The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 80: “Panic in the Haunted Inn”

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Episode 80: “Panic in the Haunted Inn”

Original airdate: August 10, 1983

Corresponding manga chapters: “Welcome to Hotel Ghost”/”Unfinished Business”, volume 8, chapters 5-6 (Viz release)/volume 10, chapters 5-6 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapters 95-96

Minor characters introduced: Otama, old couple (“Baasan” and “Jiisan”)

Summary: The sun sets over the ocean as Ataru, Lum, Shinobu and Mendou walk along a path.  Ataru knows a place that’s not in the guidebooks, which the others hope is worth all the walking.  They eventually spot it in the distance, although it doesn’t seem to hold a lot of promise.

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No one is impressed by the look of the place, and Mendou has learned the hard way about following Ataru’s lead.  Ataru steps in and calls out, but although there are 4 pairs of shoes lined up no one responds.  Mendou is about to suggest they go to one of his family summer houses when a young woman with long black appears, kneeling in front of them.  Mendou allows as how maybe mixing with the common folk has its points, and Ataru agrees.  The group heads upstairs; Shinobu pauses and looks back, and falls down the stairs when she sees the woman standing behind them.

Upstairs, they admire the view, which includes a windchime with a Buddhist ward against evil spirits.  Shinobu stares at the woman, and finally figures out what’s been bothering her–she doesn’t have a shadow.  Before she can do anything, though, the creepy old couple that runs the inn appears at the door to greet them.

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The couple pours tea for the group, and the woman mentions how good it’ll be to have company.  Ataru wonders about that comment, since they just met the couples’ daughter (who’s not here now).  The couple are astounded, and say that Otama is back again this year.  When asked what that means, they give a lot of significant pauses before revealing that she’s…A GHOST!

(Note: The couple refer to each other as Baasan and Jiisan, which are informal versions of terms that mean “Grandmother” and “Grandmother”–roughly, “Gramma” and “Gramps”.  These aren’t their names, of course (or probably not, this being UY), but I’ll refer to them that way because it’s easier than “old man/woman”.)

That night, the teens play cards and discuss Otama–they have a hard time believing that someone like her could be a ghost, when the proprietors are so much creepier than she is.  Mendou spots Otama’s silhouette outside the door, but when he goes to talk to her, she’s vanished.  Shinobu is visibly worried, and blurts out that Otama didn’t have a shadow.  Ataru laughs, but she insists it’s true, and there’s a red-tinted flashback to that evening.  Suddenly, the overhead light goes out, and two sheet-clad figures burst in the doorway.

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In a series of flashed, still images, everyone freaks out, the girls fight back, the sheets are pulled off to reveal the owners of the inn, and everything generally goes higgledy-piggledy.  Normal time returns with Mendou trembling over the dark, and the owners explaining that they were wearing these outfits to scare off Otama, and wanted to let them know.  The couple heads out, and a confused Lum looks over to see a glowing Otama appear in the room, crying.  Lum asks if she’s really a ghost, and Otama replies in the affirmative.

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Otama explains that she’s crying out of frustration, since every summer the humans haunt her (in Soviet Russia…).  The gang is sympathetic, and the boys offer to help her scare the couple away.  The gang dress her up as a classic ghost (with the traditional triangular head bandage) and Shinobu gives her scary makeup.  She demonstrates her scary pose, then glides to the top of the stairs, followed by the other four in monstrous garb.

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(Note: According to AnimEigo’s notes, the thing on Ataru’s head is a ceramic pig for burning mosquito-repelling incense, which we saw in their room earlier in the episode.)

The crew heads downstairs and sees the couple.  Otama is scared to go out there, so Lum heads out first.  She jumps at them, to no visible effect.  Lum  jumps several more times, increasingly frustrated, until the couple produce a bunch of scary junk from their sheets and bury her in them.

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Mendou nominates Ataru to go first, but Ataru shoves him out instead.  He Draculas toward them, but when he gets into range they just throw their sheets over his head, and his phobias do the rest (they also bite him).  Otama loses her nerve and flees, and the couple take off after her, Shinobu and Ataru.  They run through several doors and finally collapse, assuming they’re safe…only to find themselves face-to-face with Jiisan, and faint.  Otama, cornered, desperately threatens the couple, but to no effect; Jiisan pulls a face and says “Boo!” and she faints as well.  The couple celebrates another victory, while in the guests’ room Otama mourns another defeat, and the four teens have taken to their futons.  Ataru encourages her to just give up.

The next morning, the crows circle the inn, and our heroes pack their bags.  The old couple startles them by appearing through a crack in the door, and asks why they’re leaving so early.  They make offers to the teens to stay, but they’re adamant, and head back along the path.  Ataru says he wishes he could have seen Otama again.  Shinobu and Mendou berate him for his lack of common sense, since ghosts don’t come out in the early morning, and Otama, tailing along, apologizes for not having common sense.  After a jump scare, she says she’d like to accompany them to the beach.  Ataru is all for it, and an argument ensues about whether hanging out with a ghost is a good idea.  Mendou also finds the idea of a swimming ghost absurd, but it appears that Ataru’s will prevails.

