The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 13: “Hawaiian Swimsuit Thief”/”Full Course from Hell”

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Episode 13a: “Hawaiian Swimsuit Thief”

Original airdate: 1/20/1982

Corresponding manga chapters: “Surf’s Up!” and “Swimsuit Thief”, volume 3, chapters 8-9 (Viz release)

Minor characters introduced: Chiiko, other unnamed girls

Summary: The camera pans across a sunny beach, full of beautiful women and vegetables.  After Megane and Perm object, it turns out that Ataru is picturing the men on the beach as vegetables in order not to distract himself from his real interest.  One of these, a gorgeous blonde woman in a bikini, waves in their direction.  Megane and Perm argue about which one is the target, so of course they’re scooped by Ataru, who has a brief conversation with her in heavily-accented English.

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This earns him a watermelon on the head courtesy of Lum, who exposits that she was the one who won the group trip to Hawaii in the supermarket lottery draw.  They are interrupted by Sakura, who stuns the entire group with her swimsuit-clad body (Ataru says that he’s never seen her naked flesh before, which rather improbably suggests that he’s forgotten about her outfit in “Battle Royal of Love”).  She explains that she’s here because as a modern girl she likes to travel and besides…(wistfully)…Uncle loved the sea… The group takes this to mean that Cherry is dead, which of course upsets everyone but Ataru (did his head mysteriously pop off?).  They are immediately prove wrong, as Cherry surfs in on an enormous wave and flattens Ataru.  Sakura clarifies that “he loved the sea, and still does!”.

It’s now evening at the hotel, and the guys (Ataru and the Stormtroopers) are hanging out and enthusing about tomorrow (Kakugari is giving Perm a massage).  Specifically, they’re enthusing about Sakura and her swimsuit, and Ataru suggests that they steal it.  After a brief interruption by a badly off-model Megane, they all scramble to grab it and wind up tussling among themselves.  They’re interrupted by a mystery voice that proves to be Cherry, hiding in Megane’s trunk.  He threatens to chaperone the boys until they return to Japan, but Ataru has a counter-offer of Lum’s swimsuit in exchange for Cherry’s silence.  We see a mysterious, shadowy figure on the patio outside…

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The girls rush outside, Shinobu insisting she saw something, but Lum takes to the air and determines no one is in sight.  Sakura checks the boys’ room, but everyone is asleep…except that after she leaves, Cherry’s eyes open.

Come the dawn, and sure enough the girls’ swimsuits are all gone, but not the boys’.  Ataru is immediately tied up and lightly tortured for information, and even Shinobu and Lum have no trouble believing he’s responsible.  Megane’s attempt to play good cop leads to him being tied up as well, and eventually all the boys are tied up and under suspicion.  Shinobu’s two girlfriends have searched the room but not turned up the missing swimsuits.

Suddenly, Lum looks out to the water and sees a bald head go under, followed by a swimsuit floating to the surface.  Megane mentions having seen him go outside, Ataru is just generally anti-Cherry, and Shinobu says that she could see him doing it.  They go to Sakura and demand an interrogation, but she isn’t having it.

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The others still consider it a possibility, but they’re interrupted by a shriek from Sakura, whose swimsuit is being pulled off.  Ataru, Megane and Perm nobly swim out to help, but she swims away from them, crying as she stands like Venus in the waves.  Ataru remarks that this is the first time they’ve seen her feminine side, which earns him a pounding.  Maison Ikkoku fans, note the symbol on the towel:

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Megane spots a round head swimming out to sea, and the crew sets out on a speedboat armed with pitchforks and rakes and implements of de-struction.  They follow it to a cave on an island, down a path littered with women’s swimsuits.  As they confront the culprit, Ataru and then Sakura are spattered with ink, since the actual culprit is an octopus which bears a strange resemblance to Cherry.

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No one actually notices this, even when Cherry arrives and tries to get them to stop.  He eventually proclaims it fate, just before the octopus is flung against his head.

Changes from the manga version: The first chapter covers the episode up to the surfing scene, but carries the surfing on longer.  The next chapter starts in the scene in the hotel.  It reveals that, rather than the supermarket lottery, Mendou invited Lum on the trip, and the others came along uninvited, with Sakura as chaperone and Cherry as chaperone’s uncle.  There’s no interrogation scene, and they attack the octopus on the beach, leading to Cherry being led away by Mendou’s men to be cooked with soy sauce and vinegar.

Thoughts: The start of another tradition, the vacation episode.  This one’s a jump ahead by a couple of volumes, but Ataru indicates that it’s winter in Japan, so a vacation makes sense.  Fortunately, the next segment is the last time that Mendou will be cut from a story due to not having been introduced yet, although he’ll still have his lines go to Megane.

In the tradition of these vacation episodes, it’s largely an excuse for hijinks in a different setting, which is fine.  This episode is funny but feels like it needed more of a punch line (they couldn’t use the one from the manga since Mendou’s staff wouldn’t be around, and they hadn’t established any hotel employees).

Shinobu has a couple of girlfriends in this episode who have more distinctive character designs (the chubby girl with the auburn hair and the tall girl with the braid).  We don’t find out the first one’s name, but in the next chapter we find out that the girl with the braid is named Chiiko.  I can’t say offhand whether we see much of them in the future, but they’re like the Stormtroopers, individual characters to take the place of generic background students.

