The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 68: “The Groom’s Name is Ryuunosuke!”

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Episode 68: “The Groom’s Name is Ryuunosuke!”

Original airdate: May 11, 1983

Corresponding manga chapters: “My Groom is a Girl!!”/”Lady Ataru!!”/”Sex-Change Chaos!!”, volume 15, chapters 9-11 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapters 155-157

Summary: A screen displays an variety of men (some of them probably caricatures of the animators), including a Dappya alien, while a voice rejects them all.  The voice belongs to Kurama, who’s furious at the pathetic array of losers the tengu have found for her.

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After some tengu abuse, she sulks off toward bed, but one of the tengu tells her they’ve saved the best for last: a hunky young man named Ryuunosuke.  Kurama is taken with “his” looks, and suggests they move on to the personality test, but someone in the background catches her eye.  It’s Ataru, of course, and after a faceplant (which takes forever, since they hold it onscreen the during the contents of a word balloon–someone needs to read Scott McCloud) she goes to bed, leaving the personality test in the hands (wings?) of the tengu.

Cut to Ryuunosuke, walking home disgruntled from the public bath, where the attendant tried sending her to the men’s side and the women freaked out when she walked in.  She hears a cry for help, which comes from a tengu fleeing from two strangely- drawn thugs.  They tell her to move, and worse, call her “dude”.

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Ryuu makes short work of the thugs, and walks off as the tengu pays them off for their service.  She spots another tengu in an alley, who shows her a sandal with a broken strap.  She fixes it with a thread from her towel, and sets off homeward again.

Back at the school store, the tengu congratulate Ryuunosuke on passing the personality test.  They explain that it’s not just strength that makes a person, but character, and Ryuu is flattered (and also looks quite girly throughout this scene, frankly).

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She continues to be flattered as they ask for a favor, right up until they reveal that they want her to be a princess’s bridegroom.

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With a cry of “I’M A GIRL!” she throws the tengu out the window.  They regroup to figure out what to do; one of them (it’s hard to tell them apart physically, but personality-wise one of them is definitely Bad Idea Guy) says that since a good guy like that is hard to find, they should just make a bit of an adjustment to work things out.

The next day, Ataru is late and rushing to school (no toast in his mouth, sadly) and in the process tramples the tengu, who are pushing a large (to them) cannon down the path.  He goes over to check, and asks about the cannon; telling him it’s a Sex Change Cannon only piques his curiosity, and in poking at it he pushes the activation button while it’s pointed at him.  Ataru stands blinking in confusion (and is at -5 in his next combat) while the tengu note that the cannon has only one shot left, so they’d better be careful, and start pushing it down the path again.

In class, Ryuunosuke has told Lum about what’s going on, and Lum remarks that there probably aren’t enough good men to go around.  Ataru immediately interposes himself, and in the course of rebuffing him Ryuunosuke elbows him in the chest, causing him unexpected discomfort.  A bit of examination demonstrates that, as Ryuu puts it, he’s got tits.  Perm and Mendou come over to comment on his apparent overreaction.  Perm bumps Ataru’s chest, goes cold, and taps out to Mendou, who conducts a more thorough check.

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Lum asks what the big deal is, and Ataru unbuttons his jacket to reveal his rack.  Everyone except Ryuunosuke and Ataru does a wild take, and Lum bursts into tears.  Ryuunosuke asks if Ataru is like her, and Ataru says sure, he’s been a girl all along.  Mendou leaps in to assure Ryuu that Ataru is a con woman, and insists that he stop this prank, but Ataru points out that you can’t change gender as a prank.  Lum asks if he’s really aware of what’s going on, and Ataru says that inside he’s freaking out, but since the rest of the class has passed out from shock, he doesn’t feel he can try to top them.

The tengu slip into the room and ask what’s going on, and Ataru demands to know what they’re going to do about THESE.  Lum wants to know as well, but the tengu shrugs it off, telling Ryuunosuke that they’d like her to become a man to pleasure their princess.  She refuses, despite Ataru’s testimonial that it’s effective and painless, and the tengu switches into extortion mode, saying it would be a shame if they didn’t happen to change Ataru back.  The other tengu pull Bad Idea Guy aside to remind him that they only have one shot, but they conclude they’re all fine with that.  Mendou tells Ryuunosuke not to fall for it, and look at Ataru, he likes being a girl.  When Ataru objects, Mendou rounds on him, asking what kind of a man he is (answer: he isn’t) and inadvertently cops a feel, freaking him out again.  Ataru is taking all this with an odd degree of grace.

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The tengu try to inspire Ryuunosuke into manning up, and suppress Mendou when he tries to interfere again.  Their speech starts to resemble the talk Ford Prefect gives the Vogon guard (“Doesn’t that stir anything in you?”) and Ryuu eventually gives in.  She thinks to herself that before she becomes a man, she wants to wear a girl’s uniform just once, and goes into a seifuku reverie. (“It’s not like we’re obsessed with skirts.” “Aren’t we?” “I know I am.” “So pretty and frilly…”) The tengu line Ryuunosuke up in their sites, but Ataru crushes the cannon, saying that he doesn’t want to be a man if it means the world loses a woman (two, technically).  The class, which has apparently regained consciousness and gotten up to speed very quickly, applaud and charge forward.  Ataru assumes it’s for him, but everyone is actually crowding around Ryuunosuke, while Ataru begins to regret his decision.

