The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 27: “What a Dracula”

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Episode 27: “What a Dracula”

Original airdate: May 12, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “Down for the Count”/”Blood From a Stone”, volume 8, chapters 11-12 (Viz release)

Minor characters introduced: Count Dracula, Koomori

Summary: Atop a ridiculously tall smokestack, silhouetted against the waning crescent moon, a vampiric gentleman is brushing his teeth while sulking.  It transpires that he’s annoyed with his bat sidekick for waking him up by dumping garlic in his coffin.  It makes up for this affront by offering to lead the vampire to a cute girl.  Dracula, for it is he, leaps from the smokestack and is promptly over come by 9.8 m/s/s, his flight abilities helping him not in the least.

In the Moroboshi home, we see a rare moment of domestic tranquility as Ataru rhapsodizes about his mother’s garlicky potstickers (yes, I’m sure we all see where this is going, hush).  Lum and Ten approach warily, drawn by a terrible smell, and are felled by Ataru’s garlic breath.  He begins to see that this has possibilities if it can be weaponized.

Outside, Dracula hobbles down the street using a stick for support, but he won’t be dissuaded by the bat, who we learn is called Koomori (both Japanese for “bat” and the character’s name).  He sees Lum step out onto the balcony for fresh air, and approves of Koomori’s choice.

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He pathetically air-swims up toward the balcony, but winds up catching a faceful of Ataru garlic breath meant for Lum and Ten.  He falls into the yard and is accosted by the Moroboshis, and flees before their combined odor of alium (typing “garlic” gets old after a while).  In Ataru’s room, Lum and Ten aren’t impressed by Ataru’s taunts, and Ataru points out that Lum has certain vampiric characteristics: hating garlic, fangs, feeding on young men…He fashions a crude cross out of pencils, but Lum tosses it out, where it lands on Dracula, who’s just managed to climb the wall again.  He rockets away, to the others’ confusion.

On a rooftop, Koomori tries again to get Dracula to give it a rest, but he won’t give up until he’s fed on her.  Koomori suggests a love letter, an idea upon which Dracula seizes.  The letter he writes is a weird mix of casual and over-direct, and he won’t allow Koomori to edit it or at least clean up his handwriting, but hands it over to be delivered at once.  It turns out they’re on the Moroboshi’s rooftop, and Koomori drops it straight into Lum’s hands.  The letter proves to be incomprehensibly written, so Koomori invites them to the roof to speak to the writer directly.

Dracula has set up a little table with tea and buns, and invites the three to join him.  Ataru refers to him as the pervert from the window, which is rich coming from him.  Dracula dramatically identifies himself, but Ataru deflates him with one word (“liar”).  He tries to prove his identity by listing his weaknesses, which Koomori points out is a dumb idea, and lunges to bite Lum.  Ten interposes himself, however, and Dracula winds up with a mouthful of Oni bum.  Ten retaliates with a blast of fire, and we learn that Dracula wears the same vertically-striped boxers as Lupin III and all other male anime characters of this time.

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After he departs, the others see that he’s vanished, and wonder whether that proves he really is a vampire; in actuality, he’s just fallen into the yard again.

Following the eyecatch, Koomori is flying around during the day, looking for something and complaining about being overworked.  It pauses to rest, only to discover that it’s on the spire of a church, and takes off at top speed.  In Ataru’s room, Lum offers him a giant rice cracker, through which Koomori hurtles like the Kool-Aid Man.  Lum flatly refuses to go out with the Count and allow her blood to be sucked, so Koomori turns to Ataru, asking if he knows any cute girls.  There’s a great exchange between the two, in which we find out that the Count is a low-rent version of Doug Piranha:

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Ataru agrees to help if Koomori will introduce him to a cute girl.  Koomori points out the Catch-22, but then has an idea, although we don’t hear it.  Instead we cut to Ataru, Lum and Koomori walking down the street as Ataru flips through his little black book, proving himself to be  a legend in his own mind.  They bump into the most 1980s woman we’ve seen in the series yet, probably an aerobics instructor, who Ataru met on the beach last year.  Koomori asks if she wants to date a middle-aged man, and she says it depends.  Koomori hands her a photo, which she exclaims is in fact her type.  Suspicious, Ataru grabs the photo and exclaims that it doesn’t look like the Count at all, and Lum draws her own version on a nearby wall.

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As they’re walking away, Ataru demands to meet this girl Koomori knows, since he’s becoming suspicious.  Koomori takes them to a park and flies into the men’s room, changing into a cute girl.

