The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 31: “Gimme Back My Horn!”

Sorry for the radio silence the past few days, but I was in Michigan doing panels at JAFAX over the weekend.  I found something there that’ll be useful for this project: 10 of the 15 double-sized Japanese UY collections. (Or slightly more than double-sized, since they’re compressing 34 volumes into 15.) Even better, they mostly cover the volumes that weren’t released by Viz (although volume 13 wasn’t included), so I’ll have a better source for the art than sometimes dodgy scanslations. (Not that I can read Japanese, but it can be useful to have the original art to compare to the anime version.)

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Episode 31: “Gimme Back My Horn!”

Original airdate: June 9, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “Young Man Without a Horn”, volume 9, chapter 7 (Viz release), with reference to “A Narrow Escape from Memory Lane”, volume 4, chapter 12 (Viz release)

Minor characters introduced: Ran’s mother

Summary: The scene opens on a snickering Irish elk, probably for symbolic reasons.  We quickly go to Ataru’s bedroom, where a pitched battle between him and Ten is in progress.  It mostly involves items being thrown back and forth, and Ten using somewhat outre insults.

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(You forgot “slugabed”.) Ataru eventually buries him under a pile of non-burnable trash, and Ten retaliates by threatening to burn down the house, only to find that his flame won’t flame.  He discovers that he’s lost his horn, without which he can’t fly nor flame.  Ataru finds it and chucks it out the window, possibly in reference to Japanese traditions regarding baby teeth (which are thrown on the roof or under the floor) but more likely because he’s being a jerk.  Ten demands to know what Ataru has against him, which seems like a bit of a silly question under the circumstances.  Lum explains that it’s just a baby horn and sets out with Ten to find it, while Ataru muses that this is the best time to get his own back.

A quick wipe shows us Ran, killing time by scaring puppies (no, really).  She decides that she might as well go and make fun of Lum, when a horn flies out of nowhere and bounces off her head.  She recognizes it as an Oni horn, a sense of destiny striking her as a horde of horned animals stampede past her (again, really).  She realizes that this will make Lum weaker than normal, and so she’ll be able to get back at Lum for various past slights, including stealing Rei and getting in trouble for problems Lum caused.

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She stomps down the street, muttering to herself, dismaying the passersby and probably frightening the horses.

Back at Moroboshi House, Ataru waits with baited broom for his chance to get sweet, sweet revenge.  Lum and Ten return, but Ten’s crestfallen expression isn’t enough to stop Ataru from chasing him around the room.  Impugning his manhood isn’t enough to stop him, but a quick electric jolt is, and Lum puts a hat on Ten and takes charge of his safety (mostly).

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She puts on a hat as well, which is when Ran wanders in.  Ataru begins rubbing against her like a cat (which the others don’t remark on) and Lum explains that the hats are because a horn is broken off, and exposed heads lead to colds (while she’s still wearing her bikini, mind).  Having confirmed the facts without checking the details, Ran charges off to plot her revenge in a massively overdramatic way.

At school, Ataru and the other boys watch resentfully as all the girls squee over how cute Ten is.  Ran wanders in and offers Lum medicine to help the horn heal, which Lum and Ten don’t find at all suspicious.  She wanders off, cackling to herself.  Back at home, Lum applies the medicine and a bandage to Ten’s head, and he and Ataru snipe at each other behind Lum’s back.

That night, Ten crawls out of the closet and threatens Ataru, who knocks him flying by rolling over in his sleep.  The next morning, Ten discovers that something has grown back, but it’s not what he was expecting.

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Ataru discovers his head cactus and mocks it vigorously, while Ten begs him not to tell Lum so he can keep up his cool image (from the girl who carried him around on her back while he wore a hat with ears).  Lum arrives and tries to check his head, but Ataru takes him for a walk to save face.  Ran calls up Lum, who says that she can’t leave because she’s house-sitting, but Ran assumes that she’s lying to cover up.  Ran insists that they meet, and they agree to meet at the Cafe Cambria.  Outside, Ataru pulls off Ten’s hat to let the cactus get sunlight.

Cafe Cambria turns out to be a very weird place.

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Ran gloats until Lum arrives, both horns intact.  Ran assumes that Lum got wise to her and didn’t use the “medicine”, and becomes jumpy and paranoid, freaking out when Lum touches her on the shoulder.  It turns out that Lum just wanted to buy her a Trilobite Tart as thanks, but Ran assumes it will be poisoned.  Lum just interprets Ran’s jumpiness as her being silly.

Outside, the cactus has grown considerably.  Ten demands that Ataru drop him, and Ataru complies.

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As Ataru taunts Ten, his frustration turns into a small gout of flame.  A larger jet of flame follows, and the cactus drops to the ground, revealing a new horn beneath.  Ataru realizes the worm has turned and runs through the streets, pursued by Ten, while Ran runs away from Lum.  Eventually their paths cross, and the episode ends in an inferno.

Changes from the manga version: The plot is essentially the same, minus some filler (Cambria Cafe isn’t included in the manga).  The flashback to Ran being punished for the broken bathtub isn’t exactly the same as the ones in the earlier chapter, but that chapter wasn’t adapted into a full story, and that’s clearly what it’s drawing on.

Thoughts: I think this is a better episode than the plot summary may make it sound.  The plot skeleton is indeed about the characters being mean to each other (except Lum) but there are a lot of amusing side moments.  For example, in the introductory fray, the items thrown back and forth include manga with Takahashi series and a ridiculously long tree trunk, and there are other jokes and odd background details throughout that I didn’t mention. (The stampede of horned animals is actually from the manga; in it, Lum says “Can you count all the horns in this picture?  The first person to get the right answer wins…absolutely nothing!”)

Ataru doesn’t come over particularly well in this episode.  In the manga, his struggle with Ten is more even-handed (Ataru does get set on fire by him a lot), but the anime adds scenes of Ten looking genuinely upset, while we don’t see anything similar for Ataru, so Ataru feels more like a bully.  By comparison, Ran’s behavior is pretty harmless (all she wants to do is embarrass Lum), to the point that Lum isn’t even aware of it, and Ran basically outsmarts herself.

There’s some filler in this episode, but it’s not too bad as these things go; there are some unnecessary long pans, but extending the scuffle between Ataru and Ten in the beginning is reasonable.  The shots of warplanes over the city are odd, unless they’re meant to be the Mendou family fleet.

Ten makes an interesting reference in this episode; when Lum comments that Ran is helping out, he says something like “All the Oni races are close to each other”.  This line isn’t in the manga, so I don’t know about its canonicity, but it does suggest that Ran is native to the same planet as Lum, rather than being from a non-Oni family that moved there.  It’s a minor point, but we really don’t learn much about the Oni world. (Except that even Ran’s mother wears a space bikini.)

Next episode: The world of books is breaking into the Tomobiki school library!

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One thought on “The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 31: “Gimme Back My Horn!”

  1. I have noticed that in the anime it is much rarer to find Jariten burning something than in the manga. Perhaps this was them trying not to mess up the story lines too much? I don’t think it would have taken away personally.

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