Urusei Yatsura – Final Thoughts

うる星やつら/Urusei Yatsura Anime Review (Final Thoughts)

***SPOILERS***

Urusei Yatsura reviewIt was a little over eight years ago  (2004) that I decided I should further my anime education by watching the beloved, classic anime title, Urusei Yatsura, the first big hit from the now mega-successful manga-ka, TAKAHASHI Rumiko-sensei, who’d go on to make such other successful titles like Maison Ikkoku, Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha, and currently, RIN-NE.  After all, Urusei Yatsura is a title that influenced many of today’s manga-ka and anime producers in Japan.  Even now, Lum-chan and her tiger-striped bikini are basically cultural icons of Japan, as much as something like Bugs Bunny would be to folks in the United States.  And so it was that I began my journey into this 196-episode series (195 episodes plus one TV special) in September of 2004.

Urusei Yatsura reviewFor those who don’t know, Earth is invaded by aliens, known as the Oni, who look much like the oni of Japanese legends.  Their leader chooses his daughter as their champion, and high school boy Ataru agrees to be Earth’s champion after seeing how hot Lum looks in her tiger-striped bikini. Ataru is given ten days to simply grab Lum by the horns, a task which proves harder than thought since Lum can fly.  With time running out, Ataru’s girlfriend, Shinobu, says she’ll marry Ataru if he wins.  So in order to marry Shinobu, Ataru goes all out on the final day, managing to snag Lum’s bikini top from her so that as she goes for said top, he’s able to grab her horns. However, when Ataru mentions getting married, Lum assumes he wants to marry her, thus starts a new life on Earth with her “Darling.”

Urusei Yatsura reviewFor the most part, the first 21-episodes are composed of two, sometimes unrelated half-episodes.  There’s an intense rivalry between Lum and Shinobu for Ataru’s affections, with Ataru wanting Shinobu, but finding Lum constantly in the way since Lum considers herself betrothed to Ataru. Actually, it is weird seeing Shinobu in love with Ataru since for the overwhelming majority of the series, she tolerates him at best, while holding an infatuation with Shuutaro. Even characters like Sakura-sensei, who has a very low tolerance of Ataru or most of the horny boys at school, is much different when she’s first introduced, wearing sexy clothing and having a more sexy nature.  Ataru’s lecherous behavior is also not funny at all in those early days.  Indeed, I couldn’t understand how UY became so popular in Japanese culture.

Urusei Yatsura reviewSomething else that might surprise viewers starting from episode 1 is the nudity.  While Urusei Yatsura has always been a series full of fan-service, early on, Lum shows up all the goods upstairs.  For those unprepared for that, it will come as quite a shock since this kind of thing hasn’t really been tolerated in televised anime for quite some time now. Heck, even I’d forgotten about that aspect until I went back to view early episodes and thought, “Wow. Yeah, Lum really did lose her top and let the world see.”  However, the fan-service is mostly relegated to Lum in a bikini, or other characters in skimpy outfits, bathing suits, or underwear.

Urusei Yatsura reviewStarting with episode 22, the series shifts to full episodes, and with them, the series starts taking more of the shape that most remember it.  Eventually, the Shinobu-Ataru-Lum love triangle is dropped as Ataru becomes more girl-happy and Shinobu becomes interesting in Shuutaro. From there, the series is mainly full of misadventures, often filled with bizarre, whacky, or surreal elements that for the most part bored me. Oh, there’d be moments here and there where I’d find a laugh, or a nice moment such as the end of episode 10 when Ataru notices Lum as a woman, but more than a sex object (which is how he first viewed her when he met her).  As is common in a Takahashi-sensei title, more and more characters slowly get added to the mix, most are put on the shelf after their initial run to be brought out later from time to time.

