Episode 89: “Lum & Ataru–A Night Alone”
Original airdate: November 9, 1983
Corresponding manga chapter: “A Night Alone”, volume 18, chapter 4 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 183
Minor character introduced: Minion #23
Summary: Outside a supermarket, Mrs. Moroboshi stands before a spinning drum. It spits out a red marble: sixth place, a package of tissues. She complains that she’s entered 30 times and always won tissues, and maybe it’s a fix (not considering that she’s provably unlucky, or that with a libidinous teenage boy in the house that many tissues won’t go to waste). As she walks to another supermarket, she muses about how she’d like to go on a trip. She pauses to shout out her catchphrase:
and returns to her woolgathering. She gets a lottery coupon at the next supermarket, with a trip for a married couple as the main prize. She starts to discard it, but decides to go for it, uttering a Buddhist chant and calling down the lightning to receive…the 1st place purple marble!
Back at the dinner table, Ataru puts his foot down and insists that they’re not going, but is completely ignored. Even though it’s just a 2-day trip to Atami (which the subtitles compare to “a trip to Ogdensburg, New York”), they’re still thrilled to be getting away. Ataru continues on the theme of who’s going to feed him, and they finally snap that they’re going no matter what.
At school, a bitter Ataru flashes back to his parents leaving the house dressed like they’re going to a 1930s detective convention.
Back in the present, Lum asks Ataru what he wants to eat, and he rattles off a list of super-spicy foods. They don’t have sarcasm on Planet Oni, so Lum misses it and dutifully takes down the list. Ataru snaps at her, and when Mendou comes over to ask why she’s cooking, she explains that the Moroboshis will be away. Mendou and the Stormtroopers make the logical connection. Lum is excited, and is surprised to see that the others don’t feel the same way.
Lum asks if he’s done something wrong, and Mendou replies that he’s about to. A voice calls out not to worry: Ten is here (with helmet and bouncy hammer) to keep an eye on him, at the Moroboshis’ behest. Ataru responds by picking him up and hitting on him, to the confusion of Lum and the joy of any Tenaru (Atten?) shippers out there.
After school, Lum asks Ataru if he’s going straight home. He says he has something to take care of, and she tells him not to ruin his appetite. He agrees, and goes off thinking how simple-minded Lum is, unaware that he has a blinking red light stuck to his back. The Stormtroopers watch from around the corner; Perm says that maybe it’s okay, since they’ve had other chances, but Megane insists that he can’t be stupid enough to miss his opportunities forever, and begins to cackle as he imagines Ataru in chains. From a distance, Mendou smiles to himself, and picks up his phone.
Back at the Moroboshis’, Lum prepares the dinner Ataru asked for.
Even Ten is alarmed by the bubbling red substance in the wok, and even more so when Lum ignites it by tossing in a match. We cut to a more normal meal, which is sitting in front of Ataru in a diner. Before he can dig in, he’s greeted by a large man in sunglasses and a dress, who elbow drops him and carries him into a black limo, which peels out. Kakugari and Chibi recognize the car, and back in the clock tower a shirtless Megane complains that Mendou’s involvement leaves him with no way to work off his tension.
(For an episode about Ataru and Lum being alone together, the potential smutfics are coming from some very unexpected directions.) He jumps around a bit and knocks the rafters down on the Stormtroopers.
Ataru comes to, balls and chains on his wrists and Mendou shining a lamp in his eyes. Mendou says he has to stay here (“here” being the Mendou family dungeon) until Ataru’s parents get back. Ataru’s happy to stay, since he doesn’t want to be alone with Lum. Mendou says that minion #23 (the guy in the dress) will keep an eye on him, and stops to ask #23 how long he’s going to wear that outfit. #23 replies that it’s a lifestyle choice, which Ataru and Mendou handle badly.
(Sigh.) The light on Ataru’s back starts blinking, and he’s yanked backwards to the wall, then through it, up through the ground and into the air, dragged along while holding onto a telephone pole, and through the front door into his house.
She sends upstairs to take a bath…for two. Ataru jumps to conclusions, but it turns out that he’s bathing with Ten (who has a towel decorated with what appears to be the main character of Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece). Ataru sighs with relief.
