The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 36: “Rei Returns! The Big Study-Hall Panic!”

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Episode 36: “Rei Returns! The Big Study-Hall Panic!”

[The AnimEigo file card has it as “The Great Study-Hall Panic”, which I think sounds better.]

Original airdate: July 21, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “Study Hell”, volume 9, chapter 8 (Viz release)/volume 11, chapter 8 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 110

Major character introduced: Onsen-Mark

Minor characters introduced: Shutaro family kuroko

Summary: It’s a hot, sticky day, and Class 2-4 is melting in their seats.  The teacher, Onsen-Mark, declares that the current period is a study hall, but not to slack off just because summer vacation starts next week.  He steps out, but Chibi keeps careful watch on the door, which is a good thing since he steps back in to check.  When they’re sure he’s gone, a cry of joy goes up, but Ataru proposes that someone keep sentry to warn them when he comes back.  He suggests that they draw strips of paper from his hand, with the one who gets the strip with a red spot will be sentry.  He gives first draw to Megane, but as luck would have it, his paper has the red spot, and he immediately cries foul.

Mendou agrees that it’s probably rigged, on the general principle that Ataru’s not to be trusted, and Ataru asks him to put his money where his mouth is.  Shinobu and Lum step between them in a very “no-Johnny-don’t-do-it-he’s-not-worth-it” sort of way, but despite his realizing that it’s probably a trap, Mendou takes the bet with a year’s worth of Beefbowl at stake.  Megane and Perm place a side bet, staking sentry duty on it.  Ataru pretends to come clean, but actually tears the red bottoms off the remaining strips before showing them to Mendou.

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Mendou demands to see Ataru’s pockets, but Ataru brings him low by calling his honor into question, then lets his victory go to his head as he cackles in triumph, visions of cows dancing through his head, or at least the background.

Things settle down a bit after that, with Ataru playing a card game and Lum staring out the window in boredom.  Ten floats in the window, speaking into a headset (“Channel 8-9-Ten…”) to someone who’s apparently coming over to play.  Lum asks who he’s talking to, and Ten says it’s “Channel 3-2-1-Rei”, “Rei” being a word for “zero”.  Lum and Ataru are struck with a wild surmise, and rush to close and barricade the doors and windows.  A black speck appears in front of the sun as panic sets in among Ataru and the Stormtroopers.  A huge orange face appears in the window, and the panic spreads to the entire class.

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Mendou demands to know who this “pig-cow” is, and is shocked to learn that he’s Lum’s ex-fiance, and further scandalized by Shinobu’s dreamy expression.  The window gives way, and Mendou nobly interposes himself between Rei and Lum.  She’s all for that, since it will let her flee with Ataru.  They make it as far as the door when Ran sticks her head in, sees Rei, and yanks Lum out into the hallway.  She needs Lum’s help, since she’s too much of a shrinking violet to approach Rei without help, or so she yells, anyway.

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In the classroom, Rei is tossing Mendou around like a catnip mouse, until he smells good and wolfs (tigers?) down Megane’s lunch.  Recovering, Mendou begins insulting Rei’s looks despite Ataru’s warning not to go there, since the face is what matters in a man.  Rei shrinks down to his human form and shows what he thinks of that idea.

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He follows this with what’s probably a reference to a TV comedian or something (the notes don’t say).  The girls collectively swoon, and rush to give Rei their lunches.  Mendou goes into shock, trembling and finally announcing that what really matters in a man is “MONEY!”.  From the hallway, Lum looks in and mentions that Rei is eating like mad, which gives Ran an idea (run away!).  Ten asks Rei if he just came here to eat, and this jogs loose a brain cell, spurring him to do a transform-and-leap and pin Ataru like a gazelle.  Ten explains that he wants to know what Ataru did with Lum, and his questions are answered when she storms in and orders him to release Darling.  The Stormtroopers are unable to bring him down, and chaos reigns.

Out by the stairwell, Perm spots Onsen-Mark returning, and bolts back to the classroom to warn them, only to go down with a stool to the face.  Onsen-Mark ominously climbs the stairs, and after the eyecatch we’re back in the classroom, where Rei charges Lum and she sidesteps, shooting him out the hole in the wall.  Their triumph is short-lived as he flies back in and chases Lum in circles around the room.  Perm comes to, sees Onsen-Mark enter the hallway, and tries to spur the students into action.  Megane is terrified beyond all capacity for rational thought and Mendou is still semi-catatonic and babbling about man being money, so Perm steps up for his moment of Neville Longbottom-like glory, ripping off his shirt and challenging Rei.

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(I’m sure that can be arranged, dude.) Rei doesn’t respond to his taunts, and down the hallway Onsen-Mark hears voices and sees someone flung into the hallway, telling his that something is up.  Rei corners Lum, but she’s able to divert him with someone’s lunch.  Ataru pops out of hiding (to Lum’s consternation) and tells all the boys who haven’t already eaten their lunches to sacrifice them for the cause.  He sends Ten out into the hallway to distract Onsen-Mark, which he does by blocking his head whichever way he turns.

