Previously: Ataru has been taken aboard a UFO from Planet Elle to fulfill an eleven-year-old promise of marriage.
Summary (continued): Lum sits in a (remodeled) Coffee Pierot with Ten, sadly looking at her reflection in the window. When she leaves, a not-at-all-suspicious looking woman in a trenchcoat and sunglasses follows her. Lum sadly walks the streets before musing that she has nowhere to go (her UFO isn’t an option?). She’s interrupted by a voice that turns out to be Benten, who leaps down from a clock and uses her chain to flush the tail from the bushes. When confronted, the tail produces a storm of rose petals from her trenchcoat and vanishes.
Over Beefbowl, Benten explains that Lum’s alien friends all received invitations, and she’s here to find out what’s going on. Lum recovers her resolve, and takes off to do…something…while Benten orders a space microbus, preferably heavily armed. Rei arrives, and Benten has to push him out the door before he can bury himself in food.
Lum speeds off in her UFO, while at the Moroboshi homestead Ataru’s parents and Cherry fill their usual roles (his mother is angry, his father is useless, and Cherry predicts doom while mooching food). Lum pops in and announces that Ataru is coming with her, and when he refuses, takes matters into her own hands:
She sucks up Cherry and the Moroboshis as well, and takes off in her UFO, joined by Benten in the microbus (driven by the space cabbie from episode 1b). The microbus zooms around town, picking up Mendou, Shinobu, the Stormtroopers, and Sakura (mostly in their pajamas), along with some random cats and dogs and statues. The UFOs fly through space to the tune of “Hoshizora Cycling”, and rendezvous with Kurama’s UFO, which also carries Oyuki and Benten. Rei arrives in his ship, and they gather on Mr. Invader’s ship, where the barrier protecting Ataru is removed.
Gathering around a hotpot, Ataru’s parents tell him that they’ve agreed he and Lum should get properly married, to which he eventually assents with great reluctance. As the couple sits by a window, Lum enthuses about their nuptials, while Ataru plots to escape and find Elle. Lum produces two “Tiger Star” stone engagement rings that will link them together, and after blasting Ataru into submission slips one onto his finger.
On the bridge of the Oni ship, the instruments detect a distortion ahead, which turns out to be Elle’s main ship and the entire fighter fleet. The Oni scramble their fleet (in a very Yamato-like manner), but the Elle activate their infiltrator among the Oni, which turns out to be the trenchcoat woman, hiding in a tanuki statue. She steals an Oni uniform and heads into the ship.
Ataru, no doubt driven by a deep sense of responsibility, tells Lum that he needs to be turned over to Elle. While they argue, the spy creeps up behind them. When Ataru puts his foot down, Lum knocks him out with a mallet to the head, intending to lock him up for his own safety, only to take a mallet herself from the spy.
She announces that she’s going to take on Lum’s identity, but as we soon see, her disguise kind of falls apart due to a lack of physical resemblance, bikini or no bikini. Ten spots her breaking onto the deck and rushes back to the room with Shinobu, Mendou and the Stormtroopers, but before he can tell them what’s going on, the ship shakes as a shuttle begins to launch. It’s piloted by the spy, who has Ataru with her; she identifies herself as Rose, Woman of Seven Disguises, an agent of Babara’s. Mr. Invader contacts the shuttle, only to have Ataru broadcast his pleasure at being rescued from Lum all over the ship.
The shuttle launches just as Lum comes to (minus her bikini) and takes off in a high-speed pursuit craft that was down for repairs. (The shuttle also has the other high school students aboard, and they’re being tossed about by the chase.) Abruptly, Lum’s interceptor explodes, but Lum floats away safely in a bubble of air. She cries out for Darling, but he vanishes in the distance, and the Elle capital ship vanishes.
The ship arrives at Planet Elle, and they disembark on an origami crane-shaped shuttle to a space beanstalk. While taking a slow ride down a platform, Megane tries to convince Ataru of the joys of Earth (or at least its restaurants), but as Ataru points out, he’ll soon be king of the planet, and he fully intends to abuse his power.
We cut to Lady Elle stepping out of a bath that seems to have been designed by the architect of Utena (the decor is seriously rose-happy). Her attendants dress her, and she gazes upon Ataru for the first time…unfortunately, she assumes that Mendou is he. They soon clear it up, and bounce around a lily pond flirting while Megane and Mendou both plot to take her for themselves. They reminisce about their previous meeting, and she explains that she can have anything she wants, but she values Ataru because he chose her of his own free will. She’s called away for a dress fitting, and when she passes Mendou, slips him a key whispers to him to meet her tonight.
That evening, Mendou rendezvouses with Lady Elle, and lays on the smarm. She expresses gratitude that some Earthmen are handsome, and activates a secret elevator to take them to a chamber that Mendou assumes is her boudoir, but actually contains a giant fridge-freezer. To Mendou’s horror, it turns out to be full of handsome men, frozen in tubes.
Lady Elle explains that she designed the Refrigerator of Love to preserve love before it can grow stale, and that Mendou will be #100,000. Ataru and the other boys watch from outside, and run for safety, leaving Mendou to his fate. Elle has him strapped to a slab and is lowering the freezing mechanism onto him in a sort of reverse-carbon freezing procedure. Mendou’s claustrophobia is going off when Shinobu bursts in and, uttering her mantra (“Men be damned!”), destroys the apparatus. Scantily-clad female guards apprehend her and the boys, while Elle asks Ataru (“Honey”) why he tried to escape. He roundly condemns her freezing-handsome-boys hobby and swears off the wedding, so she orders him locked up and the others shipped frozen and sent back to Earth.
