「面堂兄妹!! / 面倒邸新年怪」 (Mendou Kyoudai!! / Mendou-tei Shinnen Kai)
“Mendo Siblings!! / A Strange New Year at the Mendo Estate”
Urusei Yatsura spends the New Year at the Mendou Estate as they have many wacky plans in mind for the big celebration. But while you’d think things would be fine under Mendou’s watchful eye, he has another thing coming when his sister Ryouko wreaks havoc through her prankster tendencies.
ALL IS QUIET ON NEW YEARS DAY
Ryouko was a decent addition to the show, but it’s hard to take a lot of the new characters seriously, especially when it’s all starting to feel bloated. Her prankster mentality is the freshest we’ve gotten out of the girls since many of them are asked to discard their personalities in favor of being a target of Ataru’s affection.
We’ve seen this much when the most we know about Benten by this point is that she’s Lum’s friend and Ataru wants to force himself on her. The same thing goes for many of the other girls we’re introduced to as they wind up being defined by the boys who love them or the boys they love. If it’s the former, chances are it’s just Ataru liking them because he’d go after any girl out of impulse.
There were some funny gags with the New Years’ section though since it gives us insight into how eccentric the Mendou family wound up being. Even their dad is nuts with how terrible he was for locking his son in a room knowing he’s claustrophobic until it’s revealed he shares Mendou’s family when he gives his dad the same treatment. But I’ve been noticing that many of the heavy-hitting episodes that give you a friendly reminder of why it’s such a special anime are followed up immediately by episodes that make you question why you wouldn’t just wait until all of them come out so you know which episodes are skippable.
This remake was quite a pleasant surprise, but I’ll have to bow out of covering the remainder of the series from this point forward. I think the main issue I’m currently having with it is that the “Greatest Hits” format makes it difficult to tap into the tone the show is trying to go for.
It can be frustrating to see Ataru gain some semblance of humanity in one serious episode only to regress an episode later because that’s what’s expected of him. I was half-expecting to feel bad for Ataru for getting constantly electrocuted, but they hammer on the point that he doesn’t get electrocuted nearly enough for how disrespectful and mean-spirited his jabs against Lum were. It just makes me feel guilty for Lum because Ataru constantly only sees her as a hindrance towards his pursuit of the bachelor’s life.
It might seem messed up to pin it all on Ataru since he did get roped into a marriage with Lum while trying to save humanity. But through his own skirt-chasing tendencies, he would have crossed that line and remained unfaithful and resentful regardless of whether he truly loved Lum or not. Heck, his own treatment of Shinobu was only mildly better because she tolerated his skirt-chasing for so long that it messed with her own sense of self-esteem. The main purpose of Ataru’s presence is to create a character who is shameless enough that you’d want to see him get his regularly scheduled comeuppance, and to that, I can say “mission accomplished”.
But it is unearned for the series to have an emotional core if it’s only for a few segments out of many. It feels like each chapter or episode was created by an entirely different person with different directions they personally have for each character. One writer wants Ataru to be more self-aware, another wants Ataru to try forcing himself on any girls he comes across, and another wants Ataru to really lay it into Lum for being foolish enough to think he’d possibly be interested in a woman like her.
And for as much as I’ve been pretty pleased with how retro the show feels, there are still some weird gags that haven’t quite stood the test of time. This episode in particular had an odd thing where Ataru kept trying to lunge at Benten as if she was a piece of meat, and Sakura winds up serving the same purpose of being aggressively hit on by her students. It isn’t any better when the kids are voyeuristically waiting for Sakura and her boyfriend to get frisky together and have it be treated as part of the joke. Again, nothing wrong with bawdy or tasteless humor, but it definitely reeks of those 80s comedies where the punchline is a legit sex crime.
Urusei Yatsura and its remake are definitely worthwhile experiences to watch, but I don’t as much I can write about when it winds up having the same cyclical effect of either being overly serious, excessively campy, or another “new character of the week” episode where they have to react to Ataru’s sex offender tendencies. When it’s campy and when it’s serious, it’s at its peak. But all of the introductory episodes have made for such a miserable experience based on how they fit the same mold of barely moving the needle and recycling the same jokes revolving around Ataru.