The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 76: “The Fire Fightin’ Mama Arrives!”

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Episode 76: “The Fire Fightin’ Mama Arrives!”

Original airdate: July 13, 1983

Corresponding manga chapters: “My Mom the Firefighter parts 1-2”, volume 16, chapters 3-4 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapters 160-161

Major character introduced: Ten’s mother

Summary: In Ataru’s room, he, Lum, Ten, and (randomly) Kotatsu Neko are gathered reverently around the first watermelon of the year.  They engage in a brief burst of celebration, and after forbidding the use of superpowers, Ataru tosses it up to scrum for the first piece.  In the living room below, Mr. Moroboshi sees the ceiling shaking and suggests to his wife that she should have sliced it first, but she’s just watching her stories.  Upstairs, Ataru stands atop the vanquished Ten and gloats while clutching the melon.  Ten wriggles free and takes his revenge in the usual manner.

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After the watermelon puffs into steam, Ataru and Ten launch into a thrown-object-vs-flame duel, not noticing a strange glowing object in the sky.  Lum stops Ten from roasting Ataru with a blow to the head, and Ten protests that he’s a good boy.  Ataru isn’t buying it, and demands to know what sort of twisted parenting led to Ten being dumped on another family without even stopping by to say hello.  Ten says that his mother’s too busy helping his father to visit an idiot.

Their argument is interrupted by a bright glow from outside the window, and a strange, small figure marching toward them from it.  It’s a small robot, and when Ten sees it his eyes get big and he whispers “M…mama…”

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While Ten reads the note the robot gave him, Ataru chews it out for being a bad parent, which reaches its climax when it explodes–a true sign of irresponsibility in Ataru’s eyes.  Ten explains that it’s his mother’s messenger robot; the letter says that her work is taking her near Earth, and she hopes he’s not bothering Lum or her husband, because she’ll be there in 2 or 3–we don’t hear the unit, but it’s apparently seconds (rels?), because everyone’s knocked over in another burst of light.  Ataru’s parents rush upstairs to see a series of holes through the upstairs walls.  A voice apologizes for the miscalculation, and a flying motorcycle hoves into view, with an attractive green-haired woman on it.

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Ataru is instantly smitten, unsurprisingly, and over tea she explains that she’s a firefighter.  She asks if Ten’s been a good boy, and he answers in an oddly stilted, formal manner and awkwardly walks over to her rather than flies.  Ataru teases him about it, and Ten snaps at him in his usual manner (Ataru takes the opportunity to throw himself on Ten’s mother until Lum yanks him away and administers some electroshock).  She “pampers” him by letting him sit stiffly in her lap while she pats his head and he assures her he’s a good boy.  When she asks if he’s not carelessly breathing fire, he goes stiff before denying it.

Ataru, seeing this, asks what she thinks of pyromaniacs.  Her demeanor darkens as she denounces all pyromaniacs as evil, and demonstrates how she treats them by firing her pistol.  Ataru applauds and shoots Ten an evil grin.  When she goes downstairs to greet the inlaws, Ten collapses, exhausted.  Ataru wastes no time in demonstrating that he’s eager to take advantage of the situation by tugging on Ten’s mouth; when he prepares to retaliate, Ataru pulls out a little bell and hammer.  Downstairs, Ten’s mother is chatting with the Moroboshis when she hears the fire bell and charges into action.

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Ataru and Ten manage to convince her that there’s no fire, and confused, she flies back down to the living room.  Ataru hits Ten with the hammer a few times; Ten still hasn’t got it, and when he starts to fight back, Ataru rings the bell again.  This cycle repeats itself a couple times, until we cut to sukiyaki cooking and Ataru snickering and guffawing.  His mother reprimands him, but Ten’s mother is glad to see someone so joyful, and asks where Ten is.  Ataru suggests he’s overwhelmed with the joy of having his mother there, and she agrees to leave him alone.  On the roof, Ten is in fact overwhelmed by the conflict between wanting revenge on Ataru and wanting to be a good boy.  He eventually vents his frustrations by sounding a huge gout of fame over the rooftops.

We go to a scene on an alien world, where Ten’s mother returns home to a strange pod-house and an infant ten with his nanny-bot.  The nanny-bot says Ten has been fussy, but he clams up immediately when she offers to tell him his favorite story: Mommy vs. the pyromaniacs.

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She regales him with her account of catching five pyromaniacs that day; most of them were burned alive, but one tried to get away, so she dragged him behind her motorcycle instead.