On an unfamiliar planetscape, Oyuki, Rei and Ran hang out and watch Benten adjust her motorcycle while discussing their return plans. Lum takes the opportunity to sit under a tree and mourn. She’s about to throw away the Tiger Stone ring, but gazes into it instead, and she and Ataru meet in astral space with a musical backing.
We emerge from the vision in Ataru and Ten’s cell, where Ataru just sits and stares as Ten berates him. Ataru snaps out of it to wolf down dinner while weeping and beat himself up for letting Lum go.
The crowds are gathering in their thousands for the royal wedding, and the TV coverage is getting to Rose, who’s drinking to drown her annoyance at being reprimanded for bringing too many Earth people. In the crowd, she sees a clearly disguised Lum, but decides not to follow up. The ceremony itself begins, with Elle looking radiant and Ataru looking like hell.
Ran returns to the microbus to fill in the other aliens on the status of security (tight), and Benten locks and loads to create a diversion for Lum’s sake. She draws the police away while Oyuki freezes the gateway, Rei eats all the food in the restaurant district, and Kurama breaks open the Refrigerator of Love.
Lum, meanwhile, has swiped a police flivver and is trying to make it to the church on time. but takes a hit and starts going down. Bishop Frankenstein has them give their vows (but doesn’t say “man and wife”) and Elle goes in for the kiss, but Lum has bailed from her ship and flown directly into The Graduate.
The window bursts open, and Lum flies in and reunites with Ataru. Elle and Lum face off, and Babara calls in the guards just as the unfrozen studs break in and a pitched battle ensues. Lum tries to fly away with Ataru, but isn’t making much headway because Elle is clinging to his ankle shackles, until Benten arrives with the microbus and sucks everyone aboard with the vacuum. While evading ground fire, the space cabbie accidentally activates the warp drive, and they pass through a 2001-esque mindscape to arrive in a featureless plain. Elle populates it with her memories of the game of shadow tag, and soon a young Elle and Ataru are chasing each other around the playground, over another musical montage.
Finally the recap reaches the moment of truth, and Ataru freezes the playback to reveal an important truth:
Ataru gleefully reveals that the young him was so desperate to win that he lied about catching her, and thus the engagement is void. There’s a general tone of disgust at Ataru’s behavior, and he berates his younger self for causing so much trouble. Elle sends her younger self into the sunset, and the microbus reappears in front of the cathedral. Elle steps out and commands the others to never darken her towels again. After they warp out, Elle commands that the escapees be rounded up, and a lone tear rolls from her eye as the elevator doors close.
Everyone naps on the microbus on the way home. Ataru apologizes to an apparently sleeping Lum, but she hears him, and they’re about to go in for a kiss when they lurch to a stop, and Benten hustles everyone out. Ataru assumes they’re back on Earth, and is startled to see that they’re in a church for his wedding with Lum. He admits that he’s just startled, but not against the idea, and they wind up in front of the altar for their vows.
Ataru strips off his tuxedo and flees, and we end on a general pursuit from the entire alien cast of the show.
(Well, we actually end, rather lamely, on the end credits sequence from the current season of the TV show.)
Thoughts: The first movie is an excellent example of the classic approach to the movie of a TV series: an extra-long, large-scale episode with improved animation. It’s got pretty much everything you’d want: a straightforward premise that could have appeared in the manga, with a good mix of humor and emotional moments, and a wide range of the cast getting a look in and behaving in character. (Without getting too detailed, some of the movies will go in a very different direction: this one isn’t as ground-breaking, but there’s nothing wrong with doing the basics well.)
The quality of animation in the movie makes up for some of the dodgy moments in this season of the TV series. The stylized opening sequence is very striking, and there are some beautiful set pieces (the UFO trip through the solar system, Lum’s astral trip with the engagement ring). There are also a number of space scenes whose style will be familiar to anyone who’s watched sci-fi anime of the era, which are the result of considerably more attention to detail than the animators usually give to minor elements like UFO control panels. The greater (and not fixed) length of the movie also means that the musical set pieces don’t feel like filler, as they would have in the TV show.
As befits this type of movie, there’s a ton of fan service here. Like the school reunion episode, a wide range of previously appearing alien characters show up again here, including two from the first episode. (This isn’t the first time the space cabbie has returned, but the return of the Torture Research Club was unexpected.) Most of them are just quick cameos in the wedding sequence, but we also get to see recurring characters interact whose paths wouldn’t normally cross, like Benten and Kurama. On the flip side, some of the characters seem to appear just for the sake of form and don’t do much, such as Cherry and Sakura (after they arrive on the Oni ship, they go off for an all-you-can-eat dinner and don’t reappear until the wedding scene).
A continuity note: The movie was released between episode 58 and 59. Mr. Invader says to Ataru that he hasn’t seen him since the match-making party (episode 22), but he was staying at the Moroboshi’s house in episode 57. This means that the movie doesn’t take place at the same point it was released. (The Doylist explanation here is that the animators didn’t plan for exactly how the movie would interact with the TV series when the screenplay was written.) I suspect that the movie took place after the school reunion episode (45), since Lum would be less concerned in that episode about her friends abandoning her if she’d just seen them at her wedding. I can’t pinpoint it beyond that, but it might be possible to narrow it down if characters that were introduced in season 3 turn up in the crowd scene at the end (like one of the bathhouse aliens or Kotatsu Neko), to the extent that it matters at all.
Next: We return to the TV series; the movies resume with 1984’s Beautiful Dreamer!