In the classroom, Rei’s appetite is rapidly diminishing their supplies, and there are still 20 minutes left in study hall.  Megane cries out for anyone who has food, and inspiration strikes Ataru.  He grabs Mendou and calls in his Beefbowl debt.  Mendou initially refuses, until Lum points out that if Rei causes trouble she might not be able to stay there.   Mendou pulls out the phone, but Shinobu grabs his arm, begging him not to keep being pushed around by Ataru and Lum.  This gives him pause, until Lum says “I want to stay here”, and he immediately demands a year’s supply of Beefbowl, to be delivered on the downlow.  Shinobu moans that he’s proven he loves Lum more than her, and Ataru tries to tell her that he’s already there, which earns him a slap hard enough to knock out teeth.  In the hallway, Ten is unable to hold Onsen-Mark back when he starts walking forward, and he throws open the door of the classroom to discover it full of tiger-pig-cow backside.

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Rei feels something tugging his tail and swings it and Onsen-Mark around to his face, causing him to wet his pants and pass out.  Rei leaps toward Lum, who’s helping Megane restrain Ataru from fleeing, but stops short when Ran presents him with a bento.  The moment becomes charged as Rei calms, returns to human form, tenderly takes it from her hands, and sits down to eat.  Ran asks him if each component is good, and he replies “Yeah!” each time.  Lum muses about how sweet Ran is, and yells at Rei for his insensitivity when he changes back to cow form.  Ran, teary with joy, replies that it’s fine, since her meal was the only one he took the time to savor, which is proof he loves her.

Cue Cherry, who appears out of nowhere and offers Rei a bento, which he takes in a scene that exactly parallels Ran’s, down to the tender hand-touching and the cries of “Yeah!”

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Ran loses it and runs out of the room.  Lum furiously seizes Rei and Cherry, but it turns out that Ran just left to get another bento, and they go through the “Yeah!” routine again, restoring her to a state of joy.  Suddenly a strange expression comes over Rei’s face: he stands up, says something untranslated to Ten, and moves toward the hole in the wall.  The students demand to know what’s going on, and Ten gives the episode’s punchline:

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Mass wildtake! (Not enough cartoons these days have characters doing a flop-out-of-panel in response to a joke.) Rei launches with his jet belt, sending energy waves through the classroom (and causing one unnecessary skirt-flip) and launching into the stratosphere.  Ran stares at his departing form from the gap, as the other students lie strewn askew about the room.  Mendou pulls himself to his feet…and then the Beefbowl starts arriving.

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Onsen-Mark comes to and demands to know what’s going on from Ataru, who refers him to Mendou.  We pull out to see an army of kuroko holding Beefbowl for the Young Master.

Changes from the manga version: The manga story covers Rei’s rampage and leads up to the Rei/Ran/Cherry sequence; the material with Onsen-Mark, the bet, Shinobu and the Beefbowl aren’t included.

Thoughts: What an awesome episode!  This is my favorite type of humor from the series: take a setup and bounce it around the echo chamber of the characters’ personality quirks, then see how far it can go.  The original manga story is funny, but the anime’s additions add additional threads that pay off big in the end. (There are bits that would feel like filler in a less successful episode, mostly shots of Rei traveling or rampaging, but they don’t stand out here.) The anime also does a much better job of paralleling the Ran and Cherry scenes than the manga did (since it only had one panel for each reveal).

There are multiple firsts in this episode.  There’s no fanfare, but this is the first episode with Class 2-4’s homeroom teacher, Onsen-Mark.

(Aside: If you don’t get the joke, the symbol on the back of his jacket and on his tie that looks like steam rising from a circle is the symbol of an onsen, or hot springs resort.

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In the manga, he sometimes wears a suit completely covered in these symbols.  There have been a few examples in recent episodes where the characters in the manga had ridiculously overcomplicated suits, such as the father in the rain spirit episode or Lum’s father in the episode where she joins the school, which were simplified or just changed to white.)

His introduction is another one that’s overdue from the manga, although it doesn’t affect the plot as much as Lum becoming a student.  It’s interesting that it happened in an original subplot, but they haven’t used Shiriyabashi-sensei in a while and Mr. Hanawa just isn’t threatening enough.

The second introduction in this episode (dipping into an element that hadn’t been introduced in the manga when the original chapter ran) is the Shutaro family kuroko.  These are a convention of some types of Japanese theater: they manipulate props and shift scenery, and by convention are treated as not present by the audience.  (You may recognize them as the fight referees in the Samurai Shodown series.) Their costume influenced the classic depiction of ninja, which will some into play as we meet more of Mendou’s family.

We can also see a clear example in this episode of Ataru’s evolution as a character, as he acts as a leader to the other students (assigning a sentry, having the students donate their lunches), although interestingly these are scenes that are original to the anime.  Lum acts as a better friend to Ran than she did in the previous episode, as well.  Perm gets his shot at a Crowning Moment of Awesome here, although it never really comes together, and we see the continuing marginalization of Shinobu move from subtext to text.

Next episode: Red Mantle Wipe!

 

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