Mamoru Oshii’s Masterpiece is a Movie Version of a Harem Anime: An Urusei Yatsura Post

Although to be fair, I might change my tune when I give Patlabor another try one day.

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I finally started watching the one long Rumiko Takahashi anime I had yet to see, Urusei Yatsura (aka Those Obnoxious Aliens), and it’s pretty good stuff so far. If you’ve ever seen Gonzo’s Seto no Hanayome anime, you’ve got a pretty good grasp of what you’re in store for, because Urusei Yatsura comes from the same cloth. It’s got a premise that sounds awful on paper with “weak guy getting magical girlfriend” but it fixes that by being really funny and even most of the characters are from the same cloth. You’ve got the rich guy who is invincible except when he’s in open/closed space whereas he turns into a pussy. You have the crazy families who make life for the main character a living hell. You have various female stereotypes who are better than they have any right to be. You’ve got famous directors on both products (Mamoru Oshii for Urusei Yatsura and Seiji Kishi for Seto na Hanayome). Definitely my kind of animated sitcom.

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Now I’m not very far into Urusei as of yet (although if it doesn’t enter my top 100 by the time I’m done with it, I’ll be surprised), but I’ve always wanted to watch the second movie of the franchise because A) it’s one of the few anime franchise movies in existence that can stand on its own without having seen the actual show (as long as you know what the premise is) and B) it’s basically more Mamoru Oshii than it is Rumiko Takahashi in the same vein that Castle of Cagliostro is more Miyazaki than it is Lupin the Third. Whilst I usually watch franchise stuff by order of release, it would take 99 episodes to reach the point where Beautiful Dreamer would “chronologically” take place and I didn’t want to wait that long, so I jumped the gun and didn’t regret it one bit.

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Yes, the movie is definitely in the same “dark atmospheric style” of the Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell movies, which you’d think is kind of weird for a harem comedy in general, even as one as loved and famous as Urusei Yatsura. In fact, Beautiful Dreamer plays things out like a much more light-hearted but still grim Flowers of Evil, atmosphere-wise. It’s still got its sense of humor and the characters still have their quirks, but they’re only overplayed when it’s approrpiate to the surprisingly engaging story and the rest is some trippy morbid mindfuck that actually feels natural to what’s been established. Oh yeah, I should probably mention the plot. Whilst preparing for a school festival, the various characters soon realize that they can’t leave the city and time is repeating itself over and over again. As such, they investigate what’s going on and run into some shocking revelations that you may or may not predict. Not too dark or anything because there’s a difference between taking a series in a different direction and jumping the shark altogether, but it’s basically a lesser version of when Majora’s Mask took the Zelda formula into some disturbing territory (and Majora’s Mask was a pretty disturbing shift in tone).

I’m still shocked regarding how well a more serious Urusei Yatsura ended up playing out really. In fact, if you remember what I wrote regarding the new Fate/Stay Night anime that’s coming out some time, this is the kind of reinterpretation of the original source material that I love. From Miyazaki’s Lupin (and yes I know he directed some of the series as well) to Dezaki’s Clannad to Hosada’s One Piece, it’s very sad that we don’t get many works where the director injects his own unique, life-filled (which means no Seiji Kishi) style into the thing because in addition to improving on the faults of the original source material, you’d have a much better chance of pulling in a wider audience this way. And no, the Kimi no Iru Machi anime does not count because Shigeyasu is only doing his usual camera gimmicks and rearranging the source material’s events without actually reinterpreting the goddamn thing. I might have to do another post one day regarding how much I appreciate it when source material is brought into a different light, especially when the results are this good.

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It’s true that watching the series and getting familiar with the characters beforehand would help in regards to enjoying the movie, but it’s not a necessary requirement in the grand scheme of things because the movie allows you to get familiar with their traits early on before kicking things into gear. There are a few characters that show up in this movie that I haven’t run into yet in the series and I was able to enjoy them just fine. Hell, I haven’t even gotten to the part where it’s revealed that Mendou (the cool handsome kid who acts as a rival for the main character) has clausterphobia that contrasts with his normally perfect behavior and I was able laugh at his freak outs just fine. It’s very easy to figure out that Ataru is the perverted main character and Lum is the magical alien girlfriend who likes to shock him, as well as it’s easy to deduce that the male friends are…well…the male friends whose names I still can’t remember, but that never mattered. Oh, and despite my sarcastic title and the fact that this is sort of a harem anime (I say sort of because it’s the guy who’s pursuing the girls whilst they don’t really care about him for the most part), most of the female supporting cast doesn’t show up in this movie. They are name-dropped all at once for a joke, but that’s it.

So yeah, even if you’re not a fan or have never seen Urusei Yatsura, I do recommend the movie for you because again, it’s more Mamoru Oshii than any of the original source material. If you don’t like his style, I don’t think the movie is for you (and this is coming from a guy who enjoyed this movie, yet hasn’t been able to get into Oshii’s other stuff), but who knows? Personally, I loved the movie more than Patlabor 2 and am looking forward to watching it again when I actually get to the point where it would chronologically take place in the TV show. Which is around…Episode 99.

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Oh well. It’s still better paced than Kaiji 😛

2 responses to “Mamoru Oshii’s Masterpiece is a Movie Version of a Harem Anime: An Urusei Yatsura Post

  1. Pingback: Mamoru Oshii's Masterpiece is a Movie Version of a Harem Anime … | AnimeFan.org

  2. I absolutely adore this movie too (it’s in my top ten), and saw it with little previous exposure to UY. It actually generated quite a polarised opinion among fans of the franchise – there’s a story that one unhappy fan sent Oshii razor blades in the post! On the other hand, this movie has plenty of fans who don’t care for UY otherwise.