This episode is an hour-long special that isn’t considered part of the episode count. I’m going with a separate numbering system so my entry numbers stay in line with the episode numbers, or it’ll get confusing.
Also, one minor note: I didn’t find AstroNerdBoy‘s reviews of the series when I set out to do this project, but stumbled across them in the course of a Google search in writing this article. That doesn’t present a problem–there’s room for more than one person to recap a series, especially a big one like this, and I’m going into more detail than he did–but I said at the start that I didn’t think anyone else had undertaken a similar project, so I want to acknowledge that at least one other person has.
Urusei Yatsura Special 1, part 1: “All-Star All-Out Attack!”
Original airdate: April 1, 1982
Corresponding manga chapter: None (or, rather, many)
Summary: This is a recap episode in which Mrs. Moroboshi reviews the events of the last six months. Incidents covered include:
- Ataru’s contest with and engagement to Lum
- Lum paying the taxi bill and moving in with Ataru
- Ten moving in
- Rei’s arrival
- Ran’s arrival
- Cherry introducing himself and trying to exorcise the dream demon
- Sakura’s arrival at the school
- The Shinobu sequence from Ataru’s dream
- Shinobu losing her temper with Ataru on multiple occasions
- Mrs. Moroboshi flirting with Rei
- Mendou’s arrival
- Ataru hitting on a wide range of women
- Tender moments between Lum and Ataru
- Various scenes of chaos
Thoughts: This is the first summary episode, but not the last. In the days when anime was rarely rerun and a home media release wasn’t assumed, these would run from time to time to allow new viewers to catch up. If someone wanted to skip the first season, they could watch this one to get at least a basic summary of the ongoing characters and situations.
About the only new element in this episode is Mrs. Moroboshi sating that she likes Shinobu and would like to see Ataru end up with her, but that’s just making explicit what’s been implied anyway.
Urusei Yatsura Special 1, part 2: “The School Excursion! Run, Kunoichi!”
Original airdate: April 1, 1982
Corresponding manga chapter: “Run, Ninja, Run”/”Hide, Ninja, Hide”/”Ninja Forever”, volume 4, chapters 5-7 (Viz release)
Major characters introduced: Kaede, Yatsude
Minor characters introduced: Mukade, Kumade, white and red ninja
Summary: Ataru’s class is touring the ancient Japanese capital Nara. Ataru’s complaint about being bored is interrupted by a red blur that runs past them, dropping a scroll. Mendou identifies her as a kunoichi, or female ninja. Ataru chases after her, but slips on the scroll.
In a hut in the woods, the kunoichi, Kaede, is being chewed out by her master, Yatsude, for losing the scroll with their ninja secrets. After giving Kaede a good malleting, Yatsude orders her to retrieve the scroll, refusing to accept her resignation.
Back at the capital, Ataru is hoping to find a cute girl, but is startled to discover that Lum has joined him. He pulls her aside into the woods and tells her he doesn’t want her there, and heads out to find a different cute girl, but bumps into Mendou, who thinks he caught a glimpse of Lum, which Ataru vigorously denies. Kaede arrives in the woods, wearing a kimono, and sees Ataru using her scroll to practice kendo moves on Mendou, in a joke you’ll get if you’ve watched Bamboo Blade. She approaches the boys, and Ataru immediately asks Mendou to take their picture, to which he half-complies.
Ataru asks for her number, but Mendou gets him in a full nelson and hauls him off before she can ask him about the scroll. From the trees, Yatsude asks how things are going, and face-plants when Kaede says she didn’t get a chance to raise the issue.
In the rest area, Ataru is eating what looks like barbecue, and goes to wipe his mouth on the “tissue paper scroll marked ‘confidential'” when Kaede appears and begs him not to. She wipes his mouth herself, and they go for a walk in the woods, but her attempt to explain what he can do for her in exchange is interrupted by a literal bolt from the blue. Lum hoves (or hovers) into view, wearing a school uniform, which will allow her to go on the school trip with Ataru. Kaede is left stammering about the scroll, and concludes that she may be in the wrong job. She pulls out a job listing magazine, but is interrupted by a giant tanuki statue.
