The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 98: “Loads o’ Lum!”

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Episode 98: “Loads o’ Lum!”

Halfway done! With the TV series, anyway; there are still 5 movies and all the OVAs on top of the remaining TV episodes, but still, milestone!

Original airdate: February 1, 1984

Corresponding manga chapter: Original? (I’ve been wrong about this before, so let me know if I’ve missed one, but this doesn’t feel like a manga story and I can’t find a similar story in the manga summaries.)

Minor characters introduced: Lum-2 through Lum-7

Summary: The scene opens on a dimly-lit storage room containing gym equipment.  The door opens, and Ran enters with a trussed, struggling Lum slung over her shoulder.  She opens the lid of a photocopier and drops Lum into it; a (non-trussed) Lum rolls out.

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She shoves the original Lum into a cabinet and turns to Lum-2.  After determining that the copy will do whatever she says (we’re at one of those smutfic divergence points here), she tells it to smack Ataru, shock him a few times, and say that she never wants anything to do with him again.  Lum-2 heads out, and Ran gloats that she’s finally one, since even if Lum-1 gets out her relationship will still be ruined. (She’s unclear on the nature of that relationship, clearly.)

After an odd shot of curved hallways, we cut back to room 2-4.  Ataru and the Stormtroopers wonder where Lum is, and Megane tells them that she left with Ran–he knows this because it’s his job to know her whereabouts at all times.  Ataru sarcastically congratulates him, and the other Stormtroopers laugh.  Megane starts to lose his temper, but is interrupted by the entrance of Onsen-Mark, who walks to the front of the class and starts to take roll.  When he gets to Lum, Megane starts to cover for her, but stops when Lum-2 enters, looking hypnotized.  She walks up to Ataru and raises her hand to slap him; Ataru backs away, but Megane gets him in a hold, encouraging her to take out her frustrations.  Lum-2’s hand is about to strike Ataru when he closes his eyes and apologizes, and Lum-2 snaps back to normal, confused, while the rest of the class does a wild take.

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Onsen-Mark starts class, while Lum tries to figure out what was going on.  Ataru tells her not to worry about it, and she hugs him gratefully, to the annoyance of Ran, who’s watching through a gap in the door.  She hauls the trussed Lum-2 back to the storage cabinet, pulls out Lum-1, and runs off another copy. (She’s wisely avoiding the Multiplicity copy-of-a-copy problem, at least.) She and Lum-3 run through the same obedience check.

Back in the classroom, it’s break time and Ataru notices that Lum is gone, just as Lum-3 rises up behind him, smack at the ready.  This time she comes to when Megane calls out to her, with the same confusion.  Megane pulls Ataru aside and explains his theory that Lum has snapped due to the stress of Ataru’s constant affairs.  The Stormtroopers join him in demanding to know what Ataru did to her, joined by Mendou, with sword drawn.  They dogpile on him, and Lum-3 shouts and them to stop because he hasn’t done anything to her.  Watching this through a window, Ran driven to distraction trying to figure out what she’s doing wrong, and soon it’s Lum-3 in the cabinet and back to the copier.  Lum-4 shows up behind Ataru in the chemistry lab, but comes to when a chemical reaction sends up a large cloud of smoke.

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Back to the copier with a now quite squirmy Lum-1.  Lum-5 (?) finds Ataru in the infirmary, hitting on Sakura, and manages to shock him before coming to.  She carries the crispy-fried Ataru down the hallway, while Ran tosses Lum-4 (?) into the cabinet and sends out another duplicate. (I’m losing track of the numbers at this point because we clearly see only four Lums in the cabinet in this scene, and we didn’t see Ran dispose of Lum-4, so there may be two Lums running loose at this point.  It doesn’t matter in the long run, though.) A hypnotized Lum-6 walks into the hallway, cutting immediately to her knitting in class and humming happily.  Ran rages a bit, and back in the storage room she wearily waves Lum-7 on her way.

Cut immediately to Lum-7 cheerfully serving hot pot to Ataru, Mendou and the Stormtroopers; they remark that only Lum can cook like this, which is odd since it doesn’t seem to be Scoville 10,000 or so.  Ran returns to the storage room with Lum-7, wondering what went wrong, and the storage cabinet starts shaking.  The door bursts open, and the (untied) 6 Lums fly out, joined by Lum-7.

