The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 17: “The 4-D Camera”/”Demonic Jogging”

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Episode 17a: “The 4-D Camera”

Original airdate: February 24, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “Shooting to the Fourth Dimension”, volume 2, chapter 10 (Viz release)

Minor characters introduced: Harem girl, Juliet

Summary: During a downtime in the classroom (do these guys ever have classes?  Seriously, we’ve seen teachers in the room about twice so far), Mendou is showing off the one family heirloom that is never supposed to leave the mansion: an old-style camera that they received from the British Royal Family.  Ataru is, naturally, unimpressed, but Mendou explains that this was the first instant camera and offers to demonstrate with Lum.  Ataru keeps photobombing them, though.

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Mendou finally gives up and lets Ataru join the picture, with the intention of cutting him off with the end of the picture, but Ataru grabs Shinobu and pulls her into frame as well, leaving himself in the center.  Ataru vanishes, but it takes a while for Lum to notice.  After determining that he’s not in a desk drawer or the trash can, the photo pops out, and sure enough it just shows Lum and Shinobu.  That’s the moment when Mendou guiltily remembers why his grandfather told him to never take it out of the house.

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We don’t hear what came after the ellipses, because Shinobu sees the picture and it’s soon passed around the class.  That’s when Lum (telepathically) hears Ataru’s voice coming from a window, begging for water.  Shinobu points out the obvious, that the camera is responsible, while adopting her best “j’accuse!” pose.  Lum is unable to open the window and begins to cry, which Mendou must have a photo of, and the Stormtroopers are unable to stop him from snapping it.  Lum doesn’t disappear, but the scene before her is more desert-y than their schoolyard usually is.

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Ataru is visible as a speck in the photo, and Lum redoubles her efforts.  The sound of Darling chatting up a woman spurs her to blast it open with electricity, and the desert comes into view outside that window (and only that window).  Ataru soon appears on a camel, accompanied by a woman in harem pants and a top that puts her at severe risk from sunburn.  He says his farewells to the woman and, to everyone’s disgust, asks for a picture of them.  Mendou doesn’t care what happens at this point and snaps another photo just as Lum flies into a rage and at the pair, pushing Ataru into center frame again.  Lum vanishes as well.

The scene changes to a European castle in the distance, just as the clock strikes midnight.  Ataru spots Cinderella (for it is she) running away, apparently cosplaying as Princess Peach, and tries to score a date with her.

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Lum sees the pair and gives Ataru a literal flying kick.  Meanwhile, back in the classroom, Mendou is explaining that the camera is actually a projector, putting the target into a fictional world.  The Stormtroopers don’t care about Ataru, but are so distressed by Lum’s absence that they’ve gone badly off-model.  Megane suggests taking another picture, and a struggle ensues both in the classroom and at the castle, where Lum is dragging Ataru away.

They apparently take another picture, which shows Lum in another night scene, this time in front of a mansion.  She stops a passerby to ask where they are, and discovers she looks oddly familiar.

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Ataru takes a break under a balcony, onto which a woman steps, looking for her Romeo.  Ataru will be anyone’s Romeo, or at least anyone who will feed him at this point, and scrambles onto the balcony just as she steps back inside.  His hammering on the window draws Lum and another flying kick.

Lum flies back into the classroom, while the latest photo shows Ataru chatting up Cleopatra.  Shinobu loses her temper at the camera, not wanting Ataru to keep hitting on women, and after a scuffle it’s flung against the wall, where it disgorges a photo of Ataru on a raft in the ocean with a castaway.  Everyone gathers around and has a good laugh, and Lum tells him to think about what he’s done.

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Changes from the manga version: The camera isn’t an instant, and they don’t discover that Ataru’s in the desert until the film is developed.  Guy-from-the-photography-club-who-kinda-looks-like-Megane discovers that it’s a fourth-dimensional camera, and Ataru goes directly from the desert to the raft.  (Mendou also says he has only one photo left when he takes the picture of Lum at the window, and then takes another when Ataru returns on the camera, but that may be a translator/adaptor bobble.)

Thoughts: This episode had good potential but was confused by inconsistent rules (though they’re partially there in the manga as well).  Why does only Ataru disappear the first time?  Why doesn’t Lum disappear in the second photo?  It looked like they were setting up Ataru’s being in center shot as significant, but nothing came of it. We jump over a couple of implied plot developments, as well, such as the transition from Verona to Egypt.  The concept is solid, and there are good character-driven moments, but it doesn’t hold up to close examination of the plot.  The manga raises the same consistency questions, but doesn’t extend it as far.

The animation is also subpar in this episode (both segments).  I wasn’t kidding about the Stormtroopers going off-model; here’s the screenshot:

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Mendou in particular seems to have in turned into either Speed Racer or the mascot of plumbing company Mr. Rooter.

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This isn’t a terrible episode, but all in all I’d have to rate it as skippable.

