One of the very first things I wrote about when we started this blog site all those years ago was how early I got into anime and geeky stuff in general way before it was acceptable to like any of these things. I mentioned how my friend and I would buy bootlegged copies of Ranma 1/2 because, well, anime was super niche so getting our hands on these kinds of videos was hard to come by. Well, now that I think about it, Ranma 1/2 wasn’t my first real interaction with anime. It turns out I was infatuated with “Japanese cartoons” way before that. I sort of forgot that I’ve been watching “Japanese cartoons” way before that. And it just so happens one of them was also created by Ranma 1/2’s creator, Rumiko Takahashi.
That anime was Urusei Yatsura. To be honest, I didn’t really know the name until much later.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The reason why I do want to talk about Urusei Yatsura now is because this classic anime has gotten the remake/revival treatment and a new series is currently being shown right now. When it was announced, a whole flood of memories of seeing Lum the Invader Girl float around in her iconic tiger-striped bikini and matching go-go boots emerged in my head. I have yet to see a full episode of this new Urusei Yatsura but, before I do, I would like to talk about how I got to watch this long ago and my experience with the anime because, like a lot of Rumiko Takahashi’s work, it’s pretty funny.
Anyway, Urusei Yatsura, or Lum the Invader Girl as it was called some areas, follows Ataru Moboroshi, the unluckiest person on Earth and maybe the most horny as well. When aliens called the Oni start invading the planet, they give Earth a fighting chance with a game. The Oni’s computer picks a random person on Earth to be the planet’s representative and it, of course, picks Ataru. Ataru can win and save the planet if he’s able to grab the horns of Lum, the Oni’s leader’s daughter. However, Ataru is severely outmatched as Lum can fly and emit an electrical shock when she wants. It all seems lost until Shinobu, Ataru’s girlfriend, agrees to marry him if he wins the competition. Ataru finally beats Lum by taking off her bikini top, leaving her defenseless long enough for him to grab her horns. During the victory ceremony, Ataru exclaims he can finally get married. But Lum misunderstands this and thinks Ataru is proposing to her. This leads to Lum falling in love with Ataru and, well, hijinx ensues.
I actually remember watching the very first episode of Urusei Yatsura… but I didn’t understand a word of what anyone was saying. Not because it was in Japanese but because it was in Mandarin. What happened was, when I was a teenager, I was browsing through all of the cable channels one late night. I wasn’t looking for anything specifically but I just wanted to see anything that would catch my eye. I just so happened to get to the Star Mandarin channel just as the opening for Urusei Yatsura was starting up. The song was catchy and they were showing a cartoon… and I had nothing better to watch so I decided to check it out.
Despite me not understanding a single word that was uttered throughout the first episode, I managed to follow what was happening pretty easily. I mean, the only thing that I didn’t completely understand was why Lum would have to stay and “marry” Ataru. The story I pieced together in my head was that, since Ataru did grab her by the horns, it was Oni’s custom that the loser has to become betrothed to the one who beat him or her. I guess it was close enough because, despite me being wrong on this point, I understood what happened.
Ever since I saw that, I would always stay up just to watch the latest episode of… well, I didn’t know the name because, one, it was in Mandarin and, two, I’m betting they changed the name anyway. You have to remember that this was way before the Internet was even a thing so you couldn’t just jump online to do research. Heck, it was downright impossible to get any information about some obscure “Japanese cartoon” you just so happened to catch on the Star Mandarin channel late at night! So I just called it “Tiger Striped Bikini Alien” in my brain. Not the most flattering title but, hey! What was I going to do? Ask my Chinese friends what the anime is actually ca… You know what? Maybe I should’ve done that.
Thankfully, it was incredibly easy to get my fix of “Tiger Striped Bikini Alien” because the Star Mandarin channel would air it during weekdays. So I think I actually watched each and every episode of the show. I do remember how much I loved most of the characters because of how ridiculously outlandish everyone is, which appears to be a staple of most Rumiko Takahashi rom-coms. I guess my favorite character, besides Lum, would have to be Shutaro Mendo. He’s the super rich guy who appears fairly later in the first season and he’s the one who’s super rich, polite, brave, confident and handsome, making all of the girls in the school fall in love with him instantly, drawing the ire of Ataru. Unfortunately, Lum doesn’t really care for him as she only has eyes for Ataru. What makes him Shutaro funny is that he’s just putting on an act as he’s basically a coward and almost as lecherous as Ataru. He’s just better at covering it up and most of the girls overlook this because he’s rich and good looking.
The character I disliked the most would have to be Ten. He’s the flying baby who comes to live with Lum when she starts living with Ataru. Maybe my dislike for Ten stems from the fact that I didn’t understand his relationship with Lum. Like I said, I watched the anime without understanding any of the dialogue. I actually thought he was Ataru and Lum’s “son” and this is how the aliens reproduce. I mean, Ten first appears blooming out of something like a flower so I thought it was akin to an alien gestation pod. This is why I didn’t understand why Ten hated Ataru with a passion. I just made up the story that he didn’t like being saddled with an Earthling for a father. Maybe now that I know he’s actually Lum’s cousin I can cut him some slack.
I guess the really funny thing about my memories with watching Urusei Yatsura, Lum the Invader Girl, “Tiger Striped Bikini Alien” or however I used to call it is how I understood a lot of the humor. I may not have understood a lick of what anyone was saying but I still remember either chuckling or laughing out loud with all of the slapstick humor and just weird antics of everyone. There’s Lum shocking Ataru repeatedly. Ataru trying to meet all of the girls that eventually appear in the show. Shinobu displaying wondrously freakish strength and pelting Ataru with things like desks and concrete electric pole. Shutaro overconfidence and his pining for Lum. Even Ten gets some time to shine by burning everyone until they’re all blackened. It’s still slapstick humor at its finest.
I guess I am a little disappointed that I did watch the entire Urusei Yatsura without a full understanding of what was happening when I did get the chance to see it. But I’m still glad I did because I’m not really sure if I would have gotten into the entire anime thing if I didn’t. I may have thought of it as a “Japanese cartoon” then but, by then, I could distinguish what made it different from Western cartoons by then. There was just a certain “flavor” that made it stand out. So, by the time the show ended, it was replaced by another Rumiko Takahashi work. Coincidentally, that would be Ranma 1/2.
Maybe one day I’ll go try to watch the old Urusei Yatsura anime and reminisce about the times when I would stay up late to watch that green haired alien in a tiger striped bikini fly around and shock her lecherous “darling” once again. But, in the meantime, I have the new version to watch. And if it’s at least as half as good as I remember the original, I know I’m going to love it all the same.
Have you seen any version of Urusei Yatsura? How do you think the new one compares to the old anime? Let me know in the comments section below!