The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 22: “The Great Space Matchmaking Operation”

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Episode 22: “The Great Space Matchmaking Operation”

Original airdate: April 7, 1982

Corresponding manga chapters: “Deranged Marriage, Acts One-Four”, volume 7, chapters 7-10 (Viz release)

Minor characters introduced: Prince of the Underground, Yuni, Diana, Prim

Summary: Ten’s skynapping is interrupted when he drifts down far enough to hear Lum’s father inviting her to an event of some sort.  Ten follows Mr. Invader into the sky (he has a weird sky-running style of flight) and pesters him, winkling out that the event in question is a matchmaking event.  Mr. Invader has Ten make  man-to-man promise not to tell anyone, because he doesn’t want Ataru interfering.

Ten manages to keep his promise for 70 seconds of screentime, managing not to tell Cherry but then slipping up around Sakura and Ataru.  Sakura and Cherry are intrigued, but promise not to tell Ataru, although the promise is a tad empty.

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Walking home by himself, Ataru muses over whether Lum would marry someone else, but concludes that she’s too in love with him to consider it.  Outside his bedroom, he hears Lum fretting to herself, but is taken aback to find that she’s just worried about choosing the right dress, and crestfallen that she’s happy to be attending the event.  His attempt to be nonchalant fails when he tries eating a baseball, and he goes through a range of emotions when she leaves (bitter, shouty, hair blowing in the wind) before winding up at determined.  However, the…uh…audience? disagrees and pelts him with junk.

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At school, Megane collars Ataru, having heard about the matchmaking party from Ten, who’s going around the room telling everyone not to tell anyone about it. (When you break a promise, break it hard, I guess.) The Stormtroopers demand to know what Ataru plans to do about it, to which he nonchalantly replies “Chant Ventura” (see “It’s Raining Oil in Our Town”).  Mendou is similarly no help, since his family doesn’t own a space fleet.  Ten muses that he wishes he could go, and Ataru suggests he take his spaceship and go.  Inspiration strikes him at that point, and he announces he’s leaving early.

Ten leads Ataru to a field and burns off the dried weeds covering his training potty-shaped spaceship.  Ataru hops in and tells Ten he’s coming along; the effect is not unlike someone in Futurama hitching a ride with Nibbler.

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They take off, and there’s a nice montage of them leaving the solar system as “Kokorobosoi na”, the new ending theme, plays.  The ship goes into hyperspace as Ataru vows to destroy the matchmaking party.

Cut to what appears to be a space station orbiting an orange-and-black striped planet, where a large party of what Teenagers from Outer Space would call “Real Weirdies” is gathered.  Mr. Invader announces that Lum will be there soon and everyone needs to do their best to impress her, and Lum soon makes her appearance wearing the dress she picked out in Ataru’s room.  Lum is confused by the tenor of the compliments she’s receiving, but goes with it, while her father muses that inviting her without telling her it was a matchmaking party may have been a mistake, but he’s doing it for his little girl because he can’t believe Ataru can make her happy.

Lum’s first suitor is the space version of the Shoveler from Mystery Men, the awesome Prince of the Underground, who vanishes while demonstrating his talent.

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She’s next  approached by a bizarrely creepy silent blue man, but Rei knocks him away.  Lum tries to shoo Rei, while her father tries to talk him up, but is then pursued by the blue guy.  Lum freaks out, and her father gives him the heave-ho.

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The Prince of the Underground re-emerges from the wall, and seeing that Lum is still unimpressed, vows to show her his true power: tunneling sideways!  Mr. Invader regrets that only freaks are showing up, but spots a relatively normal-looking boy, apart from his unicorn horn, and shoves him in Lum’s direction.  From hiding, a young woman exclaims “Yuni!”

Lum and Yuni sit outside under a fountain and enjoy the wind (in space?), but Yuni is keeping a troubled eye out, fearful that Diana will see them together.  His fears are well-founded, as Diana watches them, expositing that she thought he loved her and the party was just a formality, but here he is getting all up in Lum.  She says that she wishes she could smash the party, and is greeted by a heavily disguised member of the Anti-Matchmaking Front.  They call forth Comrade Ataru, whose spine has suffered from the ride in Ten’s ship. (He puts on a disguise after this scene.)

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Ten is scoping out the party in hat/sunglasses/scarf disguise, but bumps into a waiter who recognizes him and asks why he’s there.  The waiter turns out to have even less discretion than Ten, as he shouts “SMASH…UP…THE PARTY?!” The assembled aliens mutter about the bad things they’ve heard about the AMF, but are interrupted by Mr. Invader announcing the engagement of Lum and Yuni, to pretty much everyone’s shock and consternation, including the happy couple.  Lum yells at her father for tricking her, Diana cries out from the audience, and the disguised AMF member launches an array of missiles.  Our heroes are surrounded by guards, but are saved by the timely arrival of the Prince of the Underground.

They pause in an open area to rest, and the disguised AMF member reveals what’s under that disguise:

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She yells at the PotU for forgetting her.  Ataru leaps on Prim, the PotU grabs for Lum, and Ataru knocks him off Lum before jumping on Prim again.  Lum is pleased that Ataru defended her (and apparently ready to overlook his intentions toward Prim).  She complains about her father tricking her, and Ataru realizes that since she didn’t know it was a matchmaking party he didn’t need to rush.

The PotU senses that the exit is near, and breaks out right in front of Mr. Invader and his guards.  He announces that they have to make arrangements for the engagement, but Lum protests.

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Mr. Invader agrees that splitting up a loving couple would be wrong, and apologizes to Ataru.  Ataru and Ten celebrate that things have gone back to the status quo, but back on Earth, Ataru pretends he doesn’t know what happens despite still being folded in half.  Lum tells Ten she doesn’t mind, since she’s glad she’s with Darling, and we fade out as she smiles at him.

Changes from the manga version: Yuni is a centaur in this version (and his name is transliterated as “Uni”), and he and Diana later sprout wings to fly through space.  Apart from that, the plot is the same except for some small points of execution.  There’s a running joke with the PotU, Prim and the creepy blue guy: they appear with notes that they were created by readers, with an added joke about not knowing how to read the kanji in their names. (The best example is when Prim reveals herself: “You’re…Yamaguchi Tetsugo, age 16!” “No, you idiot!”)

Thoughts: Like the special, this is another multi-chapter story that adapts into a fun and fast-moving episode (and there’s even room for some filler, with the musical interlude.  The adaptation also plays up the elements of Lum and Ataru’s relationship, with Ataru feeling conflicted but overall positive emotions toward Lum and going out of his way to help her.

Tomobiki-cho counts this episode as the start of the second season, and I concur.  There’s a new ending sequence and song, it’s the first episode storyboarded by Mamoru Oshii, and the animation budget has clearly improved.  There are some interesting animation effects, such as the lighting inside Ten’s ship.  We’re also moving forward in the narrative, as these chapters are the furthest into the manga that have been adapted yet, and the narrative is highly character-driven.  The characters introduced for this story are limited but entertaining, particularly the Prince’s excessive enthusiasm for tunneling.

All in all, things are looking up for the series.  It won’t be entirely smooth sailing (hint: there haven’t been too many multi-chapter stories in the manga up to this point), but we’re definitely moving in the direction of the best parts of the show (and the manga).

On a trivial note, in addition to the “Ventura” reference, the characters in the AMF wear the same disguise that Ataru used when he was on the run early on.

Next episode: There’s a picnic!  And a kappa!  And a cave!

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