Episode 66: “Happy Birthday My Darling”
(Note: The episode title is written onscreen in Japanese but it’s spoken in English.)
Original airdate: April 20, 1983
Corresponding manga chapter: Original
Summary: It’s roll call in classroom 2-4 (mostly the names of the anime staff), but Lum is absent for the third day in a row. At lunch, the Stormtroopers pull Ataru into the hallway. Shinobu is indifferent to this until she sees Mendou leave as well, then becomes annoyed.
Behind the baseball field fence, the Stormtoopers demand that Ataru tell them where Lum is. Ataru confirms that she’s not sick, but angrily denies knowing where she is. Megane grabs his jacket and looks into his eyes, then lets him go and stops the others from following, saying that this isn’t the normal Ataru here and they need to conduct an investigation. Mendou, listening from behind a tree, pulls out his portable phone and makes a call.
Ataru lies on a hillside, staring at the sky, then begins angrily pounding the grass. Sakura comments drily on this, then offers to help if something is bothering him. He runs tearfully toward her, but she dodges at the last minute and he hits a tree facefirst instead. In the infirmary, she swabs his face, but reiterates that she does want to help him.
His explanation flashes back to bedtime a few days before, where he’s chasing Ten around to dry his hair after his bath. After he flies into Lum’s arms and Ataru blasts him with the hairdryer, Ataru mentions that something is coming up, but gets annoyed when she seems to be ignoring him for Ten. He mentions that it’ll be April 13th soon, but that doesn’t mean anything to her, and she blows it off.
Lum tries to cover by asking what he wants, but he gets surly and says he doesn’t want anything, then resists her attempt to make up by saying he doesn’t want a present if it doesn’t come from the heart. Ten asks if he knows when Lum’s birthday is, driving Ataru to yell at them, turn off the life, and pretend to go to sleep.
Back in the infirmary, he concludes by saying that she’s not coming to school and coming back late, and he doesn’t know what she’s doing but hopes she hasn’t found someone else. When he admits he hasn’t apologized, Sakura points out that nothing’s going to change if he doesn’t, and that he should be honest. He says that he’s always honest, and proves it by flinging himself at Sakura but getting uppercut out the window instead. Cherry pops up, and after he takes a quick trip out the window as well, Sakura fills him in on the situation, and says that as a faculty member she feels some responsibility toward her students. Cherry volunteers to help as well, but since his determination manifests itself in ripping off his shirt, he goes out the window again.
Lum walks the vicious, lonely streets of Tomobiki, taking in the Laughing Target movie, and looking at shop windows in the dark. Meanwhile, Ataru paces furiously in his bedroom, then jumps to pretend to be nonchalant when Lum comes in. Ataru asks where she was while insisting he doesn’t care, then snapping at Ten when he tells her the truth. While Ataru angrily pretends to read an upside-down magazine, Lum tentatively asks if she should sleep in the UFO, and Ataru snaps again. She and Ten leave, and he fake-anger-reads for a bit before throwing the book aside and staring at the floor.
After the inappropriately cheery eyecatch, we return to Ataru’s room, where he’s playing Golgo 13 by shooting April 13th on his calendar with a sniper rifle (?!).
Ataru glumly pokes his finger into the bullethole until his mother calls him to breakfast. He steels himself, then sits at the table and wolfs down his food. With a bit of prodding from his wife, Mr. Moroboshi asks Lum why she’s been missing school. They express concern until Ataru snaps that he doesn’t want to hear it at the breakfast table, and snaps again when his mother points out that he’s at the root of the problem. Lum asks them to stop, saying it’s her fault, and gets up and leaves, while Ataru resumes wolfing his food.
At school, Megane buttonholes Perm about whether the rumor that Lum is going back home is true or not. The source of the rumor turns out to be Ten, and the Stormtroopers try to figure out how things got to this point. Megane concludes that action must be taken.
(For added value, read Chibi’s line in the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel.) Megane vows that the cobblestones will run with Ataru’s blood if necessary, and recruits Kakugari and Chibi to help him grab Ataru. (Kakugari, yes, but why Chibi?) Watching this, Mendou pulls out his phone and dispatches the family’s chopper units to pursue Lum. One of Shinobu’s friends ask if she’s going to do anything, but she demonstrates an astounding degree of awareness by saying that those two will never split up and this is probably a big fuss over nothing.
Cut to Ataru hanging upside-down from a bar in an kindergarten playground (one that’s far too tall for the kids), then putting his bag into a locker and boarding a train (out of his uniform). Meanwhile, Lum wanders the streets until she’s spotted by
Yoda Mr. B. Natural Sakura.
(Or it may just be the original Japanese word order.) They go to a restaurant, where Sakura orders a huge amount of food, then says Ataru told her the story. Lum tries to deny it, and Sakura gets angry with her. She calms and says that she can understand why Lum would be embarrassed and try to deny the problem, but she needs to be strong and face up to it, and not take the easy path. Lum gets up, rejuvenating, but faceplants when Sakura adds that she should go out and dump that jerk. Lum flies away, while Sakura shakes her head about kids these days.
Ataru plays a Godzilla video game, then wanders the streets while Lum perches on top of the Daily Planet building. Dark clouds gather while Sadoyama and the Stormtroopers rig up chains in the clock tower. The pathetic fallacy comes into full play as it begins to rain. Lum runs to the window of the shirt shop she looked at earlier, while Ataru sits in a doorway with a dog and feels sorry for himself.
Mendou sits in an open convertible and speculates about who’s crying, making the use of the pathetic fallacy explicit. They get a radio report of Lum buying a men’s shirt and having it wrapped as a gift. The penny drops for Mendou, and he calls off the surveillance.
Lum flies home, but Ataru isn’t there and his mother’s getting concerned. Ataru calls home from a phone booth, and his mother says that Lum went out to find him. She appears before him under an umbrella. He watches through the rippling, rain-streaked glass, then drops the phone and runs to her.
Thoughts: This is another largely serious relationship-development and character growth episode, like #44. I don’t think this one is quite as successful, partially because it’s fairly similar to that one and partially because the earlier episode is driven by Ataru being in denial, while this one is driven by him being a jerk and knowing it. It’s very well done, but I don’t feel as sympathetic because Ataru is refusing to do something that’s in his power to fix the situation. It’s in character, particularly for a teenager, but still. In contrast, however, Lum is equally involved in this episode, and we do see her side of matters as well. She’s much easier to have sympathy for (although whether she’s doing the right thing in going back at the end could be debated), but she’s not helping matters through her avoidance, either.
It is interesting to see one of the adults acting like an actual grownup for once (and it’s more believable from Sakura than many). She gives good advice, although Shinobu’s read on the situation is overall the more accurate (particularly on a meta level). The Moroboshis try to parent for once, as well.
Ataru’s birthday follows what was established at the beginning of the series by being on the 13th (and in April, 4 also being an unlucky number). The 4/13 date also gives us a possible date for Only You. Ataru refers to being seventeen and nine months old in that movie, which would put the movie as occurring in mid-January. Mr. Invader’s comment in the movie puts it before episode 57, when he came to the Moroboshis’ house. That episode aired on 1/26, and the previous episode aired 1/12, with a gap in the middle. Only You could be placed in the gap between episodes 56 and 57, and the timeline works out rather neatly. (I have accepted that the characters are 17, since it’s been repeated often, but sitcom time means that no one actually gets older on their birthday, like Jack Benny or the year in Zot!)
I didn’t mention it when it happened last episode, but they’ve gone back to “Cosmic Cycler” as the end theme for some reason.
Next episode: Highly suggestive peaches!