Urusei Yatsura reviewAlthough the series improved after episode 22, it was still a struggle for me to watch it, and for a time, I even started blogging multiple episodes at once.  For those rare moments when Ataru treated Lum nicely or showed that he really did care about her, the rest of the time, he was an arse to her.  The only growth Ataru has as a character is going from more of a jerk, to more of a comedic aspect when it comes to his girl hunting. Further, instead of Ataru being on the receiving end of abuse from the ultra annoying Ten-chan, Cherry, or other like characters, Ataru is allowed to beat and abuse these characters.  As a more devious person, Ataru becomes funnier, especially when allowed to hold his own against Megane, Shuutaro, or others.  So those were improvements, but for the most part, I just struggled to muster the will to watch another episode.

Urusei Yatsura reviewStarting with episode 105, there was a massive improvement in the series. The writing greatly improved and stories started becoming more interesting, funnier, but also at times, more serious, such as when Ataru does what it takes to get Lum out of Shuutaro’s clutches.  Lum’s attempts to punish Ataru now often have collateral damage, which often make the whole thing funnier (at least for me). However, even though there is massive improvement from episode 105 until the end, the series is still saddled with tedious things like Kitsune episodes, Ran episodes, Fujinami episodes, and the like. Those were always a reminder of how bad the series could be at times.

Urusei Yatsura reviewOne thing I noticed a lot of in the later third of the series were the tributes Urusei Yatsura made to other anime titles as well as noted science fiction, and superhero stuff from the United States. As such, there were numerous references to Star Wars in the series (as well as other things like Ghostbusters or Aliens), but there were also references to things like the Incredible Hulk or Spider-man.  The series had always made cultural references to Japanese mythology from the start, but then broadened that to not only include anime (such as Dirty Pair, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Lupin III, etc.), but also popular Japanese kaiju like Godzilla, Mothera, or Gamera.

Urusei Yatsura reviewSo, how do I rate this?  Was it a waste of time?  Believe it or not, I don’t consider watching the series a waste of time. I set out to gain an education, and that’s exactly what I got.  The Japanese have a long history of looking to their own culture as well as Western influences when it comes to making comedies, and it shows here.  Series like Hayate the Combat Butler, Kannagi, or even Haiyore! Nyarlko-san take influence from Urusei Yatsura.  Further to that, one can see how Urusei Yatsura influenced people like KAJISHIMA Masaki-sensei of Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki fame so that he then fathered the modern harem genre in anime and manga.  In addition, while many episodes may have been tedious and boring, others were outrageously funny and entertaining.

While I probably will never rewatch the series, I would recommend the series for others to watch, especially those interested in furthering their education in anime/manga classics.

Urusei Yatsura review
Urusei Yatsura review
Urusei Yatsura review
Urusei Yatsura review
Urusei Yatsura review
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14 Responses to “Urusei Yatsura – Final Thoughts”

  1. O-chan says:

    Given the nature of the current anime fandom and how they don’t relate to Takahashi like those who were fans during the Anime Boom era, I think your review was spot on.

    It was quite fun going back and watching the UY TV DVDs over Labor Day weekend and I, too, noticed how some things I found funny 5 years ago doesn’t necessarily vibe with me now. Still, there were also storytelling and cinematic techniques I noticed and that’s why I like revisiting the series every now and then. You always get something out of it.

    Keep in mind that I preferred the manga to the early episodes because I felt the original material was a little better to swallow compared to the anime.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I never did get to read the manga, but I’m sure that it would be better. The source stuff usually is.

      Oddly enough, I did go back and re-watch a few of the early episodes. I think it is because I’ve watched the whole series now, but they weren’t as bad as I remembered them back when. There is a part of me that is tempted to episode-blog them and have the whole series out here. However, I’m so pressed for time as it is, I can’t get to the backlog I have.

    • Anonymous says:

      I tend to approach this series more as an animated sitcom like “The Simpsons” than something that is seriously interested in character progression and continuity. So I don’t really care that much that Ataru, Lum, and most of the other characters don’t go through significant character arcs. The bizarre situation comedy was the real draw, along with the occasional dramatic or cute episode.

      I’m mostly in it for the humor, though it has some good dramatic episodes. I guess it also helps that I enjoyed the comically and intentionally annoying characters like Cherry and Mr. Fujinami.

      I agree with how the series starts out. It definitely finds its footing later on and hands the characters and situation better in terms of overall dynamic.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      In something like “The Simpsons”, there’s nothing for establishing some sort of romance. However, with UY, that’s part of the premise of the series, so that puts it in a different area in my opinion.