Fortunately (?) it’s just (?) Yatsude being a naggy-pants again. Cut to the school bus, with Lum riding on top, and Kaede riding behind it begging for the scroll. Ataru can’t hear her and assumes she’s after him. He stops the bus and they run toward each other, but are stopped by a lightning bolt. Kaede concludes that Lum is an enemy shinobi and does a leaping clothing change maneuver to switch to her ninja outfit, activating her Fire Jutsu. When Lum flies away from it, she activates her ultimate technique, the Hog-Raising Jutsu, and summons a stampede of pigs. Lum flies away, but Ataru is trampled, and Kaede snatches the scroll from mid-air.
Back at the hut, however, Yatsude is not pleased at the condition of the scroll.
Kaede begs to be fired, but Yatsude insists that when she’s a ninja she’s a ninja all the way. That night, she goes to Kaede’s room to find Kaede gone and her ninja gear folded up on the floor. Vowing to show her the price of desertion, she meets outside with two ninja squad leaders, Mukade and Kumade, and their troupe of chibi ninja in dressed in red or white. Yatsude announces that they’re on the lookout for Kaede, who’s probably in Kyoto, and the chibi ninja head off. There’s just one catch:
Lum and Ataru are shopping for souvenirs in a shop whose clerk turns out to be Kaede, which Ataru proclaims to be fate but which Lum insists is just coincidence. Ataru is suddenly pinned to the wall by shuriken, and hanging off the store’s sign on the roof, Kumade and Mukade plan to drop on Kaede in a cool manner when she asks “Who are you?”. She spoils their plans by recognizing them, and they plunge to the ground instead. The pair threaten to kill Kaede, but discover that she’s gone and they’re surrounded by a group of students. Realizing that they’re a hit, they begin to strike ninja attitudes and declaim about the life of a shinobi. Ataru rolls his eyes in disgust and walks off.
Ataru and Lum wind up on a road by themselves, until Ataru and two white ninja spot Kaede’s job magazine at the same time. They summon more ninja and surround Ataru, telling him to hand over the magazine “or else”. Ataru asks what else they mean, and they throw down pellets that surround them in a huge cloud of smoke. Lum flies in and grabs Ataru, and when the smoke clears they realize the tables have been turned. Kumade and Mukade jump down and ask what the hell they were thinking, and they admit that they panicked.
Lum once again asks Ataru if he’s really going to keep looking for Kaede, but now that he has a clue he won’t give up. He and Lum visit a variety of businesses where Kaede has either been fired or never hired in the first place, while the ninja try to lay traps and fail (washed away while crossing a river, belly crawling across the street in a cool manner only to narrowly avoid being run over).
The group eventually winds up at a temple, where Ataru approaches a monk who turns out to be Cherry and asks if he’s seen her. He replies that she just jumped off the edge, and Ataru and all the ninja follow her, Kumade and Mukade striking cool poses on the way down. Lum catches Ataru and flies back, and Cherry explains that it was a joke on a literal version of the expression “jumping from the stage of Kiyomizu”, which is where they are. Ataru agrees that it’s time to give up.
As the class is getting ready to leave, they form up for a last photo. Mendou and the Stormtroopers are startled to see Lum, and Kumade and Mukade jump out and accuse Ataru of making them look uncool, which bewilders him because he hasn’t seen her before. The chibi ninja leap out to attack, but the photographer tells them to hold still for the picture. The photographer turns out to be Kaede, leaving some of the cast in shock.
Changes from the manga version: Mukade and Kumade don’t command the chibi ninja, and Yatsude is following them closely, resulting in a confused scrum at a restaurant where Kaede has been hired. Mukade and Kumade also decide to get out of the ninjing business, so Yatsude sends the chibi ninja instead, and the plot proceeds in essentially the same way.
Thoughts: This is a strong beginning for the full-length episodes. Adapting three chapters at once means that the plot doesn’t need filler to fit a half hour, and things move at a brisk and funny pace. It helps that all the supporting characters have humorous quirks.
This episode feels a bit like a Ranma 1/2 episode run through the UY filter, namely that everyone is comically incompetent. By herself, Kaede is merely too diffident and clumsy to be a good ninja, but the addition of Yatsude’s bossiness and Mukade & Kumade’s attempts to look cool over actually accomplishing anything turn the whole thing into a comedy of errors, with Ataru and Lum nudging the plot along from time to time. The result is a distilled form of the character driven plot, where a simple incident (Ataru finding the lost scroll) sets off a cascade of events driven by everyone’s personality quirks until things go all higgledy-piggeldy.
Kaede and Yatsude will appear again, but they’re the sort of characters whose schtick works best in small doses for maximum effect.
Next episode: No next episode preview! Oh, the existential angst!