Urusei Yatsura: Remember My Love and Lum the Forever
Cynthia Ward · December 24, 2004 | The second Urusei Yatsura movie, Beautiful Dreamer, appeared on DVD not long after the format debuted. However, it took roughly forever for the other Urusei Yatsura movies to come to DVD. I got a hint why when I read the back-cover copy to the third and fourth movies, Remember My Love and Lum the Forever: "An insane masterpiece from Rumiko Takahashi, creator of Ranma ½ and Inu Yasha." Wasn't something wrong here? Wasn't this out of order? Wasn't this like DVDs of I Love Lucy proclaiming, "From the star of Here's Lucy and The Lucille Ball Show?"
When I discovered anime in the 1980s, Urusei Yatsura was the most popular animated Japanese TV series among American anime fans (and reportedly enjoyed a similar high regard among Japanese TV viewers). Then I moved to rural Washington, where I lost track of anime until the Internet and Barnes & Noble came to town. When the new Urusei Yatsura movie DVDs appeared, they gave me the ugly Rip Van Winkle sensation of waking to find I'd slept through a generation of fandom, one that's never seen the I Love Lucy of anime.
Playing the DVDs gave me another generation-gap shock.
The stories have held up well, though of the two movies, only one (Remember My Love) is a good starting place for Urusei Yatsura novices. Even here, the large cast can be daunting. So, before discussing the movies, I'll sketch the background of Urusei Yatsura (developed in 200-plus TV and uncounted manga episodes) for the new, Urusei Yatsura-free generation:
Japanese teenager Ataru Moroboshi wins a race with a teenage alien princess, Lum, thus saving the Earth from destruction by her race—and gaining himself an alien bride. Lum moves into Ataru's closet. A clueless fool, Ataru wants every woman but the lovely and devoted Lum. Many other boys at Tomobiki High (most prominently, rich kid Mendo and the nerdy Megane and his gang) —are hopelessly in love with one-man woman Lum. Ataru's womanizing rouses Lum's jealousy—and her ability to deliver a powerful electric shock. Not that the shock therapy ever cures Ataru's lechery.... To Urusei Yatsura virgins, this may sound like the premise of a dumb sitcom. Don't be fooled. There's no hint of I Love Lucy's brilliant comedy in its zany premise ("bandleader's ditzy wife tries to get on TV"), either.
Directed by Kazuo Yamazaki, with character design by Akemi Takada, Movie 3: Remember My Love is a good entry point for new viewers. Remember My Love contains Urusei Yatsura's trademark mix of science fiction, fantasy, and folklore, but as the most science-fictional Urusei Yatsura movie, it offers considerable accessibility for Westerners.
In the science-fantasy opening, a witch's invitation to Lum's birth celebration is lost, and she curses Lum to never be happy with her true love (which explains much, for old fans). Then Remember My Love moves to the present day, where the Urusei Yatsura gang attends opening day at Tomobiki's new amusement park, which, like Disneyland, is based on European fairy tales. However, Tomobiki's latest attraction is far from Disneyland's shiny, sanitized fairyland; the dark side of the "Marchen" rules here, and a masked stage magician turns Ataru into a pink hippopotamus. It's no illusion—and neither is the magician's disappearance.
Trying to save her "Darling" from life as a hippo, Lum finds herself abducted to another dimension by the magician, who is actually a time traveler, Ruu. Because of the witch's curse, Ruu has loved Lum obsessively for years. Only Ataru has a faint hope of rescuing Lum—but Ataru can succeed only if he overcomes his compulsive lechery. The outcome is in genuine doubt.
Also helmed by Yamazaki and featuring Takada character designs, Lum the Forever opens with the Urusei Yatsura gang making a movie about Mendo's family legend. The legend concerns an old curse, an ancient cherry tree, and a demon princess, played by Lum, who, with her horns and ability to fly, resembles an oni (Japanese demon). Ataru plays the protagonist, who cuts down the cherry tree—for real, unfortunately. As the curse wakes, Lum loses her horns and magical powers; her admirers forget her; and dreams achieve the power to destroy Tomobiki.
Lum the Forever is not for Urusei Yatsura novices. Even more ambitious than its immediate predecessor, Lum the Forever melds science fiction, fantasy, and Japanese fairy tales. Western viewers will miss much subtextual and symbolic meaning in Lum the Forever, but you don't need to know Japanese folklore to follow the powerful and affecting story—if you're already familiar with Urusei Yatsura. Newcomers will be defeated by the combination of Japanese folklore, a large cast, and a complex, multi-layered story which operates not by a traditional linear plot, but in accordance with dream logic.
Remember My Love and Lum the Forever are essential anime movies. However, you may want to wait for the inevitable digitally remastered Urusei Yatsura DVDs.
DVD Features: Remember My Love: Japanese with English subtitles; behind the scenes footage of the English dub process; Urusei Yatsura: Only You trailer; Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer trailer; interactive program notes. Lum the Forever: Japanese with English subtitles; behind the scenes footage of the English dub process; Urusei Yatsura: Only You trailer; interactive program notes.