  2. Kiddo626 says:

    Wow, eight years, huh? That’s some dedication! I don’t think I would’ve been able to last that long. LOL Well, I hope you enjoy the OVAs and the movies, and yes, OVA 3 is great! XD

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      It was tough at times. ^_^; Still, I wanted to be 100% fair to the franchise, and the only way to do that was to plow through the whole thing.

      BTW, OVA 3 review going up later today. ^_^

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is the sort of series that I really can’t be too hard on. I guess the humor style clicks better with me than some other folks and I’m better in tune with the overall style, particularly in terms of the bizarre situations and episodic nature of the series. Some of my favorite episodes are the ones that go purely for laughs rather than drama.

    I do agree that the series improves greatly later on, though I like several of the pre-105 offerings–though I agree the series gets a massive boost in quality around that time.

    I guess it’s kind of a slog marathoning, but I found the series mostly very enjoyable and funny. Different strokes and all that

  4. Anonymous says:

    Guess everyone has its preferences when it comes to the type of anime watched and even tastes may have changed a little bit in all this time (we have to remember that 35 years have passed since UY manga debuted in Japan). Also I must agree that at first UY doesn’t take a grip on one, but hell yeah the series improved drastically enough to make me laugh in a lot of episodes.

    Anyway I must congratulate you for these accurate reviews on the UY series; just as you mention in your review, I first got interest in the series to educate myself on classic anime/manga.

  5. I’m a little late to this party, but you seem to have a pretty cool blog going on here! 🙂

    Anyway, I specifically wanted to comment on this series. Truth be told, I love all of Rumiko Takahashi’s creations. Maybe it’s because of the way they were introduced to me, and how I went through them, but I absolutely adore Urusei Yatsura, Mermaid Saga, Maison Ikkoku, Ranma 1/2, as animes and all of them plus InuYasha as mangas as well. I guess I just find something about Rumiko Takahashi’s stories and characters appealing, in a unique way, and I can definitely see how these series wouldn’t appeal to others as strongly as they do me, but I really do think they are great series for their own merits.

    Now, as for the Urusei Yatsura anime specifically, it’s personally one of my favorites. I don’t actually find all of the episodes funny, and some are kind of dull in my opinion, but overall the series was still incredibly endearing and fun to watch in a way that gives most of the episodes great replay value and enjoyment to me. Granted, I never had most of the problems you had with the series. I read the manga first, which allowed me to appreciate the early episodes of the anime better than I think I would have otherwise. In fact, if I hadn’t read the manga first, I probably would have dropped the anime early on, to be honest. Of course, it’s also cause I read the manga first that I knew these characters and where the series would take them, so most of Ataru’s jerkish moments and other gags came off way more funny to me when watching the anime. Overall, though, I just really loved these characters and their interactions, so even episodes that weren’t very funny were fun to watch for me, but I’m just a weird guy like that I suppose.

    What I like about your thoughts on the series, though, is that they are very fair and probably similar to what I expect the average persons experience would be going through the series. I have to commend you for sticking through it all even during the times you didn’t enjoyed it, and am glad you did end up liking it to a certain extent by the time you finished it. Reading some of your other thoughts/reviews on this series, it seems you and I disagree on a lot of things, but I still appreciate your ability to look at this series in a objective manner and not let your biases overwhelm your judgements on it. You did a better job than I could have on a show I had mixed feelings on, and even though we differ in how much we enjoyed and liked this series, I appreciate the time you took to evaluate it fairly (unlike a certain critic on a certain magical girl anime, lol), and your reasonings as to what worked in the series and what didn’t.

    I look forward to reading more of your reviews on various animes/mangas in the future. Keep up the great work! 🙂

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      >Reading some of your other thoughts/reviews on this series, it seems you and I disagree on a lot of things, but I still appreciate your ability to look at this series in a objective manner and not let your biases overwhelm your judgements on it.

      Thanks. ^_^ Everyone has different tastes, so it is not surprising that we disagree on things.

