The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 109: “Ran’s First Kiss has Bitter Tears of Love”

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Episode 109: “Ran’s First Kiss has Bitter Tears of Love”

Original airdate: May 2, 1984

Minor character introduced: Chinese herbalist

Corresponding manga chapter: “Bean Paste: The Taste of Love!?”, volume 17, chapter 3 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 171

Summary: We open on a field of flowers, and Ran is there, sleeping happily until she’s awoken by a butterfly landing on her nose.  She opens her eyes to see Rei in his handsome/human form, sniffing a flower and then eating it.  Under a tree, she weaves a wreath of flowers while cow-type Rei stuffs himself on a picnic.  Finishing the food, Rei chomps the pic-a-nic basket (more of a crate, really) and looks down to see Ran with her wreath.

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(“All out of flowers…What can we eat now?”) We freeze on him launching himself forward, mouth agape, and cut to a night sky, panning down to show Ran’s UFO and, inside, her waking up from her dream.  (Good thing she outgrew wetting the bed.) She wonders why Rei might do a thing, and realizes that he’s probably hungry (seems like a safe bet) and that’s why he appeared that way in her dream.

She gets up and gets dressed (which means she’s wearing a lot less than she was in bed: irony!) and runs a location search on him on her ship’s computer.  It spits out a punched tape with his location (very high-tech, these aliens, and she eagerly goes off to cook him a meal, which of course involves black magic.

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And this being Japan, the black magic involves Hebrew, that language from the mysterious West.  She completes her spell and appears in an alien landscape, along with a huge pile of food.  Rei appears like a cow-shaped bolt from the blue, and commences to start stuffing his face.  Cut to Lum taking a shortcut through the same alien landscape, and nearly falling out of the sky in shock when she sees them.  Ran goes to help Rei as he chokes from eating too quickly, and Lum is touched by her devotion.

Back on Earth, Lum sits atop a clock (it’s 4:10) and is startled anew when Ataru calls out to her, mentioning that Ran was absent from school today.  He feigns indifference, and Lum tells him they should leave Ran alone, since she’s on a date, to his surprise.

In her UFO, Ran calculates how many calories Rei needs, with one ultimate goal: making Rei’s Special Meal!  The computer selects taiyaki as the dish of choice.  Outside, Ataru is trying to ditch Lum.  She’s not flattered by his comparing her to stringy fish poop, and is about to blast him when Ran walks by with a basket of groceries.  Love has clearly fitted her with a pair of rose-colored glasses.

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Ataru asks how Rei is doing, despite Lum’s best efforts to suppress him.  Rei gets one of those sly expressions you don’t want to see on her, and asks to speak to Lum privately.  When they’re alone, Rei switches into hose beast mode, facing Lum down and accusing her of playing innocent so she can lull Ran into complacency and steal Rei away.  She storms away without giving Lum a chance to reply, determined to keep Rei close through the depth of her devotion.

Back on the street, Ataru is getting creepy by hitting on a girl who’s physically about six and mentally about thirty.

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A crowd gathers as Ataru bemoans the loss of his mojo, gone rusty from too long off the game.  For her part, Ran climbs a telephone pole to search the streets of Tomobiki for something hidden amongst the shops, apartments, Arc de Triomphe, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Statue of Liberty, upside-down space shuttle…Finally she spots it, and runs past a bunch of darkly surreal images (including a dying soldier reaching for his helmet) to arrive at the Death-of-Buddha Chinese Herbal Pharmacy.  It’s one of those creepy mystical stores that sells things like stuffed cockatrices, complete with disturbing old Chinese man.  She buys a bunch of black magic ingredients, including some sort of pulsing brain thing.

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As she skips toward the exit, the proprietor asks what she’s planning on making with a set of ingredients that are sweet but low-fat (nothing sweeter than the blood of a living bat, y’know).  She pauses at the door, and demurely says that…it’s a secret!  In her UFO, she mixes black magic and computer science (some might say they’re one and the same), until the computer eventually spits out a basketfull of taiyaki, which she’s quite pleased with.

