Urusei Yatsura

a Reeeview item by J Nash (Thursday November 12th, 2009)

JN says...JN saysFor Super Play’s video review section, Irresponsible Pictures. Inexplicably I returned the tapes. Out of interest, ie not much interest, this is the appropriate source of my long-standing electric picture face. Like Ataru, I become dithery and speckled when perching against a block of red.

Volume 7
Powerfully demonstrating the dangers of a love triangle between a student lech, a dizzy alien and a girl who actually fancies a claustrophobic nitwit, Urusei Yatsura plays like a sitcom that’s napped hatless in the sun. In Volume 7 Ataru’s still trying to shake off space-gal Lum but is still failing as she won’t take a hint and keeps electrocuting him on the slightest suspicion of infidelity. There’s the usual supporting cast of oglers, gogglers, goggling oglers and mind-boggling hornswogglers.

In episode one, Big Springtime Picnic Uproar, a lot of mistaken-identity fondling in a darkened cave leads to stumbling upon a spaceship and, in the sort of casual fantasy turn that makes the series so pleasingly absurd, Ataru rescuing an underwater god and being whisked away to a fishy burlesque. Further unremarked-upon tomfoolery occurs in the one-joke body-swap episode Beware Of Earmuffs. The big laugh comes when Ataru exchanges bodies with flying mite Jariten and deliberately crash-lands upon breasts, which the schoolgirls think mightily cute, but then the episode goes on for another 20 minutes.

In the third and best episode, Fly Imo, Ataru and Lum defend a gluttonous caterpillar from the wrath of the lunchless. Packed with funny lines (“Curses — the old pesticide-cloaking trick!”) and business (the cackling villain’s jaw locking), this warm-hearted tale also has a surprise ending. The final episode is Ten’s Love, where Jariten falls for aloof shrine maiden Miss Sakura despite insoluble differences in culture, age and height. The standout scene has Ataru desperately trying to stay on an unbalanced chair.

This is a first-class tape. The subtitling clearly puts across the gags and spectacularly convoluted puns, the animation is splendidly gymnastic, there are some completely unexpected visual jokes and, as a bonus, you get the ad break bumpers and next-episode trailers. I approve.

Volume 8
Volume 8 of this tremendously funny series opens with a dramatic camera sweep along night streets to a teetering chimney where Count Dracula squats primly brushing his teeth. What class.

In What A Dracula the count is a likeable goon incapable of speaking without falling off a roof or his coffin exploding. Failing to suck Lum’s blood due to speaking and falling off a roof, he orders his transsexual bat sidekick to enlist help and find a date. Enter Ataru — ace playboy. (“Remember me? We met on the beach last year!”) Much fun, although the punchline is feeble. Far beefier is Lum’s Boy’s Education Lecture Course, where Lum jumps into a cup of time tea to curb Ataru’s lechery by craftily nailing a doll to his seven-year-old head that will electrocute him should he approach another girl. Except the present-day Ataru follows with thwarting intent. An attempt to explain the plot collapses with everyone looking baffled then poking younger Ataru until he cries.

From The Gardenia With Love, the most energetic episode, is another Jariten/Ataru playoff. They incompetently nurture the gardenia to impress a florist who coquettishly beats Ataru’s stupid face. Highlights are a 4,000 mph foot chase, terrific daydreams (Ataru hopes the girl will faint dispiritedly into his arms; Ten seeks an offer of marriage) and an enriching lesson in the power limit of noodles. Episode four, A Beautiful Girl Comes With The Rain, is a deliberately Alfred Hitchcock Presents-type tale of rain monster curses. Only Ataru and his impossible persistence while being smashed over the head with tons of water can help. (English class: “It’s rai-ai-ai-ainy today.”)

Again I am convulsed with laughter by this imaginatively brain-fevered show, although if you’re new to the series I’d recommend the marginally stronger Volume 7. Number nine, roll up swiftly.

8/10 for both