Magical Girlfriend (V) – Urusei Yatsura

“Typical” High Schooler Ataru Moroboshi has been picked by a random to save the Earth from invasion by the Oni.  To do so, he must touch the horns of the alien’s top warrior, Lum.  But things aren’t as straight forward as they appear, as Oni are capable of flight…

However, falling back on his true nature, Ataru manages to succeed, only to accidentally propose to Lum at the end.  She quickly accepts, then informs Ataru that if he is ever unfaithful to her, she will use her other power on him.  The power to  send electricity coursing through him with a touch…

Darling and his future wife
Darling and his future wife

You don’t talk about Magical Girlfriends without talking about Urusei Yatsura.  Actually, that’s not the whole of it.  You really can’t talk about anime without mentioning UY.  It is one of the most popular manga/anime out there.  It has run 34 manga volumes, 195 TV episodes, 11 OVA, and 6 movies, which is nothing to sneeze at.  More, and I might be going out on a limb here, it probably inspired the whole Magical Girl Harem sub genre in Japan.

Again, someone with more anime/manga knowledge might correct me on that last bit, but I don’t think it’s a bad assumption to make.  What research I could pull off the web seems to suggest this, though admittedly I am not the best at finding facts on-line.  Still, hear me out a moment.

Wikipedia‘s entry on Magical Girlfriends lists 19 examples of the subgenre.  Of these, only two started in the 1980s.  They would be 3X3 Eyes (1987)  and Oh!  My Goddess! (1988).

UY started in 1978.

Another thing that leads me to this conclusion – and I hasten to add that they too might be wrong – is the following quote from TV Trope Wiki:

…UY is one of the earliest tongue-in-cheek harem comedies, combining its outlandish premise to spice up deceptively typical plots, as well as parody the genre nearly a decade before the fact.

It’s impossible to just describe UY.  I can say this quite without reservation, as I’ve tried and failed before.  I fell back on words such as “wacky”, “wild”, and “almost killed me.”  These do not really work for me, and, looking back on it, I’m kind of embarrassed by it.  What I mean to say, without reservation, is that it is one of the funniest, most entertaining anime out there.

In cold print, the set up sounds… kind of bad.  Ataru Moroboshi is a lecher of the worst order.  He’s a grabby, groping kind of guy.  What would be termed in the olden days as a masher.  Not the kind of hero you’d expect.  Or even want, come to that.

In practice, however, it’s sort of like the Waner Brothers Road Runner cartoons.  Atatu is Wile E. Coyote and every single women in the series (save Ataru’s mother and Lum) acts as Road Runner.  You really don’t want him to win, but he loses so often (and so cataclysmic) you find you almost have to like him.

Ataru gets a charge out of Lum. Watt? You weren’t expecting amp-le punnage? Shocking.

I was going to squeeze Lum into that comparison somewhere (the Acme products?) but really, she’s more like Sam Sheepdog.  I might have tried using that particular duo, except the women in UY aren’t exactly sheep.  Most (if not all) of the women in the series are perfectly capable of handling Ataru’s advances, and do so with ease.  Sometimes they do so with power rivaling Lum’s own electrify nature.

Whether or not the above comparison hold eight, know also that the series never, ever sides with Ataru’s shenanigans.  In fact, it’s made clear early on that it’s his lecherous nature that the source of all of his woes.  Were he to changes his nature, perhaps things would improve.  The electric shock treatments might even be cut back a touch.

But only a touch.

I’ve really only covered one character in this review type thing here.  The series has a tone of excellent characters, ranging from Ataru’s long-suffering fiancée (!) Shinobu Miyake to Lum’s fire-breathing breath cousin Ten.  Then there are Lum’s Storm Troopers, a group of male classmates who want Lum to themselves, and who will go to great lengths to do so.  And so on and so forth.

I think I can recommend this series straight across the board.   Not only are both the series and manga excellent, but the movies are great as well.  My favorite of the set is Beautiful Dreamer, in which the cast discovers not only that they are living the same day over and over again, but their numbers are dwindling.  You probably should have a grasp on the characters before watching this one, or, really, any of the movies, but like I’ve been saying, doing so is worth the effort.

One small caveat (again?):  If you have a problem with subtitles, then you might not get into UY.  The series has never been fully dubbed into English.

That aside, below is the first season opening theme for .  Try and get it out of your head once you’ve heard it…


6 Replies to “Magical Girlfriend (V) – Urusei Yatsura”

  1. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…………..

    This really is one of the best shows ever made, animated or otherwise. Continuity freaks will be disappointed (the occasional destruction of Tokyo is nearly always gone the next episode, with only passing references later in the series to remind you…)

    One of the other things about Ataru is that he never goes past the Moral Event Horizon; that is to say, he’s a lech (but you get that right from the start), but he’s never evil, and at the end of the day he’ll risk his life to save a friend… although he is much more likely to do so if said friend is scantily clad and female.

    Another facinating thing about the series is the sheer amount of Japanese culture that is found within it. Most of the time, these things come in the form of hyperbole or parody, true, but the series was used for years in Japanese language classes here in the states.

    The utter impact of UY cannot be understated either; it really did kick off the Magical Girlfriend Harem subgenra. Even relatively mundane shows like Love Hina owe their existence to the only series I can think of that parodied all the shows in its subgenra before they were ever made.

    Moreover, the impact of the show/manga is still reverberating in Japan: the last video release was in 1991, but the DS game just came out this year!

    I am in fact a raving fanboy of this series, but I think I have good reason. It really is that good.

    Oh, and Cullen? Did you think about including Ranma 1/2 in your discussion of Magical Girlfriends? It seems to me that Ranma-Chan is a great example of a magical girlfriend… especially when you take into account Ranma’s massive, borderline narcissistic ego.

  2. Honestly, I never even thought of Ranma 1/2. That would have been a good choice.

    I did, however, think of The Laughing Target as a horror version of the Magical Girlfriend. Did you?

  3. Not until you mentioned it, but it really is a great example of how the trope can be used for something other than comedy. Laughing Target has truly creepy moments, great atmosphere, and about as magical a girlfriend as one could ask for. It doesn’t seem like it at first brush, but the trope is ripe with horror applications.

    Here’s a thought – what do you get when you take the trope, and then make the boyfriend just as magical as the girlfriend…

    I think you wind up with the Mermaid saga.

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