Urusei Yatsura – 23 (Fin) – They’re All Winners

The season 1 finale of Urusei Yatsura is given over entirely to the Tomo-1 Queen Contest teased last week. Seemingly entirely arranged by Ataru, it’s a multi-faceted competition that draws upon the myriad skills and specialties of its five finalists: Lum, Shinobu, Ran, Sakura, and Ryuunosuke. None of them are especially enthusiastic about participating, but a 150,000 yen prize is nothing to sneeze at.

The challenges range from “guess what’s in the box” (Ten with a watermelon, guessed by Ryuu) to bottomless ramen bowls (won by noted glutton Sakura), culminating in a five-woman final battle in which everyone dons wrestling boots and swimsuits (though Ryuu eschews a bikini top for the traditional binding). Knowing she’s at a strength disadvantage, Ran kisses Ryuu, Shinobu, and Sakura, sapping their energy.

That backfires spectacularly, as the five women aren’t fighting each other per se, they have to go up against five wild beasts from the local zoo (Ataru ensured the event was heavily promoted and full of advertisements). For some reason, the beasts are anthropomorphic, otherwise they’d tear our girls to bits.

When Sakura gets ensnared in an Anaconda’s grip, Lum buys time with her electro-kicks for Ran to re-kiss everyone she kissed and give them back their superhuman strength. The battle finishes with all five women teaming up to K-O all five beasts.

Then, curioulsy, the judges determine that the result of the Queen Contest is a five-way-tie, due in part (or rather mostly) because they forgot to keep score as the battle royale got more chaotic. Ataru presents the consolation prize: 30,000 yen worth of takoyaki waffles, and then all the series’ characters come out of the woodwork to join the lunacy. Even Kurama, who hasn’t been seen in months, makes an appaearance.

At the end of the day, the one to profit the most is Ataru, thanks to all the kickbacks he got from the businesses he advertised throughout the contest. As he counts his money, Lum voices her frustration, and Ataru ends up tripping and almost falling straight into a kiss with Lum. Their lips are only inches apart before Ataru withdraws.

Before Lum can get her Darling to declare her the “Queen of his heart”, a still-furious Sakura and Shinobu track him down to beat the stuffing out of him for everything he made them go through. As they chase him into the sunset, with Lum taking flight to join the pursuit, the sun sets on Urusei Yatsura, but only for now.

After the credits, Ataru and Lum announce a Part 2 will air in 2024. As it’s been a great-looking diversion for these last twenty-three weeks, I see no reason not to tune back in!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Urusei Yatsura – 22 – Darling, I Shrunk Myself

When Ten buys an innocuous glass bottle from a scarecrow inventor in the trippy “4D Forest” then points it towards Lum, it sucks her in and shrinks her to just a few inches tall. She decides to use this mishap as an excuse to get Ataru to pamper her, but Ataru suspects something is up. When he overhears her owning up to it, he stashes her in a birdcage so he can (fail to) pick up chicks.

Ten, who “rushed” off at his normal leisurely pace to purchase a “big bottle” to restore Lum to her normal size, learns that the scarecrow has become disillusioned and has started to destroy all his bottles, he “rushes” to grab his scooter so he can actually rush with Ataru and Lum back to the forest before the last big bottle is smashed.

They just make it in time to restore Lum, by which time a tearful Ataru is relieved. Lum, who had finally decided she couldn’t trust Ataru, isn’t sure how to react to his affection, except that it’s what she wanted all along, so I guess it worked out. She punishes him by making him wear the birdcage on his head while they walk to school arm in arm.

The next segment features an adorable little sentient fox who takes one look at Shinobu and falls desperately in love, only to find her walking with Ataru. Identifying his rival, the fox disguises himself as a diminutive Ataru and goes to school, convincing everyone that something has happened to Ataru until the real Moroboshi arrives with Lum.

