Episode 4a: “Kintaro from the Autumn Sky!”
Original airdate: 11/4/1981
Corresponding manga chapter: “The Terror of Children’s Day”, volume 6, chapter 10 (Viz release)
Noteworthy characters introduced: Kintaro, Kintaro’s teacher
Summary: Mrs. Moroboshi pulls her husband outside to show him something terrible: there are carp streamers flying outside, but it’s not spring! The neighbors may think they’re stupid! (In Ataru’s case, I fear that ship has sailed.) Lum and Ten are flying around the streamers, and tell Mrs. Moroboshi that Ataru had them air out the streamers so they don’t get moldy. Flying inside one of the streamers, they are startled to discover a bear within.
Ten flies back in to help the bear due to confusion about the risk-benefit ratio, only to find it gone. They spot it flying away and pursue, discovering that on its back is a young boy wearing an apron and a skullcap (and nothing else) and carrying a huge axe. He confesses that he’s lost, and Lum thinks she knows someone from his family. Cut to Ataru and Shinobu on a date, Shinobu nervously looking around for fear of being interrupted by Lum. Her fear proves justified, as Ataru is felled by a lightning bolt followed by a bear landing on him. Lum explains to Shinobu that she’s here to help:
(In fairness, Takahashi wasn’t the best at drawing a wide variety of faces at this point, so the similarity of haircuts could indicate a family resemblance.)
Ataru, dragging himself out from under the bear, recognizes the kid as Kintaro, which is confirmed by the kanji on his apron. Kintaro explains that he arrived on a ship that looked like the carp streamers, and he thought they were his ship. Ataru nobly offers to help (this is the first time we’ve seen him offer to be helpful with no obvious benefit to him), but is jealous that the girls are paying attention to the kid; the bear consoles him.
They ask around the somewhat dimwitted shopkeepers in town, and then are apparently interrupted by a completely different series, as we see the launch of a rocket from a NASA-type location. It turns out that the group has come to obtain help from the organization that 80’s LEGO spacemen worked for (seriously, check out that logo):
only to ruin things by pushing buttons at random. In fairness, the rocket was probably doomed to failure, because it’s a Solar Probe that’s supposed to land on the sun, but they made the mistake of launching during the day.
As evening draws on, Ataru’s stomach grumbles, and he gives up out of exhaustion. (It doesn’t help that he’s the only one walking, since Shinobu is riding on the bear.) They discover that Kintaro has reached a similar conclusion, and is at a nearby food stand demanding alcohol to drown his sorrows. Ataru fails to cheer him up, but at that moment they’re interrupted by a giant spaceship that, indeed, looks exactly like a carp streamer. Down from the ship jumps the most modestly-dressed female alien we’ve seen up to this point.
She explains that she’s a nursery-school teacher taking her class on a field trip, but is new at it and a bit overwhelmed. Ataru claims to be good with children (demonstrating this by grabbing Ten, and then shutting him up when he protests) and offers to come with her to help. Lum and Shinobu try to stop him, but wind up squabbling with each other, and Ten comes along in disgust. Ataru is a bit overwhelmed by the very Takahasi-esque alien children, but keeps up with it to try to impress the teacher.
Ten and Kintaro shake their heads at Ataru’s behavior, with Kintaro claiming to be the only decent one around, which he immediately contradicts by wetting himself.
Changes from the manga version: The only notable difference is that, instead of searching around town before the ship arrives, Kintaro tries mugging Ten instead (this pays off in the next segment).
Episode 4b: “Gonna Live Like a Man!”
Original airdate: 11/4/1981
Corresponding manga chapter: “Children, Embrace Your Ambitions!”, volume 7, chapter 1 (Viz release)
Minor characters introduced: Taian Preschool teacher and class
Summary: The alien class leaves the ship to go on a tour of Earth’s famous places, which turn out to be a telephone pole and a garbage can. Kintaro is unimpressed, and Ataru suggests that they visit an Earth preschool as a gesture of interplanetary goodwill. Kintaro and Ten see through his motives, but the teacher agrees anyway.
