The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 100: “Big Trouble in Bigger Vault!”

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Episode 100: “Big Trouble in Bigger Vault!”

Triple digits!  Woo!

Original airdate: February 15, 1984

Corresponding manga chapter: Original

Summary: We open on the door to a huge vault, embossed with an octopus emblem.  It slides open to reveal a hangar full of prop planes, and Mendou and Ataru on a people mover.  Mendou explains that some people think that he and Ataru are alike, and this is obviously intolerable, so he plans to demonstrate the many, many things that he has and Ataru doesn’t.  Ataru has one thing he doesn’t: a boxful of takoyaki, which offends the octopus-loving Mendou, who knocks it to the floor.  They differ on whether Ataru scooping them back up and eating one constitutes Ataru being disgusting, or just not being wasteful.

The next room contains tanks (which is a little odd coming right after Beautiful Dreamer), and Mendou estimates it’s a thousand times the size of Ataru’s house.  Ataru isn’t impressed, and proves that it’s not just girls that he gets handsy with.

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An annoyed Mendou vows to impress Ataru, and drags him to the door of a vault which is not merely Uncle Scroogian but downright Richie Richian in size.

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Mendou produces a key roughly the size of his own torso from under his sweater and unlocks the vault door.  The interior contains enormous shelves and a mural of a hanafuda card on the back of the door, and Mendou brags that it’s safe from any disaster.  Ataru kicks the door shut to get a better look at the mural, and over Mendou’s warnings shouts his opinion, “Damn the sunset!” As it turns out, this is the locking phrase, and unlocking it again requires being on the other side of the door.  Mendou roughs Ataru up a bit in frustration, and Ataru’s suggestion that they wait until someone notices they’re missing doesn’t help, given the ridiculous size of the mansion.

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One thing the vault doesn’t have is food, except for Ataru’s takoyaki.  Hunger wins out over Mendou’s principles, and they tussle over them before settling on the more civilized approach of playing cards.  It turns out that this is not Mendou’s greatest strength.

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They switch to “Look to the Other Side”, which appears to constitute playing rock-paper-scissors and the loser having to turn their head, giving Mendou a bad crick in the neck.  He proposes Shiritori, the game where one person says a word and the next person says a word beginning with that word’s last syllable, but immediately loses by saying “mikan” (orange), which is the losing condition because no words begin with the “n” syllable.  Ataru’s command of suggestive words (“nude”, “strip”) gives him the victory in the next round, and Mendou begs for another chance, wagering the most important item in the vault:

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Ataru points out that they could blast their way out of the vault with the tank, and they embrace joyously, Ataru plotting to take all the gold with him and Mendou plotting to ditch Ataru and weasel out of the bets.  However, the vault is impervious to the cannon, and they’re soon reduced to knocking on the walls to look for a hidden exit.  This is complicated by the anti-theft traps Ataru keeps setting off, which include grenades and pits.  Oh, and the water trap.

Ataru knocks on a wall and actually opens a passageway (perhaps he’s part elf), but he knocks again and it nearly slams shut.  He grabs it before it closes all the way, but that turns out to be what sets off the water trap, which is a lot bigger than the others and washes them right into the eyecatch and out the other side.

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They make a jump for higher ground; Mendou makes it easily, but Ataru lands in the water, and has to bribe Mendou with two of his gold bars to be pulled out.  (Mendou pulls out his notebook and records this and subsequent events as examples of Ataru’s poor character.) Attempts to find a way out just set off more traps, and they’re soon at the top of one of the cabinets, near the ceiling.  They take the opportunity to snipe some more: Mendou claims to own everything in the vault, but when Ataru points out that he lost everything but the tank, claims that the true measure of a man is not possessions but intelligence.  Ataru tricks him with a girl’s voice, and Mendou changes the subject to his long legs.  Ataru points out his lifts, leaving Mendou at a loss for words until the rising water sends them dashing to a ladder on the wall.  Ataru climbs over Mendou and, ignoring his warnings, opens the hatch above them.

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The influx of water sweeps them away, and shatters all of the lights except the large central one.  They both have brief hallucinations where they’re in a field, the central light becoming the sun and an odd corner of their respective psyches making a guest appearance.

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They both dive under to try to locate the gold, but with no luck.  Mendou contends that since Ataru abandoned his share, it’s now jetsam and belongs to Mendou again.  Ataru rejects this reasoning, to which Mendou says that in that case, he can’t keep sharing his air with Ataru.  Ataru submerges to weigh the options: keep his gold and pride but die, or live but bow to Mendou.  Living eventually wins out, and he cedes his winnings in exchange for air.  It isn’t long before they’re plotting to get all the air for themselves (while the central light blinks ominously).  Each one tries to hold the other under while thanking them for their honorable sacrifice.  Mendou stops his struggle when the light burns out, but it soon doesn’t matter as an enormous drain open and sucks them down.

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Ataru grabs at ¥10,000 bills while they’re swept through the pipes, passing visions (?) of Kotatsu Neko and Cherry before vanishing into the darkness.  Ataru comes to in a dark pipe, and wakes up Mendou to show him the light at the end of the tunnel (literally).  Excitement overcomes them, and they run to the end of the pipe, where they come upon one slight hitch:

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The grating is made from the same supermetal as the interior of the vault, so all they can do is look out at the reddening sky and shout “Damn the sunset!”

Thoughts: It’s interesting to see a bottle episode on an animated series. While it doesn’t have the same budget concerns as a live-action series, its proximity to the film does make me wonder if they were trying to use as few voice actors as possible, or at least it would if the next episode didn’t have an enormous cast.  Regardless, focusing on just two characters is a change of pace, and having Ataru and Mendou compete over something other than impressing a girl gives a good insight into their personalities.

That said, this episode is good but not great, because the plot devices kind of get in the way.  While the characters interact a good deal, events are driven more by external factors than their interaction.  Ataru makes things worse by kicking the door and opening the hatch, but the water trap could have been set off by anyone–it’s not a unique function of Ataru’s personality.  Some of the story elements feel arbitrary, particularly Ataru hitting on a code phrase that doesn’t make much sense–since Mendou is proud of the mural, why insult it?  This could have been a great episode if the characters’ personality flaws played a larger role, but it’s still pretty entertaining.

Does it seem like the animators use Mendou’s phobia more than the manga does?  Not that there’s anything wrong with consistency, but it feels like it’s used as a throwaway more often in the TV show.  Part of the reason may be that a two-second joke takes up a lot less real estate than a panel of the manga, so it’s less of an investment.

Next: Peeping in a bathhouse!

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