The fox’s gig is up, and the boys go after him, worried he’s a fox demon trying to possess Shinobu. But it’s Shinobu herself who stops them, insisting he doesn’t mean any harm and was only paying her back for picking him up and taking him to the authorities when she thought he was a lost pet. The fox then transforms into a miniature version of their teacher, with which all the students are on board.

After the credits, a show-within-a-show called the Tomo-1 Queen Contest  begins, whittling down eight candidates for the title of Queen of the School down to Lum, Shinobu, Sakura, Ran, and Ryuu, to be picked up next week in at least part of next week’s finale. What Urusei Yatsura may have lacked in serialized development, it mostly makes up for with its vast variety of characters, entertaining situations, effective voice performances, and slick retro visuals.

Urusei Yatsura – 21 – Urusei Babies

This week we get a flashback to when Lum, Benten, Oyuki and Ran were being oppressed by their teacher when they were little tykes. Only their school is in space, their teacher is a robot, and they’re doing most of the oppressing with increasingly violent pranks. As a fan of Muppet Babies, it was great to see these characters as rugrats but still fundamentally themselves, and the all-star voice cast nails their younger versions, as you’d expect.

We also get a good idea about the group dynamics at this early stage in the four “friends'” lives: Benten is the aggressive ringleader, Lum enthusiastically goes along with her mischief, Oyuki doesn’t stop them but merely observes and keeps her hands clean, and Ran always tries and fails to stop them, and always faces the same consequences they do. We already see her fury-ridden alter-ego being forged.

In the present, the four girls are concerned when Oyuki reports that Planet Urchin is being redeveloped, because that’s where they left CAO-2-sensei—stuck and trapped alone on one of those spikes for the better part of a decade. Luckily for them, once he’s free all he desires to to clap them with chalk dust one last time before going on his way. That clapping does involve destroying the wall of their café, but this show rarely dwells on property damage.

The second segment is a little less inventive due to the return to earth (I love it when we’re out in space, and the alien and school designs are weirder), involving Ryouko deciding to make a voodoo doll of her brother …because she’s bored? When he realizes what she’s done he pulls his katana on her, which does him no favors.

Ryouko cannot resist the temptation to do horrible things to the Mendou doll (and thus Mendou himself), so she leaves it in the care of someone she believes she can trust to keep it safe: Ataru. Ataru wears it around his neck at all times because Ryouko asked him, but this is not great for Mendou, as Ataru takes a lot of punishment throughout an average day, and he feels everything Ataru feels.

Initially, Mendou acts to everyone like he’s suddenly being a stand-up guy dedicated to keeping his friends Ataru safe. But then he confirms that Ataru has the doll of him, and that makes Ataru aware of what the doll can do to Mendou. Mendou in turn, makes a doll of Ataru, and the two spar in the most pointless battle imaginable, in which they each dole out the exact same amount of harm to one another with every attack.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Urusei Yatsura – 20 – Never Break the Chain

UY spends a decent chunk offworld this week as we check in on Benten, who gets knocked out by mushroom gas and has the chain she wears like a sash stolen. After getting a bath at Lums (with Ataru nowhere in sight), the two head to Oyuki’s on Neptune, where she has a package for Oyuki.

It’s a VHS tape of all things, with what amounts to a diss track from three middle schoolers who aspire to be as cool and badass as Benten, Lum, and Oyuki. They are Ginger, Sugar, and Snake, and if nothing else they have decent video production and choreography skills. When Lum and Oyuki bristle at the idea they’re “punksters”, Benten reminds them they always followed her into trouble.

Benten races off (without the map to the duel), and is followed by Lum, who is there for her friend, and Oyuki, who wants to be compensated for the VCR and projector Benten smashed out of rage. They end up meeting the three little twerps in a popular cafe on Earth of all places. They produce Benten’s chain, run off, and basically tell their senpais to come and take it.

