The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 69: “A Message in a Bottle: Seaside Spookiness!”

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Episode 69: “A Message in a Bottle: Seaside Spookiness!”

Original airdate: April 18, 1983

Corresponding manga chapters: “Message in a Bottle”/”If You Can Stomach the Suspense”, volume 14, chapters 4-5 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapters 139-140

Minor characters introduced: Nameless girl, old woman and giant, inn employees

Summary: The ocean!  After the narrator portents for a bit, we cut to Ataru, Lum, Mendou, Shinobu and Ten (it would be convenient if they had a collective designator like the Stormtroopers do) by the seaside, where Ten has found a bottle with a note in it floating in the water.  (It’s near sunset, so it looks disturbingly like the sea is made of blood.) Ataru opens it and reads out “I’m in love with you!  I want to see you..”.  Ten is thrilled to receive a love letter, but Ataru and Mendou do their best to harsh his mellow, pointing out that he just found it and it might not even be from a woman.  Ten threatens not to let them meet her when she turns up.

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That evening, the sea has turned back to blue and dinner is being served in their inn.  The host (who’s wearing the same union suit-and-girdle combination as Ryuunosuke’s father–apparently that’s a thing at seaside restaurants) is asked for recommendations of fun places to go, and can only list synonyms for the ocean.  They discuss visiting the cove, and the host trembles and tries to warn them off.  Before he can spit out his warning, the cook and waitress come out and ask who’s planning to go to the Cove of the Giant Clam.  They can’t agree among themselves if the monster is a giant, a horribly beautiful woman, or “an old fart bag”, however.

In the men’s bath, Ten is reciting the contents of the love letter to himself, annoying the others, when a familiar-looking bottle with a note falls out of the water spout.

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Ten tries to grab it, but Ataru beats him to it.  This note says “I’ll be waiting for your call” and has a phone number.  Ten and Mendou repeat the earlier objections that Ataru raised to him, but Ataru cannot be brought down, and calls the number from the hotel phone.  Mendou insists that it must be a hoax, but as Ataru dials he finds another letter-in-a-bottle at his feet, saying “I need you, come stay with me”.  His opinion of the hoax goes up, but he refuses to give it to Ten, just in case.  Ataru speaks to the other end of the line, saying that she has a beautiful voice and he’ll see her tomorrow.  After they leave, the host comes by and remarks that he really needs to put an “Out of Order” sign on the phone.

Back in their rooms, Ataru and Mendou argue about who has the better claim (with Ten chiming in but being ignored), while the girls play Hanafuda and roll their eyes.  Ten tries to break into the conversation by preparing to breathe flame, and there’s a quick cut to the method they used to shut him up:

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Came the dawn, and Ataru awakens before the others to sneak out.  In doing so he drags along Mendou and Ten, who are tied to his ankle, and sets off the trip cord to a large array of noisemakers outside the girls’ room.  Lum pops out to demand to know what’s going on, and Ataru sets off at top speed, dragging Mendou and Ten behind him, down the stairs, through the lobby and to the beach.  They eventually manage to start moving under their own steam (doing their morning ablutions on the way).

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They make it to the cove with the girls in hot pursuit, to find a beautiful, vaguely-Italian looking woman standing picturesquely by the salt spray.

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The boys are stunned (and the girls just annoyed) by her beauty as she approaches each of them in turn, clasping Ten to her bosom, thanking Ataru for his phone call, and asking Mendou to stay with her.  When she sees the girls, she says she’s happy to have so many, and leads them along the beach to an odd little inn.

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(Note: that does say “Penshyon” on the sign, something I’d only previously encountered in manga in Ouran High School Host Club, though not spelled like that.) The girl admits that the bottles were just to attract customers, and leads them in to a dimly-lit room with nets hanging from the ceiling and a pervading smell of rot.  Their tea is brought to them by what I think is the first proper Takahashi little-old-lady in the series:

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She gives them a few knowing glances over her shoulder as she leaves.  By this point everyone is wide-eyed with apprehension and wondering if they’re really going to stay there.  Ataru says it’s too late to back out, but Mendou point out that they match the descriptions of two of the monsters said to haunt the cove.  Ataru retorts that the monster is supposed to be a giant, and the girl can’t possibly be a monster, so he for one is staying.  The camera pulls back to a trapdoor in the ceiling, above which a very large man hones an axe.

In the kitchen, the old woman is stirring a soup full of fish heads and bones, and a broth that appears to be made out of the blood seawater from the opening.  The giant is now honing a kitchen knife, and he and the old woman discuss how they’re going to divide their guests: he’ll get the girls, and she’ll get the handsome one and the baby.  The girl, who’s slicing a daikon, is unhappy to be stuck with Ataru (as who would not be) and says she’d prefer the baby and the girls, since men are tough and stringy.  The other two surround her threateningly, and she backs down.

The giant creepily licks his knife just as the group throws the door open and hit him, which ends badly for him.

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Ataru gives the girl a gift of clams, and tries to impress her until Lum drags him away by the neck, causing her to think to herself that he doesn’t look very appetizing.  That evening, the hosts encourage the guests to eat as much as they want while smiling evilly, but only Ataru is chowing down.  The girl gives him a bowl of miso soup containing a note telling him to meet her privately later.

