Ataru’s mom arrives at school for parents day and just hopes she doesn’t run into anyone she knows. It’s telling that just like Shinobu doesn’t exist if another cutie is in Ataru’s sight, his mom doesn’t remember Shinobu’s mom! The two are flabberghasted by the gaudy arrival of Mendou’s mother via oxcart procession, which is promptly upstaged by the arrival of Lum’s mother, who doesn’t speak Japanese.
It isn’t until Lum arrives to hug her mom that Ataru’s mom can breathe a sigh of relief that Lum’s mom isn’t another one of Ataru’s girlfriends. As for Mendou’s mom, she doesn’t speak loudly enough for anyone to hear her so it falls to Mendou to tell Lum’s mom that his mom is challenging her to a duel. Only because Lum is translating, her mom mistakes it for an offer for her to marry Mendou, which she must bashfully decline!
While it’s fun to meet Lum, Shinobu, and Mendou’s moms, the second segment is the kind of story I’ve been waiting for for some time: something with actual substance and emotional resonance. We see Lum hard at work sewing something throughout the episode, then see how her routine of waking Ataru up ensures he’s not late for class anymore.
She joins Ataru’s family for breakfast and then walks (or rather floats) with Ataru to school. Lum notices the trees are changing color, while Ataru tries flirting with a random girl and gets zapped. All pretty standard Ataru/Lum stuff so far.
While Ataru tries to pick up other girls with his yo-yo skills of all things, Lum is still hard at work sewing something. The bottom line is, Ataru simply isn’t paying any attention to her, and anyone can see he’s taking her for granted as a partner.
That evening at home, he’s short and brusque with her, treating her like a nuisance before going to bed. Lum, apparently out of patience, says a solemn “bye-bye” and flies out the window, shedding a few tears along the way. The next morning he oversleeps, but Lum doesn’t wake him up; his mom has to.
In Lum’s place is a little plush Lum doll that she had been making, which in addition to being extremely well-made also happens to be absolutely adorable. In Lum’s absence, Ataru carries the doll in his breast pocket, close to his heart, and contemplates what it, and Lum’s absence, might mean.
As the maple tree on the way to school turns a bold red in preparation to drop its leaves, Ataru walks to and from school alone, and to Shinobu and other girls’ shock, doesn’t bother flirting with anyone. He’s not in the mood. The dude misses her.
When three days pass and still no Lum, Ataru finally tells the others she’s been missing. Mendou flexes the might of his family’s private police force on a fantastically elaborate and expensive womanhunt, to no avail. Ataru runs to the arena where he first grabbed Lum by the horns, and keeps running to places where they shared fun times.
That night, he cries himself to sleep with the Lum doll in his hands, and we cut to Lum on her parents’ spaceship. Turns out she had to return home to renew her passport so she could stay on earth. When her parents ask if she has any notion about returning home, she says she’s happy by her Darling’s side.
Reinforcing her affection for Ataru and trust that he cares for her too is the fact that the doll has a microphone embedded inside it, which enables her to hear Ataru crying himself to sleep over missing her. She holds the radio tight, no doubt eager to return to her new home.
The next morning, Ataru once again solemnly walks to school alone. By now the maple tree is dropping its brilliant red leaves, but a shadow streaks overhead, and Lum lets out a hearty “Darling!” from behind. Ataru is shocked at first, then so moved that he has to turn his head to avoid letting her see him shed a tear of joy and relief.
The falling leaves add to the drama and beauty of their heartwarming reunion, as the camera rotates lovingly around her and her elegantly falling hair. Ataru lies through his teeth about having almost been free of her, but she knows the truth, thanks to the bug in the doll that he’s kept so close to him.
While I cannot condone secret audio surveillance of one’s partner, in Lum’s case it’s justified due to Ataru’s unapologetic Don Juan-ish nature. But even if she didn’t intend to frighten him with her sudden departure, it’s very telling that for all the indifference towards her he’s shown, the minute she left his life, he was an absolute wreck.
Like Kevin in Home Alone, Ataru’s brief time apart from something with which he thought he was fed up made him understand how much Lum actually meant to him. When given the freedom to pursue any girl, all he could do was pine for her. She’s special, and he’s lucky to have her.