The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 95: “Lum’s Classic Tales of Japan”

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Episode 95: “Lum’s Classic Tales of Japan”

Naturally, as soon as I try to get back into the swing of the blog again, I come down with a cold that drains my mental energy again.  I’m on the upswing, though, so back to the anime mines we go!

Original airdate: January 11, 1984

Corresponding manga chapter: Original

Minor characters introduced: Issun-Momota and yet another set of UY fairy tale characters

Summary: It’s New Year’s, and Ataru, Ten, Lum, and Kotatsu Neko sit around the kotatsu in Ataru’s bedroom.  Ataru and Ten grumble to themselves about the small amount of otoshidama (monetary gifts) they received, while Lum is impressed by how much she got and plans to take Darling out to dinner on it. (Kotatsu Neko is silent on the topic.)

Cherry appears outside, and since no one answers he decides to go straight in. Upstairs, Ataru has concluded that his money is low due to the freeloaders living in his house, and hints very broadly that perhaps they might show their appreciation.  Ten isn’t having it, but Lum says that she’ll take him out and buy him some presents.  (This is a source of footage for a classic AMV set to “Hair”, by the way–on the word “Darling” in the opening.) Ten asks to go as well, and things come to blows until Cherry interposes himself between Ataru and Ten’s flames.

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(The liner notes explain that this is a visual pun, though it may also be a heavy-handed allegory about racial prejudice.) He offers to arbitrate, and soon Ataru is forcibly tucking Ten into the kotatsu while Cherry confirms his promise to take him out to dinner.  Cherry starts to tell a story to get Ten to sleep, and at this point it’s time to bring out the notes, because I’m not untangling all the references in this one single-handed.

Once upon a cliched opening, there were an old man and woman with a sparrow.  The old woman (Lum) asks the old man (Ataru) to cook some glue while she washes clothes at the river.  When she leaves, the old man asks the sparrow (Ten) to make the glue for him, then tells him, then finally threatens him to do it.  The old man leaves, and the sparrow stirs the glue pot while reflecting that they probably won’t survive the winter.  The glue is tasty, but he restrains himself until he remembers the upcoming winter, and the old man returns to a stuffed sparrow and an empty pot.  He makes his entrance with a pair of shears, which he takes to the sparrow’s tongue to prevent further glue-supping.  The old woman returns, and after getting a slanted view of events pulls out the peach she had bought to share with the sparrow.

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A miniature Ten is inside, of course; the couple discuss what to call him, and settle on “Issun-Momota” (“10-cm Peach”).  The old woman pampers him (the old man, less so), and young Issun-Momota spent much of his time hunting rabbits, tanuki, foxes, and bears, and, uh, eating them.

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(The bear belongs to an unfortunate Kintaro.)  The boy grew quickly (normal-sized Ten winds up about the same size as chibi-Ataru and Lum) and laid waste to the surrounding area.  The boy realizes there’s nothing to hold him there, and is visited by a heavenly messenger in the forrm of Cherry.  He passes on the message from God that the boy’s destiny is to visit the capital.  Issun-Momota refuses to leave his agéd parents, but is eventually swayed by the promise of plentiful food and women.

Coming to in his room, he reality-checks his surroundings and announces to his parents that he’s going to the swingin’ town he knows called Capital City.  The old couple send him on his way with a warning to watch out for the big-city Oni (or to bring home their treasure if he beats one).  Issun-Momota asks about the hot babes, which catches the old man’s attention, but the old woman insists that there’s NO SUCH THING there.  The old man conspiratorially announces that he’s going to accompany the boy, for safety of course, which the old woman has a hard time with.

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Issun-Momota splits while the old woman is restraining the old man.  She pulls him back to the hut, enthusing about how they’ll be alone just like when they were newlyweds.The old man gets a glimpse of his future and bolts, lightning dogging his heels.  He’s not up to much running, though, and heads into the bamboo forest to look for a potion of youth.  He obtains it from a nun who looks an awful lot like the heavenly messenger.

Elsewhere, Issun-Momota is finding the road to the capital is fraughter than he thought, as his basket-boat goes over a waterfall.  Resolving to screw his courage to the sticking place, he comes across Kotatsu Neko, who’s sitting astride the path under a kotatsu and reading peacefully.  The boy challenges the cat to a duel, but gets no further than waving his knife before being trampled by the now-young (and full-sized) old man, charging capital-wards.  Issun-Momota decides he needs a sidekick, and recruits the cat by forcing a cake on him.

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The pair arrive at the city, as does the young old man Ataru, who goes on the prowl for the babes.  They spy a sign saying that he who defeats the Oni may court the princess.

In the palace, the selfsame princess is being tended by her attendant, who also looks like Cherry, while she waits for her savior to come.  Ataru and Issun-Momota both vow to save her; there’s a crowd of others there as well, but they quickly disperse when the Oni, an enormous Rei, appears,reaches into the palace, and grabs the princess.  Our heroes climb the wall and challenge him, to little effect.

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The princess mourns that there are no strong folks on Earth, and tells Rei they should go.  Rei whistles up a golden celestial boat, which lowers a ladder to take him away.  Issun-Momota and Ataru follow (while Kotatsu Neko waves goodbye), and the ship takes them to the moon.

They wind up on the porch of a Moon-house (which has a crashed X-wing) in the roof, where Rei is shrunk to normal size and Lum is tired of watching the rabbits dance.  Issun-Momota and Ataru appear to rescue the princess.  The boy tries dueling with Rei, taking a blow from a mallet that turns him into a giant.  Rei hits himself with the mallet as well, and the two giants wrestle, WWF style.  Ataru tries to press his suit on the princess, but she rebuffs him for his cowardice; when he chases her, she zaps him with lightning and he returns to his real age.  The scene ends with Issun-Momota and Rei wrestling and the old man chasing the princess in a circle around them.

Cherry concludes his tale to find that the trio are asleep (and possibly the cat as well, but it’s hard to tell), and realizes that he’s not getting his dinner.

Thoughts: This episode’s okay, but somewhat staid as UY story mashups go–the characters are all fairly stock, without any bizarre juxtapositions or twists.  The framing device means Cherry only incorporates the people in the room into the story, except Rei, for no apparent reason.  Normally I’d expect to see Mendou and the Stormtroopers in minor roles, for example.  The pacing is relatively slow, with a number of extended conversations that could have been shortened or narrated over.  By this point in the series I’d expect something much crazier.

As usual, a lot of that can probably be chalked up to movie prep (the animators probably appreciated the two weeks off between episodes as well).  The animation is simplified, with jerky motion and simplified designs, but in the context of the fairy tale it’s acceptable.  For the first time in quite a while I’d rate this one as skippable; you won’t be missing much if you don’t watch it.

Next episode: Ryuunosuke buys a bra!

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