The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 12: “Battle Royal of Love”/”Father, You Were Strong”

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Episode 12a: “Battle Royal of Love”

Original airdate: 1/13/1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “Disco Inferno”, volume 1, chapter 16 (Viz release)

Major character introduced: Tsubame

Summary: Ataru is trying to read in his bedroom while Lum dances around wearing headphones and singing nonsense syllables.  He pulls the headphone cord out only to be blasted by waves of sound.  When he manages to turn off the volume, Lum complains that Earth is dull and she wants to “explode with youthful energy” (which is something she usually does at least once an episode anyway).  Ataru is called to the door, where Sakura (wearing a ridiculously revealing outfit) says that she wants to take him out. While initially overjoyed, he’s less so when he discovers that Lum, Shinobu and the Stormtroopers are also coming and hot to trot, or at least boogie.

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Ataru has a bad feeling about this, and his fears may be justified, as a figure in a black cape lurks behind a lamppost.  He cozies up to Sakura, leading to some arguing and further cuddling, until the man in the cape leaps out…five feet behind them.  He’s disappointed he didn’t surprise them, while Sakura is just appalled by his stupidity.  He identifies himself as her boyfriend, Ozuno Tsubame, just returned from the West.  Ataru is appalled, but after he and the Stormtroopers are pried off of Sakura, she complains that she may not want to be Tsubame’s fiancee, and storms off toward the disco.

Inside the disco, Ataru is further stunned to see Cherry.  Tsubame asks his permission to marry Sakura, but Cherry can’t agree unless he has strong spiritual pressure power.  Tsubame says that this is the perfect place to demonstrate hhis power, but first dancing ensues, to an instrumental of “Lum no Love Song” (the current opening theme).  The animators seem to think that disco resembles flamenco, judging from Sakura’s moves and the rose in her teeth.

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Having filled a couple of minutes that way, Tsubame notes that spirits tend to be drawn to places like this.  Sakura adds that Ataru tends to attract monsters.  Tsubame declares that he’ll demonstrate his power by summoning Satan, but instead this happens:

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Sakura says that the spirits didn’t understand because Satan is in English, so he repeats the summoning but calls for Akuma.  However, he winds up turning Ataru into a bear instead (Akuma=”devil”, Aa! Kuma!=”Augh! Bear!).  Lum challenges him for transforming Darling, and Cherry says that he must summon the monster that will defeat her to win Sakura.  He tries summoning “Aries of Sabbat”, but instead Rei falls from nowhere onto the once again-human Ataru.  He transforms into humanoid form, and is mobbed by women, causing him to transform back while Ataru is trampled.

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Ataru angrily stalks toward the trio, swearing his vengeance, which takes the form of leaping on Sakura.  This leads to a series of Rei pursuing Lum, Lum and Shinobu pursuing Ataru, Ataru pursuing Sakura, and Tsubame defending Sakura by attacking Ataru and earning Lum’s Wrath.  Cherry delivers an apt summary of the series:

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Tsubame demonstrates his power by summoning a horde of monsters, from a superhero who resembles Space Ghost to a topless lady centaur, and the dance floor dissolves into chaos.

Changes from the manga version: The story is basically the same except that Cherry gives Tsubame permission to marry Sakura at the end.

Summary: This episode is another jump forward, but not an a particularly good way.  In the next season, the show switches from two half-episodes to one full-length episodes per week, but they’re still generally adapting one manga chapter per show.  If a half-episode requires filler, you can imagine how much filler a full episode can contain.  They do get better at it over time, but having 1/6 of the episode as dancing footage isn’t very thrilling.

Tsubame is a fairly minor recurring character, since he’s the supporting character of a supporting character and doesn’t have much reason to interact with Ataru on his own, and has kind of a limited schtick.

I don’t have a lot more to say about this episode; it’s inoffensive but there’s not a lot there.  Although it introduces a recurring character, he’s not the most critical one, so this isn’t a crucial episode.

Episode 12b: “Father, You Were Strong”

Original airdate: 1/13/1982

Corresponding manga chapter: Volume 3, chapter 1 (Japanese release)–overall chapter 18

Minor character introduced: Ushiwaka Maru (Note: I’m not clear if that’s one name or two.  This spelling is how the subs spell it, and Ataru calls him just Ushiwaka at some point, but Wikipedia has it as Ushiwakamaru.  I’m going to treat it as two so I can shorten it when needed.)

