The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 26: “Ten’s Love”

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Episode 26: “Ten’s Love”

Original airdate: May 5, 1982

Corresponding manga chapters: “Ten-chan in Love” and “Babes in Arms”, volume 6?, chapters 4-5 (Viz release)

Summary: It’s Children’s Day eve, and the carp banners are flying. As Ataru and his mother beat futons, he hints broadly about what tomorrow is, leading her to finally say “I never should have had you”.  She’s pulled away from Ataru’s wild take by the doorbell, and is alarmed to be greeted by a bear being ridden by an axe-wielding small child.

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She’s saved by Ataru and Lum coming around the corner; Lum is pleased to see Kintaro, while Ataru just has an “oh no, not again” expression.  Kintaro explains he was passing by Earth and dropped by to see Ten.  Ten himself flies up with a letter he wants Lum to translate, and he and Kintaro greet each other happily, but he’s cagey about the target of the letter.

In Ataru’s room, Lum takes dictation from Ten.  The letter is an invitation to meet at Pigmon Coffee Shop tomorrow; its tone makes it sound like a challenge, but it turns out to be a love letter to Sakura (prompting yet another wild take from Ataru–he does a lot of them this episode).  Ataru goes into Serious Mode and tells Ten that if he’s looking for a date, he’s going to be shot down.  Ataru claims to be the Emperor of Dating (although Lum points out that he’s never taken her on a date) and offers to write the letter for him, but Kintaro intercedes with his ax and tells Ten to trust him over Ataru.

Kintaro waits for Sakura in her shrine, and is struck by her beauty when she arrives.  He tries to leave, thinking that it’s hopeless, but she pulls him back with a rope and tells him to come out with it.  Kintaro decides to take the direct approach:

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A resounding cry of “Imbecile!” rings out.  Back in Ataru’s room, Ten is in shock as Kintaro tells him it’s hopeless.  Ataru’s intense “I told you so” message drives Ten sobbing into Lum’s arms, and she volunteers to talk to Sakura herself.

In Ataru’s room, Ten is broodily staring out the window while Kintaro and his bear kill time with a pattycake-type game.  Mrs. Moroboshi enters to offer them a snack, and they all rush past her at the sound of the opening front door, only to be upset that it’s just Mr. Moroboshi.  The phone rings; it’s Sakura, and Ten makes a date with her for tomorrow.  Ten and Kintaro are overjoyed, while Ataru goes from shocked to scheming, planning to follow them around.

Commercial!  Long-overdue new eyecatch!

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Ten and Kintaro are outside a hotel, Ten wearing an oversized old tailcoat of Ataru’s. (When did he wear that, and why did his mother keep it so long?) Ataru and Lum follow from the parking lot, and take a table behind Ten so only Sakura can see them (she’s not too pleased to see Ataru).  Ataru gets Lum to admit that she asked Sakura to take Ten out because it’s Children’s Day, and he’s worried that Ten won’t be satisfied with just a friendly meetup.

Ten goes over his plans for the day: a trip to the amusement park and then a talk about their future, causing Ataru to flail and Sakura to faceplant.  She accuses Ten of being under the bad influence of Ataru, to Ten’s chagrin; Ataru gives himself away by objecting, then tipping his chair over while scrabbling at the tablecloth.

A montage of the two couples at the amusement park follows (including riding on giant replicas of Arale and Char Aznable), where everyone is having fun but Ataru.  After Ataru makes fun of Ten for being mistaken for a doll (and gets flamed in return), Ten asks to go somewhere more private, and summons Kintaro to bear her away.  She refuses, saying she doesn’t like bears, but Ten directs Kintaro to take her, issuing a challenge to Ataru as he leaves.

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Ataru’s attempt to ride Lum in pursuit goes about as well as you’d expect, and we pan up to Ten and Sakura at the top of a building under construction, watching the sun set.  Ten rhapsodizes briefly about the coming night, and asks Sakura to marry him.  To her credit, she phrases her refusal in the passive voice rather than giving an outright “no”.  Ataru and Lum arrive then, but tell Ten to continue.  Ten asks if it’s his species, or his age, and Sakura is even more troubled.

Showing an astounding level of maturity, Ataru tells Ten that if he loves Sakura that much, he should stop troubling her so she can be happy.  Ten gives Ataru a good kick to the face for the cliche, broods, announces that he’s given up, blames Ataru, breathes fire on him, and flies off.  Lum flies after him, and Ataru takes the opportunity to cozy up to Sakura, earning a slap that knocks him over the railing.

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Fortunately, he’s just danging off the scaffolding by his foot, but Sakura’s in no hurry to pull him up.

On top of a strange clown sign, Lum and Kintaro try to console the inconsolable, but Kintaro has to leave, mentioning that everyone else is on their ship.  This inspires Lum to ask him for a favor.  Back on the building, it’s dark, and Ataru and Sakura’s back-and-forth exchange of threatened affection and violence is interrupted by Lum, saying that Ten has something for Sakura.  In the sky, a light show forms from flying aliens carrying glowing spheres, which resolve into a portrait of Sakura.

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Ten flies back, and Sakura holds him while he cries, then kisses him on the forehead.  Ataru runs toward her, and gets knocked off the scaffolding.

Changes from the manga version: The “Ten-Chan in Love” chapter isn’t directly adapted into this episode, but sets up Ten’s feelings for Sakura.  The “Babes in Arms” chapter doesn’t have Kintaro, and Ataru is directly sabotaging Ten’s efforts, sending a filthy letter and writing an itinerary that involves a steamy adult movie and going to a motel.

Summary: *sniff* Now if you’re going to take a humorous manga story and add serious character work, this is the way to do it.  (It’s Mamoru Oshii’s third episode on storyboards, which is probably a factor.) The trouble with the ending of “Fly, Imo!” was that we weren’t invested either in Imo’s feelings or in Ataru’s feelings for her, and they didn’t have much consequence since Imo’s not a recurring character.  Here, though, Ten’s feelings are very real and relatable, and the animators treat them seriously, as do the other characters. (Ataru’s attitude varies through the episode, but he’s the first to recognize the depth of Ten’s feelings–his negative reactions are fueled mostly by jealousy.)

This sort of episode is UY at its best: it takes the original manga story as a template but deepens the character relationships, while still keeping in jokes. (The bit with Ataru at the end kind of unnecessarily breaks the moment, but at least it’s a brief bit.) Kintaro is well-used as another character who’s on Ten’s side, and allows scenes to be added or extended without feeling like filler.

This is another holiday episode, airing on Children’s Day, although the holiday only plays an incidental role in the story.  It’s a nice callback to Kintaro’s first appearance, when they found him inside the carp banners, and the banner-shaped spaceship puts in a brief reappearance.  As the AnimEigo notes point out, there’s also wordplay there: the Japanese title is “Ten-chan no koi”, and “koi” can mean “love” or “carp”.

As I noted above, we get a new commercial eyecatch in this episode, which is a relief.  The old ones are already becoming outdated, since they focus on the Ataru/Lum/Shinobu triangle, and were awkwardly animated to boot.

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Next episode: An incompetent vampire shows up!

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