The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 18: “Girl’s Day! The Coming of Ran”/”Ran’s Invitation”

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Episode 18a: “Girl’s Day! The Coming of Ran”

[Note: The title card on the episode says “Girl’s Day. Introducing Ran”; the above title is from the file card.  The Japanese title of the episode is “Hinamatsuri! Ran-Chan toujyou”.  The non-matching punctuation and lack of flair don’t fit the other title translations, leading me to wonder if an earlier placeholder translation was used by accident.  The file card’s title sounds better, so I’m going with that.]

Original airdate: March 3, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “A Neck-and-Neck Finish”, volume 4, chapter 8 (Viz release)

Major character introduced: Ran

Summary: The Moroboshis are celebrating Girl’s Day through the traditional pursuits of dressing Lum in a kimono and laying out a display of dolls, despite the expense.  Ataru is bitter at not being properly appreciated and never having received a Boy’s Day doll, even though Lum’s dolls are fairly ugly. (The array includes Ataru and Lum as the Emperor and Empress, a Dappya alien as a lady of the court, and the mirror demon and space cabby as ministers.  For those comparing this with the Wikipedia article, they seem to have omitted or relocated the musicians on the third tier.)

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His attention is caught by the pink-haired court lady in the middle, who turns her head sideways and laughs.  He initially thinks it’s a hallucination brought on by too much shirozake (sweet sake) but when he looks back she’s gone from the display and calling out to him from the doorway (calling him “Darling”).  He follows as if in a trance, imitating the doll’s straight-armed gait, and when Mendou and the Stormtroopers spot him, they see that like the doll his feet aren’t touching the ground, which Mendou attributes to a lack of common sense.

Ataru follows the doll to a grove of cherry trees that is filled with fallen petals, where it spins around to reveal the real version of the pink-haired girl.  As she approaches Ataru, we cut to the Moroboshi living room, where Mendou and the Stormtroopers have joined the party and a sloshed Megane is singing “Uchuu wa Taihen da!” while dancing on the table (we should be glad he doesn’t have a pair of fans).  Lum notices that Darling is missing, and after being told about his unusual floating behavior, disrobes to go look for him (to the enthusiasm of the boys).

In the cherry grove, the girl explains that she came to find Ataru, identifies herself as Ran, and offers to kiss him despite knowing about Lum.

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Ataru is leaning in to go for it when Lum arrives, but rather than blast him she and Ran greet each other like the old friends they are.  Fade to Ataru brooding under a tree when Mendou and the Stormtroopers arrive, while Lum and Ran catch up on a tree branch.  It’s revealed that they were childhood friends, and Lum asks why she’s putting on the cute act rather than being herself, but Ran says that doing so makes it hard to go back to being cute.  She explains her reason for visiting: she was looking through old photos of their childhood when she was reminded that they both had crushes on Rei.  As she recalls Lum and Rei’s broken engagement and Lum’s marriage to Ataru, she gets angrier and angrier until her true self shows through.

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She starts ranting that she came to get even, and since Lum stole her youth, she’s going to steal Ataru and steal his youth, literally, though the phrasing of the translation is a bit unfortunate.

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Ran says that until she gets her revenge, she’ll stay on Earth disguised as a human, and if Lum gives her away she’ll tell everyone about the time Lum stayed at her house and wet the bed.  She gives an evil laugh and jumps down to Ataru to pick up where they left off, until Lum smashes him knee-deep into the ground with a mallet.  She starts to explain to Ataru but is stopped by Mendou, saying that since she has someone as amazing as him she doesn’t need Ataru.  The Stormtroopers don’t want to see Ran waste herself on Ataru and interpose themselves, but Ataru is so determined that he walks directly though the ground while still knee-deep in it, despite Megane trying to stop him.

Megane takes the only available option and throws himself between Ran and Ataru, kissing her himself.  Ataru pushes him away and is about to complete the kiss when Lum tackles him and shows him what happened to Megane.

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Ataru doesn’t care, and is ready to go for it despite Lum holding him back and the Stormtroopers restraining Ran.  Ten reflects on what fools these adolescents be, and we freeze on Ran and Ataru inches from each other as Ataru vows never to give up.

Changes from the manga version: The story is essentially the same but the framing sequence is different.  Instead of Girl’s Day, it’s Sports Day at the high school, and Lum recognizes Ran when they’re in a race together.  The conversation about their childhood is the same.  They’re on opposing teams in the competition where a three-person team act as horse and rider, and she kisses the unnamed third person from Ataru and Lum’s team.

Thoughts: Both segments are about Ran, so I’ll talk about her in the next section.

This episode aired on Girl’s Day, hence the holiday branding, but it works well here.  The sports day setup wouldn’t have worked because Lum isn’t a student at this point, and Ran’s messenger doll (established a few chapters later in the manga) is a natural element to get the plot going.  It’s also another case where the Western viewer can pick up the basics of a Japanese tradition without it interfering with following the story.  The sakura blossoms also give a scenic backdrop that fits the time of year.

Episode 18b: “Ran’s Invitation”

Original airdate: March 3, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “Have Your Cake And…”, volume 4, chapter 11 (Viz release), with a scene from “Closer…Closer…Closer”, volume 4, chapter 9

Summary: Lum is hanging out in the cherry grove, wondering why Ran summoned her there, when a messenger doll arrives.  It explains that Ran is heading back to her home planet and is holding a farewell party to which Lum and Ataru are invited, but that she shouldn’t tell Darling that she’s leaving.  The doll gives the setup line for an adult fanfic and showily self-destructs, leaving a map behind.

