The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 19: “The Tearful Diary of Tomorrow”/”Whose Kid is This?”

First, a couple of housekeeping notes.  The mother of one of my housemates is visiting, so it’s possible I may miss a day or two (that’s part of the reason I didn’t post yesterday, the other being that it was a holiday).

The second one is that I discovered that AnimEigo has some of their liner notes available on their website.  They only cover the first few seasons, but I recommend them if you’re looking for more detailed notes on some of the jokes and cultural references.  They also have staff credits, so I’ll be able to use those to compare writers, directors, etc.

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Episode 19a: “The Tearful Diary of Tomorrow”

Original airdate: March 10, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “Diary of Tears”, volume 2, chapter 6 (Viz release)

Minor characters introduced: Junko and Mendou Shutaro’s Secret Fan Club

Summary: Ataru is sleepy as he walks to school, since his mother woke him up an hour early, but this presents him the opportunity to accost a passing jogger.  She calls out for help, and soon she and a police officer are chasing him on a bicycle.  Lum, watching this from above, pulls out a diary and sees that the events match what’s written in the diary.

Mendou parachutes out of a family jet, and we cut to Ataru on the ground, joining his classmates in walking toward the school.  Lum flies by to warn him that if he keeps walking that way, something bad will happen.  Ataru refuses to buy it, which is when Mendou lands on him, glad that he didn’t land on something important, like a beautiful girl.  In the shoe locker area, Ataru is further annoyed by all the girls doting on Mendou, but Lum sidles in and says that today just won’t be his day.  Ataru asks what she’s reading, and she tries hiding the diary behind her back, then runs to Mendou for protection in case Ataru gets angry.

Ataru promises he won’t be mad, and Lum holds up the book, which he recognizes as his diary, instantly becoming mad.  He chases Lum and confronts her about this, but Mendou interrupts with a serious question: Is he really keeping a diary?  When he responds in the affirmative, everyone falls about laughing.

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Ataru stalks away up the stairs, and no sooner can Lum read “I fell down the stairs” than he’s at the bottom again.  It strikes him that he hasn’t actually written the day’s entry yet, and Lum explains that she went into the future and took it from tomorrow.  He flips through it and readds “I hugged Shinobu and got light-headed”, and he’s instantly trying to hug her, but she kicks him back and he strikes his head against a desk.  He sees that during the first break he’ll experience a thrill–having ramen delivered–and during the second break he’ll get carried away.  He rushes into a Beefbowl restaurant and places a rush order, but the server (who’s apparently the love child of Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar) tells him that his teachers are having a meeting there.

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Sitting outside and looking the worse for wear, he reads “Got tortured at the Beefbowl shop”, suggesting that he really ought to read more than half a sentence at a time.  He muses that nothing good has happened today, and immediately gets a bucket dropped on his head by Kiriyabashi, telling him that class has started.  In the classroom, Mendou is still laughing over Ataru keeping a diary, and this theme continues throughout the day.

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Lum tells Ataru that she’s going to take the diary back, but Ataru contends that it’s his diary and he has a right to happen.  Flipping ahead, he reads that he became extremely jealous of Lum and Mendou becoming friendly, and scoffs at the very idea.  He concludes that Lum must have added that one herself, but the class watches as Mendou and Lum meet outside.  She’s actually asking him to lay off Darling, which sets him off again, but from the window her checking if he’s okay looks like they’re getting close and personal.

Ataru steps away and reads “The girls smothered me.  Beautiful Junko was especially intense, her cheeks turning beet red…” Junko, who is the most attractive background character in this segment due largely to how poorly the others are drawn, has a question for him behind the school:

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Ataru takes his “love the one you’re with” philosophy to the logical extreme by proclaiming that Junko is the only one that matters (his dialogue should really be read with a Groucho Marx voice) and throws himself upon her.  He’s instantly decked, Junko pointing out that this sort of behavior will drive her into the arms of Mendou.  Words not being enough to convince him, she summons her posse of 1970s bad girl stereotypes (long skirts, lower face mask, the whole nine yards–sadly no yo-yo, though).

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Ataru argues that they’re mad at the wrong person, but they school-violence him within an inch of his life and stalk away.  Lum flies down to check on him, and he grabs the diary and confirms that what he had read had come to pass.  Lum grabs it back, worried that if he keeps it it’ll keep controlling him, and pulls out her time travel device to return it to the next day.  Ataru tries to grab it back but falls into a weird LSD trip where he flashes back to everyone he knows yelling at him, and then lands in the Land of Giant Kana.

