The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 7: “Electric Shocks Scare Me!”/”Voodoo Dolls of Vengeance”

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Episode 7a: “Electric Shocks Scare Me!”

Original airdate: 12/2/1981

Corresponding manga chapter: “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”, volume 1, chapter 13 (Viz release)

Summary: A group of extras from Doraemon (the animators aren’t very good at creating characters in Takahashi’s style yet) gathers outside the Moroboshi residence, contemplating the inhuman screams of pure suffering that emanate from it on a regular basis.  Inside, Lum is punishing Ataru for looking at other women while Ten plays referee and coaches Ataru on what to say, which eventually leads to him being flung out the window.

In the vacant lot, Ataru complains about his situation to Cherry, unaware that Lum is hiding in the section of pipe they’re sitting on.  She chases him off while Cherry thinks to himself that he needs to take bold action.  At the Moroboshi house, a slightly off-model Megane arrives and inquires of Ataru’s unsympathetic mother if Ataru is still alive.  Upstairs, he hands Ataru a small box from Cherry that contains a yellow ribbon and a note.  The note says that the ribbon will cut off power and can only be untied by the one who tied it.  Ataru is positively deranged with joy.

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Lum arrives in time to save Megane’s virtue and Ataru presents her with the ribbon, although he has to bind and gag Megane before he can convince her to wear it.  She is struck by Ataru’s joy, and has a brief vision of their future married life in a run-down hovel, which oddly doesn’t seem to put her off.  She goes outside for a walk, hopping out the window and butt-planting on the concrete.  Ataru and Megane pursue as she hops down the street, unable to take off.  She bumps into Chibi and takes his hand, confirming that her other powers aren’t working either.

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Chibi, not realizing his narrow escape, is overcome with lust, but Megane jumps out and knocks him to the ground before himself being overwhelmed with lust.  In the vacant lot, Lum sadly watches the sunset until Ataru joins her, concealing his joy long enough to give her a pep talk.  Shinobu arrives at that point, having acquired a new casual outfit and a head that’s more in proportion to her body.  Rather than take the high road, Lum taunts her with the ribbons.  When Shinobu attempts to rip them out, but Ataru stops her.  Shinobu runs away in tears

Back at Maison Moroboshi again, Megane and Chibi nobly wait in the tree outside Ataru’s window to protect Lum, hampered by the fact that the curtains are closed.  Inside, Lum puts out the futon, explaining that since she can’t return to her UFO she’ll have to sleep with Ataru.  Forever.  Ataru freaks out and tries to remove the ribbons, and Chibi and Megane leap in, followed by Ten.  Ten is there to defend his cousin’s virtue, while Megane and Chibi are there to join in.

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A scuffle ensues, with Ataru’s belongings being flung at the pair.  Ataru tries to stop Lum from smashing them with his tennis racket but accidentally pulls off the ribbon instead.  Megane is hit by the box and reads the letter from Cherry, sending Lum into a cold fury against Ataru.  She confirms that her lightning works again by blasting a clock off the wall, and slowly rounds on Ataru, who feebly attempts to distract her by saying that he’s glad she’s feeling better.

Outside, the neighbors contemplate the inhuman screams of agony, while Cherry muses that Ataru must learn to stoically accept the shocks, as the mark of a man.  Lum shouts that when she’s done with Ataru she’ll take care of Cherry, and his tune changes quickly.

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Changes from the manga version: The anime has slight changes in pacing and the addition of Ten.  The student who delivers the package to Ataru does have glasses, and Megane is drawn to look more like him in this episode, which is probably why he’s off-model.

Summary: Here we see the introduction of a smaller ongoing theme, Ataru’s attempts to corrall Lum.  This episode could have been better than it turned out; if it came out a season or two later, it could have been a growth moment, as Ataru realizes that the loss of her powers is making Lum unhappy and takes the ribbon off voluntarily.  Since it’s early, we get everyone sniping at each other, instead.  Megane and Chibi’s attempts to take advantage of a (relatively) defenseless Lum kind of crosses the line, too.

This is the first time that we’ve seen Ataru say something nice to Lum (the pep talk in the vacant lot), even if he’s concealing his schadenfreude.  It is interesting to see that his motivation at this point really is to drive Lum off so he can get back together with Shinobu; it never crosses his mind that Lum is physically attractive and willing to sleep with him, even with her powers shut down.  I’ve mentioned that it’s not clear what Shinobu sees in Ataru, but it’s surprising that he’s specifically dedicated to getting back with her rather than reveling in his freedom.  (At this point in the series we hear about his hitting on other women but have rarely seen it.)

This is the first episode where Megane is referred to by name. (For those not in on the joke, Megane means “glasses” in Japanese.)

It’s not clear to me how the ribbon is tied; it appears to be tied in two separate bows, but it’s referred to in the singular throughout.  This could be due to the lack of plurals in Japanese, but we don’t see Ataru cut it and it comes off in one piece.  I’m not sure how this works.