      Still, when it came to UY, the series is such a classic, I had to be fair and watch every TV episode, OVA, special, and movie. I can certainly see why it is a classic. Also, it is possible that on second viewing, I might like it better since the characters had become more ingrained with me (though some things I’ll never like, such as the Kitsune stories I didn’t like the first time around).

      I did rewatch a couple of early episodes after the series completed and they were better than I remembered. As such, I figure UY is kinda like Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The first time I saw that, I was like, “What the heck is this crap?!” Then when co-workers started quoting it, I decided to give it a second look and it was funnier the second time through, now that the shock of it had worn off. Now, it is a favorite movie of mine.

      Not saying that the comedy of YU and Monty Python are the same, but for me, I think UY became an acquired taste and by the end, I rather enjoyed the series as a whole. ^_^

      >unlike a certain critic on a certain magical girl anime, lol

      *lol* I’m guessing that may be targeted at me. If so, let me know which series. ^_^

      >I look forward to reading more of your reviews on various animes/mangas in the future. Keep up the great work! 🙂

      Feel free to comment at any time. ^_^

  6. gardenbluez says:

    Hola, he leídos las reseñas que dejas de cada capítulo de URUSEI YATSURA y me parecen buenos y parciales, sin embargo no comparto tu misma opinión en todo, después de todo venimos de culturas diferentes. Podría escribirte en inglés, pero prefiero hacerlo en mi lengua materna y que luego traduzcas esto.

    UY llegó de casualidad a mí y agradezco mucho eso. A diferencia de ti, me agradó mucho los primeros 21 episodios y eso motivó a que siguiera la serie hasta el final (la vi completa en 3 meses). Debo decirte que he visto la serie en ambos idiomas (español y japonés subtitulado) para entender cosas como los honoríficos y cultura popular, elementos que permanecen escondidos al ver una serie doblada, además que tú has escrito de cosas que no noté a primera vista como algunos homenajes a cultura norteamericana y japonesa.

    Soy consciente de la repercusión de UY, incluyendo Neon Genesis Evangelion (Hideaki Anno animó el episodio 133 de UY), en muchos elementos e incluso el capítulo 26 de NGE en el mundo alternativo de Shinji, parecía un discreto homenaje a UY. Revísalo y sabrás que estoy en lo correcto.

    Por último debo decirte que ya he visto 4 de las 6 películas, porque las estoy visionando en orden cronológico junto con la serie. Película 1 (entre los episodios 58 -59), película 2 (99 – 100), película 3 (140 -141), película 4 (191 – 192), después siguen los Ovas 02 y 03 antes de poder ver la película 5.

    Muchas gracias por las reseñas. Saludos desde Lima, Perú.

    (Machine translation)

    Hi, I’ve read the reviews you stop every chapter of Urusei Yatsura and I look good and partial, though I do not share your same opinion on everything, after all we come from different cultures. You could write in English but prefer to do it in my native language and then translate this.

    UY chance came to me and I appreciate that very much. Unlike you, I really liked the first 21 episodes and that motivated to continue the series until the end (the vi completed in 3 months). I must tell you I have seen the series in both languages ​​(Spanish and Japanese subtitles) to understand things like honorifics and popular culture, elements that remain hidden to watch a dubbed series, plus you’ve written things I did not notice at first sight some tributes to American and Japanese culture.

    I am aware of the impact of UY, including Neon Genesis Evangelion (Hideaki Anno encouraged episode 133 of UY), and even many elements Chapter 26 NGE in the alternate world of Shinji seemed a discreet homage to UY. Check it out and you’ll know I’m right.

    Finally I must say that I have seen 4 of the 6 movies, because I’m envisioning in chronological order along with the series. Movie 1 (between episodes 58 -59) Movie 2 (99-100), film 3 (140 -141), film 4 (191-192), then follow Eggs 02 and 03 before seeing the film 5.

    Thank you very much for the reviews. Greetings from Lima, Peru

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Thank you very much for the reviews. Greetings from Lima, Peru

      Thanks for writing, gardenbluez. I’m glad you were able to overcome the language barrier and read my reviews of this classic series. ^_^

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