Episode 106: “Death Match: Ataru vs. Mendou’s Army!”
Original airdate: March 28, 1984
Corresponding manga chapter: Original
Previously: In episode 105, “Scramble! Rescue Lum!”, a malfunction caused Lum’s UFO to crash on the Mendou estate, leaving her with TV amnesia. Ataru and the Gang of Four learn that Mendou is keeping her on his estate, and plan an all-out assault to rescue her, though it cost them their very lives!
Summary: Ataru and company charge the Mendou complex, but screech to a stop when Ataru has some urgent business to attend to, in the process giving us some idea of the tone of this episode:
The guards in the command bunker are busy playing video games on the console when the crew bursts in. Ataru forces them to the wall at gunpoint. As the Stormtroopers disarm the guards, Megane mentions that Ataru’s weapon is a toy, albeit one that’s more dangerous than dynamite. The guards have an attack of machismo and rush Ataru, knocking the gun away before he can fire, and it devolves into a brawl. One of the guards executes a series of wrestling moves on Megane, including the “Mexican Surfboard” and “Electronic Masseuse”. Chibi tries to go for a rifle and accidentally steps on Ataru’s pistol, which goes up in a large blast of pink energy and smoke.
On their way out of the guardhouse (Chibi being carried by Kakugari), Perm spots a tank. While they get ready to saddle up, Ataru says he’s splitting off, and mounts a nearby autogyro. The noise of the tank engine drowns Ataru’s parting advice to Megane (“Don’t die”). Meanwhile, inside the complex, Mendou is suiting up in camo when Lum and Ten enter. She hasn’t regained her memory, but she has a premonition, which pays off immediately when she opens the curtains and sees Ataru.
He pulls back amid anti-aircraft fire. Mendou sends Lum away, saying it’s too stimulating for her, and looks out the window to see a distant explosion. It’s the Stormtroopers in their stolen tank, failing utterly to be stealthy. This becomes clear when they find themselves facing a full tank battalion. They damn the cannons and charge forward toward Lum and glory, but stop short when one of the treads breaks. Megane climbs out to attack on his own, but Perm and Kakugari won’t let him go on his own. Chibi climbs out just in time to see the other three blown back by a barrage of shells, and he’s caught by a couple of guards
Off in the woods, Ataru limps forward, leaning on a crutch. The crutch saves his bacon when it hits a tripwire (well, rope), setting off an arrow trap that narrowly misses him, followed by a giant mallet. He doesn’t have time to limp when a helicopter comes up behind him and opens fire, sending him on a wild chase through the woods, narrowly missing a number of traps. The chase comes to a stop when a fossil bird bursts out of the underbrush, followed by Shinobu, pursued by an amorous Soban. Ataru ducks around a tree to catch his breath, only to be felled by a mallet upside the head.
Elsewhere, the remaining Gang of Three hide in a tree from a squad of guards with dogs. Kakugari’s branch gives way, and Megane declares that his death won’t be in vain. Inside the command bunker, a guard informs Mendou of his capture, but Mendou only has time for capturing Moroboshi. The guard he sends to take Lum to safety interrupts her staring out the window, wondering why that boy seemed familiar.
Ataru comes to in a large bed, with a kuroko standing over him. Ryoko enters with a tray of food and begins to feed him.
When he’s done, she gives him a map of the complex, pointing out the building Lum’s been taken to. The kuroko redress him in a speed suit, and Ryoko leads him to a small motorcycle. Ataru gives her his profound thanks, but she’s always happy to annoy her brother. Ataru revs up and drives out into the sunny daylight, vanishing into the eyecatch.
We emerge into classroom 2-4, where a bunch of random students (you can tell because their character designs are pretty sloppy) whisper about the sounds from the Mendou estate the night before. On said estate, Ataru shoots out in front of a military vehicle, vanishing into the distance. The guards radio his location to Mendou, who scoffs at his foolishness. Ataru finds himself on a ridge overlooking his target building, flanking a barbed wire fence. He gulps and launches himself down the slope.
He lands on the other side and immediately finds himself surrounded by tank fire. Dodging his way forward and avoiding the shells, he’s then strafed by Mendou, playing North by Northwest in a prop plane.
