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Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer


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Title Info

  • type: movie
  • grade: weird
  • people: Oshii Takahashi
  • form: sub
  • dur: 90
  • made: 1984
  • Review created: Sat Mar 10 03:15:12 EST 2001
  • mod: none

The second Urusei Yatsura movie, and without any doubt the weirdest...but weird in a very good way. Indeed this movie can probably make a claim to being one of the strangest anime films in general. Fortunately, it's also a good film, especially for Urusei Yatsura fans, and regarded by many as somewhat of a classic.

First a bit of general spiel to introduce the background of this anime. The essence of Urusei Yatsura is domestic Japanese life (in my opinion). We get to see families, mundane aspects of Japanese life and lots of normal activities such as school, lessons and family dinners. In Urusei Yatsura parents and grandparents may have suprisingly active roles in the story. Now add in Takahashi's exceptional abilities to craft characters. They're all a little bit weird, the women even more so than the men, but they also have charm, depth and may intrigue you as to what makes them tick. And the cast is huge, not only the regular cast but the number of occasional and episodic characters. And they're all woven into a complex tapestry full of likes, dislikes, shared character elements or past hostilities. There's some lovely dialogue, scenes and even a touch or two of romance to provide a wonderfully tangled environment full of intriguing characters.

And then, to make it more fun, drop something very weird into the middle of it and watch the fireworks. In this case the element is a super-cute alien female who, through a misunderstanding, falls for and considers herself the wife of the male lead. For his part he's a lecherous, phenomenally unlucky guy with a very weird psychology. He's often called an idiot, but it's more complex than's just that he perceives reality in a fairly strange way, and is totally focused on living according to this weird model. And the last thing he wants is a stable marriage to such an exotic girl. Although the fact that Lum zaps him (she can fly and generate lightning bolts naturally) whenever she get's a bit emotional (happy and angry) also has some small part to play. But what really scares, but also tempts, ataru is that she honestly does love him completely...something his strange outlook isn't really capable of dealing with.

The ensuing conflict of personalities is one thing, but with her ability to attract chaotic weirdness from space, and his matching ability to call forth every strange element on earth, there's no shortage of weirdness going on. And of course this reaches out to affect the rest of the cast. It is the mixture of insane situations, complex cast against the background of mundane Japan that makes this show so much fun. Takahashi's inventiveness, some elements of parody, plus bits of sci-fi and mythology keeping the pot bubbling. And I really must emphasise that the stories are quite willing to break reality, or introduce incredibly impossible elements, if there's some fun in it. Dimensional travel, Time travel, Fate, Magic, Alien's all just another `normal' afternoon at Tomobiki high.

And indeed in this movie things start out wild and crazy... although this is entirely normal. The school is in the throes of setting up for a school festival, and chaos prowls the hauls (as well as lots of in-jokes). Most of the characters we know are preparing their own part, the nazi-themed decadence cafe. And since they not only lack taste, but also the ability to work together and avoid causing destruction, they seem to have been doing it forever. Not that this bothers lum, since she considers working together and sleeping at school as nothing more than camping with her friends.

Things begin to turn strange when Onsen-mark begins to wonder if they in fact haven't been doing this forever. And once alerted he notes strange incongruities that suggest not everything is normal. When he speaks to others, and tries to keep everyone out of the school, they realize that the world has changed and they didn't notice. And once they do notice reality becomes more and more strange and dreamlike. And this is also a dream that fights back. When something is discovered the dream no longer bothers to maintain it, when someone challenges they vanish without trace. And, while the cast works towards understanding this mysterious change, we get to explore the characters that make up the Urusei Yatsura cast.

I don't want to give anything away, but once revealed the conclusion is neat and slightly novel. But what is really fun is getting to focus completely and solely on the characters. Often UY movies use 'frantic' scenes and crazy events to provide energy and humor. This one is far more classy, forcing the action and humor out of the nature of the various characters. And as such it offers some interesting insights into how they think. It's really quite clever while still maintaining much of the UY charm.

It's also very skillfully directed. The sense of atmosphere is solid and very believable. The dreamlike elements contain the allure of fantasy while also having a hint of dangerous secrets. Add in great pacing, very firm control of a story that could easily have gone of the rails, some well represented scenes, and you have clear evidence of a talented hand at the wheel. Of course it is possible that the agressive style and weird content could as easily irritate and entertain. If you don't like the mood, the generally dry comedy, or the playful nature of the anime, this one could easily bug you. Personal tastes will have a lot to do with how successful you consider this anime to be.

The animation itself is clever and ambitious, with a lot of detail and style that fits the mood very well. Note that this is, obviously, not a new film so the technical quality of the animation has dated to some extent. But even so it's fun to watch and tells the story cleanly. It's also sort of impressive how ambitious some of the scenes are. There's some quite 'epic' moments to be had. The characters all look cute, as normal, and are rich in personality. Voices are the skilled cast from the TV series. Some catchy and atmospheric music is used well to enhance the mood.

Other Reviews

  • Anime Review review The anime review page clearly like this film. The long review offers some excellent insight into why Beautiful dreamer manages to be weird and novel while maintaining the urusei yatsura feel (5/5).


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:26 WST 2009