Our main male protagonist Darling, laughing in the style of Lelouch.
Finally, after nearly two months of on-and-off viewing (punctuated by the Code Geass review earlier this month), I finally finished the humongous series Urusei Yatsura, the first Takahashi Rumiko work reviewed in this blog (the second one I watched after Ranma 1/2), and at 195 episodes, the biggest single-season series I have ever watched. For comparison, it is like watching Code Geass (50 episodes), Powerpuff Girls Z (52 episodes), Wolf and Spice (13 episodes), Chobits (26 episodes), Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai (24 episodes), Record of Lodoss War (13 episodes) and Kodomo no Jikan (12 episodes + 1 OVA) all in one go with some episodes to spare (I do not count movies or the non-anime Avatar). Just like Gakkou No Kaidan, this is another of those Animax titles I have partially watched in the past, and here I finally watched the series to the very end.
Darling’s house (destroyed by Lum here) and classroom (destroyed by Arsonist Ten) are regular collateral damage in this series. The mortgage and reconstruction efforts must be a pain…
Planet Earth was invaded by a demonic alien race armed with overwhelming physical and technology superiority over the 1980's human race, and all that stands between the world as we know it and complete annihilation is our lecherous hero Moroboshi 'Darling' Ataru. Chosen to compete in a tournament with the fate of the world in the balance, he has to defeat Lum, the princess of the king of the alien invaders and win, or else he will lose his girlfriend Shinobu that has promised him her hand in marriage if he wins. Eventually he wins the contest using a simple trick, but his truly 'electrifying' married life has just started…
There is one of those anime that is powered by the immense character strength of its main male protagonist, and this factor alone salvage the really thin overall story this anime has. Our Darling is definitely one of the strongest anime characters I have ever seen in the myriads of anime titles I have ever watched. As a reference to the previous anime I have reviewed before, Code Geass, Darling is vastly superior to Lelouch Lamperouge for example. Frankly speaking, if it wasn't for him, I would have dropped this anime at around episode 30 or something when they started to do 1 30-minutes episode every episode (pun?) instead of the 2 15-minutes episodes per episode format this anime started with.
Darling is trying to hit on his childhood friend Shinobu while the jealous Lum is administering more electrical punishment. A common scene in this series.
Darling is similar to Raou in Inukami, but more decisive, more thick-skinned, more tenacious and exemplarily good at wooing women using some of the best flowery (and corny) pick-up words, and he has no qualms whatsoever at doing it in-front of the main female protagonist. He (and some of the other characters) is also extremely good at doing funny/insightful/witty one-liners which can really make excellent scenes. Some of his choice of words really amazes me, especially when he is doing his girl-hunting trips.
Mendou Shutaro and Darling, planning their next perverted move.
Darling is also ably assisted by some other side-characters; Mendou Shutaro, Arsonist Ten, Shinobu, Sakuramboo Cherry, Ran and Darling's parents, especially his mom comes to mind. What is criminal is that some of these characters suffers from the lack of airtime (and this is a 195 episodes series for God's sake), especially Darling's mom. This also applies to Ten in the second half of the series. Darling's relationships with the myriads of characters in this anime makes up the bulk of the appeal this anime has. Some of the characters are way too one-dimensional for my liking though, for example Rei (thanks God he did not appear often) and Sakura (oh snap). Episodes where these characters are the focal point tends to be uninspiring unless Darling decides to step in and have a big slice of the air time. And this bring us to the enigma that is Lum.
The twin terror from Oni Planet, our main female protagonist Lum and her cousin Arsonist Ten (who is about to fire a burst of flames as he burns down another house).
For a main female protagonist with huge amount of airtime, Lum is disappointingly one-dimensional and uninspiring. Her character is shallow, and things that she do tends to be very predictable. She would have done vastly better if she isn't fawning over Darling too much. Even more frustrating is that the child version of Lum is much better than the present herself. The way the child Lum harass/blackmail/set-up the child version of Ran can be brilliant sometimes, but she doesn't even do that in the present to the current Ran, except in some circumstances involving her beloved Darling (and she is being conservative when doing it). She improves somewhat in the last third of the anime, but it is simply not enough.
WANTED: A Lum’s character that is actually exciting (see the first picture) instead of the regular one-dimensional version (second picture).
Character development is excellent. Mendou Shutaro, Arsonist Ten and Shinobu are great examples of it. Watching over the course of the series on how the heir of Mendou conglomerate and a flying baby that can breathe fire to burn houses and schools slowly morphing over time to become just another copy of our lecherous Darling is brilliant, while the same can also be said about Shinobu who slowly loses her feelings about her childhood Darling after seeing him and Lum get betrothed, and she gets attached to Mendou instead. Meanwhile the nature of Darling did not change in a fundamental way; he is still a pervert that chases anything female (humans, extraterrestrial aliens, ghosts etc) in episode 1 until 195, but the nature of his relationships with other characters can change significantly. For example, at first he has problems dealing with Ten when he first appeared (with his abilities to fly and breath fire notwithstanding) and he always become the victim of Ten's breaths of fire, but at the end Ten ended up becoming Darling's punching bags or become a portable flame-thrower that Darling used every time he invaded Mendou's vast real estate for various reasons. The episode where Darling invades Mendou's home for Ryoko's lips while having the self-proclaimed innocent baby Ten tied to his hips is epic! A whack on the head and a huge burst of flames comes out. That's what I call a convenient weapon.