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Ataru, Lum and Ten arrive by bicycle at the gates of a large mansion, with a large pink UFO parked on the grounds.  Ran takes the flowers Ataru gives her and leads them into a tea room with some strange animated contrivances, including a stairway that tries to swallow Lum and a vase that’s actually a small humanoid with an open mouth, who tries to eat the flowers.

Ran goes to a furnace and adjusts the heat, then returns with a plateful of cookies, which Lum is too suspicious to eat.  When Ran leaves to take the cake out of the oven, Lum feeds them to the vase, who promptly falls asleep.  Ran checks the furnace again and returns to the tea room, asking how the cookies were.  Lum gives an evasive answer and Ran jokes about her improper use of an idiom, making Lum angry enough that she stands up and announces she’s going to wash the dishes.  She grabs Ten and goes to the hallway to watch the room, saying that if she leaves them alone Ran will seduce Ataru and she can catch them and punish Ran.  Ten falls asleep, and Lum watches as Ataru presses his suit in his usual suave manner.

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Ran seems to be aware that Lum is up to something, and holds Ataru off until he falls asleep (face-first in the cake again).  She arrives in the kitchen shortly after Lum rushes there, and notices that Ten is asleep but Lum isn’t.  She presses a button that moves the table and Ataru into a hidden door in the wall, and joins Lum in washing dishes and reminiscing.  Lum wonders if Ran has changed her mind as Ran reminisces about their both wishing on a star for husbands, which sets Ran off on another angry flashback.

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Ran snaps and says she’s going to “beat the hell outta” Darling, and Lum rushes back to the tea room to find it empty of Ataru (but with a new table).  Ran pulls a lever that turns the floor of the tea room into a portal to a strange dimension full of floating moonlets, and Lum flies off to find Ataru.  Ran returns to the furnace and pulls out a fully-formed but rather blank duplicate of Ataru.

Ataru comes to on a moonlet that’s drawn on a cel, and Ran floats by and asks him to wait behind a larger moonlet.  He finds himself face-to-face with himself, and both himselves try to float back to Ran but are pushed back to wait for Lum.

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When Lum arrives, Ran pulls one Ataru away while Lum grabs the other.  Lum’s party leaves, and Ran returns to Ataru and kisses him only to have him deflate on her (well, it happens to all guys sometimes).

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Lum bumps into Ran in the cherry grove again, and Ran snaps that she’s not leaving because she hasn’t gotten her revenge yet, prompting Lum to reflect that she just doesn’t understand that girl.

Changes from the manga version: There are two more chapters with Ran trying to get revenge on Lum between these stories in the manga, changing the complexion of the setup a bit.  The story is essentially the same except for the presence of Ten until Lum discovers Ataru is missing; the switch occurs on the ship instead of in a floaty pocket dimension.

Thoughts: Ran is the last major teen character to be introduced for a while, and caps off the trio of Lum’s old space friends.  She does for Lum what Mendou does for Ataru, giving her a rival character who’s around on a regular basis (although in a different class at school) where their interactions are more complex than, say, Kurama or Rei’s.  Ran’s demure act (in addition to her behavioral changes, from the word choice in the translation it looks like she’s talking more formally and politely then than when she’s angry) means that Lum has to be wary of her, but not to such an extent that she can just refuse to have anything to do with her, given their history together.  There’s a certain Wile E. Coyote vibe to her that makes her more of a nuisance than a threat, but she’s an active character rather than a reactive one like Shinobu.

As with all the better characters introduced, Ran hits familiar themes while expressing them in her own unique way.  Her actions are directed at Lum with Ataru as a patsy, rather than Kurama’s focus on Ataru directly.  She’s an old friend of Lum’s, but their relationship has more facets than Oyuki’s or Benten’s.  She’s an alien on Earth, but the first one who actively hides that fact on an ongoing basis.

Ran appears a lot in the manga when she’s introduced (six chapters in a row).  I don’t know if Takahasi was extremely fond of her, acting under editorial directive, or just felt that she needed to establish her grudge very firmly.  The anime skips most of these chapters, which is just as well as far as storytelling goes but does cut out some of Ran’s motivation.  Ran had a history of getting the short end of the stick when with Lum; in the incident where Lum wet the bed, she framed Ran for it, and when Ran protested her innocence she was punished for lying.  There were a string of incidents like this, which weren’t malicious on Lum’s part but do give her a more sympathetic motivation for being angry with Lum than just jealousy.

As mentioned above, Ran is the only recurring student character at Tomoboki who isn’t in Ataru’s class.  This was a good decision, since she’s around often enough to be a problem (or just another alien who can interact with Lum) but isn’t constantly sticking her oar in.

The direction of this episode is well done; the animation is back to its standard (and I like the alternate style of Ran’s flashback scenes), and a lot of Lum and Ran’s inner thoughts are conveyed through the movements of their eyes.  As the screenshots show, Ran has a very expressive face.  The new material in the first segment is smoothly integrated to the point that if you don’t know what to look for (largely the role of the Stormtroopers) you could believe that it’s part of the original story, even though 3/4 of the segment is original.  Only the segment with the moonlets feels at all like filler.  Even if it weren’t for the introduction of a major character, these would definitely be recommended.

On a minor personal note, I enjoy the design of Ran’s vase, which is directly from the manga.

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Next episode: Lum brings a diary that tells the future to school, and hijinks ensue!

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