The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 47: “Terror! The Deserted Fossil Grounds Mystery”

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Episode 47: “Terror! The Deserted Fossil Grounds Mystery”

Original airdate: November 3, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “Jurassic Picnic”, volume 13, chapter 6 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 130

Minor characters introduced: Film crew, fossil bird

Summary: A train pulls up to a remote country station, and the core 5 (Ataru, Lum, Mendou, Shinobu, and Ten) get out, noting that it’s the middle of nowhere and apparently it’s Ataru’s fault.  Once they’ve moved on, a van pulls in and a film crew gets out, the director noting that this is their only day to film here.

The exposition out of the way, Ataru’s crew winds up by a steep set of stone stairs, which Ataru talks up as a great out-of-the-way hiking area.  Mendou points out the statue that Ataru’s leaning on, which bears an alarming resemblance to Cherry.  Ataru initially freaks out, thinking that Cherry has been petrified, until Ten notes that there’s a second one.  He rationalizes that it’s Cherry that looks like a Buddha statue rather than the reverse, and they set out up the stairs, although Mendou is still suspicious.

Shortly thereafter, the film crew arrives, and the director realizes that they can turn the statues into something creepy by adding a festoon (sacred Shinto rope) to them, which the director gets them to do by distressing a normal rope and tying strips of newspaper soaked in soy sauce to it.  The assistant director objects, but clearly he’s too sensible to have a future in show business.

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Up at the top of the hill, Ataru is extolling the virtues of solitude while the others grouse at him.  He demonstrates the joys of eating alone by spreading out his picnic blanket in the middle of the path, since he’s not worried about passersby.  He’s immediately proven wrong by Cherry appearing out of nowhere and chowing down on a string of sausages, of the sort most often found in cartoons.  Cherry says that this mountain is his training grounds, and a bit of bribery with a lollipop gets him to tell them that there are fossils in the area.

Down below, the narrator of “Low-Ratings Special” is spinning a tale of a mysterious monk on an isolated mountain, who might be an alien, and may have set up a trap to curse them, in the form of the festoon and the statues.  This is played up considerably by “mist” caused by smoky candles being wafted at them with a fan, and a lot of highly purple narration.

Back with the main characters, Lum asks what fossils are, but Ataru is here to hike, not to fossil.  He allows Mendou to explain for a bit, but by the time he cuts him off the picnic blanket is out again.  Lum asks him to identify a fossil, but he’s busy eating, so she says she’ll bring it to him.  She puts together some sort of handheld buzzsaw, and all it takes is someone commenting on how quiet it is for a tremendous buzzsaw racket to start up.

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Ataru turns the identification over to Mendou again, and Lum and Ten bring out a wide range of fossils, from undersea creatures to a Triceratops skull.

The film crew has found Cherry’s lollipop stick, and the director bites it all over before setting up another shot.  They make it appear that the narrator is walking through thick undergrowth by the AD repeatedly walking in front of the camera with foliage.  The director spots what appears at first glance to be a lollipop stick, but could also be a never-before-seen kind of bone, a sign of strange creatures on the mountain.

Back at the fossil site, they’ve acquired a big pile of assorted fossils.  Ten speculates what sort of creature they were, and Ataru puts them together into a sort of bird-thing:

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Lum suggests that they bring it to life.  When Shinobu asks “You can DO that?”, she replies with words that should chill the blood: “Nothing is impossible for me.” She pulls out a weird pistol, shoots it, and then things get strange:

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The film crew is sitting around in a clearing, exhausted, while the director berates them as a bunch of slackers.  Their idyll is interrupted by a strange cry, which the director seizes on as a possible monster who could be a better story than the monk.  Meanwhile, Ten is riding on the bird-thing (while the others look various degrees of appalled) when it sees the spread of food, and spurred on by Ten goes forward to glut itself.

The narrator is describing the isolation of the locale when the bird-thing runs by, followed by the other characters. The director says they can fix it in post, and the film crew sets up camp to wait for the creature to appear.  When the AD asks if this will really work out, the director insists that he’ll make it happen.  They’re already preparing, as the makeup woman is making the narrator look exhausted and determined, and the director sends the AD to get cans to scatter around the camp.  The AD stomps off, declaring that this is it, he’s going to quit, when he comes face-to-face with Ten and the bird-thing.  He runs back to camp, followed by the bird-thing, which charges through and gulps down the crew’s food along the way.  The director orders the cameraman to start filming, but a strange figure bounces off his head: a competitor for the food.

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The director is in ecstasy, as they now have mystery monk vs. mystery bird.  The narrator leaps to it, describing the situation as the bird-thing has Cherry treed.  The cameraman is just about to start up again when he’s trampled by Ataru and the others. Cherry spits something at one of the bird-thing’s eyes; it pecks at the trunk, knocking Cherry onto the cameraman.  The bird-thing eats the camera, and the director sends a crew member to the van for the spare camera.  This leads to a wild chase of Cherry, bird-thing flanked by Lum, Ataru (and later Mendou) and the camera crew.  Some of the camera crew start falling to boobytraps, causing Ataru to wonder just what training Cherry is up to.

The chase comes to a wildly bucking rope-and-plank bridge.  The director isn’t ready to give up, and he shoves Ataru onto the bridge.  He makes it halfway across before he’s overcome with vertigo.  He resumes moving very slowly, only to find that everyone else is on the bridge behind him, and it’s badly overloaded.

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One handrail breaks, then the other, and the bridge begins to sway.  They manage to find a position that more or less gives them equilibrium:

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The sun starts to set, a breeze comes up, and everyone has aged fifty years from the strain.  Ataru starts to wish that Lum was there, and lo and behold she appears, but so do Cherry and the bird-thing.  Ataru shouts at them to stay away, loses his balance and flips the bridge over.  The bird-thing runs over, the ropes snap, and everyone lands in the river.  Cherry declares that their training was poor, and they run the narration over the footage of the battle, which is a few blurry closeups of Cherry and the bird’s footprints.  We pull back to see that they’re watching it on Ataru’s TV, as the narrator explains that they’ve set up a semi-permanent camp to someday catch the mysterious monk and bird.  Pulling back further, we see that they have a challenge ahead of them, since they’re in the Moroboshis’ living room.

Changes from the manga version: The scene on the bridge and most of the material with the film crew are original–the film crew first appears when the characters run past them after they comment on how isolated it is.

Thoughts: Another strange episode where the weird originates in the manga.  This is a much funnier episode than I think I’ve managed to convey here, because there’s a lot of humor in the scenes with the film crew, such as the over-the-top narration and the shortcuts.  The resulting episode is kind of an inelegant mash-up, but there’s enough humor that I can let it go.  I don’t automatically agree with the notion that the animators always made the anime funnier than the manga, but in this case their new jokes involving the film crew are not only good by themselves, but make the scenes from the manga with them even better.

This is the first second [*]episode adapted from a chapter that’s past the volumes Viz released (not counting the early one that they skipped).  I know that they haven’t been left behind altogether, since there’s at least one character from those volumes they haven’t introduced yet, but as we go on I’ll be spending more and more time in scanslation-land.  Fortunately, these also cover the Japanese volumes I have (except the one I’m missing toward the end), so I can read the scanslation for the English approximation and the original manga for a better view of the art. (The translations are generally fairly rough, but I can at least figure out the plot even if the jokes aren’t as good.)

[*] I wrote this before I discovered that I’d missed the manga original of the class reunion, but I’m leaving it here because this a short entry and that one’s longer.

Next episode: Kurama is back, and looking to kiss anyone but Ataru!

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