Episode 49: “The Terrifying Cavity Wars!”
Original airdate: November 17, 1982
Corresponding manga chapter: “Toothache Wars”, volume 13, chapter 7 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 131
Summary: Ataru is in a dentist’s office with a painful toothache. The man sitting next to him turns out to be Frankenstein’s monster, and the entire waiting room is full of monsters (mostly Japanese, but there are a few Western ones too). He tries to run, but finds himself trapped at the head of a long line, and the robot hygienist throws him into the examining room, which is a starry void. He’s manacled into the chair, and the dentist turns out to be Lum, who drives an enormous drill toward his mouth (the thing looks like a weapon a Transformer would use).
Before Dr. Freud can be paged, Ataru emerges from his nightmare to wrestle with his blanket, to Lum’s concern. At the breakfast table, Cherry (who seems to have imposed himself out of nowhere) tells him that this is a bad omen. Mrs. Moroboshi asks about Ten, and after some abuse of Cherry he comes in, with a painfully swollen cheek (the universal sign of cavities in this episode).
Ataru chooses to be a jerk and pokes at Ten’s cheek, until Ten turns and bites his finger. Ataru has to shake him to make him let go, and charges out to head to school. At school, he regales the class with the story. The girls are sympathetic, but the boys go off on how annoying Ten is. This displeases both the girls and Mendou, who steps up to chide them for their heartless behavior and calls Ataru’s honesty into question. Ataru pulls out his cheek to demonstrate what Ten looks like, only to find that his own cheek is now painfully swollen (and apparently not just because he’s been pulling on it all morning).
He collapses in pain. Mendou chalks it up to poetic justice, but Lum explains that cavities are contagious on her planet. Ataru complains that Ten knew what he was doing when biting him, and Lum adds that if he bites several people, he’ll get better sooner. Ataru immediately adopts a shifty expression, and the other students launch into action to form a defensive circle.
Ataru tries to reassure them that he wouldn’t turn on his beloved classmates, and adds that he would never bite a beautiful girl. The girls agree that one of his few viewpoints is that he isn’t violent toward females, and step out from behind the barricade. Ataru tries to convince the boys to come out as well, but no dice, as Mendou explains that they know him too well. Ataru claims to understand, then whirls and tries to bite Mendou, only to be stopped by a katana brandished in his face.
Lum tries to stop them by offering to treat Ataru, but he flashes on the drill from his nightmare and starts throwing things at her, swearing that she will never treat him. He and Mendou face off, but they don’t get past the posing stage when Megane breaks out of the barricade and bites Kakugari, like when people in The Walking Dead haven’t noticed that someone has turned into a walker. In this case it’s because Ten is fastened onto his calf.
It quickly turns into a mad bitefest, with all the boys latching onto each other. Mendou protects a group of girls so they can escape, and uses his katana to defend himself. Ten tells Lum that he’s feeling better now, and they fly out the window as the entire room becomes an enormous brawl.
One eyecatch later, Onsen-Mark is approaching the classroom when he hears the commotion and sees the girls behind a barricaded door. A Dappya alien brings him up to speed, and he storms into the classroom to berate them for turning on their classmates. Megane protests that they’re just sharing, and Ataru appeals to Mendou in the name of friendship, but he and the unbitten students (represented by Perm) object that they can’t abide such a lack of class spirit. The bitten students charge, trampling Onsen-Mark and cornering the unbitten.
The unbitten try to run for cover, only to run into the girls’ barricade behind the door. Shinobu sadly refuses to let Mendou through, since she can’t allow her own beauty to be at risk, ignoring his pleas. The other unbitten are annoyed that Mendou was willing to abandon them to their fate, and Megane urges them to give in and join the collective. Unexpectedly, they’re interrupted by Cherry rising from the floor (using an elevator they probably installed when rebuilding the class from the Prince of the Underworld’s tunnels).
He explains that the Buddha has empowered him to take on the sorrows of the world, and cordially invites them to bite him. The bitten explain back that they would rather die than bite him. Onsen-Mark seizes on this, saying that the shame of betraying their classmates would be a fate worse than death. The bitten appear moved, and rush to embrace Onsen-Mark, but it turns out to be in the Vampire sense.
Ataru explains that modern students aren’t swayed by corny sermons, and they turn back toward Mendou and the unbitten. They’re ready to fight to the bitter end, but Lum flies in the window with a bundle and assembles a cavity-treating machine. The boys rush to be the first treated, until the chair deploys its robot arms and drills, which cools their excitement considerably. They collectively appoint Ataru to go first, since like Mikey in the Life Cereal commercials, he’ll do anything. He sensibly refuses, and Onsen-Mark steps up to go first. He’s manacled in, Lum announces that they’ll all have to come out, and pulls out the drill from Ataru’s dream. Lum urges him not to struggle, and the resulting explosion (?) blows out the interior and exterior windows and sends Onsen-Mark flying.
In the conference room, the principal explains that Classroom 2-4 has been designated contaminated and sealed with the students inside. They also commend Onsen-Mark, who’s tied to a chair at the other end of the table. Cherry and Lum remark how silly they are, and Lum explains that the cavities would go away on their own, but if they keep behaving violently, they might never be cured.
Inside the boarded-up Classroom 2-4, Mendou defends himself as the sole uninfected student…until he finds himself surrounded…and his katana breaks…
Changes from the manga version: The anime follows the manga fairly closely, but the ending sequence (after Onsen-Mark is bitten) is extended–it’s only one page in the manga.
Thoughts: The opening sequence is very Oshii-esque; this sort of reality-blurring dream is a signature touch, albeit at a low level at this point. (The dream is in the manga as well but is shorter.) Beyond that, this is a bit of a fish-nor-fowl episode, since the basic premise is treated humorously, but it wouldn’t take much tweaking to turn it into a zombie or infection horror story. The premise of transmissible cavities that heal on their own is a bit odd, but not beyond some of the other things we’ve already seen–it’s a logical extension of the “alien food makes you do the wacky” theme.
The animation is kind of inconsistent here–a couple of shots have students that are well-drawn, with distinctive character designs, and a bit later there’s another group of background characters who look like the animators drew them with their eyes shut. (Admittedly, in the first case the characters in question had speaking roles.) The relative size of the bitten and unbitten factions fluctuates throughout the episode, and by the end the size of the class has swelled to hundreds for humorous purposes.
Next episode: Introducing Mendou’s sister, Ryoko!