At the school, the kids are unimpressed (saying they wish he’d come on Children’s Day) and Kintaro starts to lose his temper with them, but is talked down. The teacher ask the class what Kintaro is known for. A girl answers that he practiced sumo and horseback riding with his bear companion. Kintaro angrily insists that he doesn’t do stupid things like that, leading to the funniest sequence in the episode:
The kids are more impressed by this, but Kintaro is annoyed at the suggestion that this is all he does. While the teacher is distracted by the child of the creature from Centipede, Ataru steps up to tell a story of Earth’s Kintaro: how he grew up with his animal friends and swore to be great, but when he grew up to be a samurai, he never rose above the level of a servant. The moral: “No matter how hard you work, you can’t necessarily expect much in your future.” The kids are depressed by visions of life as middle management, prompting Kintaro to shout that he’ll show them the true way of living. As they leave the classroom, he admits to Ten that he isn’t actually sure what he meant by that.
Cut to the class waiting as Kintaro does research at a bookstore (which stocks books with such English titles as ABC, SKY, DOG, and BOOK). Lum arrives and threatens Ataru for flirting, to which he protests that he’s just here for Kintaro. Kintaro sadly puts down the book, curses fate for playing such a cruel trick, and then swings his axe at Ten. He’s realized that whatever sort of hero you are, you need to hunt Oni to achieve meaning in your life. A brief chase ensues, during which Ten protests and Kintaro weeps at life’s cruel irony. He spots Lum at this point, and tries to wake up his bear to attack her. His teacher reprimands him, though:
Lum and Ten naturally object, and Ten goes to chew Kintaro out. They go back and forth between recriminations, shame, and anger, until the other (human) kids observe that there must be more to the true way of living than simple mindless violence. Kintaro realizes that he’s being a poor role model, and announces that he’s setting out to find the true way of living. Jumping ahead to the group watching TV, a news broadcast shows that what he’s actually doing is traveling around the world mugging people.
Changes from the manga version: The only difference is that Kintaro tries mugging his teacher at the end, instead of showing up on the news.
Thoughts: Although these are two different segments and adapted from two different chapters of the manga, the story of one flows into the other, so I’m discussing them as one episode. (This is not like later episodes where one chapter is stretched into a full half-hour episode.)
This story is from later in the manga again (they’re the two chapters preceding “Ms. Swallow and Ms. Penguin” and it’s a lot more obvious than it was last episode. The first half of last episode was largely invented by the animators, and the second half didn’t have much character interaction. This one is very character-driven, and Ataru’s behavior is a lot more nuanced than we’d seen up to this point; he didn’t have any obvious hidden motive to help Kintaro before the teacher arrived. (He may have been trying to impress the girls, but if so he didn’t make a big show of it, and the fact that he’s not avoiding Lum at all costs is itself a large step forward in their relationship. Although he did ask her to air out the streamers so he could get away with Shinobu.)
I’d remembered this episode as not being that great, but it was a lot better than I remembered (especially the second half). There’s a lot of humor in the dialogue, which is very close to the manga; for example, the preschoolers are thoughtful and philosophical to a degree rarely seen outside Peanuts. Despite that, however, this is the first episode I’d consider non-essential, since it doesn’t introduce a major new character or concept. (I wouldn’t swear that Kintaro never appears again, but he’s not a major player like Ten or a recurring one like Rei.) It is a look ahead to a time when the series becomes more sophisticated, though, and apart from one short bit of filler it adapts the manga closely. (The fact that the plot summaries are relatively short indicates how the story is less driven by situation than earlier ones.)
This is the first episode that draws heavily on Japanese folklore (there had been many more in the manga by this point, of course), but fortunately the dialogue explains pretty much all you need to know. My copy of this volume is missing the AnimEigo liner notes, so I don’t know what they considered worthy of annotation, but I’ve given Wikipedia links to a couple.
Cutting the part of the first segment where Kintaro tries to mug Ten does remove the callback when he does the same thing at the end of the second segment, but I don’t think it hurt the humor much. It’s interesting that in a section of the anime when they’re trying to introduce major characters as quickly as possible, they brought in one who doesn’t have a recurring role, but the Ten-heavy nature of the episode further suggests to me that he was a popular character at the time.
In other notes, Shinobu still doesn’t own any other casual clothes. This is the first time we see Lum electrocute Ataru in jealousy over another girl, though it’s fairly matter-of-fact since it had been going on in the manga for a while.
All in all, this is an entertaining episode, drawing as it does from a point when the manga was better developed, but if I were showing the show to someone and wanted to skip an episode on this disc, it would be this one.
Next episode: Introducing Sakura!