Episode 91: “Document! Who’ll Be Miss Tomobiki?”
Original airdate: November 30, 1983
Corresponding manga chapters: “Miss Tomobiki Contest: Prelude/Preliminary Round/Swimsuit Competition/Fighting Females/Results Competition”, volume 17, chapters 7-11 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapters 186-190
Minor characters introduced: Eiko & Keiko, various characters from nearby high schools
Summary: It’s a dark and stormy…afternoon, and Onsen-Mark walks the aisles of classroom 2-4 while his students silently take a test. Perm passes a small handful of notes to Ataru, but Onsen-Mark intercepts them. When he asks about them, Ataru tosses them into his mouth, but Onsen-Mark smacks him upside the head and he spits them out. They turn out to contain the names of various girls (including “Rumiko”). Megane starts recording the results on the board. Shinobu and Onsen-Mark both demand to know what’s going on, and the principal (and Kotatsu Neko) pop up to check in as well. The principal tells Ataru to keep reading, but it turns out that he swallowed the rest of the slips, and we get one of those questionable-out-of-context lines in explanation.
The principal rhapsodizes about how many pretty girls are in this school (he says that there aren’t any unattractive ones, although that actually varies widely based on who’s drawing the background characters) and that sooner or later one naturally wants to rank them. Shinobu takes exception to the idea of ranking girls on their faces, but Ataru and Mendou assure her that they’re interested in every other part of their bodies as well. The principal builds his spiritual pressure to the point that he’s surrounded by flames, and he declares that what matters is not just appearance but power and skill, and so there shall be a competition to crown…Miss Tomobiki!
Outside the school, a large banner is posted over the rules for the preliminary round: there will be a prize package worth ¥150,000. Inside classroom 2-4, the Mendou and the Stormtroopers assure Lum that they’ll vote for her. Shinobu’s friends encourage her to enter; she initially demurs, but seeing the attention Lum is getting lights a fire in her eyes. Outside, Ran goes through her stock of love letters to find potential voters. In the infirmary, a student tells Sakura that she’ll have his support, and thinking of the prize money she agrees to join. Outside on the lawn, Ryuunosuke mulls over what a shallow school this is, but when a group of girls is told that they can vote too, they announce that Ryuunosuke will have their collective vote. And in the principal’s office, the principal muses that now things won’t be dull for a while.
According to the narrator, this is an understatement, and the preliminary round launches in force, with all the factions begin campaigning. Lum is supported by the Stormtroopers, of course. Ran, alarmingly, is supported by a group of lolicons called “The Sun’s Golden Diapers”. Sakura’s supporters are mostly student government. Ryuunosuke has the freshmen girls, while Shinobu is brought in as a dark horse by the senior boys and the anti-Ryuunosuke senior girls. They rough up some of the freshmen, who switch to supporting Shinobu, but a faction of boys come out in favor of Ryuunosuke. She and her father both have reasons for wanting her to compete.
Part of Lum and Ran’s factions form a splinter group supporting the twins Eiko and Keiko. Their supporters band together against this new threat, and the other factions team up to attack them, in the form of a school fair with a Lum-and-Ran shooting gallery. Things start to turn ugly, and the principal moves up the preliminary round by one day while appointing Ataru as head judge in order to shift blame. Ataru announces the finalists, who unsurprisingly are the five recurring characters and not Eiko or Keiko (everyone except Lum is met by general rumblings of disbelief). He adds that the finals will be in one week, and there are stirrings as a mysterious woman looks on from the crowd.
On the top floor of a cafe, the “Rose Buds”, the No.1 girls of the nearby high schools, meet to discuss the situation. They compete among themselves to determine the “Queen of Queens”, and having another No.1 girl would throw off the balance of power. Butsumetsu’s No.1 convinces Ran to join them, and they hatch a plot in which Butsumetsu#1 offers to date Ataru if he makes Ran the winner (he agrees, of course). Shakko#1 offers her support to childhood friend Shinobu, and pursuant to their plot makes the same offer to Ataru re: dating. Similar alliances form between Sanrinbo#1 and Ryuunosuke, and Taian Vo-Tech#1 and Lum.