Summary: The Moroboshis are arguing about who’s responsible for Ataru’s flaws.  Ataru comes in, cheerful because Lum is back on her homeworld, and his parents berate him for being such an idiot and not even realizing it.  Kurama, monitoring the situation, is appalled, and announces that she’ll try to improve him by having him train with her ideal man.

Lum returns to Chez Moroboshi only to find that a tengu has taken Ataru away.  She charges to Kurama’s tower and the tengu on duty, after taking a faceful of fire from Ten, explains that they’ve gone to Mount Kurama in the year 1173.  There is a pun on the Japanese word for “monkey”.

Ataru, Kurama, and two tengu arrive in the past. From the bushes, Kurama shows Ataru her ideal man, who is dueling a flock of tengu and appears to be someone who showed up for InuYasha fifteen years early.

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He defeats the flock with one blow, and the tengu ask him to meet the Princess, identifying him as Ushiwaka Maru.  He says that he wasn’t going to meet her unless the tengu won, and besides, he’s not interested in women.  At this Ataru is ready to charge out there and give him what-for until Kurama explains that Ushiwaka Maru is her father.  Ushiwaka is explaining to the tengu that he doesn’t have time for women because he’s trying to defeat the Heike Clan.  Ataru asks what’s so great about him anyway, and Kurama explains that it’s because he’s so stoic and handsome.  Ataru declares that he can do that too, but winds up going to pieces from using unfamiliar nerves and muscles.

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Cut to inside a building that looks like the one we saw in Kurama’s first appearance, where Ataru is dressed as a Tengu (including little fake wings), asking if he can become Ushiwaka Maru’s disciple.  Ushiwaku asks if Ataru’s going to use the knowledge to defeat him and see his Princess, but Ataru tries to reassure him, calling him Papa as Kurama had.  Lum and Ten arrive at this point, and UM freaks out at seeing a woman’s bare skin.  Ataru knocks him unconscious with a mallet while shouting another Japanese pun, and vows to teach “Papa” about women, allowing Lum to make the connection.

Kurama returns find Ataru teaching Ushiwaka Maru about women (with a helpful chart), and sucks him to her with a wind and clobbers him with  mallet, but Ataru is determined to take him babe-watching in Kyoto.  It turns out that Kyoto is not full of beauties, although UM did do up his hair anyway.  Meanwhile, Lum comes to a bridge guarded by a priest, who’s no prize himself.

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Lum shows him a picture of Ushiwaka Maru and says that when he sees this man, he should render him incapable of having children (the law about not changing history from last episode seems to have gone out the window).  Ushiwaka and Ataru arrives, Ushiwaka with a shawl over his head and playing a flute, and the priest makes a play for him while calling him Sweetie before attacking.  Kurama pops out from a bush and saves Ushiwaka and Ataru with a gust of wind, and Ushiwaka jumps around for a while before noting that he’s a man.  The priest, who Ataru identifies as Benkei, is shocked to discover this, and explains that he’d been treated so badly because of his face that he’d vowed to treat 1000 women like dirt, and Ushiwaka was going to be number 1000.

Ataru notes that this isn’t exactly like the legend (in the original, Benkei’s goal was to collect 1000 swords); Lum replies that truth can be stranger than fiction.  Ushiwaka Maru says that he wants to use Benkei’s pent-up energy to defeat the Heike Clan, and Benkei agrees.  Ushiwaka explains to Ataru that a true man will abandon everything else for his goal, and dubs him Crow Yoshitsune.  Ataru is touched, and vows that he too will have a big dream for himself.  Back in the present, that goal turns out to be hitting on 1000 women.  The women aren’t impressed, and neither are Kurama and Lum.

Changes from the manga version: Basically the same, except that Kurama agrees to let Ataru take Ushiwaka Maru to town because history records that it happened, and we see a bit of him trying to pick up women.

Thoughts: I have a mixed reaction to this one, because on one hand it’s a better episode than the previous segment, but on the other hand it requires knowledge of the original story for the jokes to work.  I’m not surprised that Viz dropped this one from their reprints, since having endnotes to explain this sort of thing wasn’t standard at the time.  That said, it has funny moments and no one’s behaving all that badly (although Lum trying to erase Kurama from history is surprisingly cold).

It probably wasn’t an option because of holiday timing, but putting this episode before the “Ataru Genji” episode would have allowed an explanation of why Lum was looking for Ataru in the past, although that’s more episode-to-episode continuity than the show has at this point (or for a long time, really).

This is another one that I’d put in the category of “worth watching if you like the Japanese cultural material, skippable if you don’t”.

Next episode: The gang is at the beach, but someone’s stealing the girls’ swimsuits!

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