The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 37: “The Coming of the Mysterious Red Mantle!”

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Episode 37: “The Coming of the Mysterious Red Mantle!”

Original airdate: July 28, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “The Red Cloak”, volume 3, chapter 7 (Viz release)/volume 5, chapter 5 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 41

Minor characters introduced: Red Mantle, Yoshiko

Summary: The Stormtroopers are carrying boxes of decorations through the Tomobiki schoolyard when the bell strikes three, although the clock only says 2:00.  Onsen-Mark muses that this feels like a bad omen, and flashes back to Ataru, Lum, Mendou and Shinobu persuading (or more accurately steamrolling) him to hold a disco in the school gym.  Going back to the present, he resolves that there is something he must tell them.

Cut to Onsen-Mark waiting on a balcony at the school.  He’s startled by Lum, who’s says she’s come in place of Ataru.  After some hemming and hawing, he asks Lum not to laugh at his story, which makes her laugh at his expression.  He explains that the school is inhabited by the Mysterious Red Mantle, who has been lairing in the school since it was founded.  There have long been stories about him leaping out at people from a variety of places (but not a lot beyond that).  When Onsen-Mark was in 11th grade, he was at a school disco when the lights went out, a mysterious wind came up, and Red Mantle captured and ran off with a girl, Yoshiko.  Onsen-Mark and some other boys chased him and eventually wound up in the clock tower, where he led them on a Castle of Cagliostro-like chase that culminated at the top of the clock tower.

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Onsen-Mark tried to grab him but missed, and Red Mantle floated away holding a rope attached to a balloon.  Returning to the present, Onsen-Mark says that he’s afraid history will repeat itself, but Lum tells him not to worry.  We cut to a rooftop, where Red Mantle swears that everyone who has forgotten him will learn the error of their ways.  Time has not been kind to him, though.

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Night has fallen, and Onsen-Mark is wandering the hallways.  He runs into a group of girls headed to the bathroom, and creeps them out by being overly solicitous.  The DJ announces that the next dance will be the “disco in the dark”, which Onsen-Mark finds ominous.  In the girls’ bathroom, Red Mantle is crammed into a stall, planning to leap out and stun them with his beauty.  He can’t reach the door handle, though, and the girls are starting to wonder what’s going on.  They eventually conclude that it’s a pervert, and try to pull the door open while he tries to hold it shut, not wanting to have his image ruined.  Eventually he manages to shove the door open and pin them behind it, then bolt before they see him.

Outdoors in the bushes, Red Mantle watches feminine figures changing their clothes, leaving him salivating.  Unbeknownst to him, though, it’s actually Ataru, Mendou and the Stormtroopers.

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Red Mantle sneaks up, leaps out at them, and is promptly knocked for a loop by the sight.  They conclude that he’s a fellow participant and start putting makeup on him.  Indoors, Onsen-Mark muses that this would be the time for Red Mantle to strike.  The lights go out, and the group charge into the gym, looking for partners.  Onsen-Mark goes to keep an eye on things, Red Mantle plans to make his move, and everyone finds partners.  The lights come up, and Ataru is with Cherry, Onsen-Mark with Megane, Shinobu with Mendou, Kakugari with Perm, and Lum with Red Mantle.  Lum like Red Mantle’s unique style, and interprets his attempts to scare her as dance moves.  They dance to “Hoshuzura Cycling”, which will be next season’s closing theme.

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They wind up dancing in the spotlight, and draw applause when the dance ends.  They’re declared the couple of the night, and Red Mantle calls down a spotlight to announce himself as The Mysterious Red Mantle, laughing madly.  Onsen-Mark’s attention is drawn, and Red Mantle begins weeping with joy, until he’s interrupted by a formidable woman with a child on her arm, scolding him for neglecting the kids.  Red Mantle falls down before her, apologizing and calling her Yoshiko, and she grabs him and drags him home.  Onsen-Mark muses on the former beauty, still possessed of her strong heart, and weeps tears for his lost youth while the students dance around him.

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Changes from the manga version: Onsen-Mark and Yoshiko don’t appear; it’s just Red Mantle relating his history, the scene in the bathroom, Red Mantle’s run-in with the boys, and the dance, and ends with him weeping in joy.

Summary: From the sublime to the ridiculous…this episode is a mess.  The original manga story isn’t that great to begin with (the overweight, hapless Red Mantle is an amusing conceit but it doesn’t really go anywhere) and it really doesn’t bear stretching out to a full episode, especially when the added material is neither funny, scary nor emotionally significant (if Yoshiko had been Onsen-Mark’s girlfriend, there might have been some weight, but no dice).  This writeup is about half the usual length; long sequences that are easy to summarize (such as the chase in the first half) usually aren’t very funny, and lengthy dances are almost always filler.

To explain the conceit of this episode, Red Mantle is a Japanese ghost story/urban legend, which can involve a girls’ bathroom.  (Girls’ bathrooms appear more often than you’d expect in Japanese ghost stories–see also Toilet Hanako, who’s sort of a Japanese Moaning Myrtle.) For a funnier take on the character, I recommend the anime Haunted Junction, which is the source of the “Red Mantle Wipe!”.

Part of the reason for the radical shift between episodes is that they’ve jumped backwards six volumes in their source material, which may be a record.  The central characters don’t interact with each other to speak of, especially in the manga, so there isn’t the shift in their behavior that often shows up under these circumstances, but Takahashi did improve as she went.  This episode is firmly in the “skippable” column.

Next episode: Lum makes a duplicate Ataru to protect him from Ran, and more duplicates ensue!

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