alien fest, fans of Takahashi's later work may find this movie a little shallow. Even taking into account the number of Japanese puns and folklore references that fly straight over the heads of foreign viewers, Urusei Yatsura generally didn't have the comedic depth or the dramatic range of her later work. Only You magnifies some of the flaws of the series as it concentrates on getting as many characters on screen as possible at the cost of plot and character development. However, it's still a ton of goofy fun as only Rumiko Takahashi can serve up.
Fans of Inuyasha or Ranma 1/2 who have not yet been exposed to Urusei Yatsura may enjoy seeing how Takahashi has continued to develop themes and characters across her work. Temperamental and powerful alien princess Lum donates many of her characteristics to the vain but vulnerable heroes Ranma and Inuyasha. Patient, though superhumanly strong schoolgirl Shinobu would later move up to star status as Ranma ½'s Akane and later Inuyasha's Kigome. Although Inuyasha's Miroku is tall and handsome like Urusei Yatsura's Mendou, he still has many of the avaricious qualities of the monk Cherry as well as a healthy dose of Ataru's lecherousness.
Because I usually complain about the English language voice actors, I feel I must mention the enthusiastic work done by Steve Rassin who voices Ataru Moroboshi in the dubbed version. Ataru is a mercurial character who can switch from a sincere expression of devotion to utter desperation to maniacal laughter and back within the same sentence. Rassin does a great job of reproducing the giggles, growls, and groans that make Ataru sound like Ataru.
Animeigo has once more included the same sort of broad selection of DVD extras that reduced me to gleeful gushing in my review of Oh My Goddess. As I said in that review, extras really warm the heart and open the pocketbook of the avid anime collector. Even if you're already familiar with some of the material covered, liner notes and other extras allow the fan to spend more time enjoying a show they love.
In addition to the standard image gallery and biography of the English language voice acting leads, Animeigo has included some interesting extra material. The first item on the extras menu is an odd choice. It's a compilation of rejected voice actor auditions. I thought this might be funny, but it's actually a rather long sampling of uninspired, unsuitable, or downright bad voice acting.
Next is a "Behind the Scenes" featurette. This collection of scenes presents taped footage of each of the voice actors at work creating his or her portion the soundtrack for the English dub of the movie. To be honest, it's not the most exciting stuff in the world. However for hard-core fans, it's a very interesting (and very, very, very long) look backstage at the demanding work performed by voiceover actors.
The most useful item for me was the collection of character biographies. Only You features cameo appearances from all the major characters in the series along with a new collection of personages from the Planet Elle created just for this movie. The twenty-three (yes, I said twenty-three) bios collected in this grid may therefore serve as a very necessary reference guide and refresher course for even long-time fans of the series.
Once again as it did for Oh My Goddess, my little fannish heart warmed at the sight of the tri-folded liner notes inside the front cover of this DVD. The viewer is provided with background on the series and a quick lesson in Japanese forms of address. The most interesting part for me was the explanations of some real "stumpers" -- popular culture references and puns that make no sense to the non-resident of Japan in the early 1980's. The English dub of the movie displays abbreviated forms of these explanations in the form of subtitles. I heartily approve of this type of footnoting. The notes are few and far enough apart in the movie to avoid being intrusive. Between the liner notes and the judicious use of subtitled footnotes, Animeigo did a good job of smoothing over all the "What in the bikini-clad heck was that?" moments for me. Makes me feel sorry for the poor schmo who's out there trying to footnote "The Simpsons" or "The Family Guy" for East Asia, though...
In short, this is a fun piece of anime history that every aficionado of the genre will enjoy. Although the graphics are very 1980 un-computer enhanced plain, the content is 1980 retro good. Animeigo has put together a fan-friendly package that will deliver your much-needed alien-girls-in-bikinis fix in style.
The Wapshott Press
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