Episode 85: “Galactic Teacher CAO-2 Strikes Back!”
Original airdate: September 21, 1983
Corresponding manga chapter: “Cosmo Teacher CAO-2”, volume 18, chapter 1 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 180
Minor character introduced: CAO-2, construction robots
Summary: We open on a starry sky, and pan down to a field of enormous spikes. One topples, and we see that it’s the work of a crew of construction robots. The foreman is contacted with an important message: “God” is coming. He curses having to work with organic lifeforms, and walks through a crowd of Real Weirdies who point and gibber at something in the skies. We pan up to a rectangular form (how they could resist playing “Also Sprach Zarathustra” at this point I dunno) attached to a spike, and fade to white.
In a cafe, Lum, Benten, Ran and Oyuki are gathered over parfaits. Oyuki is treating them, because she has news: Planet Uni is being colonized. (“Uni”=”sea urchin”.) Apparently they’ve found organic compounds beneath the giant calcium spikes. The penny drops, and Benten realizes that CAO-2 has probably been found, causing general consternation among everyone but Oyuki, who stays frosty as always. Accusations are thrown around, Ran protesting that she’s innocent and was led astray by bad company in the form of Lum. While Ran and Benten argue, Lum thinks back on CAO-2, the robot teacher shaped like a giant eraser.
She remembers the four of them in his class in their youth, and her, Benten and Ran being punished for playing around in class. (As a giant eraser, he pounds himself on them and leaves them covered in chalk dust.) In the lunchroom, they plot vengeance, and we jump forward to them suspending a 500-ton weight over the doorway. He walks in and the weight drops on his head, but he doesn’t even notice, and compliments them on how quiet they are. However, when the class rises to bow, the weight falls on his desk and he launches into punishment mode. After school, the three troublemakers grouse over their punishment, and that Oyuki didn’t try to stop them.
Jump back to the present, where Ataru and Mendou have abruptly joined them. The theme continues: Ran protests that she never wanted to take part, and Benten complains that Oyuki never tried to stop them (despite her claims to the contrary). In the past again, the girls wait for CAO-2 to come around a corner, and when he does Benten wraps her chain around his ankle and Lum channels electricity into it.
Benten kicks him, and he falls forward on the three of them. In the present, Benten accuses him of faking, but Oyuki says he really short-circuited. Mendou is stunned by this, and Ataru jokes that they should have shot a missile at him, but draws up short when Lum says that they tried it. Another flashback shows them doing exactly that, and CAO-2 emerging unscathed when the smoke clears. The threesome run away into the docking bay, where Oyuki lets them into a spaceship. Benten holds to take off until he’s as close as possible, but he’s likewise unhurt by the jet backwash, and launches into space after them.
They find themselves approaching Planet Uni, and try to lose him in the spikes, but he stays on their tail. Finally, the ship dives, and CAO-2 is caught upside-down on a spike.
In the present, Mendou is again taken aback that they just left him there. Oyuki says that it’s all the past now, but Benten insists that he’ll still be nursing a grudge. Benten is quickly proved correct, as a rectangular shape flies through space to Earth, toward Japan, toward Tokyo, and through the window of the cafe. It hits everyone but Oyuki, and then flies off again.
Everyone agrees that yeah, that’s their teacher. Oyuki adds that this was supposed to be the end of the story, but…eyecatch!
We return to Onsen-Mark leaving a store, in a good mood and carrying a large bag of rice. Ran comes around the corner to see him patting CAO-2 on the back, and is properly horrified. In her UFO, she explains the situation to the others (including Mendou and Ataru, who pop up unannounced again). Benten proposes that if they want to get him, this is their last chance, and since they’re not kids any more they’ll have the advantage. Lum says that they need to do this or be branded losers forever, and the group agrees.
That night, Ataru and Mendou climb a telephone pole onto the roof of Onsen-Mark’s apartment, Ataru gloating that they can take out two teachers at once.
The boys jump in through the window, shout a string of insults at Onsen-Mark, and run out, CAO-2 closely behind them. At Tomobiki High, the girls wait in the clock tower, wondering what’s taking so long. They look out the window to see Onsen-Mark hauling Ataru into the school, CAO-2 behind them. This wasn’t the plan, but it’s too late to go back now.