Note that the show skipped a week and thus didn’t have to have a Valentine’s Day episode, but the Christmas episode covered similar ground. (Chapter 8 from this volume, which covers students going into a dark cave in pairs, might have been appropriate.)

Episode 17b: “Demonic Jogging”

Original airdate: February 24, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “The Devil’s Run”, volume 3, chapter 1 (Viz release)

Minor characters introduced: Velial

Summary: The alarm goes off at 6 AM, and Ataru, who’s been sleeping in running gear with sneakers around his neck, rises promptly and is out the door.  Lum has been wondering why he’s been jogging lately and flies off to follow him.  It turns out that he’s running past a girls’ sports team and older women who lounge around in lingerie and adopt strange attitudes.

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Lum is amused rather than angry, and heads home to get more sleep.

Shinobu joins Ataru, now in uniform, on his walk to school, and is impressed that he’s kept this up for thirteen days in a row, which Ataru attributes to choosing the proper course.  Further explanation is curtailed by coming upon a crowd gathered around a building where a woman is threatening to jump from the roof.  While everyone else tries to talk her out of it, Ataru spots a 10 yen coin (roughly a nickel) and lunges for it just as she jumps.  She lands on his back, and miraculously they both survive.  When she comes up to talk to him, he’s surprisingly suave, giving her his card and leaving without letting her say anything.

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At school, the Stormtroopers are impressed by Ataru’s uncharacteristic behavior, until Mendou guesses the correct explanation.  Shinobu comes to Ataru’s defense, and Mendou finds himself answering in an oddly rude manner, insulting the girls (“‘yak yak yak”, you broads are always bitching”).  Ataru calls him out, and words are exchanged until it becomes a duel on the tennis court, loser the first one to give up.  They’re both feeling confident as Mendou leaps dramatically into the air, serves…and faults.

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On the second serve he hits the ball, but Ataru aces it back at him.  It continues thus, Ataru crushing Mendou despite his best efforts, until the sun begins to set and Lum arrives, having slept all day.  She calls out support for Darling, but Megane tells it’s not necessary because the outcome is already clear.  Indeed, Mendou is exhausted while Ataru is still fresh, and Ataru declares the final serve while mangling a proverb.  The serve shoots past Mendou, who collapses, defeated.  Rather than bask in his glory, Ataru crosses the court to salve Mendou’s wounded pride.

The other students ask if Ataru has just been pretending to be an idiot all this time, which he cops to, while Lum notices that he looks different from this morning. Ataru holds up his fingers in a V-for-victory position, only to have blue flame appear between them and this guy to appear:

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He doesn’t explain the pink Vespa or the dog, but explains that he’s the Devil Velial, who can bring his clients respect and admiration, and he’s here to collect on Ataru’s soul.  Ataru protests his ignorance, and after Velial tries to grab his soul by reaching into his mouth, Ataru accuses him of appearing without being summoned.  Velial shows him the his crest, which Lum recognizes as Ataru’s jogging route.

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Furthermore, Ataru stood with his back to the sun while making Velial’s initial.  They begin scrapping with each other, while the others lose interest in the pathetic spectacle and wander off.

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Changes from the manga version: The demon is called Virility here.  The plot is the same until after his explanation of his summoning.  He explains that he used to drive a fiery chariot drawn by dogs, then had to buy them a TV, so his credit card is maxed out and he needs Ataru’s soul, which he tries to suck out with a vacuum cleaner.  Lum smashes the vacuum cleaner and all his souls fly away, forcing him to wander the streets recycling paper.

Thoughts: This segment made the transition much better than the previous one.  (It probably helps that the tennis game is custom-made to stretch out the episode without being obvious filler.) The change in the ending doesn’t hurt it, as until I reread the manga chapter I thought they had kept the original ending.  I could easily see a final panel of Ataru and Velial tussling while the others wander away, although the manga’s ending is good too.

It’s an amusing vagary of translation that, B and V mashing into each other in Japanese pronunciation the way R and L do, the devil would almost certainly have been called Belial if it hadn’t been for the sign-of-V plot element.  That’s probably why the manga changed it, so it doesn’t look like a typo, but in the anime we can clearly here what the voice actor is saying.

The most effort on these episodes seems to have gone into the tennis game, because look at the background girls in Ataru’s class:

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This may explain why Ataru was so interested in Shinobu, since she’s the clearly most attractive girl in the class, being the only one whose face doesn’t seem to have been built out of Tangrams.

This episode is a great example of what Mendou brings to the cast.  His contrast with Ataru is so obvious that it’s not hard to sell how odd Ataru’s success is–prior to Mendou there wouldn’t have been a character suitable for the role of goat.

There’s not a lot more to say about this one; it’s pretty funny, holds together better than the first segment, and does justice to the manga source.

Next episode: Introducing Ran, at last!

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