Ten snaps awake to find himself in the closet with Lum.  He thinks back to how his mother told him the pyromaniac story every night.  Suddenly his mother pops up behind him, eyes glowing, and repeats her catchphrase: “Mommy personally sends all the pyromaniacs straight to hell!” She looks confused, then falls asleep again.

At breakfast the next morning, Ten is unfailingly polite to Mrs. Moroboshi.  His mother asks if he’s always like that; Mrs. Moroboshi starts to answer honestly, but Ten cuts her off to say that he’s always a good boy.  Ataru backs him up, saying that he never loses his temper, while his head-patting turns into uncomfortable head-grabbing.

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At school, Ataru regales the class with his impression of Ten.  Shinobu feels sorry for him, but Megane and Ataru are thrilled by the opportunity to get their own back without fear of being burned.  Ataru’s thrill turns into unholy glee, until Ten’s voice resounds from the ceiling.  Ataru reaches for the bell, only to discover that Ten has switched it out.  He slowly advances on Ataru, drawing in a huge breath, but Perm shoots something out of his nose (better not to inquire into details) that hits the bell, and the classroom is swept away by a tsunami.

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Ataru bobs to the surface to reclaim the bell.  Ten’s mother reprimands him and zooms off, annoyed.

Lunchtime comes, and under cover of the melee for melon bread Ataru slips away to answer an invitation from a secret admirer to meet in the PA room.  He bursts in, but there’s no girl, just Ten, who brought him to a soundproof room for a reason.  He’s about to exact a horrible revenge when Ataru flips on the PA and rings the bell, transmitting its sound over the campus and summoning Ten’s mother from her lunch of soba.  She shoots across town in a streak of light, and this time the water washes most of the campus away.  When she arrives in the PA room, Ataru tells her that the fire’s already been put out, to her disappointment.

At the end of the school day, Ataru receives another note from a secret admirer, this one telling him to meet by the ginkgo tree near the baseball field.  Ten hovers under the tree, preparing a pistol and wondering whether he should have used a different tactic.

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Ten recovers from his shock at having managed to overestimate Ataru and shoots him with the pistol, which fires a rope that ties him securely to the tree.  With Ataru unable to use the bell, Ten finally gets to set something on fire, that being the canopy of the tree, which quickly goes up.  Lum flies in and tries to save Ataru, but since every problem looks like a nail to her, she just winds up electrocuting him.  At that moment, Ten’s mother flies over and is ecstatic to finally have something to do.

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Ten tells Ataru to make peace with his gods, but Ataru isn’t going to give up, and by straining himself to the point of personal injury manages to rip the tree’s roots out of the ground.  Somewhat less wisely, he keeps walking toward the school, with the burning tree approaching the roof.  Fortunately, Ten’s mother arrives and douses the flames, waving her firefighting device in sheer joy over having put out a fire.  Lum gives Ten another dope thump, but the principal is inclined to let it go…until Ataru leans forward to thank Ten’s mother, and crashes the tree into the school building.

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The principal announces that Ataru’s being suspended for a week.  Ten does a victory dance, then stops, abashed, when he spots his mother; she’s just amused, though.

Changes from the manga version: This story originally ran in December-January, so there’s no watermelon and the characters are in their winter uniforms.  The onslaughts of water in the classrooms aren’t nearly so extreme.  Other than that the stories are quite close, to the point that a lot of the anime shots are modeled directly on the manga panels.

Thoughts: After the strange grimness of the previous episode, we go to one that’s laugh-out-loud hilarious (pretty much entirely down to Takahashi on this one).  Combining one character’s frustration at being unable to follow his natural impulses with another character who’s enthusiastic but oblivious is a great combination, and Ataru is the catalyst to keep things hopping.

Ten’s mother is a fun character, though I wish she had a name–they don’t even have a family name, which makes referring to her a bit awkward.  Like many of the parents in the series she’s never going to win Mother of the Year, but unlike Ran’s mother she’s at least acting in a good cause.  Ten is a brat and really shouldn’t be setting things on fire; the problem is the lack of a happy medium.  Her cheer and energy are also endearing, if occasionally alarming.

As noted in the changes section, the manga story ran in winter while the episode aired in July.  This was immediately clear to me by the presence of Kotatsu Neko in the beginning, since in July the kotatsu would be in storage (not that I’m ever going to complain about his presence).  It also isn’t much of a punishment to suspend Ataru right before summer vacation.

This is another episode (like #74) where the bits of original animation are stylistically different from the manga sections; look at Ataru’s eyes in the “blackened watermelon” still for an example.  Those aren’t Takahashi eyes.

Next episode: Ran poisons Ataru!

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