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Exit Ran, pursued by a thunderstorm.  Outside, Ataru and company are walking home, discussing Lum’s strange behavior.  Ataru decides that Lum’s trying to get his attention, and resolves to ignore her, but that proves difficult when seven of her (in their bikinis) start circling above him.

The eyecatch covers the passage of a week, where Ran has been having recurring nightmares about multitudes of Lums, and the fact that Lum hasn’t done anything to her yet.  Meanwhile, Ataru is awoken by the seven Lums emerging from what must be a very crowded closet.  At the breakfast table, the Lums watch Ataru while they eat, until he can’t take it any more and bolts.  The Lums follow, giving Mrs. Moroboshi a chance to grouse at her husband about the difficulty of six more mouths to feed.  And at school, Onsen-Mark is nonplussed by having seven responses to one name when calling roll.

Ataru needs a break, and sneaks away to the chem lab, where Mendou and the Stormtroopers are waiting for him.  Ataru explains that they’ve all gone to the bathroom–it’s synching gone mad, apparently– and they discuss the crux of the problem, which is that they’re pretty sure Ran is behind it, but none of the Lums can remember which one is the original.  After hearing Ataru go on about how mo’ Lums means mo’ problems, Megane and the others graciously volunteer to throw themselves on the metaphorical grenade and take one off his hands each (Ataru will still have two).  vlcsnap-2015-01-20-20h02m04s31

Megane sweetens the deal by offering to buy Ataru Beefbowl for three months.  Ataru is sold, and all laugh manfully until Lum^7 burst in.  The suitors offer themselves to the Lums, not taking into account that they all think alike and none of them are pleased to be bartered.  The electricity flies fast and furious, and the Lums jointly carry the singed Ataru back to class while negotiating who gets to sit where.  Ataru realizes he’s been driven to extreme action, and the next shot is the window of the classroom blowing up.  When the smoke clears, Ataru is gone.  The Lums set off to find him, and Mendou calls out his family troops to capture Ataru without harming the Lums.

There follows a chase through the streets and alleys, Ataru running from both groups, and the Lums protecting him from the missiles fired by the pursuing helicopters.

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Mendou realizes that the explosions are providing Ataru with cover, and calls a halt to the pursuit.  Ataru finds himself at Ran’s UFO, cornered by the Lum squad.  They aren’t pleased, and call Ran out, but seeing the Lums and the Mendou goons on the monitor scares her, and she doesn’t respond.  Team Lum decides they need to flush her out, but fall to fighting among themselves over who should do what.  Ataru tricks the Lums into blasting down the door and runs inside, while they pursue.  In the control room, Ran furiously pushes buttons until she creates a trap to lure the Lums into.  They each (individually) demand to know where Darling is, and advance on Ran menacingly.  Ataru jumps between them, but when they move toward him Ran springs her trap and raises a clear dome around them.

The Lums start blasting the interior of the dome.  Ran is terrified beyond all capacity for rational thought, so it’s up to Ataru, and he flails randomly at the keyboard like a trouper.  There’s an enormous blast of energy, and…well, there have been enough character-duplicate episodes for you to guess how it ends:

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Thoughts: The best word I can think of to describe this episode is “sloppy”.  There’s no one thing that’s egregiously bad, but it’s clear that a lot of shortcuts are being taken.  The plot is a rehash of an earlier story with Ataru, and there are scene transitions that could have been clearer. (Apart from the confusion about Lums 4-5 I mentioned above, it’s really not clear what’s going on when Ataru blasts the window open, or how Ran re-captures the various Lums, or for that matter what exactly is breaking Ran’s hold on the copies in the first place.) It’s probably not coincidence that the premise lets them re-use footage (the first two times Ran copies Lum use identical images, and the part with the individual Lums each asking where Ataru is likewise uses the same frames on a different part of the background).  Add to that one of the classic signs of filler, a lengthy chase scene, and we have a gimmick-driven episode that wouldn’t have been out of place in the first season.

I can forgive the animators’ movie-driven deadline doom, but it kind of feels like the B and C teams are alternating on the TV show at this point.  The previous couple of episodes were fun and pretty well-done, while the fairy tale episode had a similar retread feel.  It would also have been interesting if there had been some character development beyond “Ataru is overwhelmed and the Stormtroopers are opportunistic”–what did Ten think of the situation, for example?  While each individual Lum has her moments, together they’re just sort of running on Lum autopilot, times seven.

Next episode: The fate of the town rests on an eating contest!

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