Episode 7b: “Voodoo Dolls of Vengeance”

Original airdate: 12/2/1981

Corresponding manga chapter: “I’m Your Puppet”, volume 1, chapter 12 (Viz release)

Minor characters introduced: Shinobu’s parents

Atop the Moroboshi’s roof, a cat yowls by night.  Downstairs, Mrs. Moroboshi is wearing an unwisely chosen top that makes her look topless.

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The family is finishing dinner, and Ataru mentions that they haven’t had beef lately.  His mother blames that on his father’s salary, causing his father to tremble behind his newspaper.  He explains that this banter makes it feel like a normal family dinner, but ever since Lum arrived things have gone to hell, then snaps and runs out the room.

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Mr. Moroboshi returns to the living room to watch pro wrestling as Ataru clears the table, but Ataru doesn’t get far before being overcome by weird spasms that fling him around in awkward ways.  Going to his room, Lum hides something behind her back as he enters.  He tries to wrestle it away from her:

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Ataru discovers that she has a bag with a small pink doll of himself.  He twists the head and his own head twists in the same way.  Lum takes it from him and gestures hypnotically, causing the doll to float and Ataru to float in the same position.  She explains that it’s a Voodoo game that’s popular on her planet, to which Ten adds that it’s mostly played by frustrated, middle-aged women these days.  Ataru grabs the doll and unwisely flings it away, and while lying upside-down against the window, asks why anyone would create such a thing.

Clearly inspiration strikes, because we cut to him making a doll of Cherry.  Crowing that he’s going to get revenge for all the things Cherry has done to him, he somewhat alarmingly starts by popping the doll’s head off.  Lum explains that it requires a hair from the subject to work, which is a non-starter as far as Cherry’s concerned.  Lum is impressed by the idea of using them for revenge, which would never have occurred to her.  Ataru plays on her love to ask her for a few favors, and we cut to a set of clay models of the entire neighborhood, apparently.

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Lum is somewhat taken aback by the number of people Ataru wants revenge on, but adds one more of her own, Shinobu.  She adds that she’s off to get one of Shinobu’s hairs.  Ataru tries to stop her but is knocked away via the medium of his doll, letting Lum get ahead of him and forcing him to pursue on foot.  He passes the non-decapitated Cherry, who warns him that bad luck awaits in that direction, and gets a hot pot on his head for his trouble.

At the Miyake’s, Shinobu is in the bath with her head wrapped in a towel and the sense that someone is watching her.  It is in fact Lum, who is trying to think of how to get her hair when Ataru arrives and tries to convince her that using the dolls for vengeance is wrong.  Lum points out the inconsistency, and Ataru claims that it was just a joke.

Meanwhile, the Moroboshis hear something upstairs, and fearing a burglar, run up to discover the cat from the roof with Ataru’s doll in his mouth.  It escapes out the window, and they notice the array of clay dolls.  The cat wanders over to Cherry, who takes the doll from its mouth and throws it away, propelling Ataru through the window into the bath.  Shinobu’s parents ask what’s wrong, and Ataru hides under the water until Cherry starts playing “fetch” with the doll, sending Ataru flying back out the window into parts unknown.  Shinobu’s father runs outside to drive the intruder away and asks if she saw the intruder’s face; she shakes her head while thinking “You idiot!”.

Cherry leans to the camera and says “When you curse someone, prepare to dig two graves”, and we cut to the streets, which are in chaos as most of the neighborhood loses control of their bodies, including practicing wrestling moves.  We see the reason in Ataru’s room, as his parents are caught playing with their dolls again.  We see that the SDF has brought out tanks to break up a brawl between hundreds of people (which seems excessive, but we have seen two different kaiju in the neighborhood recently) and we cut to commercial sign.

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Changes from the manga version: The manga doesn’t have the sequence with Ataru making the dolls of the neighborhood and the chaos at the end.  It does end with Ataru having a bad feeling and Cherry considering throwing the doll into the fire.

Summary: This segment is fun if you don’t examine its premise too closely (was Ataru seriously trying to kill Cherry?).  There’s good banter between Ataru and his mother at the beginning, which is more slice-of-life than most of what we’ve seen up to this point, and shows more affection as well.  It also introduces another minor ongoing theme that we’ve sort of seen already, Alien Technology Is Whacky. (In “Mrs. Swallow and Mrs. Penguin” it was alien food instead.)

In the course of this, we see one of the things that UY was good for (and Maison Ikkoku after that): beneath the silliness it’s an interesting snapshot of daily life in Japan in the late Seventies, which helped American fans to contextualize the more fantastic anime they were watching at the time.  In this episode we see indications that Japan’s economy wasn’t very good at the time, and that while the husband earns the money the wife controls the household finances.  The reference to not having beef also helps explain why Beefbowl is such a sought-after commodity in Ataru’s circle.

Next episode: Introducing Oyuki!

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One thought on “The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 7: “Electric Shocks Scare Me!”/”Voodoo Dolls of Vengeance”

  1. The boy in the Manga who delivered the Ribbon is the manga version of Megane. He eventually disappeared around Mendou’s introduction.

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