Urusei Yatsura: Only You
- Original title
- Urusei Yatsura Onri Yu
- Japanese title
- うる星やつら オンリー・ユー
- Running time
- 80 minutes
- 7 March 2006
by Jasper Sharp
Few series exploit anime's intrinsic liberation from reality quite so deliriously as Urusei Yatsura, a light-hearted, candy-coloured concoction combining a winning formula of ribald high-school fantasy, physical slapstick, and rip-roaring space opera. Rumiko Takahashi's highly popular manga series kicked off in 1978, when the author was just twenty-one, and ran all the way up to 1987, before she followed its success with titles including Ranma 1/2, Inu-Yasha, and Maison Ikkoku. Like these later series, Urusei Yatsura, whose title hinges on a pun around the expletive urusai (meaning "noisy!", "annoying!" or "shut up!") misspelt with the kanji character for star - sei, has been translated into several languages and has a large cult following overseas. It has also inspired a TV series numbering some 195 episodes (which initially aired between 1981 and 1986), numerous OAV specials, and a total of six movies.
All of this makes this colourful world a highly familiar one to many coming to the films, though one which makes few concessions to those not in with the joke. Only You throws the viewer completely in at the deep-end, assuming at least some knowledge of the characters and their relationships is in place, though it shouldn't take too long for newcomers to find their feet. Thankfully help is at hand in the liner notes to this AnimEigo DVD release, along with more culturally specific information that might be lost on non-Japanese audiences in the Translator's Notes.
Revolving around the student population of Tomobiki, the standout characters in the recurrent cast are Ataru (Furukawa), an ill-starred small-town Earth boy with a healthy appetite for the opposite sex, and Lum (Hirano), a deliciously-rendered alien princess from the planet Oni (the source of Japan's ancient demon legends) sporting a tiger-skin bikini and with tiny horns poking through her luscious verdigris cascade of hair. Lum is currently resident on Earth after, in a previous story, she was sent down to help save the planet from imminent destruction. In order to settle comfortably, she needs to find a human mate, picked at random by computer to take her on at her national sport of tag (the Japanese playground game of oni). That champion just happens to be Ataru, who after winning finds himself duped into proposing marriage to the gorgeous alien girl, much to the chagrin of his real-life sweetheart Shinobu (Shimazu). With Lum now nestled beneath the roof with Ataru's family, and a whole cohort of her voluntary bodyguards setting up camp on Earth to protect her, her fiancé is still far from ready to settle down, yet has to contest with Lum's violently jealous nature in the form of a series of high-voltage "love zaps" to keep him in check should his roving eye stray too far. Furthermore, he has a rival for Lum's affections in the form of Shutaro (Kamiya), the son of the richest family in the nation, whose private army ranks as even bigger than Japan's own.
Only You begins with a cute credit sequence showing a young boy and girl engaged in a childish game of jumping on each other's shadows. This does not, as one might suspect, provide the background for Ataru and Lum's engagement. Instead, it turns out to be an earlier encounter between Ataru and another alien princess named Elle (Sakakibara). These seemingly innocent flirtations once more conclude in yet another unwitting marriage proposal and ten years later, as Ataru comes of age, Elle returns to Earth to claim what is hers. But Lum is not about to let Elle whisk him away to the stars without a fight. Besides, when Ataru discovers Elle's cryogenically-frozen seraglio of some 100,000 suitors who have failed to live up to her unfeasibly high standards, he too begins to go cold on the idea of taking his place by her side.
The first two Urusei Yatsura movies marked the theatrical debuts of Mamoru Oshii, after he had cut his teeth, equally-bizarrely considering the kind of material he is usually associated with, helming several episodes of the NHK series of the children's classic The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (Nils no Fushigi na Tabi, 1980). It is quite a revelation to discover that the man who brought cyberpunk to the international arthouse with the Ghost in the Shell films actually does have a sense of humour, and an infectious one at that, though much of this is best attributed to the original source material. Perhaps it's best not to look for precedents for Oshii's own work in these films, but to sit back and enjoy the rides of one of the wackiest and eccentric series that the anime world has to offer.
The movie series continued with Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (1984), Urusei Yatsura 3: Remember My Love (1985), Urusei Yatsura 4: Lum the Forever (1986), Urusei Yatsura 5: Final Chapter (1988), and Urusei Yatsura 6: Forever My Darling (1991). With the exception of the second, these are all available from AnimEigo.