The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 38: “Steal Darling! The Copy Operation!!”

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Episode 38: “Steal Darling! The Copy Operation!!”

Original airdate: August 4, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “All of Me”, volume 9, chapter 5 (Viz release)/volume 11, chapter 5 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 107

Summary: In her UFO, Ran is working busily on her computer. (Didn’t Lum claim that her people didn’t have computers at some point?) Based on the results, it looks like it’s a BASIC program to draw a portrait of Ataru, but she announces that it’s a good plan and goes to call Lum.  Mrs. Moroboshi answers and calls Lum in.  Ran says it’s been a while (2 whole episodes!) and announces that she’s going to take Darling, playing the “wounded victim” card for all it’s worth.  She winds up severing the phone cord in anger, then blames Lum for hanging up on her and doubles her resolve to take Ataru.

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Ataru is in a phone booth and having hangup troubles of his own, namely from every girl in his little black book as he calls them up and invites them to a movie.  Shinobu walks by, and she’s immediately the only girl he wants.  (It turns out the movie is “Star Wars Part Three–I hear it’s hot!” He’s either a year too early for Return of the Jedi or twenty-three years too early for Revenge of the Sith.  I’m sure he would find Slave Leia hot, though.) They agree to meet at two o’clock.

Lum intercepts Ataru coming home and hustles him inside, telling him he can’t leave the house today.  Ataru has the sense to catch himself before telling her about his date, and verbally deflects her instead.  In his bedroom, Lum muses over Ran’s plan, while Ataru runs across step 1 of it in his pocket, in the form of an envelope sealed with a heart.  He opens it with a good deal of surreptition, and find it’s an invitation from Ran to meet at two o’clock in the park.  Realizing the problem with this, he runs around the room complaining that he needs two bodies, which somehow strikes Lum as a good idea.  Things take a weird turn as she pulls out a rope and ties Ataru to the chair, then pulls out a box with “Lam” written on it and appears to contain gun parts.

Ran gets dressed and primps herself in front of a mirror that appears to reflect her image without the black lines.  Back at Ataru’s, Lum has assembled what appears to be a space Mauser.

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She levels it at Ataru, and it gives out a big burst of flame that doesn’t appear to do anything.  Apparently the actual firing effect is shooting out a small circle of energy that hits Ataru and causes him to split into two duplicates, although one has an apostrophe over its head (even if Lum calls it a “dash”).

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She explains that the dash marks him as a duplicate, and that the fake one can go out, zapping away his rope.  She unwisely turns her back on the duplicate, and he ties her up with the rope and unties the original.  They change clothes while Lum fails to convey the danger he’s in, and tell us a good deal about Ataru’s psyche by the fact that he runs away from a tied-up Lum.

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(The original Ataru is now in a blue shirt and the duplicate in a red shirt.  I’ll call the duplicate “Ataru-prime” until the point it stops mattering.)

The two reach the crossroads and realize that since they think the same way, they both want Shinobu and Ran rather than splitting up.  Since this somehow still isn’t a smutfic, we go to the eyecatch and come back with Ataru-prime meeting Shinobu.  He explains that the dash is like the one in A, A’ (A-prime), but doesn’t elaborate.  Shinobu says that since they don’t go out often these days, she wants to go for a walk in the park.  Cut to Ataru in the park, meeting Ran.  She says that she’s been thinking about him since summer vacation began, adding to herself that she’s specifically been thinking of how to take him from Lum, and goes in for the kiss.  Lum chooses that moment to fly over looking for Ataru, and the pair takes cover in the bushes.

After a series of close calls, Ran pulls out her own duplicate gun and creates a duplicate of her own, who she sends out as a distraction.  Lum first finds Ataru-prime II, then the original Ataru-prime with Shinobu, and realizes that Ran must have a duplicate gun of her own.  She flashes back to their time learning to make them in a sweatshop primary school.  She goes off to find the real Darling, and the two Ataru-primes drag Shinobu away for a triple-date.  Lum combs the city and eventually spots Ataru with Ran.  As they run from her, Ran distracts Ataru, pulls out the duplicate gun, and zaps him on rapid-fire mode, producing a total of 23 duplicates (although the number appears to grow in every scene).

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The horde refuses to give up on their date with Ran, and pursue her, eventually winding up collapsing into a big pile.  Lum lands, finds the real Ataru, and takes off with him, Ran chasing them, and the Ataru-primes chasing the lot.  Lum appears to forget that she can fly, and after a prolonged pursuit sets her own duplicate gun to rapid-fire, sending her own army of duplicates to bury Ran.

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Ataru-primes 1 and 2 reappear, still dragging the exhausted Shinobu between them, returning from the theater that had turned out to be closed for renovations.  A batch of the duplicates running after Ran spot Shinobu and launch themselves after her as well.  Everyone runs into, toward and/or away from everyone else, and it turns into a huge scrum until all of them eventually charge off after Ran, leaving Lum behind.  Ran is cornered, but manages to pull the “Look, babes!” ruse to get away.

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After the Ataru-primes head off to descend on the town’s girls like a swarm of locusts, Ran emerges from a garbage can, and Lum lands in front of her to demand what she’s going to do about the Eleventh Plague.  Ran suggests that they cut him off at the source, like a bad smell (a reference to a commercial of the time).  Lum isn’t wild about snuffing out Ataru, but they’re interrupted by part of the mob spotting Ran, and we freeze on the tableau.

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Changes from the manga version: The story is pretty much unchanged, just padded out a bit to fill the required time.

Summary: Another inconsequential but fun episode.  The filler in this one is pretty clear (chase scenes and Lum flying, mostly) but they mostly fit what’s going on at that point in the story, and the scenes are spread out pretty well so they don’t feel intrusive.  The bit where Ataru’s mother calls Lum to the phone from a great distance is a bit forced, though. (The way she’s calling out makes it even clearer than usual that she’s not pronouncing it as “L-U-M” but something closer to “Ra-Mu”.)

I found the reference to A, A’ interesting.  It’s mentioned in the Viz manga release, but I’d always kind of thought that it was dropped in there in place of something else, since Viz published the US release of A, A’.  However, it came out in 1981, so apparently the reference was there from the start.  (I’m not sure what else it might have been a reference to, but this isn’t one of the things where knowledge of Japanese culture allows you to backform the original from Viz’s version.)

This episode makes it abundantly clear that Ataru doesn’t have much interest in Lum at this point, as none of the duplicates show any interest in her. (The clones appear to undergo extreme Flanderization the more are created, kind of like the Michael Keaton clones in Multiplicity.) I do wonder why Lum doesn’t try stunning them to make it easier to find the original.  This is also an episode where the central problem isn’t solved in the manga but has a viable mundane solution off-panel; the shallow grave in the Moroboshi backyard must be getting a real workout.  You’d think Mrs. Moroboshi would be used to this by now.

Note that we’re still following the timeline in parallel with the airdates, since we’re still in summer vacation.

Next episode: Lum is planning a date with Ataru!

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