In the ensuing chase, we learn Sugar can turn invisible, Ginger can play dead, and Snake can shed her skin. But none of these things are enough against Lum’s flight and electricity, not to mention Benten’s brawn and Oyuki’s…well, Oyuki is just kind of along for the ride!

The chill’uns end up luring Benten, Lum, and Oyuki to a vacant lot where their “computer” SALT #1, a giant metal Big Boy mascot that computed their duel strategy, lands right on top of its targets, who are lucky to have been right below a pitfall. SALT #1 then runs out of juice, and when it is replenished with veggie oil, barfs up hundreds of seemingly identical chains and launches back into space.

But before it does, Benten, Lum, and Oyuki are stuck under its foot in very close quarters. In the heat of the battle, Lum melted Benten’s chain into ash, and while she’s guilty about it, she’s not about to own up to it, lest Benten in her fury take her most prized possession: Darling. So she electrocutes Benten, asking her what’s more important, her stupid chain, or her friends?

While Oyuki comes up with a beautiful and romantic theory about a fellow biker dude giving Benten the chain as a memento, the truth is far more mundane: the chain is the key to Benten’s house. This is why Benten was locked out of her home for ten days and had to bathe at Lum’s—she didn’t have a spare.

To add insult to injury, she unknowingly left her back door open, which allowed the brats to break in, produce another chain, and dare their senpais to give chase once more. But at this point Benten is home and happy, Lum is stewing in her underwhelm-ment, and Oyuki is sippin’ tea. Playtime’s over, punks! Go back to school!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Urusei Yatsura – 19 – Pickled Pink

Ataru, Lum, Shinobu, Ryuu, and three dudes from class are invited to Mendou’s vast family compound to meet his horde of prized octopuses. We’d previously Ryouko walking them when Mendou was unable to, and now we see how important they are as a living symbol of the proud Mendou clan. Everyone else…tries to keep an open mind.

In a facility that spares no expense in recreating an Antarctic environment dwells the Matsuchiyo, Mendous’ most special octopus. But when he reveals himself, he’s identical to the other octopuses…only blue. Because nearly every character in this show is rude as hell, the insults about how underwhelming Matsuchiyo is compared to the build-up.

But octopuses are very emotional creatures, and Matsuchiyo gets distraught and flees the Antarctic environment for the adjacent rainforest environment. There, the kids encounter leaches and leopards, and learn that Matsuchiyo is “special” because he grows to enormous size in high temperatures. The girls are snatched in his tentacles, the guys hesitate and bumble, and Lum manages to save the day with her electricity.

Her and her cousin Ten’s alien physiology, while extremely resistant to intense spicy heat, appears to have a weakness: the famously sour pickled umeboshi plums. When Ataru feeds Ten one, the little rugrat gets completely sloshed and starts hiccuping flames. When Lum eats one, she gets drunk, rips off her uniform, and goes on a drunken rampage.

As she glides haphazardly through the halls, she shifts wildly from lovey-dovey to tearful to enraged, all of those emotions centered on Ataru, whom she blames for looking for Ten before her. That said, Ataru isn’t the only victim of her electricity (or Ten’s fire): anyone in her path gets zapped. Unlike Matsuchiyo being neutralized, this skit ends without resolution, leaving us without a hungover Lum.

That said, the episode ends with a collective threat from three aliens who appear to be the self-professed nemeses of Lum, Ran, and Benten. They’re planning to attack the other girls, starting with Benten. Will they pose a serious threat to the status quo on Earth…or will their personality flaws be their undoing, like basically everyone else in the show?

Urusei Yatsura – 18 – Love Is Chemical War

Our episode starts with a needless mini-recap of who Ataru and Lum are, and then we’re off to a sequence where Lum very carefully prepares a very special lipstick in the onboard lab of an orbiting Oni spaceship. It’s special because it enables whoever wears it to be drawn to someone else wearing it like a magnet.

