Review: Urusei Yatsura (2022) – episode 1

This is not a release post. As followers of this site know, I generally subtitle shows that are decades old and not already available with to watch with English subtitles. This show is available to stream legally on HiDive, and the first episode has been released in both Japan and the US.

Apologies to everyone for my underwhelming output this year; as mentioned in a previous post, I have been very busy with family stuff and haven’t had as much free time for my video collecting hobbies lately. Nevertheless, I’m still very much in the game, with my own projects and various collaborations with other subtitlers. Lots of stuff is in various stages of completion in the pipeline, including the last few episodes of Lensman, some GeGeGe no Kitaro in time for Halloween, and much more.

TSHS hasn’t always been one nerd cranking out English subtitles for Japanese shows that don’t have them. In the mid-1980s, we were two nerds showing anime and rare British shows at monthly club meetings at a local public library. One of the anime shows that usually got a good reaction from club members was Urusei Yatsura (or “Obnoxious Aliens” as US fans called it then), Rumiko Takahashi’s monster hit that aired on Fuji-TV from 1981-86. We watched the show from faded, hissy multi-generation tapes in Japanese with no translation (apart from various fan-made synopses where available), as fan subtitles were a very new and rare phenomenon in the 80s. The superbly subtitled VHS releases from Animeigo wouldn’t happen for another decade, when they would be eagerly and repeatedly rented from Blockbuster Video by my younger brother and his friends.

The only fan I’ve known personally with a stronger Urusei Yatsura obsession than my younger brother is DeTroyes, the co-founder of TSHS. So when I heard that this long awaited reboot had finally premiered, I reached out to DeTroyes to ask if he had any opinions about the new version. His response:

Oh boy do I have opinions!

The Good:

  • I like the voices they picked for Ataru, Lum, and Shinobu. Gonna take a little getting used to, tho; Ataru keeps sounding to me like Araragi Koyomi, and since I’m also a big Monogatari fan, it’s a little jarring. I also like that they kept the original VA’s in the cast (Original Ataru is now playing Ataru’s dad, and original Lum is now playing Lum’s mom), which I think is exactly how it should be.
  • Animation looks good and appears top-notch. I was a little worried because David Productions has a bit of an uneven reputation among some anime fans, but it appears for the first episode at least they are doing quite a good job.
  • Art direction is likewise good. I approve of the decision to keep closer to the manga styling, and the general direction to keep the new series basically in the original series setting (i.e., 1980s Japan).

The Bad:

  • The pacing is janky. At times they seemed to cram in a lot and move the story along fast, other times it draws to a slow crawl.
  • It sometimes feels like they are trying to play it a little too safe with the series content. They clearly toned down Ataru’s ultimate solution to defeating Lum, among other things. While I can understand why they might choose to do that in the current broadcasting climate, one of the reasons I think the original series worked was because it had a feeling of anarchy to its storytelling, a no-holds barred “anything can happen” approach that really worked. You often just didn’t know what was going to happen next, and that was something that helped make the series fun. I don’t get that feeling with this new first episode. Perhaps its because I’ve watched the original series several times and read the manga, but the new first episode still felt to me entirely too basic and formulaic. Still, it is only the first episode, so things are not quite set production-wise. But it is concerning to me.
  • One of the joys of the original series were the sight gags and little details. In the first episode of the original series, how Ataru finds out he’s been chosen to be Earth’s representative is hilarious: a car drives up to him out of the blue, a thug gets out, tosses him into the vehicle, and it drives away. The sequence is only a couple of seconds long, but it’s a great gag that perfectly sets the bizarre tone of the series. Later on in the episode there is this long montage of Ataru’s failed (and hilarious) attempts to defeat Lum. Throughout the first story of the new series, there was never any sequence that came close to these kind of sight gag slapstick; I would have thought that an updated version of the “Ataru tries and fails” montage should have been there at the very least, but nothing. There really wasn’t anything that even closely resembled that (tho Lum taking the time out from the tag game to treat herself to a waffle cone was cute).

The Meh:

  • I miss the old background music cues. The new series feels really odd without them. If Lupin III can get away with doing variations on the same themes its had since the 1970s, the new series should be able to get away with re-orchestrating the Music Box Collection with modern instrumentation. I was almost tempted to try my hand at just remixing them back in myself.

Overall, while I did enjoy the first outing of the new series, I do think I prefer the original series first episode to this one.

DeTroyes also sent me a link to this article, about how anime fans in Japan are breaking out their old Betamax, VHS, and even compact cassette recorders to record the new series 1980s-style:

Anime fans go old-school, record new Urusei Yatsura anime on Beta and period-appropriate media

Urusei Yatsura is back on TV, and tape media is back on fans’ minds.
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2 Responses to Review: Urusei Yatsura (2022) – episode 1

  1. starseeker says:

    But have you seen the 2 episodes that the BBC dubbed for a comedy special in the early 2000s?

    Like

  2. Nanto says:

    Hi, starseeker! Do you mean the Matt Lucas version? I think I have it in some legacy media format, but have never gotten around to watching it.

    Like

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