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(Wasn’t that the title of a Jacobean tragedy?) Ataru leads Otama into the water, with Lum following–she claims it’s because they’re dealing with a ghost. (As an aside, I’m amused that she’s wearing a one-piece, meaning that to swim she’s wearing more than she usually does.)

On the shore, Shinobu muses that Otama may still feel a connection to the sea.  Mendou shoves her face down into the sand, and we soon see that it’s because Cherry is walking past, carrying a surfboard.  They press themselves against the burning sand until he runs out into the surf, only for the first wave to deposit him right in front of them.

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He stares briefly, then announces that they smell of specter spoor.  The other three come ashore (Otama is thirsty) and Cherry pointedly stares at her, using onomatopoeia and everything.  She admits to being a ghost when asked, and Cherry announces that she’s not an evil one.  Mendou promptly shoves him aside and offers her a Coke.  She stares at it, tears in her eyes, and drops the can, weeping (Cherry promptly guzzles it) and says she wants Kakigoori (essentially a sno-cone in a bowl).  Lum speculates that it must remind her of something sad.

At the ice stand, Cherry asks Otama what attaches her to this world, and Mendou chimes in that they’ll be happy to help.  She muses whether she deserves to rest in peace, and gets up to walk toward the ocean.  The others follow (Ataru reminding Mendou that suicide isn’t really a concern), asking what she’s doing, but she shushes them and ducks down in the water.

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They watch as Sakura and Tsubame start to kiss, until a wave deposits them on the beach.  Sakura instantly grabs an umbrella and starts whaling on Ataru, naturally.  Lum intercepts her, and the couple runs away up the beach.  Sakura stops and turns to look back, her senses detecting Otama’s nature.  Tsubame picks it up as well, and they resolve that they can’t let this go.  We jump forward to after the explanation, and Otama finally comes out and says it.

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Ataru steps up and volunteers; Otama looks for a moment, then resumes weeping.  Mendou offers his services, which she considers more seriously, until crying that she doesn’t want “a brat”.  The sun sinks toward the horizon, and everyone stands around as sad music plays until Otama announces that she’s leaving.  She asks Ataru to buy her a bag of clams, thanks them for their help, walks off, turns, thanks them again, and vanishes.  Everyone looks uncomfortable, and more sad music plays.  vlcsnap-2014-10-27-21h20m05s140

Otama returns to the inn to drop off the clams.  Baasan tells her to stop bugging the customers and go rest in peace, but she sadly says that she can’t give up the joys of life, and it’ll be a long time before she can rest.

Changes from the manga version: The story is scene-for-scene the same in both versions; the melancholy of the ending is original to the anime, though.

Thoughts: This is an okay but not great story; the conceit in the first half is funny (the innkeepers haunting the ghost, and the characters failing to scare them), but the second half meanders a bit, without a really clear resolution (heightened in the anime by the punched-up tragedy).

The ending in the manga feels very different from the anime.  In the manga, she’s crying when she leaves, and it briefly appears that they’ve failed to help her; however, when she’s back in the inn, she looks reasonably happy.  Here’s the relevant section (from the Viz release, so it’s flipped):

Otama

To me, she looks reasonably cheerful in the second panel there, or at least not visibly unhappy.  Overall I read it as a classic Takahashi anticlimactic twist: the ghost appears to be miserable, they can’t help her or cheer her up, but she’s actually enjoying the attention–at the very least it’s ironic.  Her relationship with the innkeepers appears amiable.

The anime removes any ambiguity here, by streeeeetching out her departure and putting in lots of awkward pauses with sad music and characters staring sadly.  The tone of the final scene is in no way cheerful or amiable, which makes it harder to tell exactly what we’re supposed to take from it–her words don’t seem to fit at all, even as irony.

I’m a fan of P.G. Wodehouse (this is going somewhere), and one of my favorite scenes is in The Mating Season.  Bertie has been planning a hilarious knockabout cross-talk act at the village fete, as one of Pat and Mike, the Irish labourers.  However, he has to drop out, and both the performers are lovelorn and miserable, and here’s how it comes out:

“Hullo, Pat,” said Catsmeat in a dull, toneless voice.
“Hullo, Mike,” said Gussie, with equal moodiness. “How’s your father?”
“He’s not enjoying himself just now.”
“What’s he doing?”
“Seven year,” said Catsmeat glumly, and went on in the same depressed way to speak of his brother Jim, who, having obtained employment as a swimming teacher, was now in deep water.
[…]
At first I couldn’t think what the thing reminded me of.  Then I got it.  At the time when I was engaged to Florence Craye and she was trying to jack up my soul, one of the methods she employed to this end was to take me on Sunday nights to see Russian plays; the sort of thing where the old home is being sold up and people stand around saying how sad it all is.  If I had to make a criticism of Catsmeat and Gussie, I should say that they got too much of the Russian spirit into their work.  It was a relief to one and all when the poignant slice of life drew to a close.

That’s kind of how I feel about sequences like that; not to that degree, of course, and it doesn’t ruin the episode for me, but there is a certain feel of directorial imposition to it.  Adapting a story from the manga and interpolating scenes that fit the original mood is one thing; creating an original, serious story is another; but taking a story from the manga and changing its sensibility from the mangaka’s to the director’s is something else again, and it’s the hardest to justify from a creative standpoint.

Next episode: Memories of Ryuunosuke’s mother!

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