Episode 90: “Lady Ryuunosuke!”
Original airdate: November 23, 1983
Corresponding manga chapter: “Hardship, the Path of Womanhood”, volume 15, chapter 6 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 152
Minor characters introduced: Freshman girls, florist
Summary: In the Tomobiki schoolyard, four-and-twenty first-year girls are playing at the ball, and in the window sits Ryuunosuke, crush object of them all. She catches a volleyball gone wide and tosses it back, and to her surprise three of the girls fight over possession of it. She turns and sees Onsen-Mark, who remarks that she’s popular with a lot of the first-year girls and asks her a serious question: does she want to be a girl? (Note: take the jokes about “making a woman out of her” as read, since they’ll run throughout the episode.)
This gets him punched into the hallway, as she leaps at him and shouts her catchphrase (“I AM a girl!”), to the delight of the first-years.
They run to see what’s going on. Nearby, Lum and Ataru wonder what’s going on, and Perm and Megane fill them in. Ataru is appalled, but no one else takes him seriously.
Inside the office, Mr. Fujinami, Onsen-Mark and the principal meet to discuss the situation. Onsen-Mark feels that she could stand to express a bit more femininity, while Mr. Fujinami insists that she’s a boy, despite the evidence to the contrary. The principal intervenes, suggesting that Ryuunosuke stay with Onsen-Mark for a week so he can instruct her. Onsen-Mark raises the question of whether it’s appropriate for him to stay with a female student, but since she’s a boy the principal is sure it won’t be an issue.
Outside, Onsen-Mark approaches Ryuunosuke and suggests he train her. She originally thinks he means in martial arts, but he sets her straight, managing this time to make it clearer what he means before being clobbered. He gives a long and stirring speech, suggesting that she’s the one standing in the way of her own femininity. At the end he becomes so impassioned he’s struck by lightning, and swears to make her a girl who’ll look good in a sailor suit. The last phrase breaks through to her at last.
Her passion causes Onsen-Mark to be struck by lightning again, and from the fascinated crowd of girls her father looks on.
Inside the school store, Ryuunosuke packs while her father tries (unsuccessfully) to entice her to stay with oden containing octopus and boiled egg. He resorts to begging and passive-aggression, and when that doesn’t work, violence, slamming a mat over her head to pin her arms to her side.
Meanwhile, Onsen-Mark shops for flowers in one of the more embarrassingly-labeled stores in the series.
He’s waited on by someone who’s probably a caricature of one of the animators, taking a bundle of roses and some chrysanthemums. Returning to his apartment, he greets who he thinks is Ryuunosuke, but who turns out to be her father wearing one of her uniform jackets (over his usual union suit and back brace). Mr. Fujinami claims to be Ryuunosuke, and after Onsen-Mark hurriedly pedals back to the school, keeps popping up every place he looks with the same claim.
Eventually, they wind up in the gym, where Mr. Fujinami spins a long story in which Ryuunosuke goes off to find “him”self and winds up going against Moby Dick. Eventually Ryuu bursts from the floor (her arms bound to her side) to complain.
The next day in the classroom, Ataru goes to greet Ryuunosuke, who’s wearing a Walkman and not paying attention to him. Putting on the headphones, he hears Onsen-Mark reciting “The Edicts of Womanhood”, which she had to listen to all night. Ataru congratulates her on pursuing womanhood, and she punches him into the wall, saying that she’s sleep-deprived and no one better mess with her. He tells her that he’d be a better mentor, since he’s been pursuing women all his life and has picked up a thing or two. Mendou steps in to say that he’d be a better choice, and while the two of them are bickering Shinobu and Lum pull Ryuu aside.
They tell her that she should be learning from girls, starting with her mode of speech. Lum volunteers as a model, but Shinobu recommends against learning her odd means of speech (all the “-tchas”, no doubt) and they begin to bicker as well. The boys pull her back, and Ataru tries to train her to talk girly by saying “atashi” rather than “ore” to refer to herself. She makes a game try, but can’t bring herself to do it.
She clobbers Ataru in frustration, then remembers that ladies aren’t supposed to use violence and that everyone is staring at her. She tries again, and goes into an odd reverie where girl versions of Ataru and Mendou lob volleyballs at her. Onsen-Mark breaks them out of it (apparently they were acting it out in the middle of class), and asks if anything’s bothering her; she thinks to herself that she’s losing it.
Cut to her and Onsen-Mark in a cafe, where they meet with Ran, who’s been engaged as a special girliness coach. She demonstrates girly body language, which Ryuu feels she can’t emulate. Onsen-Mark gives another pep talk, this one full of cliches about not giving up, and Ryuunosuke asks for a repetition of the demonstration.
It doesn’t go well.
