February 01, 2012

Urusei Yatsura is So Good

I've been watching more Urusei Yatsura, although not in any particular order. I just got Vol. 22 and 31, although I haven't watched any of the latter yet. Vol. 22 is probably the funniest set of episodes I've seen so far. In particular, episode 83 "Big Battle! Ten vs. Ataru" has a ton of insane animation, and a simple premise that leaves lots of room for crazy gags. Basically the plot is that Jariten (Lum's baby cousin) and Ataru have a fight.

This episode is drawn in a much looser, gag manga-like style than the others that I've seen. It starts off with some Road Runner/Coyote-style gags, with Jariten as the coyote.

And then there's this face. It will haunt your dreams.

The writing and direction are fantastic, full of hilarious reveals and bizarre ideas.

This sequence with Ataru trying to open his lunchbox in class with a bandaged hand is amazing. It's actually fully animated, and chock-full of crazy, distorted drawings and wacky poses. I also find it funny that throughout the sequence, the guy behind him is frozen with his mouth wide open.

And then his teacher transforms into a pig.

...Of course.

None of the other episodes on this disc contain as much funny animation as this one, but they're all pretty good anyway.

From an episode that's basically Hitchcock's The Birds only with potatoes attacking instead:

In the next one, a giant robotic chalkboard eraser, who used to be Lum's space-elementary school teacher, returns to punish her and her friends for pranks they pulled on him as kids.

Then the last episode on the disc has the characters travel back in time to figure out why one of them is claustrophobic.

...And this is from the preview for the next episode. It is now my civic duty to buy the next volume and see this in full:

I used to prefer the early episodes of the series because I felt they were more pure comedy-oriented, whereas the later ones that I'd seen featured weird attempts at serious drama. Turns out that what I'd seen was unrepresentative of the majority of later episodes. I'm glad I've started watching them now-- I can see why people called these later Mamoru Oshii-directed years of the show its golden age. The early episodes really are a lot cruder compared to these ones, in just about every respect.

One thing I noticed on this volume is that for no particular reason, the show keeps using a version of "Your Mother Should Know," done in the usual primitive-synthesizer style, as background music. I have no idea how they got away with this. I've also heard them use "Magical Mystery Tour" in another episode.

School and a freelance animation job are taking up most of my time at the moment. Apart from those, I'm mostly working on the third Fester Fish cartoon. Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to record the dialogue yet, so the number of shots I can animate at the moment is limited. While doing clean-up and colouring, I've been listening to my new favourite podcast, "Dynamite in the Brain," which is anime-themed and hosted by Brian Smith and Anthony Askew. Brian's blog Awesome Engine is what got me onto this current Urusei Yatsura bent, since he's written reviews for the first two-thirds of the series.