The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 60: “Love-Love Catchballs”

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Episode 60: “Love-Love Catchballs”

Original airdate: February 23, 1983

Corresponding manga chapter: “A Gift From Ten”, volume 12, chapter 11 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 124

Summary: Shots of Lum flying through the sky are intercut with Ten phoning invitations to Sakura, Shinobu and Ran, to whom he explains that he wants to show them Galactic Home Shopping Center’s “Love-Love Catchballs”.  Ataru overhears this.  Lum flies into Ataru’s room and gives the package to Ten.

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Ten hides the blue one inside Ataru’s guitar, but Ataru is watching through a crack in the door.  He runs downstairs to pretend to be casual when they leave, and then runs upstairs to fish the ball out of the guitar.  This proves easier said than done, though, and when he eventually has to smash the guitar the ball bounces out the window and comes to rest in his father’s bonsai.  His father picks it up and looks into the eye, and sees a vision of a younger Mrs. Moroboshi.  She comes over and looks in, and just sees her back as it currently looks.  Ataru, disgusted, grabs the ball and runs off, thinking about the implications of what he might see in it.

At the cafe where the girls are meeting, Ten flies back and forth across the table sampling everyone’s parfaits.  As Ataru peers in the window, Ten explains that anyone looking in the catchball will see their future husband.  Ataru walks into the cafe, past the girls, and takes a seat on a level above them (the internal layout is a weird multilevel affair).  He tries to be cool and order strong American coffee, which impresses no one.  Ten offers a look in the ball to Sakura, but she refuses, since she already has a fiance and doesn’t see the point in spoiling the mysteries of life.  Ran needles her by pointing out that she’s not guaranteed to marry Tsubame, as happened with Lum and Rei, and she could wind up a dried-up spinster.  Sakura is torn, but refuses.

Upstairs, Ataru realizes that the blue ball is probably meant for men, and is considering looking into it when Mendou enters the cafe and joins him, making Ten and the girls more suspicious.  Shinobu agrees to look into the ball.  She giggles over the idea of seeing Mendou, then takes a look and freaks out.

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Upstairs, Ataru has explained the situation to Mendou, but admits that he’s scared to look because he doesn’t want to see Lum, and envisions Lum jumping into his arms and electrocuting him to death.  Mendou is wavering about looking when Cherry pops up and takes a look for himself.

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Back downstairs, Shinobu still can’t believe that she’d marry the person she saw, although Ten argues that the vendor is reliable and fate is fate.  She refuses to say who she saw, but confirms that it’s not Rei or Ataru.  Ran takes it, hoping for Rei; her reaction shows it’s not Rei, and that she’s expecting a showdown with Lum.  Lum takes the ball, confidently expecting to see Darling.  She takes it and sees:

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Lum is shaken by this, then literally floored when she takes another look and sees Rei is his tiger-cow form.  She and Ran dare each other to say who they saw, while Shinobu is still sickened by her result, and refuses when Sakura suggests that she tell her to feel better.

Upstairs, Ataru is freaking out that Lum either marries him or dumps him.  Mendou points out that he’s being inconsistent, and Ten pops up and sees the ball.  He taunts them for not having looked yet, looking positively devilish.

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(Yes, his mouth does move between frames.) Ataru snatches it and looks, then lets out a relieved expression.  Mendou takes it from him and looks as well, and gives a pleased chuckle.

At this point Cherry breaks in to explain the situation:

  • Shinobu saw Tsubame, Sakura’s fiance.
  • Lum saw Rei.
  • Ran saw Ataru.
  • Ataru and Mendou both saw Sakura.
  • Cherry saw…move along, move along.

Shinobu asks Sakura if she’s seen Tsubame lately.  Sakura says she’s planning to meet him there, and Shinobu dithers about whether she should stay or go, since maybe he has thing for schoolgirls ten years his junior.  Tsubame enters then, to Shinobu’s chagrin, and Ataru and Mendou say in unison that the poor guy doesn’t know he’s going to get dumped.  Ten flies up and gives him the blue ball, and he sees…

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Sakura grabs the ball and looks just to see herself.  Ten hands her the red one, and sees…

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She sits down in shock and discovers the two in question under the table.  Yanking them out, she calls them on the carpet over the age difference and the illegality of bigamy.

There follows a big scrum that I’ll describe as a play-by-play: Mendou and Ataru try to make their case, Lum yells at Ataru, Shinobu embraces Tsubame, and Ran yells at Lum over Rei.  Ten decides this is a good time to leave.  Shinobu clings to Tsubame as Ataru interferes with Sakura’s attempts to confront him, and Sakura throws him to the next level between Lum and Ran.  Ataru asks Ran if she saw him in the ball, Lum electrocutes him, and when he appeals to Ran she smashes a clock over his head.  Lum and Ran chase each other through the restaurant, occasionally trampling Ataru.  Shinobu tries to convince Tsubame that it’s fate, Sakura goes to confront him but Mendou interferes, until she breaks free and hits Tsubame in the face with a table.  She confronts Tsubame about his seducing tactics, Shinobu defends him, Mendou tries to break in, Ran runs through, Ataru makes a play for Sakura, and Lum electrocutes all three men.  Shinobu loses her temper over people attacking her Tsubame and picks up a grandfather clock, swinging it in a circle and smashing it behind Sakura as she drags Tsubame away.  Ataru and Mendou beg Lum for help and get electrocuted.  The grandfather clock narrowly misses them and knocks down a level of the shop; Sakura clobbers Tsubame and is narrowly missed as well.  A clock flies off the wall and narrowly misses one of the managers, who discovers the one next to him is unconscious.

tl;dr Chaos ensues.

Ten is flying down the street and listening to the Galactic Home Shopping Center’s message on his headphones when he discovers something important:

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It’s too late, though, as he arrives at the smoking remains of the cafe, where everyone is still scuffling.

Changes from the manga version: The story picks up at the table in the cafe.  There’s only one ball, so Mendou and Ataru don’t get a look.  We see Ran’s results immediately, Cherry doesn’t show up, and the scuffle at the end is a lot shorter.

Thoughts: Another fun episode that follows the manga and doesn’t summarize well.  It’s not purely character-driven like the previous episode, but it’s still the “drop in a single element and go from there” sort.  In this case, it plays off the unresolved love polygon that continues throughout the series, and adds a few wrinkles that wouldn’t come up otherwise (notably Shinobu/Tsubame).

There are some great touches in this episode.  Ataru’s father seeing his mother through the ball is a nice addition for the anime that goes unremarked but fits well.  The speed with which Shinobu accepts her pairing with Tsubame is likewise amusing (and given her track record, she could do worse).

The phrasing at the end is interesting: it’s not necessarily the worst person the viewer could marry, just one who would make things miserable.  That suggests there are a lot of other bad matches out there, and this is just what the ball threw out at the time.  Some of the bad pairings are obvious (Lum/Rei) while others, while doubtless bad, aren’t necessarily the first one that would come to mind.

Next episode: Ataru is invited to a masked ball thrown by Ryoko!

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