Episode 5a: “Sakura, Raving Beauty of Mystery”
Original airdate: 11/18/1981
Corresponding manga chapter: “All of Me”, volume 1, chapter 4 (Viz release)
Major characters introduced: Sakura
Minor characters introduced: Sakura’s mother
Summary: Ataru is on the run! Dodging from spotlights and jumping over barbed wire, he takes refuge in an alleyway just as Lum arrives. Ten helpfully exposits that he’s been missing for three days, and Shinobu shows up to add that it’s because he can’t stand to be around Lum any more. Running away under cover of the ensuing catfight, he dons a costume and takes refuge in a ramen shop next to a middle-aged David Letterman.
The missing persons segment of a news program comes on TV, and the second plea to return home begins with Lum, followed by the Moroboshis, Shinobu, and Cherry, who…I’m running out of ways to sarcastically say “helpfully”…predicts misfortune coming his way. He takes comfort in the fact that no one could recognize him through his cunning disguise, followed by my favorite joke of the episode:
The patrons recognize Ataru as the one who made it rain oil, and he flees ahead of a pursuing lynch mob, only to be caught up short by running into the chest of a beautiful woman. She promptly collapses, saying she’s having a heart attack from the shock of running into him. The mob sees him apparently interfering with a young woman and redoubles their pursuit, but she directs him up the stair of a temple. Ataru imitates the four-month-old game Donkey Kong and chases them off by throwing barrels at them.
Catching their breath, the woman still looks unwell. Ataru is torn between lust and the desire to help, and compromises by offering to relieve her of her tight bra. After giving him an elbow to the face, the woman says that, as a priestess, she recognizes someone to whom evil spirits are drawn. Ataru says he can’t return home, flashing back to the students ganging up on him at school because of Lum, Lum affectionately electrocuting him, people complaining about his negative effect on the town…
…his classmates complaining about him, and his parents bemoaning ever having him. The subject of women comes up, the woman has more chest pains, Ataru offers to help with her bra, she picks up a stump to clobber him and has chest pains again, and fortunately(?) passes out in Ataru’s arms before it becomes one massive loop.
Arriving at an enormous temple/house, the woman offers to exorcise him. Waiting inside, someone tells Ataru that the woman, Sakura, will be there shortly. Ataru is taken aback:
Ataru is overcome by a feeling of deja vu, but doesn’t have time to contemplate it, as Sakura reappears, dressed as a miko and looking considerably less attractive due to a flareup of dental problems. Ataru attempts to flee, but the old woman ties him up and Sakura begins. She initially has trouble concentrating due to pain, but then her power flares up and spirits begin appearing, in a sequence that looks like a Freudian version of a 1940s character experiencing the DTs.
There’s a huge flare of energy that blows away the house and some of the surviving woods. Lum arrives on the foundation of the former house to hear Cherry speaking to the woman, his sister, and congratulating his niece, Sakura, on her renewed health. Cherry points to Ataru, to whom all the disease spirits have fled, and says that his knack for attracting evil spirits sometimes comes in handy. Ataru curses them, to which Sakura responds with a joke I don’t quite follow but in which she uses Lum’s -tcha sentence ending.
Changes from the manga version: The manga opens on the scene in the ramen restaurant. The fact that Sakura is dumping her disease spirits on Ataru is clearer during the exorcism, and it winds up with her combining all of them into one larger spirit, who resembles a tiny Grim Reaper.
Thoughts: We’re back to an early one, which feels weird after the previous episode. In the manga this chapter directly follows the space taxi story, so the reference back to it made more sense, but the anime sells it as something they would still be annoyed about. More significantly, Ataru and his relationship with Lum have reverted back to their earliest setting. The previous episode ended with Lum cleaning his ears, which is a Japanese symbol of domestic contentedness, but here he’s been on the run from her for days. After being reasonably helpful with the teacher last episode, he’s back to having only two modes of dealing with women, lust and terror. That’s not so much a judgment on this episode, which is pretty faithful to the manga, as on the jumping around in adaptation order.
This is the first appearance of Sakura, but it’s not terribly representative; the next segment is more typical of her, so I’ll have more to say there. The theme of Sakura having been sickly up to this point does come back many episodes later, though.