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He comes to on his futon with Lum tending to him.  She and Ten explain that he got stuck between today and tomorrow, but rather than wind up in “The Tommyknockers” he just got nearly crushed by his own words.  Ataru asks Lum if the next day will be better, and after an obvious pause, smiles and says that it’ll be full of good things.  Cut to the next day, when Ataru is being chased by the bicycle-riding woman and policeman, a truck, and a police car.  Lum admits to Ten that she lied to Darling because she couldn’t bear to tell him that today would be worse than yesterday, and Ataru curses her name as he runs away.

Changes from the manga version: The story is largely the same (minus the part about obtaining food) until Lum takes the diary away (successfully).  Ataru reads that he’ll tell Mendou “Serves you right” and throws caution to the wind, leading him to his meeting behind the school (the girl’s named Momoe in this version). That evening he’s shown unhappily writing that day’s diary entry, and a tear plops onto a word and causes it to run onto another word, changing it from “Mendou said to me ‘Serves you right'” to “Said to Mendou ‘Serves you right'” and driving Ataru round the bend.  Lum reflects that it’s not surprising that he keeps a diary, given how sensitive he is.

Thoughts: I can’t compare how it worked in the original Japanese, but in English I think the story worked better in the manga, because they’re more free to change the words to heighten the ambiguity. (For example, rather than “The girls smothered me”, it’s “The girls were all over me”.)  I won’t often say this, but I think the anime version would have benefited from being stretched out to a full half-hour episode, which would have allowed them further time to set up and build the ambiguous situations. (The scene where Ataru is trapped in time was pretty blatant filler, but the new ending worked fine onscreen where the flowing words part wouldn’t have.)

The diary entry is dated February 24th, which makes me wonder if the episode was meant to air two weeks earlier (although the pages look like they’re dated 2/12).  In the manga the date is April 16th instead.  Ataru is also shown turning the pages in two different directions in different scenes.

Ataru’s pursuit of the jogger at the beginning is a little too directly physical for my taste, especially with her cowering in fear at one point (in the manga he keeps catching up with her no matter how fast she runs but doesn’t actually grab her)–his pursuit of women works best if he’s instantly decked, since it makes it clear that he’s being punished and not getting anything out of it.

The weirdly janky designs for the background characters continue in this episode, although Mendou is more on-model.  They improve in the next segment.  From the credits, most of the same staff worked on episodes 17-19, but episode 18 was much better animated.  It may be because episode 18 didn’t have any classroom scenes, so they could concentrate on drawing established characters and/or those whose designs were well-established in the manga rather than crowds.

Episode 19b: “Whose Kid is This?”

Original airdate: March 10, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “What Child Is This?”, volume 2, chapter 7 (Viz release)

Minor characters introduced: Literature and chemistry teachers, baby alien

Summary: Mendou uses a reading in literature class to build himself up as a master of love, prompting sighs from the girls and derision from the boys, who point out that he could get up to anything behind closed doors.  The girls rally to his defense, saying that after all he’s not Ataru.  The boys retort that they’re basically the same, prompting disgust from both of them.

A Dappya alien tells them to go put on their lab coats for chemistry class.  Along the way, Ataru complains to Mendou about why everyone has such a low opinion of him when most of what goes on is just bad luck.  Mendou attributes it to a bad character, and starts to say something about a pure heart, when he opens his locker and sees a baby alien inside.

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Mendou slams the door, but the girls notice his panic and gather around solicitously.  Mendou assures them that he’s fine and he doesn’t want them to be late to class, which they interpret as him being caring and troop out.  Mendou shoos Ataru away as well, then figures that his best way of dealing with it is to move the baby into Ataru’s locker, since this is really more his speed.

In chemistry class, Mendou looks forward to Ataru opening his locker, until he sees the baby alien under his table.  He throws himself over it in an extremely obvious way and asks if he can go to the nurse’s office.  The girls clamor to accompany him, but he insists he can go on his own, shoving the baby under his shirt and hurrying out.  This causes them to speculate that he might be pregnant, which leads an unnamed girl to demonstrate her meta-awareness of the series.