We see about 45 seconds of a soap opera Ataru’s watching, until Ten turns it off and Lum brings out dinner. Ataru is having none of it in either the literal or figurative sense, until he sees that Lum is starting to tear up. He flashes on the character in the soap opera saying that he fell in love with the woman’s eyes, and looking into Lum’s he changes direction. Lum pours him what appears to be beer but is actually just barley tea.
Meanwhile, Mendou and #23 crawl under their floor and drill a hole in it to raise a periscope and see what’s going on. Mendou sees what appears to be Lum and Ataru kissing (but is just her pushing food on him), and bursts through the floor, followed by the Stormtroopers coming through the wall. Mendou assures Lum that he’s there to protect her, but she gets upset at the meal she worked so hard on being ruined, and goes all wrath-of-god on the room.
Ataru sidles over and says that they’ll just have to have an instant meal, but she tosses the remaining bit of food in his mouth, setting his mouth afire. He collapses to the floor, and Lum suggests that it’s time for bed. Mendou and the Stormtroopers are seized by a vision of Ataru as an older businessman, forcing himself upon the innocent young Lum, and wind up tossing him through the wall. They remind Lum that they’ve vowed to protect her purity, but she’s not particular eager to have it protected.
This breaks the brains of the Stormtroopers, who go into a bizarre reverie in which they turn into various characters from Return of the Jedi while “Uchuu wa Taihen da!” plays. (The subs just say “You know the lyrics by now!”.) When they snap out of it, Lum makes it worse by insisting that everyone leave, since they can’t “get comfy” with others there.
Megane finally shuts down entirely, and Ataru begins to worry about what might happen if he crosses the line: their parents forcing him to do the right thing, him being officially yoked to Lum forever, and if he has an affair…zap! Suddenly he has a rare flash of genius. Right now there’s a line between them, and if he looks at another girl, zap! If he crosses the line and then works at another girl, zap! Since he’s screwed either way, he might as well go for it! They charge upstairs, followed by Mendou and the Stormtroopers. M and the S break down the door to stop them, but wind up running straight through the room and out the open door to the balcony.
Lum closes the curtains and says she’s ready. Ataru nervously asks where Ten is, and she says she bribed him with chocolate to sleep downstairs. Lum sets up the bed, while Ataru dithers nervously. She calls to him, and the lights go out. Seeing this from below, the Stormtroopers rage impotently, while Mendou draws his katana and decapitates a chrysanthemum, which is doubtless symbolic. We get a series of images of the darkened interior of the house: Ten asleep in the living room; Megane still frozen in disbelief; and in the bedroom, Lum and Ataru under the covers of the futon, her asleep happily, him awake and uncomfortable. She kicks off the covers, and we see that it’s due to what he’s wearing:
She lets out little jolts of electricity while she sleeps, while Ataru tries to reach her with his head, the only part of his body he can move.
Changes from the manga version: The story starts with Ataru being told about the trip, goes to the scenes at and outside the school, and straight to Lum cooking and using the thing on Ataru’s back to pull him out of the cafe, with none of the business with Mendou and #23 (thankfully). Things more or less proceed the same way from there, though as usual the role of the Stormtroopers is expanded (and naturally there are no Jedi outbursts).
Thoughts: This episode has a good skeleton taken from the manga, and a lot of very uneven filler material. The stuff with Ataru’s mother in the beginning is solid, but #23 touches a lot of embarrassing and dated stereotypes, and the soap opera and Star Wars material is just self-indulgent. (Particularly the latter, since there’s at least a callback to the soap opera later.)
There’s an important turning point for Ataru and Lum’s relationship here, and it’s not the very Takahashi twist at the ending: this is the episode where Ataru Gets A Clue. For a long time he was firmly against being alone or close to Lum, sometimes vehemently so (her tendency to electrocute him as a sign of affection didn’t help). There were some episodes where he realized that he had deeper feelings for her, but he still didn’t show many signs of wanting to move to the next level. Here he finally makes the connection of “I’m a massive horndog and I have a hot, willing girl, so why not?”. His nervousness when things finally start happening is a nice, believable touch.
Next episode: Onsen-Mark trains Ryuunosuke to be a girl!