Episode 99: “Sure Death! The Fast Food Wars!”
Original airdate: February 8, 1984
Corresponding manga chapter: Original
Minor characters introduced: Restaurant manager, Fried Tofu and Dough Noodle Ryuu, Gyugoro the Beefbowl Bastard, Hot Dog Joe, Ogin, Big Bowl Masa, Hamburger Tetsu, Cookie Taro, Semi-Hot Sabu, Crepe Mami
Summary: In a sign of things to come, dogs and cats fight in the street, the cats acting in an organized manner reminiscent of the Biting Cat’s troops in Azumanga Daioh. We cut to the Station Noodle Bar, where Megane and Chibi are working part-time to raise money for a skiing trip. Business is slow, though, so they’re eating bowls of soba while crouching behind the counter. Chibi is eating a stamina mix with every protein-heavy mix-in available, while Megane loudly insists that the plain noodle is the One True Way.
Their lull is interrupted by Lum, Ataru, Cherry, and Kotatsu Neko. Ataru immediately tries to order, but Megane gulps down his bowl and turns to Lum instead. She orders her soba with peppered cod roe, which the restaurant doesn’t serve, but if that’s what Lum wants then by gum that’s what Megane will give her. Ataru continues to try to order while Megane cooks and chats up Lum, then has the gall to say that orders should be served quickly. Kotatsu Neko and Cherry put in their orders, but they’re interrupted by the entry of a mysterious man (who’s wearing sandals in February, so you know he’s tough).
Megane is impressed by the stranger’s knowing the True Way, but is unable to place exactly why he’s so focused. To impress him, he cooks and serves four bowls of noodles at top speed (25 seconds of screen time). The others are impressed, but the stranger criticizes him for wasted movements. As the stranger eats, Cherry analyzes his eating style, which is flawless, and concludes that he must be a professional fast food fighter. No one’s heard of that, so Cherry explains: an ancient tradition of eaters seduced by the dark side of food who travel the land eating restaurants to destruction, lately fallen on hard times.
The stranger finishes his bowl and gets up to leave, refusing to pay until Megane gives him something worth paying for. The manager returns at this point, and steps up to defend his restaurant’s honor, vowing to cook a bowl of noodles worth eating.
Cherry identifies him as one of the great food nomads, “Fried Tofu and Dough Noodle Ryuu”. Ryuu isn’t impressed with the manager’s noodles either, and walks out while the manager collapses in despair. The phone rings, and Megane answers: it’s Kakugari, who’s working at a Beefbowl restaurant that’s beating eaten dry by Gyugoro, the Beefbowl Bastard. Perm runs in and says they had a strange customer as well: a man with jeans and guitar, Hot Dog Joe. Three fast food fighters turning up in one place must mean something, but Cherry doesn’t know what.
The next morning, Megane and Perm meet up with Lum and Ataru and tell them of an encounter they had the night before, with a woman named Ogin. She told them that when three fast food fighters gather in one place, more are sure to join them, and trouble’s a-brewin’.
Perm goes on to say that these fighters are shock troops, sent by someone bent on conquest. They speculate about who it could be, and the unveiling of a new business gives them the answer: the Mendou Fast Food Superstore (and supermarket). At school, Mendou confirms that the restaurant is his family’s, and that he hired the hit eaters to ensure its success by destroying the competition. The others are appalled by the threat to the Tomobiki Shopping Arcade, but Mendou says he’s organized a special event.
Later that day, Ataru, Lum, Perm and Cherry see the arrival of Big Bowl Masa and Hamburger Tetsu, a “David-and-Goliath pair” who devastated the fast food scene in Kyushu last year. Lum spies Cookie Taro, who shut down a joint venture of two large companies by talking them into giving him huge discounts. A bus drops off Semi-Hot Sabu, a fake Indian who’s an expert on curry. They’re running down the list when someone drops a photo of Creme Mami on the table; it was dropped by Ogin, who explains that she (Mami) is the only remaining female fast food fighter.
Ataru asks Ogin to join the team, and when Lum starts shocking him, Megane asks her as well, but she refuses, saying it’s nothing to do with her, and leaves. Megane collars her again in the street, where she’s accompanied by Franken 1 and Franken 2. He asks about her nickname, “Fried Croquette Ogin”, but the Frankens dissuade him. She walks away, thinking to herself that it’s all in the past.
In his family mansion, Mendou practices his sword work on one of those straw dummies that turns up in “Samurai Shodown”. One of his guards gives him a list of the team Ataru’s recruited, and Mendou tells them to take action. In the construction site, two guards use a large, hot kotatsu to lure Kotatsu Neko into the back of a truck and drive off. At the Superstore, neither Kotatsu Neko nor Ogin have turned up, and Mendou declares it’s time to start the Big Eater contest: on one side, Mendou’s hired eaters, on the other, Ataru, Lum, Megane (who’s in bandages), Sakura, Cherry, Beefbowl Man, and at the last minute, Ogin, who trades a glance with Ryuu, her former master.
The battle is furious, with competitors falling left and right.
Eventually it’s down to Ryuu on one side, and Sakura and Ogin on the other. As they eat, Ogin flashes back to her schoolgirl days, when she stood in a sakura grove and begged to know why Ryuu cast her aside as a student. He explained that her noodle-eating technique is too delicate, and as a woman she can never correct this flaw. She pleaded to stay with him, but he smacked her away, saying that fast food fighting was no place for a woman. In the present, she thinks to herself that she’s no longer a woman, just a ronin. Ryuu stands up, grabs his throat, and collapses; Ogin takes a moment to celebrate her victory, then collapses herself. Sakura is still eating with no sign of distress; Mendou begs her to stop lest she ruin her figure, but she reassures him that she’s on a diet.
Ataru runs up to declare victory, and the crowd cheers and celebrates. Under a railway trestle, Ryuu tells Ogin that her technique has improved, but now that she’s beaten a master she’ll be a target for punks looking to make a name for themselves. He adds that she should stay out of this world, as it’s a rough time for the fast food fighter, and turns to walk into the sunset.
Thoughts: Of the recent anime-original stories, this is the most successful. It knows what it’s doing and sticks with it, and it’s the animators working in their own style, not just knocking off Takahashi. It’s not uproariously funny, but it maintains a straight-faced parodic style throughout. The new characters are amusing (I particularly like the name “Gyugoro the Beefbowl Bastard”, although they seem confused as to whether he’s the guy in the driver’s outfit or the wrestler in the cow costume) and it makes good use of Megane and the other original characters. Overall, it’s a pretty solid episode.
Next: Mendou and Ataru are locked in Mendou’s vault! But first, it’s Urusei Yatsura Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer!