The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 24: “Beware of Earmuffs!”

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Episode 24: “Beware of Earmuffs!”

Original airdate: April 21, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “For the Love of  Muffs”, volume 6, chapter 2 (Viz release)

Minor characters introduced: Earmuff salesmen

Summary: An earmuff salesman (with green skin and in heavy disguise) is hawking his wares on the street, and calls out to Ataru and Ten.  Ataru is impressed by their cheapness (150 yen, around 64 cents) but still haggles him down to 200 yen for two.  As they leave, the salesman complains about the heat.

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Once they’re away, Ataru tells Ten he owes him 100 yen.  Ten protests that he didn’t ask for them , and is skeptical of Ataru’s claim that they’re a hot item right now, since it’s a warm and sunny day.  Ataru convinces him that the single men around them can’t get girlfriends because they’re not wearing earmuffs, and Ten pays up.  They each try on their pair…and discover that their minds have switched between bodies. (Their voices switch too, but presumably only for the audience, since no one notices how weird it is for Ten’s voice to come out of Ataru’s mouth.)

[Note: For the rest of the article, I’ll refer to mind-switched characters by their mind’s name, followed by the first initial of the body they’re in.]

Ataru/T immediately sets off to score with women.  Ten/A chases after him, but knocks himself out by running facefirst into a lamppost.  Lum spots Ataru/T, who begins to run away until Lum asks what he’s doing, so instead he distracts her by pointing out his unconscious body.  This works, and he flies off to find what he’s really after.

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The women he runs into are happy to snuggle the cute flying toddler, and Ataru/T is more than happy to snuggle back.  We cut away briefly to Ataru’s body, where Ten/A tries to explain what’s going on to Lum, which she interprets as a concussion-induced delusion.  Back at Ten’s body, Ataru/T has a line of 13- to 20-year-olds lined up for snuggling. (Dude!  Admittedly Ataru is probably closer to 13 than 20 himself at this point, but still, have a little class, dude.) Ten/A charges forward demanding his body back, but Ataru/T plays the adorable martyr card for all it’s worth, begging Lum to protect him from Ten/A.

Lum pins Ten/A, while Ataru/T spots Sakura and “the most revered pair of hooters”.  He zooms toward the target, but she deflects him with a trash can.  Lum asks what she thinks she’s doing attacking a toddler; Sakura replies that she felt something unusual, and Ataru/T, remembering that she’s a priestess, moans that he’s about to die.  Sakura is about to scoop him to her bosom when Ten/A pulls him away, only to get electrocuted by Lum.  Ataru/T zooms in again, this time getting deflected by a telephone pole, and begins crying.  Sakura relents and picks him up, meaning that someone had to create the sound effect of Ten’s little fists pounding on her chest.

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Ten/A protests that “Ten” is behaving strangely, and Lum and Sakura begin to suspect something’s up when Ataru/T comes up with a brilliant deflection: “He taught me this!” (Giving viewers of my age flashbacks to an old anti-drug ad.) Ten/A protests his innocence, but Lum and Sakura have no trouble believing that Ataru would come up with something like this, and the subsequent electrocution is savage indeed.  Sakura finishes it by smashing a street sign over his head, which is too much for Lum.  When she scoops up his unconscious form, the earmuffs fall off his head, Ten returns to his body…but Ataru turns out to still be in there too.  Ten and Ataru argue with each other over possession of the body, while the women look on in bewilderment.

Back at the earmuff stand, Cherry haggles the salesman down to ten pairs for 150 yen, in a scene that’s entertaining but not worth trying to summarize.  The salesman steps back into the alley and reveals his secret: he’s an alien! (Okay, it’s not that much of a secret.)

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In the course of his self-argument, Ten/T realizes that the earmuffs are the source of the problem, and tries to take them off, but Ataru/T prevents him by coldcocking themself.  Lum picks up his unconscious form while Sakura picks up and tries on the earmuffs, moving Sakura into Ten’s body and Ataru and Ten into Sakura’s.  Ataru/S is more than happy to take advantage of the situation, while Ten/S and Sakura/T tries to stop him, and in the course of the scuffle Ataru’s comatose body is knocked off the embankment into a passing dump truck. (“It’s a damn shame when folk be throwing away a perfectly good Japanese boy like that.”)

Commercial!

After a shot of Ataru’s body being carried away, the group notices that it’s missing, and Ten/s remembers kicking something.  After verifying that the body is indeed gone (which is preferable to it still being there, as it would have fallen onto a busy highway), Sakura/T brings up the earmuffs, and the others agree to try taking them off.  However, while Sakura/T takes hers off, Ataru/S wants to stay in Sakura’s body and reneges, leaving all three of them in her body while Ten’s body hovers like a dead goldfish.

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Sakura finally manages to wrest them off, and everyone returns to their own bodies.  Lum flies off to find Ataru, who wakes up in a construction site and is dumped out in a heap of gravel.  Lum travels to the Moroboshi’s to tell them Ataru is gone, which his mother regards as an opportunity.

Back at the construction site, the salesman troupes back while complaining about the difficulty of meeting quotas.  He uses a remote to lift his UFO out of a pile of gravel, and is surprised to see Ataru’s unconscious body on top.  Inside the UFO, Ataru pitches a fit at the salesman and another, identical-looking alien, who says they’re planning on leaving Earth because they overestimated the demand for Personality Exchange Devices.  The lightbulb figuratively goes off over Ataru’s head, and he plays out the highlights of his experience in the different bodies, leading the aliens to conclude that Earth people already have their own way of switching personalities.

Sakura is consoling Lum that Ataru will return on his own when Cherry arrives, wearing his earmuffs and carrying the other nine on his back.  They scuffle with him, trying to get them off, and then jump forward to after the exposition, with Lum apologizing to Ten.  Cherry points out that the earmuffs are only a problem if worn in pairs, and keeps them on.  In a not-at-all portentous cut, we see Ataru walking home with sacks full of earmuffs he was given as a damage settlement. Ataru cackles to himself about what he can do with these (without really thinking about the details) and puts one on, switching bodies with Cherry.  Finding himself in Cherry’s body next to Sakura, he immediately claims to be ill.

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They take him to the Moroboshi’s, but he insists he’s all right as long as he can rest his head on Sakura’s lap.  Shinobu and Megane burst in, having heard that Ataru is missing, and Ataru/C get Shinobu to hold his hand as well.  Lum recognizes a familiar look in Cherry’s eyes, and Ataru/C sends her and Ten out to look for himself.

Mrs. Moroboshi serves dinner, and Ataru/C smells his favorite food, Cockadoodledoo (cup) Noodles.  He can’t have any due to his feigned stomachache, while the guests are unimpressed by the hospitality.  At this point Cherry/A returns home, bursts into the Moroboshi’s dining room and finds them eating sukiyaki, leaping in with gusto.  Upstairs, Ataru/C is tortured by the others enjoying his favorite food, and finally snaps, leaping on the table and gulping down a cup.  He winds up thrown against the wall and the TV dropped on his head, as the others berate him for his unmonkly gluttony.

Downstairs, Cherry/A hears the noise, and breaks off from his own gluttony to run upstairs and stop them from trampling his body.  Megane kicks the earmuffs off Cherry, returning Ataru to his body, but Cherry/A protests, wanting to protect his body but not return to it while it’s being volleyed like a ping-pong ball.  Mr. Moroboshi comes upstairs carrying the sacks of earmuffs, and he and Mrs. Moroboshi begin arguing about whose fault it is that Ataru is so stupid.  Lum returns into the middle of this scrum, and demands quiet, electrocuting everybody.

When the smoke clears, everyone is wearing a pair of earmuffs and has switched into inappropriate bodies, including Mr. Moroboshi as Shinobu, Ten as Cherry, and Cherry as, well…

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We end with the room in chaos, and seeing that Lum has switched with a Dappya alien.

Changes from the manga version: The plot is basically the same up to the point that Lum knocks out Ten/A; at that point Ataru/T starts to chase Sakura, Cherry arrives with his own earmuffs, and it winds up with Ten and Cherry switched while Ataru returns to his body as Lum is electrocuting him.  We end on the aliens leaving Earth, complaining that they only sold three units.

Thoughts: This is the first episode where a single manga chapter became a full-length episode (rather than multiple chapters combined), and they hit it out of the park as far as extending the original situation.  The initial setup is one that lends itself to extension well beyond what appeared in the manga, and almost any body swap is going to have humorous results.  Apart from the skeevyness of Ataru’s bosom receiving line, the new material is well-written and in character, from Cherry’s manipulating the salesman to Mrs. Moroboshi serving her guests cup noodle while she and her family have sukiyaki.

Beyond that there’s really nothing to say; it’s an extended gag episode, so there’s not a lot of need for deep character analysis.

Next episode: The students struggle over a mysterious caterpillar!

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