Lum is sick of her Darling never being kissy-kissy with her, but underestimates his speed and agility when he doesn’t want to be kissed. My question to him is, what is so wrong with Lum that he can’t accept her as a partner? I guess it really is about the having, not the getting.

To that end, Ataru pretends to throw the lipstick out the window, but secretly takes it to school to use on the cutest honey available. It’s kind of cruel to give her something she thinks is in good faith, but Ataru pays for it since her fists and feet get to his face before her lips do. With Mendou wanting to kiss Lum and all the girls wanting to kiss him, chaos ensues.

When the class votes to do yaminabe, a kind of potluck hot pot in which you’re allowed to put anything you want in the pot, Lum again breaks out the heavy equipment to make a bizarre complextion that resembles a bit konpeitou, but when both a dog and Ataru taste it, their mouths (and other orifices) become red and inflamed.

Turns out Lum, and likely all Oni, prefer incredibly spicy food (she guzzles habanero sauce with glee). One wonders, then, why she’d hate garlic of all things. I guess it’s less the heat and more the unique odor. Ataru stuffs himself with garlic, but by the time he gets to his room where Lum is, she has an air freshener spray at the ready to counteract his funk.

Lum really gets into the spirit of yaminabe by putting all the things she likes in the pot, including one of her special spicy candies. This renders most of the pot inedible to all, and only she, Atari, and Shinobu are still upright by the end of the first few minutes.

In a game where you have to eat what you take out of the pot with your chopsticks, Shinobu gets fish bones, Lum gets a wooden sandal, and Ataru actually gets the “chomchomp”, a vegetable Ten specifically got for him from a passing interplanetary grocery vender. True to its name, the chomchomp ends up trying to eat Ataru.

It’s a week with another pair of fairly diverting skits, but far from any serialized character development, if anything Ataru and Lum have gone backwards; at best, they’re standing still as a couple.

I know, I know; this resolutely isn’t the kind of show that cares about character development, in fact, its characters are meant to be awful jerks who never learn. But that makes the times it looks like Lum and Ataru have turned a corner sting all the more when they essentially reset in the next skit or episode.

Urusei Yatsura – 17 – If Wishes Were Bras

This week’s outing is evenly split between two stories, the first chronicling Ryuunosuke’s quest to obtain her first bra and cast away her chest binding. It all starts with Shinobu being stalked and photographed by three delinquents from a neighboring highschool whose boss is infatuated with her. Ryuunosuke is walking by, so Shinobu gloms onto her, and the hoodlums assume she’s Shinobu’s guy.

When Ryuunosuke informs them she’s a girl (with her fists), the delinquents work out a deal with her: a 5,000-yen gift certificate (enough to buy a bra) if they can snap a bunch of photos of her on a date with Shinobu so their boss will stop barking up the wrong tree.

Ryuunosuke, with just a scant 400 yen to her name and no concept of inflation, grudgingly agrees, even though she could simply borrow a bra for free from any of the girls in her class.

These photos must be convincing, so Ryuunosuke and Shinobu dress up for their date. When Ryuunosuke applies the same passion she has for fighting to date with Shinobu, she’s rewarded with a slap for being too forward and Shinobu’s concern she may actually have the hots for her.

Adding to the complexity of the situation is that Ataru is not okay with Ryuunosuke dating Shinobu, whom he is still pining after, and Lum keeping Ataru honest.

At the end of the day, we know Shinobu’s prime criterion for dating is good looks, so when the grotesque abomination of a bossman shows up in the mood for-a-smoochin’, we know he has zero chance. Ryuunosuke, torn between chasing after the airborne gift cert and protecting Shinobu, leaves her vulnerable to attack.

But Shinobu is ready to repel the bossman with her fist. He then contents himself with eating what he believes to be Shinobu’s bra, which is actually Ataru’s mom’s bra, with which he tried to bribe Ryuunosuke earlier.

