This movie was my first introduction to Urusei Yatsura. Perhaps not the best movie to begin with, but it opened an interest in me for this series, and the rest, as they say, is history. Well, enough about that, on with the review.
The basic story is that a new theme park opens in Tomobiki, and Lum and company decides to go there. It becomes clear, however, that not everything is as it should be. Megane and his stormtroopers see themselves as young, Mendou sees his first pet octopus Umechio, who has been dead for a long time, and so on. The worst thing, however, happens to Ataru (as usual). At a magic show, he gets transformed into a large pink hippo! And this is just the beginning...
The pace is this movie is really good, but not great. The mood in the first part of the movie is mysterious ans spooky, but it never deviates from being funny at the same time. Later in the movie, the action speeds up, but not too much. Even if there's a lot of weird stuff going on, you can easily figure it all out if you just pay attention.
Final verdict: Not one of the best, but certianly not one of the worst either. A good move, without too many surprises.
Urusei Yatsura is full of cultural references and jokes that cannot easily be translated given the restrictions of the subtitling medium. For this reason, we've prepared these Translators Notes to give you some extra background.
Shutaro's pet octopi
The octopus is the crest of the Mendou family, and they keep a lot of them as pets. The one which appears in the first part of the film, "Umechiyo", has a couple of interesting associations. First, "Umechiyo" might be a play on Umechajoroo", who was a melodramatic "hooker-with a heart". Ume, by the way, means "plum", which is a reference to Umechiyo's appereance; there is a cascade of plum flowers on its back, which is reminiscent of a similar design - a cherry-blossom-cascade tattoo - on the right arm and shoulder of the lead character in a popular, long-running samurai Japanese TV series: Toyoma no Kin-san. Also, when written in kanji, "Umechiyo" bears a resemblence to "Umeboshi", which happens to be "pickled plums", which this octopus resembles.
Takekawa Yukihide, who wrote the music for the opening and ending themes, was the vocalist for the legendary rock group Go-Die-Go. They had probably their biggest hit in 1979, with "The Galaxy Express 999," theme from the movie "Ginga Tetsudoo 999." He's been writing songs for quite a lot of people, ever since the group broke up. Micky Yoshino, who wrote the BGM for the movie, was the keyboardist for the group. He does a few projects here and there, and he also has his own music school. In 1992, he got arrested for possession of marijuana.
Early in the film, Sakura and Cherry make a pun that they will repeat later on: Sakura, looking at Tomobiki Marchenland, says she has "muna-sawagi," which means "an uneasy feeling." Cherry, munching on baked sweet potatoes, says he too has the same feeling. Sakura shouts at him that that is just "muneyake," or "heartburn."
Barred from Entry
After being repelled from entering Tomobiki Marchenland, Cherry speculates that it may be some sort of "kekkai." This term comes from Buddhism, and refers to a) an area forbidden to entry by a certain group, usually women (to keep them from disturbing the monks' concentration) or b) a fence used to separate a temple from the land beyond it.
A Stupid Pun
After the "magic show," when Mendou first sees Ataru's changed self, his first words are, "Baka kaba." This pun literally translates as "stupid hippo," but the thing that makes it funny in the original is that "baka," which means "stupid," and "kaba," which means "hippo," are written with the same characters in Japanese, simply reversed.
Fun with color
Ataru's fainting from discovering his new condition leads Megane to make the following observation: "As the blood drains from his face, it turns from pink to pale purple." The joke in the original centers around the word "aoza-meru," which means "turning pale," or "turning pale purple." The usual word for pale in Japanese is "aoi," or "blue." But mixing that "blue" paleness with Ataru's new pink skin color results in a pale purple. Yet another joke that doesn't really work in English.
Not one to wish on
The falling star that Ataru sees after Lum disappears is a bad omen in Japanese folklore.
I Can't Believe I Ate The Whole Thing
There's an old Japanese saying that one'd become a cow if s/he went to sleep right after eating a meal. When Ataru first appears at school as a hippo, one of the students comments that he became a hippo for this reason, only to have another one set him straight. This is followed by another student saying that it's the year of the cow, and making a sound that sounds like "moo!" but is also the word "mo!" which is an expression of exasperation in Japanese.
Raccoons and foxes are both considered animals of deception in Japanese folklore. So it's only natural that he would be a shapechanger.
A "Cutey" Joke
In the scene where Ruu reveals his true self to Lum, he says, "At times, a mysterious pierrot. At times, a powerful magician. But in fact...!" These lines are taken straight from Cutey Honey, a 1973 manga/TV series created by Nagai Goo (Majinger Z, Getter Robo, Harenchi Gakuen et al.) Cutey Honey was an android superheroine whose various transfor-mations lent her power as well as disguise. When she assumed her true form to do battle with the various monsters of the Panther Claw gang, she would invariably intone some variation of the above lines, naming off the various transformations/ identities which she had assumed in the course of the episode, finishing up by identifying herself with the line, "Shikashi, sono jittai wa! Ai no Senshi Cutey Honey sa!" (But in fact, I am! Cutey Honey, Warrior of Love!)
A Traditional Meal
Oyuki being the model of a traditional Japanese noblewoman, the eating scenes aboard her ship are also very traditionally Japanese. The hole in the (tatami!) floor with the pot hanging over it is called "irori," and usually contains "nabemono," which is a sort of stew, with broth, vegetables, and meat. The fish-on-a- stick is another example.
Curses R Us
The outside of Gingakei Yorozunoroigoto Hikiuke Kumiai (the Milky Way Curses-R-Us Management Organ-ization) has many of the trappings of a Shinto shrine. The inside, on the other hand, is set up like a typical bank branch in Japan, down to the placement of the furniture and the uniformed female clerks.
The 64 Trillion Credit Question
The title of the game show in which Ruu's parents are competing is a pun on the titles of three popular game shows in Japan: "America Oodan Ultra Quiz (The Crossing America Ultra Quiz)," "Naruhodo the World (I See the World)," and "Quiz Hyakunin ni Kikimashita (Quiz: We Asked 100 People)." The "America Oodan" annual quiz is one of the most popular and long-running TV events in Japan, with the finalists competing at various places in the U.S. The quiz starts out with a stadium full of contestants, but at each step they get eliminated through various means. There are a couple of dozen challenging steps, and each is not just a test of knowledge, but a test of physical and emotional strength as well. Some of them are potentially dangerous. It usually takes a couple weeks for a given quiz session to cross the entire U.S., which leads to the other joke in Oshima's comments here: since the game in which Ruu's parents are contestants is crossing the Galaxy, rather than just one country on one small planet, it seems appropriate that the game would take years to get from one end to the other.
We get Stars, they get Stamps
Teachers in Japanese elementary schools often use stamps like the ones which Lahla uses to mark Ataru's forehead when they first meet. They are often in the shape of cherry blossoms, and often have such cute messages as "Taihen Yoku Dekimashita" ("Extremely Well Done,"), "Moo Sukoshi Desu" ("A Little More"), etc.
Kotatsu Neko (literally, "Footwarmer Cat") is the large and vengeful spirit of a cat who died when its owners left it out in the cold. Given its fate, it is highly attracted to sources of warmth.
To the Moon, Dad!
When Ryuu blasts her dad into the sky, we took liberties with the translation. What he actually says is "kira," a Japanese onomatopeia roughly equivalent to "twinkle." The "hitting someone into orbit" is another Japanese schtick, just like "everyone falls to the floor."
If you have a LD player with digital still capability, flip through the sequence with Lahla and Ataru on the bike, when Ataru's head gets all distorted.