Urusei Yatsura's Remake - I'm A Fan For Life (6/26/2024)

On June 21st, 2024, the Urusei Yatsura remake anime by David Production aired its final episode, finishing up its adaptation of the manga's ending story. The series started in 2022 with a two cour season, and came back for another twofer in 2024, wrapping up at 46 episodes. This series was my real introduction to the world of Urusei Yatsura, and now I'm a major fan. I've found myself collecting the manga and intermittently watching some of the 80's anime productions. I adore Takahashi's style and have gotten a lot of laughs and smiles out of this whole love affair I've developed. I'll be reflecting on this affair today!

The first Rumiko work I was exposed to, naturally, was Inuyasha, which I imagine seldom needs an introduction. I was very much on the younger side though, and only caught stray episodes basically by accident. I could go back even further with the Ranma 1/2 movie trailer that appeared on Pokémon VHS tapes of the time. I loved the song and the animation, but never saw the tape or asked for at. Had I known about Ranma's gender-changing gimmick at THIS time, I imagine it would have had a dramatic impact on the genderqueer quagmire I find myself in today. For whatever amusement or insight it may bring you, kid me thought that the best thing would be the ability to switch back and forth between boy and girl. I have been told this is not a very cisgender thought. I would go on to buy a Ranma 1/2 volume in my college years and enjoyed it, but wouldn't read more until 8-9 years after that.

Basically, I had an extremely spotty sense of the Rumic World no matter how much time passed and curiosity swelled. As far as Urusei goes, well, I knew the name Lum and that she had green hair (usually), and that was about it! Unlike Ranma, the desire to really check it out just never came despite praise and oft-heard historical significance in anime circles. When DavidPro's anime was announced, I decided that Lum was too pretty to ignore and that I'd be watching this for a while, at the very least.

What I found was a franchise that hits all the right notes for me and one of the most colorful, funny casts of characters I've had the pleasure of getting to know.

Urusei Yatsura is, in broad strokes, a romantic comedy with some sci-fi fun. When the Oni (or Ogre in the Viz manga) clan of aliens come to take over Earth through a game of tag, the beautiful Lum decides that singe-brain-cell organism Ataru Moroboshi is her true love. Ataru would rather have almost any other girl, though! This is the most basic summary, and things change a bit as many more characters get introduced and live in the main cast.

If that seems trite or dry, it's worth remembering that UY started publication in 1978. Yep, even predating the debut of Mobile Suit Gundam by seven months or so. It's also more fun in practice than described. You will develop a scrimblo if you watch this. Mine are Benten (pictured), Ryunosuke, and my beloved Ran-chan. Slice-of-life fans will get what I mean. Even though UY is so out-there, there's a real menagerie of lovable aliens, monsters, and strange things to check up on.

I mentioned in my Call Of The Night post that in the past, I've been picky about what I'll tolerate as far as sexual content or themes. I've lightened up in recent times, but Urusei Yatsura appeals greatly to my personal taste for that stuff. It's that old-fashioned, somewhat risque-for-the-80's style of comedy, romance, and just a little eroticism that is unbelievably endearing and palatable to me. I'm pretty complicated (was that obvious?), but you could say in general I am a PG-13 type of person. In this sense, it feels like this series was hand-crafted for me. I can relax, let my guard down, and open myself up to some giggling and taking simple pleasure in whatever goofy thing happens next.

The reverse-harem set up adds to that charm, although harem genre experts may tell you that UY is the original harem style series. Ataru seems to lust after everyone but Lum, all of whom, of course, rightfully can't stand him. There are about a dozen or so regular female characters, but they've all got their own things going on independent of Ataru and are usually hitting him with hammers. It's clear that Ataru does sincerely care about Lum, which helps the series be fun and cute and not insanely annoying. Ataru is stubborn and an idiot, but in his own way he's pretty observant and not to be underestimated. He does have one or two traits that largely define him, but it would be unfair to call him one-dimensional.

I began to read the manga not long after I got hooked on this 2022 series. What surprised me was that the new anime didn't attempt modernize any story for 2020's tastes. It became clear to me that it didn't really have to, but with the manga celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2024, it still surprised me how some of it could have been written today. It's all built on the most classic kind of rom-com gags, but the new show never felt like an intentional throwback to simpler times, or anything. It just ...still works! A fresh new modern art style does all the heavy lifting to bring Urusei Yatsura into the 20's. The time period for the stories is still sort of ambiguously the 1980's. Nobody pulls out a cell phone except in the first opening, nobody seems to use the internet, etc. It's not something you'll think about too often in the middle of watching it. I found it pretty easy to imagine this was taking place in our time. Perhaps there really is something timeless about the craziness of love, relationships, and aliens!

This anime wasn't flawless by any stretch, mind you. I'd love to make some stylistic comparisons to the 1980's anime series, but I've only seen some scattered episodes and the first two films, as of now. If you know me, you know I love traditional cel photographed animation, so the original anime is simply gorgeous to me. Even TV episodes are pretty impressive. Any deeper knowledge is a little beyond me, so I highly recommend "Understanding Urusei Yatsura" by Matteo Watzky. This is a great article going over the history of UY in otaku culture, from manga to anime.