From there, we move on to something completely different: The Moroboshi family settling in for a meager dinner of three shumai and one bowl of miso soup each. When Ataru predictably eats more than his fill and starts bickering with his parents, Lum ducks and covers, as she hears something descending from the sky with great speed. It turns out to be a sentient Wishing Star.

The star will grant the family three wishes—anything they want. Ataru’s folks are skeptical, but the first wish—cleaning up the room the star ruined with its arrival—they realize it’s the real deal. Sakuranbou (who shows up out of nowhere) uses the second wish for yakisoba.

Then Ataru, his parents, and Lum begin arguing ad nauseum about how to use the remaining wish. Ataru’s mom wants cash. His dad wants to “redo his life”. Ataru wants a harem, and Lum wants his cheating to be cured.

When the Wishing Star asks for something to drink and is directed to the fridge, it locates Ataru’s dad’s beer, and ends up passing out drunk. Since its wishes are only good until dawn, everyone tries in vain to wake it up. Sakuranbou ends up using the final wish to simply wake the Star up, at which time it says all three wishes have been fulfilled, and departs by flying through the kitchen window.

A shame; it would have been nice if one of the wishes could have been spent to put a little more cash in the Moroboshis’ pockets…or to cure Ataru of his lecherousness for Lum’s sake.

Urusei Yatsura – 16 – Ryuunosuke-chan Is a Girl!

Ataru, Lum, Shinobu and Mendou head to the beach, but the waves are too hazardous to swim, and all the beach shacks are closed. What they do find is an extremely spirited and energetic father-son duo telling the waves to screw off, then darting away before they get hit. When the son messes up the timing, the dad punches him, he punches back, and they just start brawling.

Turns out they’re hating on the ocean because it’s killing their business right now. As our guys have lunch at their café, they learn the boy’s name is Fujinami Ryuunosuke. His dad has groomed him to take over the family business when he’s gone, even though Ryuunosuke doesn’t want to. Oh, also? Ryuunosuke is a woman. Ataru and Mendou were ready to peace out until they heard her say this, then they’re all-in to help her out.

The best way to do that is to keep Ryuunosuke and her dad from whaling on one another, so after they knock each other out, Ataru, Lum, Shinobu and Mendou literally chain them to the pillars of the shack so they have to use their words. That doesn’t work out so well, as the two Fujinamis are so strong they snap the wooden pillars and bring the whole café down, then start using their chains as weapons.

Because there’s no such thing as a coincidence too farfetched on ol’ Urusei Yatsura, Ryuunosuke’s dad takes over the school store…at Ataru and Lum’s school. This means Ryuu is transferring there. Her dream since childhood is to wear a beautiful sailor fuku, and her dad agrees to let her…if he can beat her. Ataru is so excited he hugs Ryuu, leaving her open to be easily defeated by her dad.

Despite clearly stating she’s a girl when she introduces herself, Ryuunosuke becomes the new toast of the class, and all the girls fall for her, leaving Ataru, Mendou, and the other boys eager to make her more feminine. They beat up her dad and purchase a sailor fuku, but while she’s genuinely happy to see it, she’d rather beat her dad on her own before she wears it.

She also wants to learn more about what it means to act like and carry oneself like a woman, and in Ran she finds a muse. But while she just wants to befriend Ran and learn from her, Ran mistakes her letter for a love letter, and when Lum says Ryuu is a girl, Ran assumes Lum is trying to sabotage her love live as usual. To stick it to Lum, Ran agrees to go on a date with Ryuu, who is amazed how long it takes Ran to run to the school gate to meet her.

Naturally, Ataru cannot allow anyone to have Ryuu or Ran, so he shadows their date with Lum in tow (who apparently is content to get a quasi-date with the distracted Ataru out of it). Of course, Ran thinks it’s Lum who is following her and Ryuu so she can meddle. When Ran cuddles up to Ryuu on their boat ride, Ataru can’t abide it, and launches himself like a missile and causing both boats to capsize.

