「トラブルは舞い降りた!! / 迷路でメロメロ」 (Trouble wa Maiorita!! / Meiro de Melomelo)
“Trouble Rains Down!! / Amazed in a Maze”
The third episode of Urusei Yatsura introduces us to the wealthy Mendou Shuutarou, whose riches and natural charm around women can’t get him out of a sticky situation to save his life. Nonetheless, it doesn’t stop him from being a thorn in Ataru’s side by capturing Shinobu’s affection and being hopelessly in love with Lum.
EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD
Right from the get-go, I knew Mendou would be hilarious when he has a tender moment with his grandfather only to throw him aside when he’s told to get ready for school. I think what makes Mendou as funny as he wound up being was that the show doesn’t pull its punches with how ridiculous his antiquated worldview is. The show satirizes the absurd rigidity that Mendou encapsulates rather than celebrating him for being the perfect rich guy.
Often in comedies, rich guy characters are untouchable because they are seen as more refined than the main protagonist in a Slobs vs. Snobs dynamic. But while your standard yuppie in an Adam Sandler film or a similar story can only be dunked on by being ill-equipped to handle the commoners, Mendou is immediately treated like an out-of-touch weirdo by the male students and authority figures by just espousing his own views. Mendou’s dreams of policing the male students into a wholesome, moral lifestyle automatically break the spell that could’ve otherwise stuck if we only got to see his interactions with the girls.
Because of that, it makes it easier to mock Mendou for how the inner machinations of his mind start making less and less sense as he is thoroughly crazed by both his budding crush on Lum and his intense hatred for Ataru. By having him stoop to the same level as Ataru, he’s able to provide laughs just by coming up with some ill-fated scheme to get closer to Lum or undermine Ataru.
Speaking of Mendou’s feelings, it’s gotten far messier than a simple love triangle now that he’s in the picture. The second half was funny because it captured the kind of relationship drama that Takahashi has always made entertaining, if not outright hilarious. We’ve now surpassed the love triangle and moved onto a love square, but knowing how Ranma 1/2 turned out, I can see a clown car getting jampacked with more and more love rivals for all of the characters.
Mendou and Ataru’s scheme to pretend their flashlight (or torch) was on the fritz so they could play matchmaker for one another was brilliant for the trial-and-error it provided. Ataru’s still pining for Shinobu, but winds up getting drawn closer to Lum and (inadvertently) Mendou. Meanwhile, Mendou’s plans to learn more about Lum are foiled when he gets stuck with Shinobu and winds up getting exposed for being deeply afraid of caves.
It also lends itself to how messy things have truly gotten outside of Ataru and Lum’s budding relationship. Because of their involvement, they now have to contend with a world where Shinobu is madly and irrationally in love with Mendou, Mendou has a fleeting crush on Lum, and the male and female students are at odds because they want to have the freedom to drool over their preferred classmates. I can see things getting further complicated now that there’s a space girl who could potentially wedge herself between some of the show’s couples.