OP: 「アイウエ」 (Aiue) by Maisondes, Minami, Sakuramoti
「かけめぐる青春 / 絶体絶命」 (Kakemeguru Seishun / Zettai Zetsumei)
“Young Love on the Run / Between a Rock and a Hard Place”
I wasn’t expecting to fall for Lum Invader so easily. Many otaku of the ’70s, ’80s, and beyond have looked up to Lum as the original “Best Girl”, and with how Episode 01 of the Urusei Yatsura remake turned out, it isn’t hard to see why. Between its vibrant, glossy visuals and irreverent campiness, Urusei Yatsura is a welcome presence that throws caution to the wind and lets its freak flag fly.
MAD ABOUT YOU
What makes Urusei Yatsura work so well for me is how it dials its campy and cruel sense of humor so high that it hits the stratosphere. It aims its cartoonishly mean-spirited humor towards a character as shamelessly uncouth as our lead protagonist Ataru, who talks about all of the flowery fantasies he has of domestic bliss with his girlfriend Shinobu until a pretty girl passes him by.
I think what’s missing from standard ecchi tropes that have been recycled from Urusei Yatsura is that they all tend to miss the charm and camp of this series. As a result, there’s a sense of flatness and blandness that leaves less of a unique fingerprint behind. Compared to a lot of contemporary seasonal fare, Urusei Yatsura isn’t afraid to be self-aware of how ridiculous they want to get with its story and the plot contrivances that cause Ataru to be punished for her perversions.
Like when Shinobu slaps Ataru for his craven perversion, he doesn’t just fall to the ground as we gawk at Shinobu for being an ideal beauty. He goes flying like a top or writhes on the floor like a fish out of water. Or when it becomes abundantly clear that Ataru is trapped in a bizarre love triangle, the way the show establishes this is by having the TV news actually cover Ataru’s love triangle as if they’re celebrities. Some shows inspired by Urusei Yatsura seem afraid of making their main character look like as much of a clown as Ataru is, and don’t really put the ball in the girl’s court to play with his heart like an accordion.
He’s not irredeemably terrible, but rather, he’s incorrigible enough that it’s funny to watch him get some wacky comeuppance for his ogling tendencies and accidental two-timing. Even his mom is hilariously mean by saying some of the worst things a mother could tell their son simply because he attracts misfortune wherever he goes. It all feels like it’s part of a bizarro version of reality that works brilliantly with the frantically messy love triangle.
It plays into this reality pretty well too as they really sell you on the entire world having it out for Ataru. His parents are hashing over how Ataru will be an outcast forever if it’s his fault that the world is done for. His parents and friends regret his presence in their lives because of his misfortune and his perverted idiocy, but you could also buy that they’d find any reason they could to despise him. Kamiya Hiroshi plays into Ataru’s biggest strengths and weaknesses too, considering how earnestly goofy yet angry and self-pitying Ataru can come off as.
MY ANGEL IS A CENTERFOLD
I didn’t expect to simp as hard as I did for Lum. My first impressions of Lum Invader were from media that had been inspired by her, and not media she was actually a part of. I first heard of her when similarities were drawn between her and the protagonist of the Sega CD game Time Gal. In fact, that’s a recurring situation with Lum as so many anime starlets pay homage to her, with Zero Two from Darling in the FranXX as the most recent offender.
Then after years of hearing about how influential Urusei Yatsura was as Takahashi Rumiko’s first big series, the anime still wouldn’t be my first thought when I saw Lum. I would often see her the most whenever I watched Artzie Music’s video for TANUKI’s future funk track “Babybaby No Yume” which looped the dance from the first anime’s opening. With that in mind, Lum had always felt like a relic of the past. A character created in a lab to combine what Western beauty standards deemed to be the perfect exotic woman. It didn’t help that she was constantly trapped in the same space as characters from City Hunter and Cat’s Eye as prominent fixtures in Citypop videos.
That being said, I love Lum’s update in this remake. Older fans might miss her blue eyes and chunky lips, but this new rehaul gives her a more youthful look that makes it clear that she’s supposed to be an ideal beauty with a few unpleasant surprises under her sleeve when she’s ready to bare her fangs.
I could definitely buy that a girl like Lum would go on to inspire as many anime heroines as she’s had with the new facelift in mind. She’s so adorable and has a great body to go with her charm. Uesaka Sumire brings out a lot of her personality too with her cheerier voice coming off as delicate yet spunky.
I appreciate that David Productions also shows a ton of love to the source material while giving it a contemporary vibrancy that works so well with the art style. The color palette is very beautiful with striking pastels and oceanic colors and feels a little like the facelift Osomatsu-san received.
One detail I adore is how the artwork was updated enough to not look overly retro or old-fashioned, but still carry Takahashi’s designs. As a result, it retains the same charm as the original manga, but with the polished, highly detailed artwork of Takahashi’s contemporary style. And because it doesn’t lose the charm of Takahashi’s art, it provides enough of an update to catch up to where her art is at now with manga like Rin-ne and InuYasha.
Overall, Urusei Yatsura is childishly absurd and immature, but it’s so eccentric that you’ll find yourself cracking up from the show’s bolder, zanier jokes. Seeing Ataru take on a telephone pole or electric current doesn’t lose its luster when he bounces right back up to tempt fate for some more. It’ll be exciting to experience this story for the first time after seeing how much campy irreverent fun this first episode wound up being.
ED: 「トウキョウ・シャンディ・ランデヴ」 (Tokyo Shandy Rendezvous) by Kaf, Maisondes, Tsumiki