By day’s end, Ryuu observes “Dark Ran” laying into Lum and feels she has a long way to go to understand the complex secrets to being a woman. I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction of Ryuunosuke (and Takagaki Ayahi’s voice performance) and can name her among my favorite Urusei Yatsura characters after just one episode. She paved the way for characters like Tomo-chan.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Urusei Yatsura – 15 – Airing of Grievances

In an effort to woo Rei, Ran buys a giant bag of bean-filled taiyaki and dresses in her best Barbarella outfit. It seems to work when Rei thanks her for the food by planting a tender kiss on her cheek. Ran declares it the happiest moment of her life.

She invites Lum to her place to gloat about it celebrate her newfound happiness. Considering Ran’s personality changes at the drop of a hat, Lum is initially unsure why she’s there, as more often than not Ran treats her like an enemy these days. But when she hears about the kiss she gives Ran and Rei her blessing.

It’s odd, then, when she returns to Ataru’s house, Rei is there waiting for her. Ran also shows up for more girl talk, and finds Lum in Rei’s arms. When the giant cat (who is also there for some reason) gives Ran a commiseratory taiyaki, she scarfs it down…and Rei kisses her again. Turns out he’s eating the bean crumbs off her face. Classic Rei.

Another day, Ran invites Lum out for coffee and pudding, declaring that Lum will be treating her. She unleashes a litany of events from her past, giving us adorable Lil’ Lum and Lil’ Ran. From pinning the blame on Ran when Lum wet the bed during sleepovers, to Lum being a lousy liar when trying to cover for her, Ran blames Lum for causing her to develop her current volatile personality—though her intense mom probably deserves more blame.

Lum doesn’t remember these events in quite the way Ran does, though why would she, when Ran casts her as the bad guy in every one? Even so, when Ran completes her exhaustive rundown, Lum can’t help but feel somewhat responsible. Ran has given her a lot to think about…and she thinks about it so strongly, she ends up leaving the café before Ran, thus leaving her with the bill! I guess there’s no changing this frenemyship dynamic…

The final segment involves Lum and Shinobu spotting Sakura roasting a newt. When Sakura lists all the traditional medicines it’s used for, they lose interest and start to walk away…until she mentions love potion. Sakura, who swears she’s never used it herself, nevertheless agrees to whip up a batch for Lum (for use on Ataru) and Shinobu (Mendou).

Ataru is the first guinea pig, and while he initially starts behaving affectionately (and monogamously) towards Lum, much to her delight, as soon as they interact with other people he starts spouting blatant, elaborate lies. Then he spots Shinobu and starts acting like she’s the only one in his heart. Clearly something is off about the love potion, and they head back to Sakura.

Sure enough, she made the “loud” potion, the recipe for which is right next to the love potion, and causes those who take it to lie, loudly. That certainly doesn’t bode well for Lum or Shinobu, but in particular it’s a step backwards in Lum and Ataru’s relationship. But just like Ran, and Rei, and Lum, Ataru is a creature of habit—in his case being an unrepentant horndog lothario. No potion can cure him of that, only time patience, and luck.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Urusei Yatsura – 14 – Pinch Hitter

Another week, another new Urusei Yatsura character. This time it’s Mizunokouji Tobimaro, AKA Ton-chan, a childhood friend of Mendou and Ryouko. Once defeated by Mendou in baseball, he went to the mountains for training, only to return just as uncoordinated and accident-prone as ever.

What makes Ton interesting is that unlike the other guys, he has absolutely no interest in girls, only in beating Mendou. One could even take it a step further and call his obsession with Mendou a crush. But it’s Ryouko who has always loved Ton, whose fear and hatred of women may be due to him being the recipient of her elaborate and often violent pranks over the years.

