Content warning: slapstick violence, sexual harassment
What’s it about? Moroboshi Ataru is the biggest lech to ever ponder the form of a woman. Doesn’t help that he’s incredibly unlucky too. So when aliens decide to invade Earth and Ataru is randomly selected to play a game of high-stakes tag, it seems like his luck has completely run out: that is, until he meets the alien’s curvaceous princess, Lum.
Urusei Yatsura (hereafter UY) is an interesting series to come to in 2022. As someone who’s a fan of Lum without ever having read the run of Takahashi Rumiko’s famous comic, I was curious, especially when I learned that this was going to be a “greatest hits” format versus an outright remaster and redo of the original series.
And yet, unknowing as I am, I do know UY: it’s hard not to when you talk about 80s anime and manga series. I’d even be willing to say that it’s one of the most famous series to come out of Japan for this time period, and walked so many future comedies could fly. I don’t feel like that’s too big a claim to make: rather, it might actually undercut just how influential this series is. I think that’s largely why I wanted this in particular: I think a massive series like this might benefit from fresh eyes on it because I sense, just from the splash images for its debut, that nostalgia may be at play here.
But enough pondering: it’s time to get into episode 1, “Young Love on the Run / Between a Rock and a Hard Place” which is, as the backslash denotes, a two-parter in one twenty-four minute episode.
The first half, “Young Love on the Run,” introduces the plot of aliens coming to Earth to invade our beautiful blue marble. Enter Where’s Waldo–er, Ataru, a horny dude chosen to be Earth’s savior, and… oh, did I say horny? Because my guy likes the ladies and isn’t afraid to let you know it. (Side note: it’s actually not that bad, but it does feel very of another era.)
His mission? To succeed at a game of tag, a time-honored tradition amongst the aliens, in ten days. And of course we, the viewer, know he’s going to: but half the fun of this opener is seeing the game play out and seeing Lum and Ataru’s back and forth as they become the focus of the series itself.
The back half is much like the first: we get to see our main trio–Ataru, Lum, and Shinobu–crash and clash with one another. Namely, Lum and Shinobu push and pull plain boy Ataru, a character that I just… don’t like, and am desperate to find charm in most of the time. But this is only the beginning, and based on what all happens, there’s a lot that’s gonna happen before anyone’s walking down the proverbial aisle.
First things first: this show looks BEAUTIFUL. Lum is so charmingly rendered that I gasped when she appeared. Really, the entire style of Takahashi’s manga is captured so well that it’s kind of shocking. It really does feel less like a brand new iteration of this story and more like an update to 2020’s anime art styles while still standing out.
The same can be said of the OP, which is a bop filled with lots of snapshots of the manga panels, lovingly treated to a Live 2D-esque treatment that gives them a bit of life. Also, we get to see Lum dancing, and it’s just darn good. She immediately charmed me, and like… she’ll probably be why, spoiler, I’m going to see this one through to the end of the cour.
In fact, everything about this series is visually really pleasant: even the updates to Ataru having a smartphone in the OP feel natural to this story and world, which is strange to say because his parents definitely still rock a rotary phone with a cord in the home. (The series itself is definitely set in the late 70s/early 80s; the OP is the only thing that plays with modernity.) And this still counts even if the comedy sometimes feels like a relic of its era. Then again, there’s always a glut of “guys ogling girls” anime out there: this may not be as out of place as it sometimes feels.
Nostalgia is definitely at play here, and… that’s actually alright. I can see why a lot of people liked this series and honestly, still love it. I’m even eager to pick up the first omnibus of the manga, with hopes that I won’t bounce off it like I did another classic of this era. (That being Maison Ikkoku, which… I rebounded off harder than a bouncy ball on concrete.)
That said, I do think that Ataru is a relic: he feels like that one dude that just never knows when to avoid not being a bit of a creep. This goes doubly so when he accidentally strips Lum of her tiger-stripe top and leverages that as a way to grab her horns and defeat her in their intergalactic game: even more so with the love triangle antics between Shinobu, Ataru, and Lum.
Lum, on the other hand, feels timeless: I like that she’s capable of standing on her own, that she’s powerful in her own right, but… I’m not super into the fact that she’s very much so a “clingy” girl, which feels so deeply unfeminist of me to say but also must be said. Lum is on this average lookin’ boy like white on rice, and it’s so sudden a 180 that it’s kind of upsetting, given how we initially meet her. This, once again, is where me not having nostalgia may cause a hiccup: I’m not so charmed by that as I am by Lum as a headstrong young woman who happens to have misunderstood Ataru’s declaration of marriage. I find the marriage mix-up funny: I don’t find the dynamics of Ataru being a perv and constantly getting slapped around by his two love interests funny (haven’t we moved past that?).
All in all though, I think that this is a solid enough adaptation that suits both new and old: as a newcomer and new viewer, I found things charming, inclusive of my gripes about the idiosyncrasies of the cast, and as an old viewer, I’d imagine seeing a modern spin on a classic shounen rom-com is probably fun. I’ll follow it to the end of this season because it’s a fun little romp and looks so darn pretty, but time will tell if actually warm up to in full. Nostalgia I don’t have and have to create may not be enough for me to fully like this one, but hey, I’ll give it an earnest try.