Movie 1: Only You
Copyright: © 1983 Kitty / AnimEigo
Length: 101 minutes
Rating: NR, Parental Guidance Suggested
Format: Subtitled (VHS)
Parental Guidance Advised
The plot is fairly typical by Urusei Yatsura standards. It basically starts out with Ataru being his usual lecherous self at High School as the show's plethora of regulars are quickly introduced. Soon, however, aliens arrive and the plot moves briskly into the far reaches of space from an epic battle between two space fleets, to a tour of a bizarre planet, to the final rescue scene involving more goofy creature designs than you can shake a stick at. Along the way there are musical interludes as well as trippy, psychedelic sequences that add to the charm.
I'm sure most people know Oshii Mamoru from his sci-fi anime of a late eighties and nineties such as Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell. However, most fans of his later work don't seem to pay much attention to his earlier work on the Urusei Yatsura TV series and the first two of its six subsequent movies. I suppose the Gibson-esque world of Ghost in the Shell is considered much more interesting by most than the Flash Gordon hamminess of Lum, but if one looks closely they will find just as thoughtfully crafted work and, in the case of the first movie, an excellent example of how a ridiculous idea can be skillfully molded into engaging, light-hearted entertainment.
By the time Urusei Yatsura: Only You came out in 1983, Lum already had an extremely strong following in Japan in both the manga and the TV series, and thus faced the typical problem all well-established series do when being converted into major motion pictures: how to include all the conventions of the series but also give the film a compelling story that anyone can enjoy. Fortunately, Only You does this remarkably well.
For the uninitiated, Urusei Yatsura: Only You tells the story of Ataru Moroboshi, the most lecherous man in the Universe, and Lum, the bikini-clad space princess that is determined to tame him. Other characters include Shinobu, Ataru's would-be girlfriend; Mendou, the richest man in the world and rival of Ataru; and Benten, Lum's best friend and space biker-chick who wears chains. There are several dozen other Urusei Yatsura regulars that appear in this movie also, but the plot basically focuses around Lum and Ataru in this movie with most of the other characters being regulated to cameos of varying degrees.
What the film does really well is capture the spirit, energy, and fun of Takahashi Rumiko's manga and the TV series while juggling situations and characters that effectively serve their purpose without bogging down the over all pace of the story. The plot involves Ataru's kidnapping by a rival space princess named Elle who wants to marry him, and Lum's attempts to win him back. From there the story takes off into an epic space farce that should make any fan of anime as well as classic sci-fi smile.
The film contains several well-crafted scenes. The prologue where children are shown only in silhouette is cute and effective, and the title sequence is so wonderfully overdone that it refrains from saying "The Movie!" only by sheer force of will. Another scene I like is the first space battle that takes place between Lum's planet and Elle's planet. There is a very funny scene where Oshii has some fun cross-cutting between Ataru's refusal to admit he loves Lum and the stalwart conviction of the pilots who are fighting to defend their marriage. The visit to Planet Elle itself is another memorable sequence. Seemingly constructed in the shape of a giant rose, it invokes the kind of tacky paradise image that classic Star Trek only wished for. This is also where the final sequence of the film takes place, where Lum and her friends wage a bizarre battle to crash Elle's wedding. I have to admit there is something extremely endearing about beautiful little Lum piloting her fighter through a gauntlet to save the most worthless man in the Universe, and the final scene, which seems directly inspired by The Graduate, is so romantically cornball that I can't help but be utterly won over every time I see it.
The reason why this movie works is because Oshii Mamoru has the decency to take it seriously. He does not condescend to the material at all, and stays firmly focused on its goofiest obsessions even in their tackiest extremities. The musical choices he makes in the film add to this considerably. Scoring the film like a old sci-fi serial is a delightful addition, and the use of songs and musical numbers throughout the film are warmly affectionate in the way that they have the decency to focus on the sentiment of the moment amidst the farce.
Urusei Yatsura: Only You is excellent light entertainment. It is likable, fast-paced, tacky, absurd, and completely silly. In other words, it is everything a Lum movie should be.
- MW, 2000.01.10
café rating (subtitled):
What can I say? It's pure Lum, served up in high style. It takes the comic meandering of the series and streamlines them into a punchy joke-after-joke ride through entertaining situations. The only part it lags is in the very beginning where there is some absurdity with a torture brigade at school, but the break-neck pace of the rest of the film more than makes up for it.
This film is so goofy one is almost inclined not to pay much attention to the thought that went into it, but that would be a mistake. Sustaining a sense of whimsy like this is no small feat, and Oshii makes it clear that he is adept at juggling this material effectively. Every scene hits the right note and never seems to be straining for a joke or carrying a situation for longer than its worth.
Judging this is difficult since I do not speak Japanese; none the less, in the case of Urusei Yatsura I simply cannot imagine another group of actors supplying these voices. Furukawa Toshio as Ataru is able to embody the exact lecherous, mischievous, yet utterly self-righteous conviction that *is* Ataru Moroboshi, and Hirano Fumi as Lum has always been remarkably adept that sounding so inhumanly cute that you'd believe her voice could only belong to an extra-terrestrial bombshell.
This film was made in 1983, however it still looks appealing by today's standards. It definitely has that "movie" feeling in the extra detail the animation has for the time, and this makes for a richer experience.
The score for Urusei Yatsura: Only You is remarkably good, and heightens the effect of the movie well. The space battles are scored with the intentionally cheesy and over-dramatic feeling of an old sci-fi serial which gives the film a welcomed sense of history to the traditions it is lampooning. The use of musical numbers is well-crafted in the story so that they add to the experience as entertaining and meaningful sequences rather than awkward after thoughts.
This is also difficult to gauge since I don't speak Japanese, but strictly from a subtitle-reader's standpoint I found Only You to be a satisfactory affair. The subtitles keep the tempo of the dialogue in the scenes and are briskly funny.
I like this movie quite a bit. Although I wouldn't call it a great film, it is certainly one that fulfills its obligation to the audience and then some. It is colorful, infectiously goofy, and utterly delightful. It's just a lot of fun, and considering how many movies fail to achieve this kind of balance I consider Only You somewhat of a small gem in the world of anime. - MW, 2000.01.10
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