The factions at Tomobiki have learned about the outside interference and step up their game. The Golden Diapers deliver Ataru a box of Ran’s cookies. Ryuunosuke’s supporters give him a list of 100 girls who’ve agreed to give him chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Megane gives him a ticket for an overnight trip, one of a pair with Butsumetsu#3 (she’s supporting Lum rather than Ran as a power play against #1). Shinobu’s supporters say that she’ll have a relationship with him, Lum or no Lum, if he selects her. And the student government blackmails him with images of the previous bribes, but Ataru counter-blackmails him with a recording of the attempted blackmail. He mentions that he wouldn’t mind a nice dinner with Sakura, however.
Speaking of Sakura, she’s slurping down a huge amount of ramen when she’s approached by the owner, who offers to give her a boost in exchange for using her image on his posters. (It turns out Ataru was the one who filled in the owner on the situation.)
Shinobu advertises okonomiyaki, Ran a bakery, Lum Ebiya (another restaurant, apparently–there’s a taiyaki on the poster), and Ryuunosuke oden. Megane’s faction try tearing down Sakura’s posters, but that just increases her perceived value. Soon combat becomes a daily event, as the adjoining neighborhoods are drawn into the scuffle. Finally the day of the final round arrives!
…Or not. The finalists are gathered in a wrestling ring, but Onsen-Mark runs in to tell the principal that he can’t find Ataru anywhere in town. The principal vaults into the ring (looking not unlike the Dean in Community) but trips on the ropes. He rights himself and announces that the judge has vanished with the take and the bribes (his word), so the contest is canceled. Amidst the barrage of thrown items, he adds that Ataru will be suspended for a month. Who could have known that it would wind up like this? None but Ataru, who we see counting his ill-gotten gains on a fast train to Osaka.
Changes from the manga version: All the episode retains from the five-chapter manga story is the setup and a couple elements of the conclusion. It follows the manga roughly up to the point where they start selecting candidates. In the manga, we wind up with nine candidates (the recognizable 5 plus four generics). The next qualifier is a test of strength, which is easy for some (Ran cheats) and we wind up with the same 5 finalists, while Ataru takes fees from local businessmen to be judges.
In the arena, the first test is the primate test of intelligence (hanging banana plus stepladder and pole), which Ryuunosuke ends up winning because she’s the only one who’s willing to do it. The next test is ramen-eating, but the audience gets restless, so they announce the swimsuit competition next. Ran sneaks into Lum’s dressing room and cuts partway through the top of Lum’s bikini (swimsuit, not her day-to-day bikini). Ryuunosuke’s father shows up to give her a swimsuit, but it’s a pair of boy’s trunks. Lum offers to help her out, and appears in the ring in a one-piece while Ryuu starts to change into Lum’s bikini.
While she’s unwrapping her chest wrap, she’s interrupted by her father, who grabs the bikini and takes off. They wind up in the ring, where Ryuunosuke loses the wrap entirely and the bikini top breaks during the struggle. Ataru announces a physical challenge, and Ran attempts to even the odds by kissing the other contestants to sap their strength. It turns out the contest is a brawl with dangerous animals: bear, snake, tiger, gorilla and lion. It turns into a wild free-for-all brawl between the five women, the animals, and Ryuunosuke’s father.
Eventually the women subdue the animals. The principal announces that he can’t remember the score, so he’s not sure who won, but drops the prize on them: 150,000 taiyaki. Shinobu gives hers to Sakura, who complains that 30,000 won’t even be a decent snack; Ryunnosuke and her father sell theirs at the store; Ran gives them to Rei; and Lum, Ataru and Kotatsu Neko eat them in Ataru’s room while he counts his take.
Thoughts: The divide I discussed in the last episode, between quality of story and quality of adaptation, is in stark relief here. I think the anime episode is fun, with all the politicking between the various factions, although the twist at the end is a bit lacking–anticlimax is a big part of Takahashi’s style, but there’s usually more of an unusual twist, as we see in the manga. Still, it’s a good use of characters they’ve established earlier (the factions from the various other schools).
However, I think the Miss Tomobiki Contest is one of the funniest manga stories to date; it’s the longest story so far (I don’t think there were any longer than 3 chapters earlier) and goes in all sorts of wild directions with over-the-top character interactions (such as Ran trying to kiss everyone). It’s very much a precursor to the sort of story she’d do in Ranma ½. While it’s a long story, it should have been possible to compress it into a single episode (action sequences go faster than talky scenes, as a rule) and I’m kind of disappointed they didn’t try. It’s an interesting example of the different senses of humor of Takahashi and the animators.
Next episode: Ataru begins to fly!