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She’s grossed out, but introduces herself to Ataru as having been sent by Mr. Koomori.  Lum asks if she’s actually a girl, since she came out of the men’s room, but she says she was in a hurry, and Ataru defends her.  Lum goes from looking suspicious to looking amused.

There follows a montage of women refusing to go out with a middle-aged guy, Ataru pulling out a syringe and asking for blood, and his getting slapped or otherwise agressed upon.  Koomori admits to being worried about exposed to Master’s sarcasm, then covers badly when Lum and Ataru give her an odd look.  Ataru’s reached the end of his book, but insists on his date when Koomori turns to leave.  She can’t agree unless they can find a cute girl, and fortuitously Ran arrives at just that moment.  Despite Ataru and Lum’s recommendations, Koomori asks if Ran wants to date a middle-aged man, and Ran agrees if Darling will come along.  Lum is unhappy when Ataru agrees, but he says he’ll be going as chaperon, which seems very much like a fox in the henhouse situation.

Lum realizes that Ataru can’t be persuaded at this point, so she accompanies the others to the Count’s mansion (there’s a cute visual gag involving the gate I can’t convey here).  Koomori slips up on her identity a couple more times, then leads them down the steps into an underground chamber lined with really bad portraits.  Ran keeps cozying up to Ataru, claiming to be scared, while Koomori tries to sneak out on their date.

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Ataru takes Koomori into the adjoining room, where she admits that she’s uncomfortable because it’s her first date with a man, but that they might as well get it over with here.  Ataru takes that as directness, and chases her around the room while Lum laughs from a beam in the roof.

Ran is annoyed to be left alone, where she can’t suck out Darling’s youth.  The Count rises dramatically from his coffin and introduces himself, but is floored when Ran doesn’t know who he is.  He flings out his coat, introduces himself as Count Dracula, and flings himself at her with an Elmer Fudd chuckle.  To his surprise, she goes in for the kiss, but he has no youth for her to take.  He backs away when she snaps at him, admitting he’s timid and only wanted a bit of blood, and she offers to take him where there’s plenty.

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(Ran just keeps generating these double entendres, doesn’t she?) Back in the other room, Ataru manages to cut Koomori off and they collide at the lips, but Koomori turns back into a bat and flies off looking for Master.  Lum is rendered helpless with mirth, to Ataru’s annoyance.

On the surface, Ran points Dracula to a place which has blood, but it turns out to be a mobile blood bank, and he’s aghast when they take his blood instead (in Soviet Russia…).

Changes from the manga version: The story begins with Dracula being beat up by a crow.  The story is the same until Ran arrives; in the manga Ataru procures a bagful of blood from stray animals; his “date” with Koomori follows.  Each chapter corresponds to one segment of the episode.

Thoughts: Fun episode.  Dracula and Koomori are the sort of characters that are great if used once, or sparingly: the overblown incompetent and their long-suffering aide are a great comedy pair (I kept thinking of Zapp Brannigan and Kif Kroker).  In bat form, Koomori pretty much always has a sweat drop on its forehead.

Although it’s implied that Koomori is male and takes the female form out of necessity, neither the anime nor the manga makes that point explicit.  The VA is the same in both forms, and is female: Ota Toshiko, best known as the voice of Leo in the Jungle Emperor Leo movie. (I’m assuming they’re the same person even though AnimEigo has a long “o” in her family name and ANN doesn’t.) Its behavior suggests that, and the translators go along by having her refer to “Mr. Koomori” in human form, but it’s not 100%, which is why I’m avoiding gendered pronouns in bat form.

There are a lot of little touches that are done well in this episode, such as Lum’s change of expression when she realizes what’s going on with Koomori–that’s the sort of moment-to-moment shift that’s a lot easier to do in animation than on the page, so it’s good to see the animators taking advantage of the opportunity to round her out.  I also enjoyed the translation of Mr. Moroboshi’s line on seeing Dracula: “What are you doing, writhing in our yard?”.

This is the furthest forward in the manga the adaptations have gone yet: these chapters were at the end of Japanese volume 10, which would put them around Halloween 1981, or about 7 months before the episode aired.  Since there’s no holiday connection for the timing of the anime episode, I’m guessing they were just looking for a two-part story that would be easier to adapt without too much stretching.

Finally, I had to share this picture of the portraits in the vault, even if I couldn’t really use it in the recap.  I particularly like Vampire Hulk on the right.

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Next episode: Lum travels back in time to cure Ataru’s flirting, but something goes wrong!

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