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Urusei Yatsura

Japanese animated tv series (1981-1986; vt Those Obnoxious Aliens; vt Lum the Invader Girl). Based on the Manga by Rumiko Takahashi. Kitty Films, Studio Deen, Studio Pierrot. Directors include Mamoru Oshii and Kazuo Yamazaki. Writers include Kazunori Itô, Takao Koyama, Michiru Shimada and Shigeru Yanagawa. Voice cast includes Toshio Furukawa, Fumi Hirano, Ritsuo Sawa, Saeko Shimazu, Mayumi Tanaka and Rihoko Yoshida. 195 25-minute episodes, plus four specials. Colour.

An Alien, Mr Invader (Sawa), declares his intention to conquer Earth unless the person he's randomly selected by Computer defeats his daughter, the fetching, bikini-clad Lum (Hirano). The human race's champion is the gormless and lecherous teen Ataru (Furukawa), whose performance is fairly abject until his girlfriend, Shinobu (Shimazu), promises to marry him if he succeeds: unfortunately Lum takes Ataru's victory cry of "At last I can get married!" as a proposal and accepts. Early plots often involve Ataru trying to avoid retribution: either from the electricity-discharging Lum for his pursuing Shinobu, or from both Lum and Shinobu for pursuing other women. Eventually Shinobu, wisely, loses interest in Ataru.

The show has a large cast and does not always focus on Lum and Ataru. The aliens are usually influenced by Japanese Mythology: for example, Lum's species resemble Oni. The girls, whether alien or human, are romantic but violent; the boys horny and supremely unbecoming: when alien Princess Kurama (Yoshida) demands her servants find her a "man of noble character" the best they can turn up is Ryuunosuke (Tanaka), a girl forced into dressing as a boy by her father: undeterred, the servants respond by firing a sex-change cannon, but miss and hit Ataru instead, who is fairly blasé about the experience (see Transgender SF).

Plot features include Black Holes; a journey to Neptune (see Outer Planets) where Neptunian women need men, to shovel snow; Time Travel into the Mesozoic era, where Ataru is chased by an amorous Dinosaur; Suspended Animation; the viewing of alternate futures; cloning (see Clones); Lum getting lost in Parallel Worlds, passing through variations of the one she knows. Doppelgangers appear, such as Ataru split into two bodies, one with his good qualities, the other his bad; in one episode multiple copies of Ataru are made; in another, of Lum. Spaceships, Life on Other Worlds, Robots and an extraterrestrial wok also feature. Fantasy tropes are frequent, particularly from Japanese folklore; whilst occasional episodes are set in the past, such as a parody of seventeenth-century swordsman Miyamoto Musashi's life, with Ataru's role being that of an habitual dine-and-dasher.

Aside from the TV series and associated specials (1982-1987), twelve "original" video releases were issued (they were usually shown in tv or theatres first and some were a mixture of old and new animation): Ryoko's September Tea Party (1985), Memorial Album (1986), Inaba the Dreammaker (1987), Raging Sherbet (1988), Nagisa's Fiancé (1988), The Electric Household Guard (1989), I Howl at the Moon (1989), Goat and Cheese (1989), Catch the Heart (1989), Terror of Girly-Eyes Measles (1991), Date with a Spirit (1991) and The Obstacle Course Swim Meet (2008). There were also six films: Urusei Yatsura: Only You (1983), Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (1984), Urusei Yatsura 3: Remember My Love (1985), Urusei Yatsura 4: Lum the Forever (1986), Urusei Yatsura 5: The Final Chapter (1988) and Urusei Yatsura 6: Always, My Darling (1991). Beautiful Dreamer is the most highly regarded of the films. Additionally, there are several SF Music albums and numerous Videogames.

As with many older shows, the sexual politics can be a little toe-curling from the modern perspective: Ataru and the other adolescent males are sex pests for much of the first season, though later this shifts into mere boorishness. Similarly, early on the attire of the alien girls is Fan Service incarnate; but then becomes less prominent. Nonetheless, this is a enjoyable, frequently amusing series; it has been described as the first "harem anime"; though, ironically, its farcical nature makes almost a Satire of that genre. [SP]


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 20:41 pm on 13 August 2022.