The Urusei Yatsura Viewing Project, part 114: “Ten’s Mysterious Love Story”

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Episode 114: “Ten’s Mysterious Love Story”

Original airdate: June 6, 1984

Corresponding manga chapter: “The Little Girl That Flew in the Sky”, volume 20, chapter 10 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapter 211

Minor character introduced: Kotori

Summary: As Cherry steps out of his tent to prepare tea, there comes a brief flash of a girl in a nightdress, floating in the sky.  He stares into his teacup, and as the girl floats by, tells the audience that he’ll tell them a story of true sadness…a love story.

Ten floats through the sky, bored, stopping to angrily warn some butterflies about how much love bites.  A breeze catches his attention, and he looks over to see a girl standing on the edge of a building.

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She launches into the air, and he hastens to stop her from throwing her life away, but is confused when he flies through her instead.  Hovering in midair, she explains that she’s going to see her uncle, who she promised she’d visit when his dog’s puppies were born.  She explains that when she was in the hospital, she decorated her room with pictures of puppies, and thought about them every day.  A flashback starts, which weirdly is set as a stage play: her parents try to keep her going with talk of puppies, but the last photo falls, and the doctor (who’s wearing a female Noh mask for some reason) announces that she’s become a star.

Back in the present, Ten is not crying, dammit, and says that he’ll go with her to her uncle’s house if she plays with him afterwards.  They do their best to make a pinky-promise, and she introduces herself as Kotori (“little bird”).  Ten reminds himself that he dates hot women, not girls, dammit, and they fly over the city until Kotori announces that she sees her uncle’s house.  When they get inside, though, the place turns out to be less interesting and puppy-filled than they expected.

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They get shunted from window to window, until Ten’s had all he can take.  He inhales deeply, but barely starts to exhale flame before a barrage from a fire extinguisher brigade blasts him out the window and into the wall of the building across the street.  Back at ground level, Kotori admits that it isn’t her uncle’s house (Ten is somehow surprised by that) and says she should go so he isn’t hurt again.  She takes off into the sky; Ten is unable to catch up to her until Kotatsu Neko, passing by, sees his dilemma and flings him into the sky like a quarterback throwing a touchdown pass.  He skids to a stop in front of her and says that he might as well help her, but since he’s busy he’ll get his minions to help out.

In classroom 2-4, Onsen-Mark is reading from a classic of English literature, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. (In the manga it’s “TODAY I’ll feast on sliced fresh bonito.  What a great CATCH I’ve hauled in today!”, which is a lot more plausible.) Megane looks out the window to see Kotori and Ten approaching, and though he’s not a lolicon, dammit, he still feels a stirring in his breast and pauses to polish his glasses.  Ataru catches a glimpse and launches himself forward, and straight out the window.  In an instant, Sakura is at the doorway, exorcism stick in hand.

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Between eyecatches, Kotori fills everyone in on the backstory.  Ataru tries to rub against her, or something, but passes through her instead and earns a well-deserved electrocution.  He asks for her address and phone number, and when called on it woundedly says that he wanted it to track down the uncle. (And does she have a sister?) Kotori can’t remember the address, what with the trauma of being dead and all, but Mendou suggests that the office building they visited must be visible from the uncle’s house.  They pool what information she can remember to locate the house, but someone stands in their way.

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Onsen-Mark is quickly subdued, Mendou slices the door open, and Ten and his minions are on their way.  While the students split up, Ten and Kotori agree that afterwards they’ll play hide-and-seek, to Ten’s delight.  It’s not long before Mendou identifies the house, but the housekeeper tells them that all three puppies were already given away.  Shinobu asks where they were given away, and they’re off once again.  Kotori says that she wants to hold all three puppies, but Ten is concerned that doing so will take a long time, and asks that they play hide-and-seek now.  Lum reminds him that she needs to do this to go to heaven, and he relents.

They reach the first puppy, where Kotori spots the flaw in her plan, as her arms go right through it.  She begins to cry, and Ten tells her that she can possess him.  With that done, it’s time to get down to business and do some hardcore puppy wrestling.

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The sun is setting, and the crew heads back.  Ten is eager to play hide-and-seek, but Kotori sadly says that she has to go now.  He doesn’t take this well (with some justice, it must be said).

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Ataru and Mendou tell him that if he clings too hard, she’ll be stuck here, which Ten is fine with.  He begs her to stay, but she says that instead she’ll give him 7 days’ worth of presents, and to watch for them on the roof.  A tear rolls down her cheek as she thanks him, says goodbye, and fades out.  Lum holds him as he bawls his heart out, as everyone else is upset or uncomfortable.

That night, Ataru’s mother tells him to get off the roof so he doesn’t upset Ten again, but he assures her it’s all right, as he, Ten, Lum, and Kotatsu Neko gather around the kotatsu.  Ten is still crying, but Lum assures him the present will arrive soon, and sure enough Kotatsu Neko’s ear starts twitching.  They spy a shooting star, and Ten makes his wish, to see Kotori again.  He continues wishing, while the others can’t help but notice that it’s getting closer and closer.

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Kotatsu Neko steps up to block the meteor, as the others scatter.  After the wreckage of the kotatsu settles, Ten and Lum fly over to read the message on the meteor:

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Ten is pleased and hugs the meteor, but Ataru is not looking forward to six more nights of this, shall we say.  We see Kotori’s spirit rise heavenward as Cherry wraps up his narration.

Changes from the manga version: As usual, there’s no framing sequence, and it cuts directly from the scene on the rooftop to the classroom.  There’s a bit of business in the classroom as they establish that she’s a ghost; after that the story is fundamentally the same.

Thoughts: It’s been a while since we’ve seen a good Ten story; he used to be a more prominent character, but both Takahashi and the animators have used him less over the past year or so.  This episode has the classic bittersweet ending of Ten in love, although it’s played up more in the anime than the manga, between the frame sequence and the heavy lighting effects in the goodbye scene.  If you told me that this was an Oshii-era episode, the only thing that would cause me to doubt it is the improved animation (Ten looks right even in scenes that aren’t drawn from the manga, which wasn’t always the case under Oshii).  The framing sequence, the darker tone of the filler, and the turned-up dial on the emotional content are all very classic, without overdoing it.

The situation does feel kind of unfair to Ten, it must be said.  The thread of “Kotori needs to go to heaven, so she needs to track down the dogs, and you promised that you’d do that first” makes logical but not emotional sense, particularly because there wasn’t any mention of a deadline.  If she needed to accomplish her task before sunset, the sense of urgency would make more sense, but as it is there’s no clear reason why they couldn’t get in half an hour of hide-and-seek between dogs #2 and #3.  She can’t stick around forever, of course, but it doesn’t seem as though it would violate the spirit of the pinky promise to mix it up a bit.

The staging of the flashback sequence is odd, and I don’t have the cultural context to decode exactly what the intention is.  The doctor wears a Noh-style mask, but it’s not otherwise a Noh presentation (Noh is very stylized and wouldn’t use the scenery we see in the scene).  Ghosts are a common theme in Noh, but the mask isn’t a ghost mask and the ghosts are more commonly jealous adult women. It may be intended as a distancing effect to soften the potentially dark nature of the scene (the manga just presents her as a ghost and doesn’t dwell on the inevitable event that led to that fact), but I can’t say how it reads to the Japanese audience.

Thanks to freeze-frame, we can get a clear read of Onsen-Mark’s book: it has his name, part of the alphabet, the words “Fun fun”, and the name of the studio and a few animators.

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Next: A wild pulp adventure at Mendou’s!

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