Girliness Coach #2, Sakura, meets them at a Beefbowl restaurant and gives her opinion: femininity is a construct based on one’s intelligence, which is best built by eating a lot, and thus she orders more food. Meanwhile, at the school store, a group of girls (led by Shinobu) meet with Mr. Fujinami to find out what’s going on, and agree that this can’t go on. They appear en masse in Onsen-Mark’s classroom and announce that they’re boycotting his class in protest of him trying to force Ryuunosuke into a stereotype of femininity. A chastened Onsen-Mark leaves the school, the words of the principal echoing in his ears: he shouldn’t go overboard. He wonders if he’s gone too far, but Ryuunosuke meets him outside the walls, asking if they’re gonna resume training. Cue…training montage!
(Note that in picture #1 you can see the jacket Onsen-Mark wears in the manga, and in #3 she’s learning the wearing-a-virtual-kimono run). Finally they step off a train, Onsen-Mark in a suit and Ryuunosuke dressed like Eliza Doolittle in the Ascot section of My Fair Lady, for those who hadn’t figured it out yet.
He tells her that she’s reached the final test of her training, and they arrive at…a professional wrestling match? They sit in the audience, looking incredibly out-of-place, and Onsen-Mark tells her that if she can sit still the whole match, she’ll have reached 100% womanhood. She manages to keep it together until one of the wrestlers throws another into the audience and between her and Onsen-Mark. The first wrestler (Beefbowl Man) jumps after the other, and tears Ryuunosuke’s skirt when he lands. She starts to lose it, but Onsen-Mark tells her that a lady must just learn to suck it up rather than be violent. Ataru, her father, Shinobu, Mendou, and finally Lum pop up around her to contradict this.
She clobbers one of the wrestlers, then realizes that she blew her chance at womanhood. This ticks her off to the point that she punches the wrestler again, and she and her friends basically go to town on them and the crowd, while Onsen-Mark futilely tries to stop her.
In school the next day, she charges out of the store toward class, and encounters Onsen-Mark, whose arm is in a sling. They exchange glances, then pass each other; when past, she says “Good morning” and sprints down the hall and out of sight.
Changes from the manga version: All that’s carried over from the manga is the two minutes or so after the eyecatch, where the other students try to teach Ryuunosuke. The manga story starts with her father reminding her how her every attempt to act feminine just shows how masculine she is. The scene in class more or less goes the same way up until the volleyball bit, which is just Ataru expressing his frustration. They try to show her how not to respond with violence by chaining her wrists together, but since Ataru’s technique is to press himself on her to test her, her natural instincts come through. Her father appears to ask what’s going on, and when they tell him drops this bombshell:
This breaks everyone’s collective brain. (Note: This is a double-page spread that doesn’t match up; he hasn’t been sliced vertically by a sharp katana.)
Thoughts: I have to evaluate this one in two different ways: on its own and as an adaptation. On its own it’s okay, although the animators don’t have nearly as good a grasp on Ryuu as they do on Ten. Too much of the focus seems to be on Onsen-Mark, and some bits (like the Moby Dick sequence) are just strange filler. I’d have done more with the various coaches; the bit with Sakura just doesn’t go anywhere.
As an adaptation…well, I don’t fully agree with Tomobiki-cho that it “bastardized Rumiko Takahashi’s original vision”, but it at least cast doubt on its parentage. (It’s better than the next episode, but we’ll cover that when the time comes.) The core of the manga story is Ryuu’s friends trying to teach her but her being unable to overcome her instincts, and hilarity ensues. While there are elements of that in the animated story, the inner monologue we get is mostly Onsen-Mark’s, not Ryuunosuke’s, so that thread is de-emphasized. In the manga, she can’t overcome her true self, while in the anime she learns to fake it through repression until put in an odd situation and going through extreme provocation. Those are not the same character arc.
The animated version is also an example of the fine line that Ryuunosuke’s concept sometimes walks, and in this case stumbles over it a bit. Is Ryuu trying to live up to societal stereotypes for her gender, or trying to touch a part of her that never had a chance to develop due to the lack of a female role model and an over-controlling father? Is she denying her true self or trying to expand who she is? I think the anime version leans a bit more to the former in both cases, though at least at the end it comes down on the side of her expressing herself in a non-stereotyped manner. (Although practically every woman in the series is either overtly violent or good at keeping up a facade while still messing with people, such as Oyuki and Ryoko,, so it’s hard to say what the in-universe stereotype actually is.) There’s also the factor that Takahashi is female and the animators are primarily male, so I trust her vision for the character more than theirs (over and above her being the original creator, that is).
The animation is uneven in very odd ways. There are times when it just gets off-model and cheap in ways it has in previous episodes, though not as badly (mostly in crowd scenes, such as the girls confronting Onsen-Mark). Then there are characters who look good but from a different design aesthetic than Takahashi’s–look at the first-year girls at the beginning or the little girl at the end:
The first image looks like it’s out of a shoujo series, and the girl in the second could have been based on an Akira Toriyama design. Without the credits at hand, my guess would be that with Beautiful Dreamer in production multiple teams worked on different parts, which would also account for the meanderings in the story.
Next episode: The Miss Tomobiki Contest!