On an alien planet (may or may not be the same one), Ran and Rei are sitting in a tree, E-A-T-I-N-G…G?  She feeds him a bunch, which he eats with (figurative) relish, and demurely nibbles one herself.  She hands him the basket, and while he’s devouring it reflects that he may not have forgotten Lum, but he’ll stay with her for the food.  She’s interrupted by Rei, who spies a bit of bean paste on her cheek, puts his arm around her shoulder, and pulls her in for a lick on the cheek.

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Ran is stunned and then thrilled, thinking that Rei has kissed her, and lets out a huge cheer that scares away the alien animals that came to gawp.

On Earth, Lum flies to Ran’s UFO, wondering why she was called out so late.  Ran cheerfully sits Lum down and pours her tea; Lum is understandably wary, but Ran says that she wants to toast their renewed friendship.  She’s too coy to say why, until Lum starts to leave and Ran hauls her back by the ankle.  She finally admits that Rei kissed her, which Lum treats with undiluted joy, dancing around and congratulating her.  Ran stops to make sure she’s sincere, then leaps on her and violently hugs her

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Lum flies home, pleased that Ran will stop bugging her, but faceplants when she enters and sees Rei playing cards with Ataru, Ten and Kotatsu Neko.  She demands to know why Rei is there, and Ten helpfully says that he’s pining for her.  Lum chews him out for two-timing them, while Ataru is annoyed just to find out that Rei kissed Ran at all.  Lum tries to get Rei to leave before Ran sees them, and he takes her hands just in time for Ran to walk in on this scene:

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Ran shoves Ataru’s face into the wall and demands to know why Rei is there, and Lum tries to claim that he’s just saying goodbye.  Ran doesn’t buy it (it doesn’t help that Rei keeps reaching for Lum) and accuses Lum of changing her mind and luring him back, then tearfully asks Rei how he could do this after that kiss.  The question confuses him so much that he turns into a cow (this would be a particularly strange sentence to read out of context).  Ran is so upset that she actually runs to Ataru for comfort.  Kotatsu Neko offers her something to take her mind off it.

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She takes the taiyaki, and eats it to consume the bad memories it’s associated with.  When she’s done, Lum looks on sadly, and Kotatsu Neko gives her the entire basket of taiyaki.  She dives in with a will, leaving bean paste residue on her lip that catches Rei’s attention.  He pulls her to her feet and puts his lips on hers, everyone watching with reactions that range from disappointed (Ataru) to dawning awareness (Lum).  Ran is overcome by joy (while Rei moves in on Lum again and has to be smacked with a mallet).

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That night, Rei sleeps happily cozied up to her stuffed Rei, and dreams of a school of taiyaki swimming through the sky.

Changes from the manga version: The manga picks up with Ran talking to Lum on the street, followed by the scene in the tree.  From there they’re pretty much the same, except the manga ends on that last screenshot.

Thoughts: I really like the core part of this episode: it’s a nice character-driven story with a simple premise and no exotic elements.  The filler material is kind of weird, but doesn’t really detract from the A plot: it’s clearly filler and kind of out there, but the tone isn’t wildly divergent from the rest of the episode.  It’s not as smooth as the rugby episode, though.

I like that this is a rare Ran-centered episode that isn’t driven by her being evil.  She’s suspicious of Lum, but doesn’t do anything bad to anyone; she’s just insufficiently aware of both herself and the object of her affections.  Interestingly, Lum is the only major character who has much in the way of agency here: everyone else is acting in accord with their essential natures, albeit on the more positive end of her spectrum.

My favorite parts of the episode are the interactions between Ran and Lum.  As is often the case when she’s with her friends, she comes off as the most sensible character in the scene, and it’s fun to hear her internal monologue.  The animators outdid themselves with the body language and facial expressions in their scenes, as well.

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Overall this is one of those episodes that would have been stronger if they’d just adapted the manga story as a half-length episode rather than extending it to full length, but it’s still pretty enjoyable.

Next episode: The title says it all: “Unremovable Magic Lipstick!”

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