Urusei Yatsura: Only You
I'm a slightly more experienced anime watcher than when I first saw this, the first of the Urusei Yatsura movies. Unfortunately this just allowed me to realize that not only is it an average example of UY it's also a pretty average movie all round.
General Series Information
First a bit of general spiel to introduce the background of this material. 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 that...it'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 invasion...it's all just another `normal' afternoon at Tomobiki high.
This movie opens with two children innocently playing in a small suburban playground. It's shown in an almost symbolic style, making it clear that this is a memory and concealing the actual people involved. As it gets dark one of the games they play is chase the shadow, and when the girl is distracted by something in the sky the male wins the game. Informed, as a spaceship lands in the background, that this counts as a marriage proposal, the young boy happily accepts. As she leaves she promises to return in 11 years to pick him up and seal the pact.
Cut forward to the current time where lecherous student Ataru Morobishi is on his way to school, with lum seeking attention. However once the large cast of the show start to mysteriously receive wedding invitations, naming Ataru as the groom, any vestige of normality is shattered. The supporters of lum are furious, Lum is deeply wounded and Ataru is all for it. And this bride has sufficient alien power on her side that, even with the assistance of Lum's familiy and friends (most notably benten) she cannot easily interfere. The obvious attraction of this anime being the chance that Ataru may end the complex inter-relationships of the UY series by actually being married, whether to Lum or someone else.
While it's still directed by Oshii this movies has some serious problems that can significantly reduced your enjoyment. The first, and most important one, being that it's actually quite dull. There's lots of slow moving sections that are neither dramatic or humorous and tend to drag. Given there's quite a few of them, and it's a quite long film, it is a noticeable negative. Stuff like spaceships landing, mendous army or the oni getting ready for battle is just strangely un-interesting. Likewise having 3 or 4 `music' interludes only enhances the feeling.
It's even worse if you love UY...although if you don't then there's probably no reason to care at all. The reason being that the UY characters lose a lot of their personality, sparkle and even depth. It's partly because they're in such an unfamiliar environment but it's more due to bad writing and shallow characterisation. They've all been dramatically simplified. Even the main characters, who get much more time, are `broken'. Most people accept that Ataru actually loves Lum, but fears commitment. It's not like he's really going to be any more enthusiastic to marry anyone else. But in this one he's such a simple-minded idiot. Likewise Lum get's deeply hurt and melancholic...believable enough but not particularly in character. Finally the `bride' turns out to be an attractive but totally psychopathic mad-woman, for no real reason in particular. The conclusion is sudden and fairly illogical.
All in all it's not funny, not sufficiently entertaining and not particularly true to the UY feel. Even the attempts to have manic action seem more tired than anything else. At the heart the villain is probably average writing, with the core plot being simplistic, lots of cliche's and the dialogue and character writing flat. It's a pretty terrible way to get introduced to the UY universe in any case.
And the animation is like-wise strangely basic. It's pretty much on par with the, now dated, TV animation which is fairly disappointing for a movie. A fair amount of design is dodgy and it also attempts to animate some complex scenes without the skill and/or budget to really carry them off successfully. The main characters look fine, and the voices are the familiar ones from the TV series so that's a positive. There's a reasonable amount, including song breaks, of music but most of it is the same as that used on the TV series. All in all it's average animation that would be capable of supporting a strong story, but not strong enough to stand in it's absence.