In yet another part of the estate (it’s a very big estate), Megane and Perm crawl across the ground (Perm whining about being hungry) and crest a ridge to find themselves looking down on the crater with Lum’s UFO. Perm charges into the crater, while Megane is unable to keep up due to his heavier armor. When he enters the UFO, Perm is grabbed by a guard, who keeps him silent while the other guards prepare to ambush Megane. Perm manages to pull himself free and shout a warning, allowing Megane to escape, but Perm is knocked out by his captor.
Further elsewhere, Ataru continues his Great Escape-in-reverse, avoiding Mendou’s strafing and breaking into a building, smashing through paper walls. Mendou peels off, and things become tranquil for a moment (as shown by one of those running-water bamboo things). Ataru concludes that he’s lost his pursuers, until he hears the plane returning, and a bomb demolishes the building. Mendou scoffs at the foolishness of Ataru, and consolidates his forces at Lum’s location, building Shutaro-1. He visits Lum and reassures her that everything will be okay, but is rudely interrupted.
While eating candy, Cherry mentions Ataru and his stubbornness, to Mendou’s shock and Lum’s enlightenment. Cherry leads Mendou to a nearby headquarters, where the intelligence operation is bringing in reports of multiple Atarus all over the complex. One of the guards mentioned having received a lunch from Ryoko that contained laughing gas, and the penny drops. Mendou offers Cherry six months’ worth of Beefbowl for Ataru’s true location, but he’s already receiving that to spy for Ryoko, and he’s forced to raise his bid by another six months.
Cherry explains that Ataru escaped the explosion via secret tunnel, and we see him being led to an exit hatch by a kuroko. The kuroko says that Ryoko is in a good humor, and gives him a pineapple. Then two pineapple-style grenades. Then three potato masher grenades. Then an armful of other stuff, including a comedy hammer.
The overladen Ataru hurtles downhill courtesy of a good shove, but lands on top of a train car, dropping all his equipment. Mendou waits by a trestle bridge for the final confrontation, toward which Ataru speeds atop the train. The train squeals to a stop mid-bridge, and he and Mendou face off. Ataru demands to know where Lum is, and Mendou asks why he’s risking his life to saver her when he doesn’t take care of her. Ataru explains with the flip side of his “I love Lum but I love all the other ladies as well” philosophy:
Ataru insists that it’s no one’s business but theirs, and charges Mendou while the tanks open fire. Lum is drawn to the window by the noise, and sees Ataru weaving through the explosions. As she watches, her feelings for the unknown boy grow, until a lightning blast blows out the windows, and she flies into the battle to rescue Ataru just as the bridge collapses. (Ataru wears the traditional anime vertically-striped blue-and-white boxers, it appears.)
Megane, who’s made his way up the river, is dismayed, and Mendou calls off the troops. At school the next day, Ataru asks Shinobu on a date. Lum is annoyed, but Mendou tells her to cheer up. Ten doesn’t understand how they can laugh after what they’ve just been through, but Megane assures him that life is like that. Ryuunosuke walks in, Ataru greets her, Lum electrocutes him, and all’s right with the world.
Thoughts: This episode is much more on form than the previous one, and taken together they’re a macrocosm of the recent Sakura episode and a microcosm of the past couple seasons: going from dramatic to humorous, sometimes on a dime. I enjoyed this one much more than episode 105, because it’s much closer to the feel I expect from the show: the violence is over-the-top and goofy, rather than the characters expecting to be summarily killed by Mendou.
This is the last episode overseen by Mamoru Oshii, and in a way it feels symbolic of the change in the series with his departure: Lum goes from being quiet and serious to her usual self, shocking Ataru for hitting on girls. I don’t mean that as a put-down of Oshii or his skills as a director, but as an observation of the direction the show went under his oversight. It’s not that there haven’t been humorous episodes recently, or that they’ve entirely given up on adapting the manga, but the balance has been uneven, and it feels like the work that went into Beautiful Dreamer sometimes detracted from the TV series.
I liked the animation in this episode: it felt much closer to the manga, with a lot of great facial expressions.
I understand the animation budget goes up the next season, which I’m looking forward to. (I’m around the point I’ve watched to before, so they’ll be new to me.)
I’ve noticed this for a while, but it seems that the quality of the English adaptation has gone down on the past few discs. The meaning still gets through, but there have been some awkward phrases that sound like a first draft without an editing pass for style.
This seems to be more of an issue with Megane and Perm in this episode, so it may just be an awkward attempt at capturing a style of speaking, but that last one doesn’t make any grammatical sense. I hope this picks up.
Next episode: Ataru disappears into a series of parallel worlds!