The animation quality seems to have slipped in this episode, probably because the two preceding holiday episodes got extra attention.  Megane in particular slips from model several times.  The video quality on this episode also seems to be worse, but that might be partially on my end.

Episode 13b: “Full Course from Hell”

Original airdate: 1/20/1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “Food Fight”, volume 3, chapter 11 (Viz release)

Minor characters introduced: Manager, head chef, waiter and restaurant staff

Summary: Shinobu and her girlfriends are poolside, ordering snacks and discussing their weight.  Seeing how every man in the area is drawn to Sakura, they ask the secret of her perfect figure, and she reveals that it’s a pill called “Beauty Foods”, which expands 300 times in one’s stomach.  Shinobu, the unnamed girl, and Sakura each take one (Chiiko doesn’t because she’s worried about being too thin).  Ataru, Lum and Cherry join the group and head out for lunch.

They pass an outdoor restaurant which advertises a deluxe multi-course meal at no charge…provided one can finish it, and if one can’t, one has to pay for everything one ate.  However, if anyone does finish it, their entire group’s meals are free.  A patron is wheeled out and told he owes 84,500 yen (around US$360 at the time the episode aired).  Lum cautions Ataru against it, and the manager explains that no one has ever finished it.

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Ataru is up for the challenge, and Sakura expresses interest as well, while Cherry is already warmed up.  The waiters bring them a variety of heavy dishes ranging from fast food to gourmet dishes, including steak, which as noted previously is an expensive luxury.  The plates stack up and Ataru’s belly swells.  At the buffet, Shinobu and her unnamed friend are full after just a couple of shish kebabs due to the Beauty Foods.  They realize with horror that Sakura had one as well, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting her.

Ataru asks how far along they are, and the manager assures him there are only 15 full courses to go, thinking smugly that this brat won’t spoil the restaurant’s reputation.  Cherry and Sakura calmly ask about the next dish, and the manager runs into the kitchen, shouting that there are two monsters out there and they need to make as many greasy dishes as possible, no matter the cost.  The result is a noodle stir-fry that literally gleams with oil, which is too much for Ataru, but not Sakura.

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The manager spurs the kitchen on to greater heights, and Ataru has some truly weird hallucinations, ending when he comes to on the beach with Shinobu and Lum scolding him.  Back at the restaurant, Cherry is swollen and about to break, but Sakura is as slim as ever.  Cherry collapses, and the manager demands even more food, but the waiter explains that they’re almost out and in danger of going broke.  The head chef, desperation beating out pride, drops a “Beauty Foods” tablet into the next dish.  Sakura doesn’t notice, and mentions that she took a “Beauty Foods” before arriving.

The waiter she mentioned this too winds up sobbing “She’s a monster!” in the kitchen, while the manager and head chef flash back to all the hardships they had in starting this restaurant.  He whips up the staff by playing on their pride in never having been defeated, and they rise to new heights…

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…but to no avail.  The staff pack up and leave (one of them with the refrigerator strapped to his back).  The manager and head chef embrace each other and weep, but the waiter returns…not to stay with them, but to say that the woman is asking about dessert.  Outside, Sakura relaxes in the breeze while Shinobu and Lum watch in horror.  The rest of the group arrives, talking about their lunch (nearly making Ataru sick), and Sakura says that Chinese food sounds good for dinner.

Changes from the manga version: The pill in this version is called “Bloat-a-Roni”, which amuses me.  Mendou takes them to the restaurant but refuses to pay for the others, which is why they enter the competition.  There isn’t the side material about the history of the restaurant.  At the end, Sakura lies down on a pool float and promptly sinks to the bottom.

Thoughts: The adaptation on this one is fairly elegant; the expanded material involving the restaurant seems like a natural inclusion, and removing Mendou doesn’t really affect the story.

I’m not going to go into detail about the girls’ concern over their figures and how it looks to a modern viewer, since it’s not the main thrust of the episode.  I will note that most girls drawn in Takahashi’s style don’t look overweight unless they’re deliberately drawn that way (such as the unnamed auburn-haired girl), and Chiiko complains about not having curves while her curves are clearly visible, and in fact she has pretty much the same figure as Shinobu.

This episode is an extreme example of the trope of “delicate anime girl has ridiculous appetite”, which we see later in characters like Lina Inverse.  To a certain extent the humor is drawn from a female character behaving in a manner that’s not appropriately feminine (much like anime girls who can’t cook), but in this case it’s taken to such a ridiculous extreme that Sakura isn’t behaving in a manner that’s even appropriately human, which takes it outside the realm of gender and into the realm of the surreal.  The anime version plays this up with the reactions of the restaurant staff, who you do have to feel a bit sorry for, but the manager did make matters worse by putting pride ahead of prudence.

These two segments are a bit unusual in that they’re about Sakura and Cherry but don’t involve the supernatural.  I can’t say that we see another side of their character, since they’re not that deeply drawn at this point, but it is at least a change of pace.

Next episode: Introducing Mendou!  This time for sure!

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