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Out on the school grounds, Mendou tries to figure out what the baby wants, causing it to start crying.  Lum and Ten are watching this from above, and Lum flies down to tease him about it, with Ten suggesting that Cherry is the baby’s mother.  Lum says that the baby is probably wet or hungry, and Mendou pulls out his phone, ordering milk and diapers on the double.

Mendou hides as the other students are heading outside for Phys Ed, where Ataru and the Stormtroopers encounter a randomly placed vending machine.  Ataru drops in a coin and it dispenses a pacifier, so he shrugs and puts it in his pocket.  At that point a Mendou family fighter jet flies over and drops a package.  Mendou rushes out and tries to shoo them away, but they interpret his gestures as enthusiasm and make another pass, announcing that the milk and diapers have been delivered.  Ataru jokingly asks if he has a baby, which is Lum’s cue to fly back and say that Mendou is the only one who can quiet the baby.  She says it’s his secret child and demonstrates that it only stops crying when he holds it, leading the girls to imagine who the mother might be and fainting en masse.

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(Easy there, fellas.) Ataru teases Mendou about being a bad boy, and the alien lunges at him, grabbing the pacifier and popping it in his mouth.  It announces that it’s finally found its translator and that it’s actually a fully grown adult alien.  The alien explains that it’s stuck because its ship ran out of fuel, and it needs ten thousand 100 yen coins (around $4000), explaining why it was drawn to Mendou specifically.  Mendou considers that a bargain at twice the price and phones up for 1 million yen in coins, which is delivered discreetly by glider but clonks him on the head.

It turns out that the vending machine is the alien’s UFO (the liner notes posit that this may be a joke on the UFO brand of cheap instant ramen).  The alien feeds the coins into it and takes off, rather badly.  Mendou is relieved that he’s finally in the clear, and waits for the girls to wake up so the guys can clear his name with them.  He then realizes that it’s a bad idea to trust them and sets off to do it himself, only to have another vending machine crash in front of him and a baby alien crawl out and demand fuel.  The girls wake up just as two more vending machines land and a host of baby aliens crawl out demanding payment.  The girls assume they’re looking for alimony, and the guys refuse to defend him, but they all faint again when a giant vending machine with a giant baby alien lands and grabs Mendou.  Lum reassures Lum that she’s not that bad by comparison as we pan out.

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Changes from the manga version: The initial setup occurs when it’s announced that a student has been expelled for getting a girl pregnant, which Mendou announces he would never do (giving him better reasons for keeping the baby secret).  No other aliens appear after the first one leaves, but the boys tell the girls that Mendou gave the mother a million yen to take her baby and scram.  Other than that the stories are essentially the same.

Thoughts:  This is a fun episode, and stands out as one of the first where someone other than Ataru is the focal character.  Putting Mendou into an uncomfortable situation is comic gold, since one thing he can usually hold over Ataru is his superior reputation.

The girls in the class are much better drawn than in the previous segment.  They don’t really look like Takahashi extras yet, but they’re more attractive in a generic anime girl kind of way, especially the one with the short orange hair.

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Very few generic boys appear in this episode, though–the Stormtroopers tend to be the only boys in group shots–so they may have been concentrating more effort into the girls’ appearance.

There’s not a lot more to say about this one, except that the two segments in this episode (which are back-to-back in the manga as well) are a good example of the two types of plots we’re still getting at this point in the series.  The first segment is primarily driven by the external factor of the diary, although Ataru’s character shapes the exact form of events.  The second segment drops a relatively simple situation onto a character and the plot is driven primarily by their reaction to it.  There’s overlap, of course, but the reliance on character in the second segment is a trend that it’s good to see continue.

ETA: I remembered something interesting I noticed in this episode but forgot to mention: Lum refers to Mendou as “Shutaro”.  This is a surprisingly forward and informal way to address someone she doesn’t know very well, especially someone in Mendou’s social position.  (For comparison, I can think of one manga where the main charcters don’t start using personal names with each other until after the first time they have sex.)

Up to this point that sort of nicety hasn’t been clear–Ataru and Shinobu were dating (although even that might not put them on a personal-name basis), we’ve only heard the name of one of the Stormtroopers (Megane) once at this point, and the other recurring characters generally only have one name, so Lum addressing them by personal name isn’t that strange.  This may be intended to show that Lum, as a foreigner, doesn’t feel bound by Japanese social rules.  I’ll have to listen to see what honorifics she uses.

Next episode: Tiny spirits are putting Ataru’s class to sleep!

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