One of the big stumbling blocks in this new series is simply the need to introduce so many characters. Nearly back to back, you'll meet Cherry, Shinobu, Lum, Sakura, Mendo, Benten, Oyuki, Ran, Rei, Ryunosuke, Ryoko, Ten...and so on. For those familiar with the material already, I'm sure it was no big deal. For me, it was a little difficult to get invested when we kept bouncing from character to character. The second season is just overall better, with much less "work" to do, and is much more free to shuffle characters around for the most amusing results.

Season one also ends on a slight stinker, in my opinion. I know the whole series can feel a bit random at times, but the Tomobiki Queen contest actually does come across as nonsense to me. I can never completely dislike an episode where all the girls scream in support of Ryunosuke, and it does have a sweet ending scene, but amidst all the chaos, it just fell a bit flat.

This is Nagisa and he's one of my favorite characters, too. Yes, He/Him! He can pack away food and is super strong...what's not to love? God I wish that were me.

Most of these things are minor roadbumps though, and you might simply have some characters you like more than others. For example, Ten is not one of my favorites, he's a total rugrat, but he's there a lot. Benten and Oyuki are not there nearly enough for my taste! But that's just what you get into when you can only adapt so many stories out of hundreds from the manga.

Speaking of the manga, I'm about halfway through! They make a beautiful set on the bookshelf, as you can see by my very own photo there. Urusei Yatsura is a fabulous comic. It hardly needs to be said, but Rumiko Takahashi's work truly is to be treasured. You can watch the art style evolve as the series progresses, but she has this fabulous sense for gorgeous title pages. Something about the comic format (or her skill as a mangaka, if not both!) lends itself extremely well to chapter endings that sort of summarize a chaotic scene. Some of them are almost like "Where's Waldo" in the number of gags and word balloons going off. It's all fun to read and look at!

The Viz release also has some very high quality English lettering, which is something I always appreciate in a manga release. For those uninterested in collecting paper tomes, the series is available to read in its entirety on Viz's app (a separate thing from the Shonen Jump subscription!!).

How about we go over a few favorite episodes before we close? This will be by individual story segment (most episodes feature two stories), but I'll mention the overall episode number so you can see it, of course!

  • Episode 5: "How I've Waited for You…"
  • This is the first really good episode, in my opinion. If the name "Kunio Otoko" doesn't mean anything to you now, it definitely will after you see this one! One of the first, and likely best, moments of actual complete sweetness between Ataru and Lum. Not to be missed or spoiled if you can help it!

  • Episode 14: ""That Mizunokoji Boy" & "Love Letter Trouble"
  • Shutaro Mendo's devious sister Ryoko is a lovable mischief maker, and while this isn't her debut episode, she still prominently features. Tobimaro is a sparingly used character (for some reason, he's funny!), so you'll get to meet him and watch Mendo absolutely lose it. Meanwhile, Ryoko cannot stop tormenting the boys with explosives and death traps. Tee-hee! Of course, Ataru and Lum have to get involved somehow when a letter from Tobimaro gets interpreted as a love letter to Ryoko. She also says this, which is extremely funny for reasons outside of the plot. Just an all around good one for everyone involved!

  • Episode 16: "Family Feud!!" & "Hello, Sailor Suit!!"
  • If you do only one thing with my praise of Urusei Yatsura, you have to meet Ryunosuke. This is her introduction episode, and it's 100% gold. Ryunosuke was raised as a boy, but wants to reclaim her femininity. The big problem, though? Her father's not having it, and it's always an all-out physical brawl between these two! Ranma isn't the only series with some gender shenanigans! If you're curious about Ryunsouke, I can recommend Ryunosuke's Transition by Helen Chazan, who excellently gets into the weeds with a trans perspective on the character. Be sure to watch 17 as well for a Ryunsouke/Shinobu date!

  • Episode 29: "Lum Becomes a Cow"
  • If you can see this one as blindly as possible, I do recommend it. I did show one screenshot earlier, but don't worry about that! It's got some of the biggest gut punches in the series, and still manages to have a few laughs and smiles. This is Ataru Moroboshi at his best. This one has some particularly well done animation, if that's your style!

  • Episode 39: "Nagisa's Fiance" & Episode 40: "One Night's Battle"
  • I showed you Nagisa above being thrown out the window by Ryunosuke. What happens when a brawler girl meets a superhuman feminine boy? A lot! You've got to see them investigate the other one's chest.

  • Episodes 43-46: "Boy Meets Girl"
  • An extended finale. For a fun comparison, this material was previously made into the 1988 film Urusei Yatsura: The Final Chapter, two years after the original TV series had ended. You are wondering what the last story could possibly be, right? Well, let this meme warm you up. How does the fate of the world and everyone we love end up in the balance of a lover's quarrel? You might be surprised! There's a lot of extra fun to be had with some of the new characters here, Carla in particular is someone I wish we could have seen just a little sooner.

There's a ton of good ones I didn't mention here (no Ran-chan episodes made my list, but she's the best!), and maybe you'll have a favorite that I didn't name!

Hopefully, you've got an idea of what makes Urusei Yatsura so special, for me and for so many others! I have this new anime to thank for it. The romantic, and silly antics are just to my taste, a huge cast of lovable, fallible dorks sealed the deal. It's a storied franchise with a ton of appeal. It's no wonder it can make new fans, like me, even after so long. It would please me greatly to see another generation of fans in twenty more years!

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See you later, darling!

- James