An alien force intending to invade earth has given our planet one chance. Unfortunately for us, they randomly chose an unlucky lecherous loser named Ataru to represent us in a game of tag. Ataru wants nothing to do with it until he meets his opponent: the beautiful bodacious princess of the planet clad in a tiger striped bikini. Ataru wins the game but due to a misunderstanding, is now set to marry her.
Alien space ships with gaudy paint jobs are only the beginning of Ataru's problems. Shocking events are daily occurrences when you can't keep your libido under control and your new girlfriend shoots lightning.
As a definitive anime classic, Urusei Yatsura is a show most anime fans have heard of, but these days few have watched. As a franchise covering nearly 200 TV episodes, 12 OVAs and 6 movies, it's daunting to even approach. My expectations were low, as I assumed the story / humor wouldn't be my thing. To the contrary I found this show pretty damn funny. It's not the slapstick I expected (although it does that too), however Urusei Yatsura is oddly intelligent for slapstick.
Urusei Yatsura doesn't have a big story. It's plays out more like a sitcom. While not especially deep, the number and variety of characters keep it somewhat fresh (for a while). This prevents the show from falling into a rut, but nothing significant develops in an ongoing story. A benefit of this setup is dropping or picking the show up at any time and or order. Unfortunately like many sitcoms, this anime simply ran out of juice yet kept going for quite some time it should have called it quits.
The first third of Urusei Yatsura is old school. The 70s vibe, funky music and old character designs are certainly a throwback (not to mention some interesting fashion concepts). It slowly transitions into 1980s anime designs as it goes. Early episodes shadow the manga, which are alright, but nothing exceptional. Still worth watching early episodes for hilarious chemistry between Shinobu, who's not happy about someone stealing her man (even if she doesn't like him much) and Lum: the totally bat-shit crazy alien hottie. Characters settle down a LOT by season 2. It's wacky, but takes time to grow as the anime starts to take on a life of its own.
Around the 20th episode mark, the show is great. It's hilarious with comedy, but surprisingly diverse with content. Urusei Yatsura does "a little of everything", which can include drama, ghost stories, and suspense thrillers. And these episodes are on par with shows dedicated to those genres! Fairly gutsy for a anime that's a silly comedy first. Sometimes it's hard to predict where an episode will go, particularly when some have the punchline at the very end.
Few people talk about the quality decline later on (am I the only one who watched all of it?). The last third is a huge disappointment. Episodes always varied in success, with the occasional dud sprinkled in, but good episodes become spaced farther and farther apart. Eventually I realized I couldn't remember how long it had been since I watched one I enjoyed. It's episode after episode of "stuff" happening. The comedy is only so-so, and they rarely seem to have enough of a point to them to justify their existence. It may seem weird to rate a show well, when I'm telling you to skip the last 65 episodes of a series, but they're all grouped together and there's no story you're missing. The one episode I'd watch in the last third is
• #1 Character: Sakura - The smoking hot nurse / shrine maiden, who swears like a pirate and has the voice of a chain smoking truck driver. She's the most sane person in this show, but forced to cope with various crazy situations, and more so with horny teenage boys. Which she does by dishing out ass kicking. One of those anime voices you'll never forget.
• #2 Character: Asuka Mendou - Her schtick is pretty simple. She plays herself up like a virtuous innocent maiden, seems to have a borderline brother complex and is obsessed with him. Contrary to her sweet words, she's always hatching schemes to torment him. So damn weird :P
• #1 Episode: Panic in Typhoon (#41) - A typhoon floods the area. Lum's "help" only aggravates the problem, causing the bottom of the house to flood. Her solution is to reverse gravity in part of the house, resulting water floating up in bubbles through the pocket of air in the middle. It's hard to explain the magical mix of comedy, beauty and imagination.
• #2 "In Dream land, Darling's Battle Royal Abduction" (#144) - It's in the last third I said not to watch, but a hilarious exception. Sakura is haunted by dreams which are actually Lum's fantasy. After two nights she's at her wits end, but horrified when Lum explains the third dream will culminate in her worst nightmare: marrying Ataru! Sakura and Lum travel into her dreams to stop it, however Ataru joins them to make sure it happens.
I enjoyed Urusei Yatsura a LOT. 30 years after release I can say it's still a riot, with surprisingly edgy humor. Perhaps unfair rating a show well when I'm advocating skipping the last third, but because it's at the end it's easily skipped - like not watching a sequel that shouldn't have happened. Even watching 2/3 of this franchise is a lot, but easy to pick up and drop when you're in the mood. You might go a lot father than expected.
Shinobu: You took this on because you're infatuated with her looks. What's so great about her anyway? She's only a little busty!
Ataru: That's right. No matter how big her rack is, an enemy is still an enemy.
Sugar: The era of power is over!
Ginger: That's right. From now on it's the era of sexiness!
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