Episode 44: “After You’ve Gone”
Original airdate: October 13, 1982
Corresponding manga chapter: “Since You Went Away”, volume 2, chapter 12 (Viz release)/volume 4, chapter 8 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 34
Summary: Mrs. Moroboshi is outside, cleaning a futon, when Ten asks her why the swallows are gathering. She explains that they’re migratory birds and are headed home, establishing the theme for this episode.
In the bedroom, Ataru is reading manga and snacking while Lum sews a doll of herself. She suddenly realizes that it’s getting late and hauls Ataru along to an event they’ve been invited to, which turns out to be a party thrown by the Stormtroopers (with one extra guy we’ve never seen before). Megane gives a speech in which he expresses their appreciation for her presence and congratulations to Lum for putting up with Ataru for so long. Ataru, who’s been boorishly chewing on a chicken leg throughout this, stands up and takes the side for the opposing view, pointing out that he’s the one who suffered through multiple electrocutions and Shinobu dumping him.
Lum gets up and sadly asks if it really bothers him to have her around. He points to an incredibly 1980s woman (seriously, she looks like she should be in the Holograms) and says that he’d like to hit on her, but he can’t because she’s always around, stifling his freedom. The Stormtroopers are barely suppressing their rage, but Lum quietly says that she understands. Ataru says she should go, and over the loud protests of the Stormtroopers, waves “bye-bye” and walks out of the restaurant. The Stormtroopers chew him out, since he ruined the party and wasn’t even invited, but he points out that Lum brought him. Megane tearfully says that he hopes Ataru gets dumped, but Ataru isn’t fussed.
In Ataru’s room, Lum finishes sewing the doll and leaves it on the desk. She tidies up the room a bit. Ten says he’s coming with her, and she flies out the window.
Ataru arrives home and is surprised Lum hasn’t come back yet. At dinner, Ataru’s parents are pleased with the unaccustomed peace and quiet, and behave unusually lovey toward each other. Ataru gets up and leaves without a word, and returns to his room, where the idea strikes him that she must be hiding somewhere to see what he does. He throws open the closet with a “gotcha” movement, but she’s not there, so he lies on the floor, pondering whether he went too far.
We cut to the park at night, where Ataru interrupts a couple on a bench (Mr. Soup and Miss Noodles) by shouting for Lum. He walks by Cherry’s tent, and starts to ask if Cherry saw something, but cuts it off. Cherry asks if they’re having trouble, but Ataru blows it off in a show of nonchalance. Back in his room, he picks up the doll, flashes back to Lum saying “Bye-bye”, and wanders out to the balcony, where he stares up at the stars. A shooting star goes by, but it brings nothing but the eyecatch.
At school the next day, Ataru has the doll tucked in his shirt pocket and is staring out the window when the Stormtroopers accost him, demanding to know where Lum is. Perm notices the doll and grabs it, and Ataru chases the various Stormtroopers while they play keepaway. He’s stopped by Mendou, who pops up in his path and asks if Lum finally dumped him. Ataru asks how he knows, and Mendou hints cryptically with a gleam in his eye. This launches Ataru into a wild paranoid fantasy where a sort of Kabuki bumpkin evil plutocrat version of Mendou cajoles Lum by offering to get Ataru a place in a good university in exchange for her marrying him.
Ataru accuses Mendou of kidnapping Lum , and angrily harangues him until Mendou points out that he doesn’t know where she is, and then realizes that Lum is actually gone. Ataru denies being dumped but admits that she’s gone, although the Stormtroopers argue that dumping is pretty heavily implied. Mendou calls out his family’s forces and dispatches them to locate her, though some of them take the approach of using sickles to look for her in the grass. The search proves fruitless, and by the end of the day the Stormtroopers are speculating that she’s at another matchmaking session or back on her home planet. Ataru looks up into the sunset-lit sky, asking if it could be true.
Back in the nighttime park, Shinobu (wearing her old pink outfit) waits on a bench until Ataru arrives. She says she wasn’t sure if he was coming, and he tries to laugh it off by saying they can now go back to normal. She looks at the Lum doll and asks if she can do anything for him; he looks at it too, and says he’s going home. He wanders the streets in a montage like an alcoholic passing bar signs in an old-time movie, as “Kokorobosoi na” (the 2nd season end theme) plays. (The lyrics are particularly appropriate to the situation.) He eventually trips while walking down an alley and winds up sobbing, covered in garbage.
We pull back until we’re on Mr. Invader’s ship, where Ten is reading Maison Ikkoku and Lum is filling out paperwork to renew her Earth passport. Mr. Invader asks if she wouldn’t like to come home, but she insists that she wants to stay with Darling, although neither he nor Ten are sure about that. They hear Ataru’s voice coming from a sort of radio thing next to Lum, and we cut back to the alley, where Ataru has reached rock-bottom.
It turns out that Lum hid a microphone in the doll, since she was worried about him while she was gone. As he sobs her name, she hugs the radio and whispers “Darling…”
Back on Earth, it’s the next morning, and Ataru looks like hell as he walks to school. He hears a voice say “Darling” and looks up to see Lum perched on a wall. He pretends he hasn’t missed her at all, but leans away when she notices that the doll has gotten dirty. The Stormtroopers emerge from around a corner, and charge toward her in excitement. When Lum’s back is turned, Ataru lets out a sigh of relief, and we end on a slow pan-out on the doll, which winks.
Changes from the manga version: The first part of this story was used as the start of episode 10, “Pitter Patter Christmas Eve”, so the party is original and the adaptation picks up from the “Bye-bye!” moment. The spine of the episode (and the bits with jokes in) are from the manga, while scenes like the dinner scene, the scene with Shinobu, and Ataru’s lost weekend are new.
After the original run of the anime ended, Japanese fans voted this their favorite episode, and it’s not hard to see why. The original story stands out in the manga because it’s the first time that Ataru demonstrates genuine affection for Lum. (It’s occurring later in the anime than it did in the manga, but the Christmas story filled a similar purpose.) By cranking up the dramatic elements, we wind up with a dramatic episode with real emotions that doesn’t feel forced, while still having a bit of humor left over from the manga but not so much that it detracts.
The scene with Shinobu is a standout for me, because it’s the first episode to treat their relationship seriously more or less ever, and it shows the characters interacting maturely while leaving a lot unspoken. She hasn’t appeared much recently, so it’s good to see her doing something besides throwing desks.
On the less serious side, there are a couple of nice bits of fanservice here, such as the Maison Ikkoku manga and the appearance of Mr. Soup and Miss Noodles, who don’t turn up very often in the anime. We also get a new end theme, “Hoshizora Cycling”, which we’ve previously heard as a background song. (This is my least favorite of the end themes so far, for the record, but there’s nothing wrong with it, I just don’t find it very inspiring.)
Next episode: Benten and Oyuki come to Tomobiki High, but they’re acting strange around Lum!