Episode 34: “Goblin in Distress, Yearning for People”
Original airdate: June 30, 1982
Corresponding manga chapter: “Home is Where You Find It”, volume 7, chapter 6 (Viz release)/volume 9, chapter 6 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 86; “Waste Disposal”, volume 8, chapter 1 (Viz release)/volume 9, chapter 11 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 91
Minor characters introduced: Goblin, Pochi boy
Summary: Deep under the water, a goblin muses that it dislikes the noise in the summer, and glumly eats its lunch. A wave disrupts its table setting, and it proves to be Ataru, crashing to the bottom of a pool. Cutting to the surface, we see that other members of the cast are frolicking on the surface. Lum is trying to convince Ten to try swimming when Mendou pops to the surface, covering one eye, and mentions that this is his family’s hotel’s pool. When Lum asks why he’s not showing her the right side of his face, Cherry leaps out and reveals that it’s because he has a slap-mark on his cheek. Underwater, the goblin is welcoming Ataru to its home, holding him down with a firm grip on his wrist.
Back on the surface again, Sakura reveals that she gave Mendou the slap for trying to grab her underwater, and that there was one other person involved but they sank to the bottom. Lum immediately realizes she hasn’t seen Ataru in a while, and dives down to the bottom, where Ataru is zoning out from lack of oxygen. She pokes him awake, and he bolts for the surface, where he begins shouting about the goblin at the bottom of the pool. The goblin picks that moment to get more snacks, and on its way up passes Ataru, Mendou, Sakura and Cherry on the way down. On the surface, Shinobu is helping Ten practice swimming, and when she lets go and reaches down to retrieve him, gets the goblin instead.
The crowd freaks out as the goblin walks among them to the snack stand, and the attendant flees when it asks her for potato chips. At the bottom, everyone is holding their breath and looking around (except Cherry, who’s eating the rest of the food). When the goblin returns (and Lum bolts for the surface), Mendou demands that it leave, but the difficulties of communicating underwater necessitate an impromptu round of charades. The goblin finally gets the point, then realizes what’s being said and asks why this should be, but all the humans run out of air at this point and scramble for the surface. Once there, Mendou points to the empty poolside and repeats his demands, despite Lum and Ataru sticking up for it.
Outside, the goblin thanks the pair and tells them not to worry about it, since it’s little and of no account. Lum and Ataru sadly wave goodbye as it disappears into the sunset, and are still down when they return to Ataru’s house. Ataru’s mother sends him up to take a bath, and, well, anyone who’s ever seen a sitcom knows what’s waiting for him there:
After the eyecatch, Ataru and the Oni are leaving the Moroboshi residence for the beach when Ataru’s mother gives him something to dispose of: the goblin, in a net. It seems that he’s been in the bathtub for a week, and has gone the way of fish and guests, and Ataru’s father is getting all itchy. Lum is upset, but the goblin has accepted his fate, that he should be hauled away as garbage. At the beach, Ataru has bought the goblin a sun hat to stop it from causing a ruckus, though Mendou accuses the Moroboshis of being cold for wanting to throw it away in his family’s ocean.
The goblin says that it’s okay to throw it out now, even though he liked Mister Ataru, but it’s okay since he’s just a nuisance and shouldn’t continue to pollute them with its presence, and so on until everyone feels just terrible. It leads Ataru away by the hand until he offers to buy the goblin some snacks to put off the moment of truth. They sit atop a rock and awkwardly eat potato chips until Ataru can finally bring himself to leave. The goblin sits and eats sadly (I think Charlie Brown probably said something about this situation once) until it hears voices below it talking about this being a good place to be alone. They belong to Sakura and Tsubame, and the goblin is about to go down and say hello when Ataru abruptly reappears and stops him so they can watch. Ten, Shinobu, Mendou and Lum pop out from behind a rock in the ocean, and everyone watches with baited breath for things to get steamy. (The goblin hands Ataru the potato chips so he can sublimate his urges by eating.)
A child walks by, sad because his mother won’t let him keep Pochi (note: a common Japanese name for dogs) and surely some kind person will find him. (This is for Patrasche, you bastard!) Below, Sakura and Tsubame are now holding hands, but Sakura is beginning to become wary. Tsubame waves it aside, and things heat up again until a couple people manage to screw it up for everyone.
Mendou and Ataru rush down and retrieve Ten and the goblin and beg them pray continue. On the beach, the box boy walks past a couple of kids picking on a Dappya alien, and he realizes he can’t leave Pochi there. His path crosses the main crew’s as Ataru chews out the goblin for spoiling things, and box boy realizes that people and monsters can be friends after all.
On the beach, they toast with Cokes, but the crew protests the goblin eating their food until he lays down another massive guilt trip, and they start feeding him instead. Ataru realizes that they need to keep their resolve. Box boy returns, and having concluded that the crew can take care of Pochi, leaves the box near them on the sand. Meanwhile, the goblin is in a box and telling them that it’s okay to leave it somewhere deserted…all alone…on me own… Box boy walks leaves the box and runs off just as Ataru seals the box and starts carrying it. Box boy changes his mind, reverses course, and grabs what he thinks is Pochi away from Ataru. The group opens the other box to gaze upon the poor unloved creature known as Pochi:
They trudge home, disgruntled, as they conclude that if the kid could handle Cherry, a goblin won’t be a problem. Lum pauses to look over her shoulder to imagine the two together in the sunset, and d’awww.
Changes from the manga version: The stories are very close between versions, except that they don’t follow back-to-back in the manga; Ran is in the first story in the manga but not the anime, but she doesn’t do anything of note. [This is an edit: I missed the second chapter in the manga originally because they’re in different volumes.]
Thoughts: Here we have the prototype of something that the series will get much better at: taking a humorous episode and adding a more serious/sentimental gloss. (As you may have gathered, I found the slight heavy-handedness and repetitiveness of this one detracted somewhat, although the revelation of “Pochi” at the end did take the curse off a lot of the sentimentality.) While the stories are basically the same between versions, the pacing makes the pathos of the second half more noticeable in the anime. Putting this sort of gloss on a relatively lightweight humor chapter will define the direction Mamoru Oshii will take the series when he puts more of his stamp on it. Generally, he’ll do a better job of selling the sentiment, but sometimes at the expense of the humor.
I didn’t mention it in the plot summary, but there’s a nice, subtle thread in the second half: the goblin’s hat blows off when Ataru leaves, and we later see box boy wearing it. It blows off his head when he runs back for the box, and the final image is of it blowing in the wind. (At least that’s what I assume; the color of the band is a bit different in different shots, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason to introduce and then remove the hat if it’s not to set this up.)
Next episode: Ran has a confusing plan to capture Darling!