In the school conference room, Ataru is manacled to a chair. Onsen-Mark explains that this is a Forced Teaching System that CAO-2 let him use out of concern for the students.
Lum listens through the door, and when she hears that this will turn Ataru into a model student, blasts her way in. She grabs Ataru, breaks him free through the judicious application of lightning, and flies off with CAO-2 tottering after her. The chair begins to spark, and sets up an enormous chain reaction that blows out all the windows on the second floor. Benten knows the game is on, and flies her motorcycle into the school. She and Lum pass each other, and she pulls out a rifle and fires as soon as she sees CAO-2. He sidesteps (the shot goes through a hole and causes an alarmingly large explosion in the distance) and launches himself at her, leading to a chase through the school that culminates in him pushing her through the roof to fall to the ground.
CAO-2 floats down to a window and sees his next target. He corners Ran, and when she pulls out a bomb, calls her bluff and grabs it from her hand.
He gives her a spanking while she protests that she didn’t want to do it. In the hallway, Oyuki helps Benten to her feet just as CAO-2 rounds the corner. They greet each other cordially, and asks where Lum is; when she says she doesn’t know, he pats her on the head and tells her to be good, then moves on.
Lum and Ataru are hiding in the science room, Ataru freaking out that the eraser is unstoppable and game over, man! Game over! CAO-2 appears in the doorway and advances on Lum. She glows blue with lightning, and he responds by lighting up red, while Ataru just scuttles out of the way. Inspiration strikes when he sees a chalkboard eraser, and goes to get it, his shirt catching on something along the way. He calls out to CAO-2, turning it into a hostage situation.
CAO-2 begs Lum to tell Ataru to release the innocent eraser, and expresses disappointment that she’s been hanging out with a lameoid like Ataru. Ataru retaliates by slapping the eraser against the blackboard, but CAO-2 continues badmouthing him, concluding by describing him as a “space bombadier beetle”. (I don’t have the liner notes to this disc so I don’t know if that’s a pun or just an odd insult.) Ataru is insulted, and throws the eraser at CAO-2, only to realize that he’s lost his hostage. Lum sees her chance and leaps to electrocute him, just as Ataru sees that he accidentally turned on the gas jet.
The smoke clears to reveal CAO-2 lying on his back amongst the rubble, and as it turns out, atop Lum and Ataru. He repeatedly rises and drops himself on them, saying that he’ll always be there to punish them when needed and that he’s had a lot of fun, then zooms off. Ataru and Lum get up, covered in chalk dust, and are joined by the other three. They reflect that they can’t beat their teacher, after all, and there’s a long, slow pan out followed by a shot of CAO-2 flying into space.
Changes from the manga version: Apart from the opening sequence with the construction robots, the first segment is a direct adaptation of the manga; everything in the second segment is new.
Thoughts: This is more like it. After a run of shaky episodes, this one’s solid; no animation issues, and a mix of adapted and new material that comes together into an entertaining whole. (There are a couple of bobbles, like Mendou disappearing from the second half of the episode, but let’s not quibble.)
Unlike some stories, the manga chapter adapted here was well-suited to extension. The manga’s ending is the same as the episode chapter break (CAO-2 popping in to punish them and flying off), which is on the abrupt side but in keeping with the Takahashi style of absurd anticlimax. There’s virtually no interaction between CAO-2 and the other characters in the present, which leaves the field open for more story. The new material has the same mood as the adapted material, so there’s no stylistic clash. All in all, a much better episode than the past couple.
Comparing this episode to the previous one does show one issue that sometimes arises in the original episodes: One of Takahashi’s strengths is coming up with colorful characters to base a story around, though not every story introduces someone new. In comparison, the animators don’t create a lot of memorable new characters (leaving aside minor characters to move the story along, like the construction robots in this one), and very few recurring ones. The only memorable characters I can think of up to this point that are original to the anime are the characters from Only You. They did develop some recurring characters, in the form of the Stormtroopers, but in most cases that’s just giving names to background characters with familiar designs–Megane’s the only one who took on a life of his own. The lack of new characters can be a weakness–the killer potatoes from the last episode didn’t have any personality, and might have been more interesting if there were a vengeful potato spirit leading them, or something of the kind.
Next episode: The characters travel back in time to discover the roots of Megane’s phobias!