A ridiculous ballgame ensues in which Ton is complete rubbish but Ryouko deploys her ninja manservants to manipulate the baseball (i.e. hold it and run with it like they’re invisible). Despite Ton being on his team Ataru intervenes, resulting in a duel. But Ton is determined for a rematch with Mendou.

He hadn’t counted on Ryouko encasing Mendou in cement from the neck down, which means she is the one walking the octopi on the bridge when he tosses his challenge letter to her. Only it doesn’t look or read like a challenge letter, but a love letter.

Mendou, who is as firmly against a Ton-Ryouko union as Ton himself, forbids Ryouko from leaving the family compound. But she’s not only able to escape in her litter, but rope Ataru into assisting her with keeping Mendou away from her plans to see Ton at the athletic center. As usual, Ryouko’s methods for communication show no regard for other people’s peace or property.

As Ataru gloms onto Ryouko, Lum follows and electricutes and chastises him for straying yet again, especially since Ryouko has no real interest in him beyond him keeping Mendou at bay. Mendou, meanwhile, reveals he’d disguised himself as one of her manservants in order to come between her and Ryouko.

Ton’s one-on-one challenge with Mendou ends up being a five-way fracas between him, Ataru, Lum, Mendou, and Ryouko. Ton takes the lion’s share of the punishment, demonstrating that he’d actually make a perfect match for Ryouko and her violent pranks since he is able to take a great deal of physical punishment.

Mendou eventually even concedes the battle and allows him to date Ryouko, even though that’s the last thing he wants. It’s an episode packed with manic chaos and slapstick, with the only one you could call satisfied in the end being Ryouko. Which is all that matters to her!

Urusei Yatsura – 13 – Snack Wars

When the faculty arranges for a blanket crackdown on off-campus snacking, the students are ready to fight back, with Ataru and his boundless charisma leading the charge. Mendou joins the adults as part of the “Covert Civility Patrol”, but allows all the girls (and guys disguised as girls) to pass when they sweet-talk him.

A madcap game of guy in cat mascot costume-and-mouse around the nearby shopping district ensues, complete with dramatic music to punctuate the “snack wars”, with the store owners and employees helping out the students since they give them their business. Unfortunately for Ataru, he’s force-fed a chili-filled okonomiyaki by Lum when she sees him flirting with a server.

The battle ends in a stalemate, and the episode moves on to Lum, Shinobu, Sakura, and Ran at a café, taking turns feeding the adorable Ten while Ataru stews outside. When talk turns to Sakura’s fiance, Ten space mail-orders a “Lovey-Dovey Crystal Ball” which tells each of the girls who they’re destined to marry. A lot of bombshells drop: Ran with…Ataru? Lum with…Rei? Sakura with…Ataru and Mendou??

The kicker is when Shinobu reveals that she saw Sakura’s fiancé. Then the three guys come in and much relationship rancor ensues, as no one is happy with the prospective husband they saw in the crystal ball (except for Ataru and Mendou, of course). Ten learns that the ball actually shows you your worst match you should avoid at all costs, but gets the real Lovey-Dovey Crystal Ball too late to stem the chaos the first ball wrought.

Urusei Yatsura – 12 – Little Trouble

With Urusei Yatsura’s second half comes a new OP and ED (neither quite the equal of their earworm predecessors) and another new character: Lum’s tiny cousin, Ten. He’s discovered stuffed into the mailslot by Ataru, who is fleeing his parents fawning over having a girl in the house. Ten is a sweetie-pie to everyone but Ataru, on whom he breathes fire with regularity.

Ten accompanies Ataru and Lum to a formalwear get-together at Sakura’s place; her uncle, Ran, and Shinobu are also in attendance. Ataru is predictably jealous by all the attention Ten gets from the ladies, while Ten burns Ataru’s hand when he abuses the ensuing game of karuta as an excuse to caress the girls’ hands.

