Urusei Yatsura and Lum Are Cultural Icons

Urusei Yatsura and Lum Are Cultural Icons

Lum-Chan, as she’s more affectionately referred to, is one of the most recognizable anime characters ever. The long green hair, the nubby horns, and the devilish smile to top it all off, Lum strikes the hearts of everyone that sees her. Everyone but Ataru that is. 

Being nearly 40 years older, you might be unfamiliar with Urusei Yatsura even if you’ve seen Lum grace the cover of a future funk compilation video on youtube. She hails from one of the most cherished series of the 80s and the one that launched Ranma ½ and Inuyasha creator Rumiko Takahashi to success.

 Whether you’re currently buying the manga or have found some way to watch the anime, you know this slapstick high school comedy with aliens, demons, and all sorts of perverted hijinks more than hold up; It’s an absolute classic. In Japan, everyone has some familiarity with Urusei Yatsura and the oni-alien entity known as Lum-Chan. 

For almost 40 years, she’s maintained a degree of popularity in the same way a Mickey Mouse or a Hello Kitty does; To this day, you can find all sorts of merchandise and clothing adorned with Lum’s beautiful, smug face. From genuinely well-designed T-Shirts to wallets, phone cases, and beyond, Urusei Yatsura stays present in new ways. 

To get to that point though, there had to be something about the series itself, right?

Finally! You Can Read The Urusei Yatsura Manga Again!

For years and years, the sacred pages of Ranma ½ Creator Rumiko Takahashi’s breakout hit Urusei Yatsura were unavailable to English readers. Maybe if you were lucky, you could find one or two non-sequential volumes of the 90s era flipped from left to right editions of the series in used bookstores or in vendor discount bins at conventions. 

If you were trying to collect the whole thing post-2003 or so, you were completely out of luck. Being an early 80s series, despite its importance to anime culture and history, for a long time publishers thought a reprint wouldn’t be worth the cost. That changed with a surprising announcement made in the summer of 2018.

Surprising absolutely everybody, Viz Media announced they would finally finally be reprinting the classic Urusei Yatsura manga series. In an unflipped oversized two in one format no less! Starting in January 2019, once again Urusei Yatsura reappeared on the American market with Viz putting out new omnibus volumes every few months. 

If you want to do your due diligence as a manga reader and support this historical, but more importantly delightful series, now you can! With other publishers also dipping their toes into classic releases, like Seven Seas. with their Leiji Matsumoto and Go Nagai releases, maybe there’s hope for other legends of the past to have second-life in western fandom. 

We’re extremely excited that after the Urusei Yatsura reprint finishes up, we’ll finally be getting Maison Ikkoku next. 

You Have To Watch Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer.

You’ve heard of a little anime film called Ghost In The Shell, haven’t you? You know, the one starring Scarlett Johansson? We kid but in all seriousness, you should be familiar with the director behind the seminal anime film, one Mamoru Oshii. 

He’s one of the best directors out there, up there with the likes of Satoshi Kon and Hayao Miyazaki. He actually cut his teeth working on a lot of the Urusei Yatsura TV anime early in his career. He even directed a couple films for the franchise before doing his legendary Ghost In The Shell and Patlabor work. 

One of these films is Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer and its an absolute gem. A little more serious and atmospheric than the comedy series generally gets, the films will have you questioning what you believe about reality.

What Actually Set This Movie Apart From The Urusei Yatsura TV Series And Other Films?

While Mamoru Oshii did also direct some of the Urusei Yatsura anime series in addition to its first movie feature Urusei Yatsura: Only You, he was given much more latitude to work within Beautiful Dreamer. It really feels much more akin in some respects to his seminal Ghost In The Shell than any of his previous work on the series.

Vaguely similar to a Groundhog’s Day situation, the film’s main premise follows Ataru and Lum as their class prepares for a big student festival. The only problem? Everybody begins to realize that no matter how much time passes tomorrow just won’t come.

Students will try to head home and as they open the door to their houses they’ve lived in all their lives, they find themselves back at school. Even weirder, the school has an extra story that no one quite remembers being there.

Without spoiling what, how, and why of the film, Oshii uses this light-hearted set up to delve into some serious meditation on the nature of perception, contemplating the difference between dreams and reality. Parts of the film are also delivered in a non-linear fashion which really homes in on a delirious effect.

The film draws heavily from the traditional Japanese myth about Urashima Taro, as did the series’ previous Oshii directed entry Only You, but takes it to some strange places. While the film’s now regarded as a classic, due to its tonal departure from its comedic romance source material fans really didn’t know what to make of it at first, expecting obnoxious aliens, wacky games of tag, and tons of electric shock.

A final note, the series’ 3rd film Urusei Yatsura: Remember My Love and on weren’t directed by Mamoru Oshii, and return to the manga’s original light shtick. 

The Urusei Yatsura Begrudging Love Triangle

With Lum being one of the most iconic anime ladies of all time, you’d have to assume coming from a romantic comedy anime she’s wrapped up in one of the medium’s most memorable love triangles. 

The idiot bachelor Ataru, the alien muse Lum, and the spunky childhood friend Shinobu, you’ll be wondering how it shakes out until the very end. We used the word ‘begrudging’ above because the three spend as much time fawning over each other as they do berating and possibly even at times injuring each other.

Lum Invader

We’ve already talked about Lum-Chan a lot, the oni alien girl who’s not only near and dear to our hearts but to everyone that was part of the golden era of anime subculture. Lum wears her heart on her sleeve, and whether that means she’s treating Ataru with all of the affection in the world or trying to beat him into the ground is largely dependent on him. She’s a very passionate teenage alien self-styled princess.

Ataru Moroboshi

We couldn’t tell you why swaths of girls, whether they be alien crackpots, lonesome ghosts, or the conventional childhood friend keep falling for Ataru. At best the protagonist of Urusei Yatsura is just a dim-witted high school student and at worse he’s something of an unquenchable pervert, making a pass at just about anything that moves.

The one person he can’t seem to settle for? Lum, the beautiful alien girl who professes her love for him time and again. Maybe it’s the fact that she resorts to physical violence when upset that turns Ataru off or maybe he just really likes the chase, whether he really loves Lum or not is a mystery.

Shinobu Miyaki

From the beginning of time, it’s a general constant that if an anime is to have a love triangle one of the two love interests must be a childhood friend. Shinobu Miyaki is that long time friend of Ataru who would like nothing more than for him to make her his number one gal. While he generally tries to put the sweets onto Shinobu, she has no qualms dumping his butt the minute he makes googly eyes at another girl.

Why I Can’t Find Even Episode 1 Of Urusei Yatsura Anywhere?

Aside from the Discotek Blu-Ray release of the Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer film, the rest of the anime can’t be found anywhere online legally with very few copies of old out of print English releases still floating around. 

Animeigo’s license for the series expired way back in 2011 and since then, no one’s stepped up to bat to rerelease the series. Not even for streaming only deals. It’s a real shame that one of the most important 80s classics just can’t be watched without importing older Japanese releases. 

We would like to hold onto some hope though; Just a couple years ago, nobody thought a Urusei Yatsura manga English language reprint would happen yet Viz finally made it happen. Maybe some of the anime distribution companies have been trying to strike up a deal with licensors, and it will come eventually.

Urusei Yatsura
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