Episode 29: “From the Gardenia, With Love”
Original airdate: May 26, 1982
Corresponding manga chapter: “From Flower to Flower”, volume 5, chapter 6 (Viz release)
Minor characters introduced: Flower seller, gardenia
Summary: Ten is taking the time to smell the flowers when Ataru passes by, and he follows for a while until Ataru confronts him. Ten denies being up to anything, and Ataru is about to leave when Ten calls him onii-chan (“big brother”), sending chills up his spine. It turns out that he wants to borrow money to buy flowers from a pretty flower seller, which Ataru can certainly relate to, to the point that he jumps ahead and introduces himself to the seller while Ten is distracted. (She has the solid-colored eyes that indicate she’s blind.) She knows that Ten is around the shop a lot, which sends him into a joyful reverie.
Ten hovers around choosing a flower, while Ataru hovers around the seller to grab her attention, but she inadvertently winds up smacking Ataru around while making friendly gestures. Eventually she picks out a gardenia, which Ataru carries home while feeling unduly optimistic about his chances with her. They pass Cherry, who chases them at high speed to ask an odd question:
(My research shows that gardenias aren’t a common food flower but can be eaten by humans.) Ten and Ataru disagree over who’s going to raise it, but they both agree that hanging around Cherry is a bad idea, and split.
At home, Ataru reads that it shouldn’t be given too much water while absent-mindedly emptying an entire watering can over it, and goes off to grab food for it from his father. Ten takes it to the roof to get sun (which requires him to burn a hole in a cloud with his breath) and enters a fantasy about raising it well and bringing it to the seller. He’s interrupted by Ataru, who tells him to bring it down for food. Ataru dumps an excess of food on it, going into his own fantasy of nearly killing it so they can nurse it back to health together.
Lum interrupts him, and he presses her into service dumping fertilizer on it while he drowns it with the hose. It eventually collapses like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree after he puts an ornament on it, and Ataru brings out an alarming array of lights and space heaters to warm it up. This only makes it worse, which is all to the good as far as Ataru’s concerned. Ten spots Ataru’s inappropriate glee and goes off to get something, asking Lum to keep an eye on the plant. Ataru insists on taking it himself, which makes Lum suspicious as well. He doesn’t get very far before he runs into Ten and the device he went to get, a greenhouse he made since he (wisely) doesn’t trust Ataru.
Ten doesn’t get far into his fantasy of marrying the flower seller when Lum and Ataru enter and observe that it doesn’t look any better. Ataru tries to take it back, and in the course of the scuffle, insists that he’s better suited to care for it because he knows Earth things better than Ten. This leads to a weird argument about whether Earth or Ten’s planet is better.
Ten ends the argument by pouring some alien fertilizer on the gardenia, causing it to grow to eight feet tall in a trice. Ten takes off to show the flower seller, and Ataru chases after him. In trying to talk Ten out of it, he realizes that her horror over the giant plant could serve his aims as well, and he grabs it for himself. Cherry sees him running by and pursues, trying to claim that it’s a bad omen and he should taste it to check for poison. He runs through a junkyard and winds up trouserless, which I doubt anyone really wanted to see, but here it is anyway:
You watched it, you can’t unwatch it! Ataru runs past a ramen stand at which the Stormtroopers are eating, followed by Lum, and the Stormtroopers finish their meal and join the chase. Ataru engages in a lengthy run through the city (losing the Stormtroopers along the way) and finally arrives at the flower store to show the gardenia to the flower seller. (Wasn’t she supposed to be blind?) Ten takes credit for helping grow it, and earns a pat on the head. He’s about to confess his feelings when Ataru points out that, while she doesn’t have to faint like the customer she’d been helping, she should show at least some reaction. She notes that it looks listless, and Lum suggests it’s unhappy, so she offers to listen to its troubles. Ataru boldly takes the stand that flowers don’t have feelings, until the gardenia proves him wrong by asking for a drink of water.
The flower shyly asks the seller about her feelings, and when she says she thinks he’s a fine, tall flower, asks her out, to both Ten and Ataru’s anger. The flower points out that it knew her longer than either of them did, and they respond that it’s depth of feeling that matters, not length. Ataru tries to move in for a kiss (Lum’s response is basically “I knew it!”) but the gardenia grabs him with a tendril, and a scuffle ensues until the seller asks them to stop and make up. She tells the gardenia that she can’t go out with him, but that it’s not him, it’s her and the other flower she’s into.
The gardenia scoffs, saying that quince means “ordinary” in the language of flowers while he’s anything but, but she tearfully insists that an ordinary girl like her fits an ordinary flower. The flower says it’ll leave quietly, but won’t shut up as it hops away. It winds up on the Moroboshi’s roof, where it has Lum wrapped up in its tentacles.
Changes from the manga version: The plot is essentially the same but without all the chase scenes or Cherry. In Japanese, the word for “gardenia” (kuchinashi) is a pun on “without speech” and there are several jokes on that; the manga makes it a chrysanthemum so they can make the same puns on the word “mum”. It ends up with the flower hitting on random women on the street, rather than Lum.
Thoughts: Okay, is the flower seller supposed to be blind or not? Her eyes are drawn that way, but in both the manga and the anime she goes from randomly smacking into Ataru in the first half to looking at the flower in the second half. In the manga Ten asks “Are you blind or just stupid?”, which itself seems out of character to how he acts toward her in the rest of the story. I’m really not clear on what was intended at this point–maybe she’s pretending to be blind so she can beat up Ataru?
We’ve had a good run of episodes, but this one is the first in a while that feels obviously stretched. In the anime Ten pursues Ataru for a full minute; in the manga it’s one panel. Likewise, the chase through town is around two minutes long and doesn’t add anything to the story (although I did like the joke about the Stormtroopers collapsing and saying “Well, that’s the limit of the power you get from cheap ramen”). The story could have made a funny half-length episode as a straight adaptation, or reworked into a touching full-length episode; as it is, it falls between two chairs, and the funny moments are stretched out with moments of blah. Lengthy chase scenes are a warning sign of filler, all the more so when they have no significance to the story no matter what happens (Lum isn’t trying to catch Ataru to stop him, and Ten arrives at basically the same time as Ataru anyway). I don’t hate the episode but it does represent one of the down sides to the full-length stories, once they ran out of multiparters.
The nameless flower seller is a very Takahashi-esque creation, especially in the manga; an apparently normal person who turns out to have a couple of obsessively weird quirks.
Next episode: Rain! Love! Vengeance! Or something, the details are unclear!