Ataru then loses his temper and grabs some cookware with which to attack and defend, but everyone is uniformly embarrassed on his behalf for fighting so seriously with a tiny little kid. Sakura judo-tosses him into the zen pond to cool his jets. It’s gotta be hard to keep your cool when Ten is literally burning him!

In the second half, Ten is writing a love letter to Sakura, who like many a man finds that she has stolen his heart. Ataru decides to offer him some advice as a self-professed casanova, and Ten, while weary of his cousin’s lame human husband, is also just young and naive enough to buy into Ataru’s experience.

Ataru ends up ghostwriting the love letter, which is full of words that can’t be said during normal broadcast hours. Sakura is furious, and waits at the agreed-upon meeting place just so she can slug the author. When it turns out to be Ten, she kinda just goes with it, knowing she can’t very well beat on a little kid.

That said, when Ten tries to take her to a seedy club, goes to see a raunchy film full of double entendres, and intends to end their evening at a love hotel, Sakura starts to get suspicious. Lum gets overexcited by the film, which confirms to Sakura that Ataru was behind this questionable date.

When the evening ends, Ten goes for broke and asks Sakura to marry her. She turns him down gently but firmly, which isn’t anything Ten didn’t expect, considering, ya know, he’s still just a little kid. But also Ataru and Lum are surprised that Sakura is wearing what looks like an engagement ring. Ten then consoles himself by flambéing Ataru once more.

Urusei Yatsura – 11 – The Trickster Ojou

When another slow-moving oxcart escorted by ninja rolled through town, I assumed it was Mendou’s mom again. It turns out to be someone who speaks loudly enough to be heard, and who makes the effort to throw a handkerchief out of the cart so it happens to land on Ataru’s face. He uses his lecher’s sense of smell to track down the owner, and is rewarded with a damn skeleton arm.

The next day, the girl arrives at school resplendent in her kimono and wowing boys and girls alike. She initially introduces herself as Mendou’s fiancée, which gets all the girls fuming and weeping. But she’s really Mendou’s little sister, Ryouko, who loves playing elaborate tricks on people for her own amusement.

She’s come to deliver her dear brother his lunch that he forgot, but he tells her he forgot that lunch five days ago. As the lunch is composed entirely of raw seafood, it is now essentially toxic waste, but that doesn’t stop Ataru, eager to get into Ryouko’s good graces, to try to eat it. When Ryouko sees how lovey-dovey Lum is, she ups the flirtation, and locks Mendou away in a dark cabinet.

Ryouko’s introduction at school is followed by her inviting Ataru to her home for a New Year’s Party, but most of the rest of the cast was invited as well, including Sakura, Oyuki and Benten. Everyone’s in their best New Year’s finery, but I personally think Lum wins for best kimono—the colors are just sublime.

Of course, this is no ordinary party. Not only is the Mendou residence ludicrously huge and complex, but the partygoers are unwitting living game pieces in an elaborate board game being played by Ryouko and her parents. This results in trap doors and hidden passages and various obstacles shifting everyone all over the place and doing all sorts of things.

We get mochi eating contests, badminton, spiked walls, 100,000 and 200,000-kg weights being dropped … it’s a little bit of everything. The chaos all serves one purpose: entertaining Ryouko, a girl with far too much money and far too much time on her hands.

By the time everyone (or most everyone) arrives in the actual party room, they’re all so exhausted from being pushed and prodded around and made to carry out various tasks they can barely sit up. But it’s still not over, as Ryouko presses a red button that sends her brother and Ataru up in a giant bamboo rocket that explodes with fireworks to ring in the new year.

It’s here where I’ll note that now that Lum is back by his side, Ataru is right back to being a lecherous ass, despite being genuinely devastated by her absence which for all he knew was caused by his neglect and constant two-timing.

It wasn’t, and Lum will probably never leave the guy’s side, and maybe I was a fool for thinking any character development would stick around for the next segment, let alone episode. That said, I enjoyed Ryouko as an unapologetic agent of chaos and general shit-stirrer.

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