The Moroboshi House, later that evening.  Ataru is checking himself out in the mirror, and starts looking down his own shirt until Lum gives him a mallet-smack, trying to make sure he’s paying attention to his situation.  She says she doesn’t have much that will fit him, but pulls out a pink blouse that should be more comfortable than what he’s currently wearing.  He starts to change, just as his mother comes in.

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She runs off to inform her husband, and Ataru concludes that it’s probably a good idea to head out for the time being.  Cut to them eating a meal with the Fujinamis, with Ryuunosuke’s father saying that having a girl around makes things lively.  The tengu fly in, see the idiot and the Oni, and do a quick about-face.  Ataru grabs one and insists that they change him back, but it says they can’t because they don’t have the new Sex Change Cannon yet.  This phrase instantly gets Mr. Fujinami’s attention, and they cut forward to after the tengu’s explanation (apparently they’re from Planet Kurama, BTW).  Ryuunosuke insists that she’ll spill the beans to Kurama, but is suddenly struck by hiccups, courtesy of the tengu’s Hiccup Bonbons.  They threaten Ataru if he tells as well.

The room shakes, and Ryuunosuke is sucked out of the window by a whirlwind, landing on a balcony with Kurama in her arms.  Kurama goes for a kiss, and Ryuunosuke drops her and runs over to pound on the door.  Ryuu tries to explain, but hiccups prevent her until Ataru climbs up on the balcony and runs his finger down Kurama’s spine.  Kurama turns to see Lum blocking her; Lum is about to explain, but the tengu flies up and makes a not-so-veiled threat.

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Kurama says that she likes a stoic man, but just then Ataru spine-fingers her again and Ryuunosuke and Lum escape during the distraction.  They make it down the hallway, only to be confronted by Mr. Fujinami wielding the Wave Motion Sex Change Cannon.

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He fires, but Ryuunosuke ducks, and he revs up to fire again, prompting a great line from Kurama.

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Mr. Fujinami begins firing wildly, while the tengu yell at him not to hit the princess.  Ryuunosuke runs deeper into the school, and her father stalks after her not at all creepily while calling her “Ryuu-chan”.  She successfully hides in a classroom for a while, until Ataru pops up and spine-fingers her, causing her to yelp and her father to come in.  After an array of special effects, he has her cornered against a wall.  Ryuu is resigned to her fate when Kurama mallets Mr. Fujinami to the floor, demanding to know what he has planned for her future husband.  With Kurama advancing on her, she finally manages to cough out the hiccup bonbon and spit out the truth.

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Kurama’s brain briefly seizes up, and she turns to leave.  Ryuunosuke apologizes, and Kurama says it’s too bad she’s not a man.  The dignity of her exit is ruined by Ataru spine-fingering her just as Mr. Fujinami prepares to fire at Ryuunosuke.  Kurama throws Ataru against the wall, and the beam hits him instead.  Ataru goes through what appears to be a gender roulette wheel, and we cut to a cafe, where Lum says she’s glad Ataru is a boy again and Ryuu says the world might have been better off if he’d stayed female.  A tengu flies by and says, essentially, that a good man is hard to find.  He turns to the audience and challenges anyone who has the right stuff to step up.

Changes from the manga version: After the personality test, rather than visit Ryuunosuke and her father, they kidnap her and bring her (and Ataru and Lum) to Kurama.  When they find out the truth, they threaten her with a tiny gender-changer, which she breaks.  In the next chapter, the tengu bring Ryuu a bottle of pills to, ah, make her strong.  The class doesn’t pass out from shock (which makes their congratulating Ryuunosuke at the end make more sense).  The scene of Ataru and his mother is original.

Thoughts: When Kurama last appeared in episode 48, I commented on the irony of her saying that she wanted “A manly man like a big ocean”.  This episode shows, in the words of Cerebus, that you can get what you want and still not be happy. (All right, not quite.)

The pairing of Kurama and Ryuunosuke is both inevitable and comedy gold, as their schticks collide in all sorts of inconvenient ways.  It also confirms some things about Ryuu: she’s not interested in a girl taking direct, physical interest in her (dating may be another matter), and it reinforces that she’s not transgender as the term is generally understood (her gender identity is the same as her physical gender–in the manga she says that she agreed to the change partially because she thought it would be temporary, and in the anime she’s pretty half-hearted about it).

The new scene with Ataru and his mother is hilarious, and it’s good to see at least a brief acknowledgement that Ataru is going to take advantage of his situation, without getting into unnecessary detail.  The anime does seem to suggest that estrogen is mellowing him out, while the manga spends less time on that scene and is mostly people yelling at each other. The animators seemed to be making girl-type Ataru more feminine facially (not the case in the manga), and as I noted above, it’s hard to see how the tengu didn’t spot that Ryuu is a girl the first time they’re talking to her, given how they drew her happy expression.

This is also one of those episodes where the associated smutfic totally writes itself.

Next episode: A love letter and a mysterious girl by the sea!

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