The early 80’s found the anime industry before a new challenge: THE SECOND ANIMEFAN GENERATION! It is reasonable to imagine how the first generation was all now adults, workingmen who pretty much left behind this hobby and centered on working and working and … um … working? Hell, this is Japan; they don’t do anything else.
So the industry now had to win the hearts of the newer generation of youngsters and to do that it had to adjust to their demands, which were drastically different from those of their fathers and mothers. In fact, the 80’s found Japan going through a huge generation gap which dissolved the major importance social norms like family and traditions played up until then. Furthermore, the newer generation pretty much didn’t care about the high ideals of the 60’s when Japan was still recovering from the war and teamwork was important and the country needed hope and the like. In fact, many didn’t give a rat’s ass about all that; they grew up in a restored country during times where everybody had a job, peace, money, and a million different things to spend them on.
The dread of war and high ideals meant a lot less to them and that was in fact the element which many 80’s anime focused on. Slapstick and ridicule! And Urusei Yatsura is one of the oldest, funniest, most famous examples. Made by female mangaka Takahashi Rumiko, the entire story is essentially a mockery of ideals and social norms.
Its style of animation is of course very simple and old today but it will stay adorable no matter how many years pass. Rejecting the series because of the old graphics and sound is NOT an excuse. You can consider yourselves shallow people that only judge a book by its cover, if you do. This series has memorable character figures, distinguishable voices and behaviors, a huge heart-warming variety in backgrounds and humor that still gets to you without needing realism, CG graphics or unbelievable visual effects. Plus, most episodes make several image and sound references to very known movies, traditions and myths (of the 80’s and before, that is) making most episodes a parody of every renowned title you can think of. The rest are funny, every day situations, with the characters experiencing new pleasures or taking part in weird games and contests. So, this department has no significance over the real value of the series.
A common trademark of most comedies is the stale and unfinished scenarios. The series begins with a story, spends a few episodes introducing the characters and then stops having continuity. All episodes are stand-alones and only those introducing recurring characters or another attempt at a given situation can be called to have an on-going scenario. Beyond that, no matter what happens in the end of an episode, it will have no effect in the beginning of the next. So, the series is focusing on one-episode story arks and not on an evolving story with a beginning and an end.
A major plus of the series is its characters, hilarious folks who easily become memorable in a few episodes.
Lum: A cult anime babe, Lum is a skimpy dressed alien, part of a race that resembles the mythical Oni of Japanese mythology. She is unfamiliar with Earth traditions and constantly invents contraptions that cause world-changing situations. And all just to please, she thinks at least, her “Darling” boyfriend-wanna-be Ataru. She can be seen as the opposite of the perfect Japanese woman stereotype, as she tries to please her man, without caring about rules, tradition or morality.
Ataru: The epitome of sleaziness, Ataru is a sex fiend that doesn’t care about manners if he can grope some girly skin. He constantly chases beautiful women and ends up being chased by the women who are in love with him and the boys who envy him for having so many women in his life. His action also cause world-changing situations and is world-wide known as the most hated and unlucky person in history. The one theme which stays constant in the series is the true love between Lum and Ataru, despite his flawed nature. In many episodes they have opportunities to part ways, but always the two come back to each other. Some of the best dramatic moments in the series are in these episodes.
Shinobu: The epitome of the perfect Japanese woman stereotype, until she gets angry and brakes mens’ faces with throwing desks. She is supposed to marry Ataru but constantly tries to have a romantic and happy relationship with a handsome man. She only ends up being disappointed and desk-throwing angry.
Cherry: A Buddhist priest that is supposed to help Ataru become an enlightening man but only ends up stealing food and causing trouble with his selfish misconceptions.
There are a dozen other beautiful women that circle Ataru from time to time, giving the series a hint of harem anime. We have a nurse exorcist, a snow queen, a crow princess, a cute Lolita with murdering tendencies, a cross-dresser girl raised as a boy, a motorcyclist gang member and many others. There are a hundred more secondary characters that spice up the story even more, from the ashamed-for-their-son Ataru’s parents, to Lum’s ex-fiancé, to Ataru’s geek classmates.
To sum it up, most characters are essentially reverse stereotypes of the ideal images of Japanese people. You must be well aware of Japan’s traditions if you want to “get the joke” but even if you are not, they are still very funny most of the time. If some actual character development had taken place, this section would be a solid 10.
Anime-wise it is a must-series for all otakus with a taste for quality. It still is amongst the longest and best comedies around. Its humor is a parody of the Japanese culture and its stereotypes, becoming a sort of self-criticizing essay on Japan’s history. Every romantic comedy anime in the last 20 years owes something to this series. The most famous Love Hina, for example, offered nothing new in the comedy genre. Urusei Yatsura on the other hand FOUNDED most stereotypes and allowed other series to build their fame on those. And although we get dozens of comedies today, each making fun of something, very few ever manage to reach the variety, perkiness, quality and memorability of Urusei Yatsura.
The series has a pretty high rewatch value, since you can start at any episode and you are almost guaranteed a good laugh without spoiling any story continuity (because there isn’t any). To be honest, 1/5 of the episodes are not funny at all. But the rest made me laugh hard; a feat quite hard.
Ranma ½, Slayers, Mahoujin Guruguru are famous old slapstick comedies.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 2/2 (generic but well-founded)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (usually artsy)
SOUND SECTION: 8/10
Voice Acting 3/3 (silly but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 2/10
Premise 1/2 (simple)
Pacing 0/2 (episodic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 2/2 (funny/sexy)
Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (none)
Catharsis 0/2 (none)
VALUE SECTION: 9/10
Historical Value 3/3 (all-known)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high because of the episodic good humor)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely fond memories)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10
Would be better with some plot and ending but it is still great.