The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 40: “So Long, Goodbye, Summer Days”

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Episode 40: “So Long, Goodbye, Summer Days”

Original airdate: August 19, 1982

Corresponding manga chapters: “The Horror of Party Beach”, volume 8, chapter 7 (Viz release)/volume 10, chapter 6 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 97; “Ocean of Tears”, volume 3, chapter 13 (Viz release)/volume 5, chapter 11 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 47

Minor characters introduced: Watermelon God, villagers, Sentimental Goblin #2

Summary: As Cherry narrates, it’s a beautiful summer day and Ataru, Lum, Mendou and Shinobu are lying peacefully on the beach, until Shinobu suggests that they get watermelons to smash.  Lum asks what “smashing watermelons” means, and Mendou explains in a way that makes it sound like a kinky euphemism.

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He suggests that in lieu of a watermelon, they use Ataru’s head; I won’t spoil whether he succeeds in braining Ataru, but he doesn’t.

Ataru and Lum go to a shop full of watermelons and asks if they can buy some.  The proprietor freaks out at the idea of smashing and eating watermelons, as if Ataru had asked for kittens for the same purpose, and throws him onto the street, saying he can’t sell any watermelons today and threatening the vengeance of the Watermelon God. They rejoin the other two, and Ataru announces that he’s more determined than ever.

In a shrine somewhere, a man  (who we later find out to be the village mayor) explains to Cherry and Sakura that his village is being haunted by a watermelon spirit.  They don’t know exactly what form its wrath would take, but they’ve made sure to keep the watermelons placated for five centuries.  The man tells the story from ten years ago, when a teenage boy who liked watermelons chose to eat them on Watermelon Placating Day; the villagers were able to calm the spirits, but the boy had a terrible stomachache after eating only ten enormous watermelons.  Cherry and Sakura are thoroughly appalled, since they can handle twice that many.

Back in the village, Lum has something to show Ataru and Shinobu.

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Everyone agrees that it’s unsightly, and looks like it tastes terrible.  After they leave, the watermelon pulses angrily, and launches itself toward them like a bouncy, self-propelled version of the boulder from Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The shopkeeper sees this and takes chase on his bicycle, yelling at them for stealing their god, and musters the men of the village to give chase, Frankenstein-style.  The mayor is summoned, he explains to Cherry and Sakura that their god is the largest watermelon in the village, and they charge into action.

The chase leads to the beach, where Mendou attempts to ward off the watermelon by using the bat like a katana, but he’s knocked aside with ease.  The watermelon catches Ataru and drives him into the sand like a nail, invoking the wrath of Lum, who for once does something useful with her lightning and gives it a good shocking.  It lands on the sand with a crack in the rind, and the villagers conclude that all is lost.  The watermelon begins to glow and rise in the air while Cherry and Sakura try to exorcise it, and its form changes, revealing the Watermelon God in all its terribly glory.

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The god rages against the villagers.  They try to throw the outsiders under the bus, but the god must take vengeance on them all to be sated.  It turns its wrath upon them, thus:

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The mayor realizes that perhaps the haunting isn’t as impressive as it might be, and grabs a slice of watermelon himself, chowing down and shooting the seeds back at the god.  The god shoots seeds on all present, to general disgust.  Ataru comments that this is incredibly stupid, so of course he must join in.

One eyecatch later, Ataru sits on the beach and watches the sunset, sentimentally musing on youth and summer, to the general hilarity of his friends.  The others are briefly seized with sentiment themselves, and Ataru expands that part of his regret is not being able to see the forms of Shinobu (such as it is) and Sakura, which gets him a couple of blows to the head.  As they joke and tussle, a goblin (a different one from the  pool-goblin) watches tearfully from the bushes.  That sets off Sakura’s goblin sense, and she announces that they’re leaving.