That evening in the girls’ room, Lum is bouncing on the bed while Shinobu worries about the atmosphere in the inn.  Lum is unconcerned until they here a noise outside their door.  Tension builds until the noise stops, and Mendou and Ten enter to ask if they’ve seen Ataru.  They’re greeted by a furious, bed-wielding Shinobu, who drops it when she sees it’s only them.  Mendou and Ten explain that they haven’t seen Ataru in half an hour, since he went for a date with the girl.  Lum takes this as well as you’d expect, and sets off at high speed down the beach with Ten in tow and Mendou following.

Shinobu is naturally alarmed at being left alone, and more so when the giants appears behind her to tell her that her bath is ready.  Meanwhile, on the beach, the old woman calls out to Mendou, and he carries her back to the inn on his back.  She tries taking a bite of his shoulder, but he’s too tough for her teeth to penetrate.

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Shinobu realizes that the bath smells of fish and gets out; unseen behind her, a hand comes out of the water and grips the rim.  She puts on a towel (with a very quick boob shot) and discovers a basin filled with something white and a card instructing her to rub it on her skin after her bath.

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A menacing shadow appears behind her, the lights go out, and she turns to see the giant looming over her (as her towel slips off).  Back at the beach, Ataru and the girl hold hands as she explains that she’s not the owner’s daughter, just a maid.  She says that her fancy clothes are just to attract customers, and that she always gets stuck with leftovers, but she makes do and eats up anyway, since it’s better than nothing, no matter how unappetizing it looks (clearly aimed at Ataru).  Ataru goes in to comfort her with a hug, and she’s just about to sink her teeth in when he’s struck by lightning.  Lum hauls him away by the collar as they wave to each other.

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Back at the inn, Shinobu is agitated for some reason and packing to go home.  Mendou asks what happened, and she runs tearfully at him, saying that the giant was a Peeping Tom.  The boys swear vengeance and ask where the giant is, and she says he’s still in the bath.  Quick cut to the old woman finding him floating unconscious in the bath, securely bound with ropes.

As the group is heading down the stairs, the building begins to shake.  They assume it’s an earthquake, but we cut to the outside to see that it’s the giant clam, closing its shell.  The floating heads of the giant and old woman say that giant clams never let their prey go, the shell closes, and the gang takes realizes they’re trapped.  They don’t have time to brood, as the front door slams open, and they’re attack by a chainsaw-wielding giant and axe-wielding old woman.  The woman plunges the axe perilously close to Mendou’s groin, but then collapses due to her bad back, while the giant discovers that chainsaws conduct lightning.  Ataru tells Shinobu to use her super-strength, but she says she can’t, so he tosses Lum onto Mendou’s lap.  This sets Shinobu off, which she puts to good use on the clamshell.

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The gang charges to freedom, but pauses when it sees the girl standing outside the shell.  She turns and runs to the edge of the sea, while the group chases her and shouts not to throw her life away.  She jumps anyway, and when they reach the edge they see her standing on a shell a la Boticelli’s Venus.  Telling them not to follow her, the shell drifts off into the sunset and vanishes.  Ataru declares her a “clam fairy”.  The narrator asks the audience what YOU would do if you found a bottle with a message at the beach, and it closes on an artistic shot of the ocean.

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Changes from the manga version: The anime introduces the giant clam closing, and the capper at the end is the giant and old woman on a shell as well.  It also adds the bit about the inn’s phone being out of order.  Apart from that they’re very close.

Thoughts: This one’s a real builder; it sets up a fairly simple situation in the first half, then knocks it over in the second half as things go crazy.  As a result most of the funniest stuff is after the eyecatch (corresponding, as it usually does, to the chapter break in the manga).  It follows the pattern of most of the recent episodes by closely following the manga, so most of the jokes are Takahashi’s.

I found the decision to add the line about the phone being out of order kind of odd, because it either suggests that Ataru faked the phone call to put one over on Mendou and Ten (which would entirely fit the argument they’re having) or else tips its hand that something strange is going on fairly early. (The bottles turning up as they do is odd, but doesn’t feel outright impossible, especially since it’s pretty clearly important as plot setup.)

We haven’t had any fanservice in a while, but like the previous episode, it’s in the manga, it comes from the same place (bathing) and is related to the story.  (As someone who started watching anime in the late ’80s, I miss when shower scenes were the fanservice of choice, rather than panty shots.) The boob shot isn’t in the manga, but it goes by really quickly.

Speaking of Shinobu, she gets a rare chance to outshine Lum in an ensemble episode here–she’s the focus of one of the plot threads while Lum is offscreen chasing Ataru, and the anime adds the scene of her saving everyone at the end.  It also demonstrates why being created to suffer is Shinobu’s lot in life: she’s funny when she’s angry or upset or resigned and world-weary, not when she’s satisfied (though I don’t know if we’ve ever seen her satisfied).  She’s the Charlie Brown of the series, in other words.  Compare Mendou’s scene, which involves him being unflappable (although this quality also makes him funny when he loses it) and Ataru’s, which has him going after a woman and Lum interrupting him.  Takahashi later gives her some plot threads of her own, but that’s a long way down the line.

Next episode: Mendou’s greatest rival challenges him to an epic game of baseball!

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