Urusei Yatsura (TV)

Earth is about to be invaded by aliens. The planet’s only hope is that its champion can defeat the alien princess, Lum, in a game of tag. Unfortunately, Earth’s champion is the lazy, lecherous and unlucky student Ataru Moroboshi. Things look grim, but when Ataru’s girlfriend Shinobu promises to marry him if he succeeds, he finds a slightly indecent winning strategy. Lum interprets his triumphant exclamation, “Now I can marry her!” as a proposal of marriage, and thereafter views Ataru as her husband, to his consternation.
While Ataru is a jerk, Lum is a certified babe. She has lovely green hair, cute little gold horns, a tiger-skin bikini and a spaceship of her own, and she can fly. She can also deliver electric shocks to Ataru when she catches him misbehaving. One of the mysteries of the show is what she sees in her “darling,” but she really does love her loser.
Urusei Yatsura is more like a situation comedy rather than a typical anime. Each episode is self-contained. Although various characters are added over the course of the show, there is no overall story arc. The most important of the later characters is the anti-Ataru, the very rich and very serious Mendou, who changes the Ataru/Lum/Shinobu triangle to a quadrilateral. Also worth noting is Ryuunosuke, a pugnacious girl raised as a boy.
Urusei Yatsura, the first of many anime based on Rumiko Takahashi’s manga, debuted in 1981 and had a phenonenal run. About 200 episodes were broadcast, of which I’ve seen about 50, and there were also six movies and some OVAs as well. To the best of my not-very-extensive knowledge, it probably was the outstanding animated television show between George of the Jungle and The Simpsons. It’s been called the Japanese counterpart of The Simpsons, establishing animation as entertainment for adults as well as children.
The show is mainly of historical interest, I’m afraid. Most episodes I’ve seen are just average sitcom quality, though the better ones approach the Simpsons‘ level. There are occasional surprises. Mamoru Oshii, who later directed Ghost in the Shell, honed his skills writing and directing many episodes and some of the movies, and occasionally in Urusei Yatsura he abandons comedy for other purposes. Episode #80, for instance, focusing on Ataru’s mother, modulates from a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream motif to an apocalyptic nightmare. It was possibly a dry run for the second Urusei Yatsura movie, Beautiful Dreamer, which merits a separate review.
Urusei Yatsura sometimes gets mildy off-color, but there’s nothing really offensive. Ataru may be a compulsive lech, but he’s unlucky, and Lum keeps him on a short leash.