That night, the characters are on a sightseeing boat, and everyone is feeling sentimental, the teen characters musing about who they’d like to get with.  They start to groove on the “boo-hoo” sound in the music, until they realize that it’s actually coming from the goblin, crying over the summer ending and everyone leaving.

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Mendou notices that the sentimental goblin bears a resemblance to Cherry, which Sakura takes amiss, not liking the idea of being related to a goblin (as if Cherry’s much better?).  They ask Cherry to talk to it, and he utters a pun so terrible that he’s struck by the wrath of God.  The goblin says he just wants to hang out and be sentimental with them, and demonstrates by lighting a sparkler.  Lum’s eyes are filled with tears, and the goblin throws itself on her, going on about the end of the sparkler’s beauty and the end of summer.

While Lum tries to cheer it, Mendou realizes that Sakura is tipsy and Cherry is asleep, making this his best opportunity before summer ends.  Mendou clears a seat by tossing Cherry overboard and makes his move, asking if there’s one man she likes the best.  She says “Yes!” and Mendou is devastated, as the goblin narrates.

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Mendou grabs the goblin, accuses it of going around poking at peoples’ open wounds, and begins stomping on it.  Shinobu muses that she’ll just keep her feelings to herself, and the goblin gets all up in her face, jumping on her and trying to get her to admit that she has a secret love hidden in her heart.  She tosses it away, where it lands by Cherry, who’s just climbing back aboard.  Seeing everyone watching shooting stars without it, it concludes that it’s not wanted, and everyone happily assists it onto the dock.  It tearfully waves goodbye, and cuts the mooring rope with an axe. It’s joined by Cherry in continuing to wave as the boat drifts away, with a final sob from the goblin and a “‘Tis fate!” from Cherry.

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Changes from the manga version: The first half is practically identical, except that Ataru doesn’t join in at the end (it’s a more standard final-panel tableau).  In the second half, the goblin more explicitly identifies itself as a “sentiment demon” and is clearly egging everyone on, rather than just joining in.  One of Mendou’s bodyguards hits on Sakura rather than Mendou, and the phrasing is a bit clearer (he asks if she has a boyfriend and she says yes, while the phrasing in the anime could mean that he’s the object of her affection, unless it’s an idiomatic phrase that doesn’t translate well).

Thoughts: A couple more fluffy stories to round out the summer.  Their closeness to the original manga gives them a more traditional gag-heavy feel, as befits an episode that’s essentially two half-length segments.  The beach setting and shared central cast does mean that they stitch together well, though, even with the two chapters several volumes removed from each other.

It’s interesting to compare the goblin story with the one in episode 34.  When I mentioned then that the sentimental material didn’t quite go over-the-top enough to become actually comedic, this episode is the sort of thing I had in mind–the sentiment is so self-parodic that even the characters notice it.  Granted that this story predated that one, and the earlier stories were less character-driven even in the manga, but the execution of this one is funnier as well, and with no cute little boy to suggest the risk of heartwarmingness.  The anime episode softens the story a bit, with the goblin’s role not being as obviously instigatory–up to a point he could just be clueless (that point being when he jumps Shinobu).

As the stories suggest, this is the last summer episode for this year–the broadcast skipped a week and resumed in September, and the one after that is back in school again.  I find this matching of time of year between broadcast and episode contents to be interesting, because it’s not something seen much in either anime or US TV these days.  In anime it’s because there aren’t many series getting translated that are as open-ended and episodic as UY was; in US TV it’s through a combination of event series, shorter seasons, and the network broadcast year generally running from roughly September to June, with not many new episodes airing during the summer.  This means that the only reliable topical tie-in episodes are generally for Christmas, and very few for the summer. (Buffy commented a time or two on how the world always seemed to be in danger in May, and how quiet summers usually were.) It also helps that the animators had a backlog of stories to adapt, so they could reach back for an older summer story if necessary.

Just as a minor observation, I note that a couple of the random villagers in the first segment look like Sakura and Onsen-Mark.

Next episode: The Moroboshi house is flooding!

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