The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 53: “The Do-or-Die Subspace Part-time Job”

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Episode 53: “The Do-or-Die Subspace Part-time Job”

Original airdate: December 15, 1982

Corresponding manga chapter: “Money Laundering”, volume 13, chapter 8 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 132

Summary: Ataru walks through the filthy streets of the big city, looking for a job, while his older self narrates like a grim version of Daniel Stern from The Wonder Years.  He purchases a part-time job magazine and takes it home, but doesn’t get far before first Lum and then Cherry pop up to rubberneck.  Ataru’s ideal job turns out to be wildly unrealistic (10,000 yen ($41.30) per hour, 2-hour breaks, lots of fun & girls), but Lum comes up with something ideal from one of her magazines: back-washing in a bathhouse!

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To say Ataru is thrilled would be a massive understatement.  He’s less thrilled that Lum is accompanying him, but as she points out, he doesn’t know where “wooden door Subspace Vector AYX” is.  His elder-self narrator foreshadows trouble as Lum leads him through a narrow, trash-strewn alley that leads to what appears at first to be a normal town, but proves to be a hallucinatory hellscape.  He asks directions from people like this:

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Eventually a strange child with painted-on eyebrows leads him to the edge of a cemetery.  The narrator lays on more foreshadowing as Ataru hurries through.  He thinks he sees Cherry, but it turns out to be a Cyclopean child with Cherry’s head who says “Let’s play!” They’re joined by a Kasa-obake, and then a group of other monsters that pursue him through the cemetery until he manages to grab onto a passing train.  Shortly thereafter it stops and Lum gets on.  She tells Ataru that he got sidetracked, but it turns out the train has taken him back where he started.  Lum leads him to the Asura Bathhouse, where the three-headed proprietor agrees to hire him.

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Once on the actual job, he realizes that this may not be the dream job he anticipated, as he’s not surrounded by beautiful women but by alien weirdies.  His first client asks him to scrub hard until the surface of his back cracks like an eggshell; his second is enormous and has a confusing physiology.

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His third client says he won’t need a brush, but just needs to soap up and rub himself against its body.  Ataru “accidentally” smashes his translator headset with a broom handle, and wanders off to go on break.  Ten calls out to him as he goes by. Ataru asks if he’s old enough to be in the men’s bath, and Ten says that Lum sent him over from the women’s side to check on Ataru.  Ataru asks if the women’s side is like this one (panning over a group of creatures that includes the fossil bird-thing from a few episodes ago, and a brief glimpse of Kotatsu Neko) and Ten whispers, “It’s paradise!”

Ataru immediately charges over the separating wall, using a Stegosaurus-like alien’s back as steps, but is immediately knocked back by a basin to the face.  Lum puts her head over the wall to ask what he’s doing, and Ataru hears Oyuki and Benten’s voices from the other side, which stiffens his resolve (sorry) even more.  Lum blocks his view despite his best efforts, and makes a pretty good case as to why:

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Ataru’s subsequent actions bring to mind his attempts to catch Lum in the first episode; he tries to pole-vault over the wall with his broom and constructs a stairway out of basins, only to be repelled by Lum in both cases.  Bloodied but unbowed, he asks Ten how he got over here (why do you assume he didn’t just fly over the wall).  Ten refuses to tell, and dives under the surface, riding on a submersible; Ataru follows through a surreal underseascape that includes a wide variety of ships, including the Yamato.  Ten pulls ahead enough to give him them advance warning, and Benten fires depth charges into the water.  Lum doesn’t think that will slow him down, and wraps a towel around his eyes when he emerges.

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(It’s not Ataru we’re getting service from…)

Ataru tries to wiggle off the blindfold, but Lum pulls it painfully tight.  Oyuki remarks on finding him amusing, and he tries to fumble his way toward her, but Lum catches him and says that he’d damage her delicate skin.  He tries to find Benten instead, but Lum tells him that there is a woman who needs her back washed.

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Ten, disgusted, launches torpedoes at the statue, and Ataru sinks under the rubble to the bottom of the pool.  The adult narrator gets portentous, and he’s surrounded by a ring of creepy children doing some sort of chant as we fade to black.

Changes from the manga version: The funny parts are from the manga.  Ataru goes straight from the alleyway to the bathhouse, and there’s no underwater chase.  There’s a voiceover, but it isn’t nearly so portentous.

Thoughts: And here we’re introduced to another type of episode I’ve alluded to: the type which is half humor and half surreal mindscape.  The original parts (particularly in the first half) are very Oshii: mythic, dreamlike, and somewhat fraught.  The manga parts are, well, like the manga: humor derived from character plus situation, in this case Ataru being overcome by his lusts.  If it sounds like I think these part don’t go well together…well, yes.  This isn’t the worst example, since the mood doesn’t shift abruptly and the strange parts mostly bookend the humorous parts, but it leaves no doubt which parts are from the manga and which aren’t.

In other news, how about that fanservice, huh? It’s straight from the manga, but the animators don’t shy away from it (if you wanted to see Benten’s nipple, here’s your chance).  For a series that had the female lead topless in the first episode, the actual nudity as opposed to skimpy outfits has been pretty spread out.

A note that the AnimEigo notes don’t cover: They mention that the magazine Ataru buys, “Shuukan Arbaito Sunday” (“Sunday Part-time Jobs Weekly”) is a parody of “Shuukan Shoonen Sunday”, the manga that UY ran in.  What they don’t mention is that the cover we see onscreen is “Albeit Sunday”, which makes the derivation clearer.  English isn’t the only language Japanese takes loanwords from; another one is German, where the word for “work” is “arbeiten”.  Japanese adopted this term as a noun, meaning a part-time job, as we see here (with the addition of L/R confusion).

Next episode: Lum organizes an end-of-year party!

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