Ataru basically represents me after I saw this stupid movie.
Although I watched the second movie regardless of the fact that I hadn’t come close to getting to the point in the series where it would take place chronologically, I waited till I had seen over fifty episodes of Urusei Yatsura before I dove into the first movie, Only You. I was spoiled a bit on the premise beforehand and how many other anime like Girls’ Bravo and shit have ripped it off to the point that it has become dated, but that didn’t turn me off because I’ve grown fond of the cast to the point that I’m usually happy with seeing them goof off. From what I had also heard, it’s Rumiko Takahashi’s favorite of the six movies, encompassing everything that made Urusei Yatsura great. I think it also got the best reception in Japan (not in the West, as that was the second movie).
It’s also an exercise in how trying to please the fans sucks balls, because the movie wasn’t very good.
I liked some things about the movie. For one, the characters are still great. One of the reasons that Rumiko Takahashi comedies are superior to practically every other comedy that comes out nowadays is because she manages to create a huge cast of enjoyable characters and lets the comedy come from their interactions. Now it doesn’t always work as Urusei Yatsura has a bunch of episodes where the gags just die or come off awkwardly, but for the most part I’ll never get tired of Mendou being clausterphobic or Lum electrocuting Ataru. And of course, another thing that makes her comedies so enjoyable is that she’s willing to take the natural course of actions to extreme lengths. This movie had two families go in freaking space battles with each other two girls liking the male lead and wanting to marry him. And whilst we didn’t really get to see much of it, the tension was way higher and more exciting than about half the battles in Legend of the Galactic Heroes (although that may be because the battles in that show were directed like ass).
Also, there’s a plotline that involves the fiancee taking her love of love to disturbingly creepy levels that I really liked. I won’t spoil what it entails, but let’s just say Mr. Freeze has nothing on her.
Unfortunately, none of the elements came together well and I was left with a movie that took me an hour longer to finish than it should have. Let’s get to the big problem first: Ataru was just far too unlikeable in the movie to the point that I had trouble sympathizing with him. I can buy that he doesn’t want to get married to Lum to the point that I had a chuckle at the ending, but otherwise the movie took his unlikeable traits too far for my taste, playing his flirtatious attitude at extremely inappropriate moments. Usually, his attitude is supposed to be used in order to further a joke or (during the serious episodes) to hide the fact that he likes Lum. Here, he literally insists that he was going to dump Lum for a girl he didn’t even remember and only changed his tune when he discovered how the marriage could go bad for him. And it’s not played for laughs either. What the fuck dude?
To be fair, the movie does call out Ataru on this particular fuck-up to ensure the audience that yes, they know he dug his own grave here; but it’s brushed off as quickly and insincerely as the point in Uncharted 2 when the main villain calls out Drake for killing a shit ton of people. It’s like watching a guy cry on his fallback girl because his primary one didn’t turn out as he had hoped. Laaaaaammmmmeeee!
The movie has other problems besides that of course. Like most franchise movies, it has the problem of trying to bring in all the characters and give them nothing to do. It’s justified a bit since the plot of the story involves being invited to a wedding and of course everyone is going to show up for that. However, when it started to get away from the actual wedding story, the characters just become lost and disconnected. Moreso than the huge cast in Summer Wars, I might add. I fail to see why Kurama had to participate in the rescue of Ataru, what Lum’s stormtroopers really added other than lame comic relief, and even Shinobu feels phoned in. They all just seemed lost in the plot to the point that following them wasn’t fun, which is sad given how Takahashi sitcom characters should never feel that way.
And speaking of lame comic relief, that’s one of the biggest problems with this movie: it’s not funny. Now Urusei Yatsura can usually do serious when it’s appropriate, mostly because Mamoru Oshii’s experimental direction works about as well Osamu Dezaki’s freeze frames in conveying emotions I can buy; however, not only is his unique direction not very apparent here, but the serious stuff is rushed and doesn’t have time to properly develop alongside the comedic stuff. It feels like the two are getting in each other’s way akin to too many cooks stirring the pot and leaving me a film that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It rushed through a bunch of serious plot points and spent too long on other scenes that might have been good if they were two minutes shorter. Are you a comedy or a drama? Are you choosing Lum or Elle? Are you a man or a pussy? Make up your mind!
Judging by the reaction to this film (especially from Takahashi), the reason the first film is so loved is the same reason why hardcore Type-Moon fans loved the Fate/Zero series and are looking forward to the upcoming F/SN anime: it stays true to the original source material. That’s fine and all for the fans, but what about the people outside that fanbase? I know franchise movies are usually made for the fans and all, but it wouldn’t hurt to spread out a little, right?Hell, I’m an Urusei Yatsura fan and I thought this movie was plain dumb. Sure the characters stayed true to their energetic funny selves and the plot elements are great in that classic Takahashi sitcom way, but if you don’t utilize them properly, then those cool elements will be wasted (*cough* Bones series *cough*). This whole thing really felt like one of the Urusei Yatsura episodes that didn’t work for me stretched out to movie-length. I could tolerate twenty-two minutes of a failed gag, but stretch it to ninety minutes and you might as well send me to see some Jeff Dunham stand-up.