I believe the manga version contains the first appearance of Onsen Mark (in the classroom flashback), but here it’s the physics teacher from “Mrs. Swallow and Mrs. Penguin”.
Episode 5b: “Virus in Distress”
Original airdate: 11/18/1981
Corresponding manga chapter: “Nursery Tales”, volume 3, chapter 3 (Viz release)
Summary: Ataru is late to school, and arrives to find all the boys lined up awaiting the arrival of the sexy new nurse. Ataru is understandably excited until he recognizes her as Sakura (in a ridiculously revealing dress) and collapses. The other boys are overwhelmed by attraction to her, with Lum’s Stormtroopers taking the lead. Ataru calls out to Sakura, and is confronted about how he knows her, whereupon he panics and runs away. Everyone is astounded to see Ataru run away from a sexy woman (including Ataru) except Lum, who interprets it as an attempt to stay true to her and rewards him with an electrocuting hug.
Back in the classroom, the boys have swathed themselves in bandages (and appear to be actually injuring each other), while the girls react in a way that can be best summed up by Dot Warner rolling her eyes and saying “Boys”. Shinobu is surprised that Ataru isn’t in the lead, and looks over to see him looking feverish and unwell. Three of Lum’s Stormtroopers (minus Chibi) throw him onto a stretcher and take the excuse to jump the long queue. Sakura recognizes Ataru, and accuses him of faking, but determines that he needs a couple of days to heal. The boys start fighting over who will stay by his side.
Ataru takes the opportunity to run back to the classroom, where he’s the only boy remaining. Cut back to the infirmary, where the boys are starting to collapse from real diseases, including this one:
Sakura pinpoints Ataru as Patient Zero and has him dragged before her, bound. She pulls aside to reveal a specialist looking through a microscope, much like the medical expert in an infomercial. He has determined that all the students are suffering from the same disease, and shows Sakura the microscope under which the virii are spelling out “SOS”. Sakura immediately determines that they appear to hate Ataru (I’d accuse her of excessive bias except that blaming Ataru is usually a fairly safe assumption). Lum disagrees, and offers to translate, embiggening one of the viruses with an enlarging ray she keeps in her bra (no jokes, now).
The virus explains that due to a disease spirit they can’t express their normal symptoms, oh, and the spirit is inhabiting Ataru Moroboshi. Sakura realizes that this could explain his strange behavior:
She rips off her lab coat to reveal her full miko outfit underneath (compare the screenshot above to the one at the front of the article and explain how that works, I dare you) and begins the exorcism. Sakura tells the boys to banish all unworthy thoughts, at which they instantly fail. She leans forward to berate them and winds up giving Ataru more of a view than intended. His reaction is to stand up, cackle, grow fangs, and launch himself forward to try to undress her with his teeth. The boys pull him off her, leaving a spirit behind:
The virus fingers him as the disease spirit in question, and all the boys give him a good stomping. The virus is exultant that they can go back to being nasty influenza bugs again. The entire class is overwhelmed with the viruses except Ataru, who chases Sakura around the room, trying to sell himself as the only healthy boy left.
Changes from the manga version: The manga version doesn’t have the scene outside the school; otherwise, the only differences are in presentation.
Thoughts: This one is a logical followup to the first segment, since it gets Sakura established in the school as quickly as possible. It’s fairly typical of an early UY story: odd thing turns up around Ataru, hijinks ensue. This is another one I’d consider non-essential, as long as you know that Sakura becomes the school nurse after her first appearance. It is both an amusing change of pace and a harbinger of things to come that the sleaze is perpetrated by every male student except Ataru when he’s in his right mind; he’s come to have a healthy mistrust of attractive women that will be an important survival instinct in the volumes to come.
Sakura is more like herself in this one, since she’s not having heart attacks every thirty seconds, but she’s still not in full control at this point; she’ll become more steely as time goes on.
I think this episode has the first appearance of Onsen Mark; there’s a teacher that looks like him in the last scene, but he has a facemask and isn’t wearing his distinctive jacket, so I can’t be certain. I’ll mark this one as an early cameo and cover it more when he shows up properly, kind of like Wolverine’s official full first appearance is Hulk #181 even though he’s on the last page of #180. (The teacher in the manga does have the jacket in question, as in the last segment.)
Next episode: The love triangle is going to be dissolved! (Spoiler: No it isn’t.)