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Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer

Japanese animated film (1984). Kitty Films, Pierrot. Directed and written by Mamoru Oshii. Voice cast includes Takuya Fujioka, Toshio Furukawa, Fumi Hirano, Michihiro Ikemizu, Akira Kamiya, Saeko Shimazu and Machiko Washio. 99 minutes. Colour.

The second of the six films made as part of the Urusei Yatsura franchise, based on the Manga by Rumiko Takahashi. Oshii also directed seasons one and two of the television series, as well as the first film, Urusei Yatsura: Only You (1983). Though atypical, Beautiful Dreamer is the most highly regarded of the show's canon, displaying signs of the path Oshii would later take in his films Angel's Egg (1985), Ghost in the Shell (1995) and Sky Crawlers (2008).

The Alien girl Lum (Hirano) is in love with high-schooler Ataru Moroboshi (Furukawa), who – like most young males in the series – is a lecherous idiot (the young females are exasperated but only occasionally violent); he clearly has feelings for Lum, but also for his girlfriend Shinobu Miyake (Shimazu) and every other attractive female passer-by. The film begins with Lum being very happy with life as the students and staff at Tomobiki High School busily prepare for the start of their school festival the next day.

Everyone is tired, but one teacher, Onsen-Mark (Ikemizu), is clearly on his last legs. The school's nurse, Miss Sakura (Washio), advises him to go home and rest; checking up on him later she finds his house covered in dust and fungi, as if a long time had passed (see Time Distortion) "rather like the tale of Urashima Taro" (a Japanese folk tale – see Mythology – of a man who rescues a turtle and is rewarded by spending several days at the Dragon Palace, but on returning home finds a century has passed). Onsen-Mark believes he is experiencing the same day at the school over and over again (see Time Loop). To test this they send everyone home: the show's core group of pupils try to depart by train, bus and taxi – but the town's geography shifts and they find themselves back at the school. Meanwhile Sakura tries to visit her Uncle Cherry, a monk, but he has disappeared; returning by taxi, the driver – briefly possessed – also mentions Urashima Taro, adding that Time is simply a creation of human consciousness so it is simpler to live in the present. Sakura and the pupils go to Ataru's house; their attempts to phone their families are unanswered. "It's almost as if we're the last people left in the world," muses Shinobu. At one point Ataru sinks into a puddle and later resurfaces in a swimming pool.

Aside from Aturu's house and a nearby convenience store, the town has atrophied into bleak ruins; exploring their surroundings, the group experience much oddness – multiple versions of themselves and strange geometric visuals – but it is when they locate a plane that they get their greatest shock, discovering that the town of Tomobiki now rests upon a 2km diameter disc of rock, supported by the shoulders of statues who stand on the back of a giant stone turtle flying through space. Saruka notices the statues include Onsen-Mark and Uncle Cherry. Most of the survivors decide to enjoy themselves (though one indulges in a dramatic internal monologue). Only Sakura and Shutaro Mendou (Kamiya) take the situation seriously – they conclude this is Lum's dream, but to Sakura the key question is: who has made it come true? It turns out to be Mujaki (Fujioka), the Dream Demon, who is depressed by the tendency of humanity's dreams to be short-lived and turn evil (see Inner Space), so wants to keep Lum's "pure dream" going. He is eventually defeated, not by intelligence but by Ataru's lack of brains: "Don't you understand I do things without thinking of the consequences?".

This is a memorable Anime: whilst Oshii's earlier work for Urusei Yatsura was largely frothy, likeable entertainment, Beautiful Dreamer is concerned with Perception, playing with time, dreams and reality. Though toned down, the main characters nevertheless retain their absurdity, creating a pleasing dissonance with the often dark and ominous world around them, employing a surreal art style unlike that previously used by the show: despite its age, the animation still impresses. [SP]

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Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 01:40 am on 20 August 2022.
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