Darling’s mother has lots of potential that unfortunately aren’t tapped.
Moving to the story, do not expect a coherent main plot. Just like Ranma 1/2 (which I watched on AXN while I still do not have this blog), the very many episodes in this anime involves Darling and the huge cast of characters doing their thing in myriads of situations. A significant chunk of the episodes involves focusing on a character that is not Darling or Lum also make up part of the series. The quality of the episodes seems to be related with the amount of airtime Darling has (the higher it is, the better) and also whether the one-dimensional characters like Sakura and Rei is present or not. You probably can skip a lot of the episodes in this anime and do not lose anything, but some episodes can be considered as key episodes that advanced the thin main plot and should not be skipped.
Gender benders plot device in this anime are very well executed. The episode where Darling becomes a woman is one of the better episodes in the series. BTW, the girl in both pictures is Mendou Shutaro.
The main attraction of the story (or plots more like it) in this anime is the humor. Some of the jokes are brilliant, especially from Darling who are not only capable of one-liners but also slapstick humor as well. Plus, what this anime has that Ranma 1/2 doesn't is the constant references to other TV shows, Hollywood films or the humongous amount of Japanese mythologies (some episodes are dedicated purely for a parody, like the one for Indiana Jones). Seeing Fujinami 'Ranma' Ryuunosuke parodying Ultraman or Mendou Shutaro parodying Luke Skywalker adds up to this factor well.
Some of the parodies in Urusei Yatsura.
But this series is guilty of abusing some common plot devices common to this genre. For example, the number of episodes where Darling and his entourage (usually Lum, Mendou and Shinobu) going to the beach is very numerous. Fortunately, even with 195 episodes count, there are no 'going to the hot spring' episode, even if the perpetually 2nd year 4th class has a homeroom teacher called 'Onsen-Mark'. Some of the episodes has outrageously unreal plots, and I vastly prefer episodes that take place on Earth instead of another dimension or planets.
Another weakness that this anime has is that some potentially good story arcs are not pursued. A good example is the Arsonist Ten relationship with his stalker who attended kindergarten. It is beyond belief that we only have one episode about Ten's stalker, while the vastly inferior arc about Shinobu and the fox got more episodes. The last episode meanwhile, did not exactly qualify as an ending, maybe it wants me to watch the movies, of which I will definitely do in the near future.
edit: Finished with all the 15 volumes I got from lurk, the majority of the episodes in the anime seems to be the more elaborate versions of the chapters in the manga. Very many of manga chapters has been modified, with mixed results. For example, the ending of the anime is a random episode from volume 5 but presented much better (that Ameterasu episode). It also seems that there are many anime-only plots that did not exist in the manga (although the same thing can also be said with the manga). Is it just me, but the manga has less of the Mendou-estate invasions plots compared to the anime?
The element of friendship is important in this anime.
For its time (this anime was aired in Japan when I am still a snot-nosed brat and finished even before I get to kindergarten), the design is pretty decent. Not exactly too different than Ranma 1/2. Some characters has black hair like Mendou Shutaro, but the lack of them can be forgiven for the nature of the alien-infested Japan.
Waterboarding is already popular at the era when this anime is aired. The victim seems unperturbed though.
The voice acting in this anime is mixed bag. Obviously, Darling with his creepy laugh that scares women (and sometimes Lum too) stands out from the rest, alongside Arsonist Ten and the double-faced Ran. At first, I think that Lum's voice did not match her character (like the main protagonist in Excel Saga) but after 100 episodes or so, I just forgot about it.
Some of the best one-liners in the anime.
The OST for this anime is pretty decent, but from the very many OP/ED themes that this anime has, only the 3rd ED (so good they use it twice), 2nd OP and the last OP themes are of any good.
Final confirmation of Mendou Shutaro’s transformation to Darling Mark II.
The animation quality is pretty decent but holds its own in fast-paced scenes. Animation reuse seems to be common here too. Choreography for whatever the small action scenes that this anime has is average. The director is good, at least for organizing the plots in any given episode although failed in character management (some characters like Shinobu can be missing for extended periods) and also in timeline management (the first year spans about 40 episodes, the second year nearly double that etc.).
Sakuramboo Cherry harassing both Darling and Mendou Shutaro.
9 out of 10. Despite the immense character strength of Moroboshi 'Darling' Ataru and co., he can only take this series so far. I should watch all 6 movies in the near future and review them here too, although highly unlikely not the next one. Maybe I should consider reading the manga too at some point in the future.
Darling will chase almost anything female, even if it made of snow.