|Early Rumiko Takahashi Still Evolving|
I pretty much started reading and watching this series simply because I was a major Ranma ½ fan and this was Rumiko Takahashi’s first major work, the one that made her rep as a manga writer and artist when she was like only twenty-one.
That being said, I can see a lot of her future characters in here but the story retains a fairly unique feel to it. Instead of the supernatural and magic; alien super-science is often the cause of the wackiness of Urusei Yatsura (Those Obnoxious Aliens).
One of the big weaknesses in the manga is the quality of the artwork. Favoring a lot of simplistic shapes and lines, it’s evident that Takahashi was still evolving as an artist and it shows. Her girl characters are beautiful there’s no question but in many cases, her boy characters could use a bit of work. She also favored a lot of exaggerated body language and facial expressions to convey the characters’ emotions at this stage.
The plots tended to rather simple and also episodic, it very rarely had very lengthy storylines that lasted over an issue or so. It was also very static, events that occurred did not have any real lasting consequences and would simply return to the status quo. Characters would pop up and then vanish, only to reappear again usually a few issues later. Thus, the story didn’t really progress forward but the characters would stay the same. Of course, this could simply be because I read the Viz translated manga and I get the feeling that sometimes simply cut out certain chapters that they felt didn’t fit in too well.
The manga was purely comedic in nature. It focused on Ataru Moroboshi, a rather ordinary young Japanese teenager except that he possessed an overly developed libido … and an appalling amount of bad luck. After his girlfriend (and former childhood friend) Shinobu breaks up with him due to his wandering eye, his life takes a very strange turn when Earth is invaded by aliens who appear to be based on Japanese Onis (demons) who dress in tiger-striped clothing and have horns in addition to other strange powers. But they’re polite invaders and they have decided via random computer lottery to have a contest of champions, their’s versus Earth’s to make more fair as their technology is so overwhelmingly superior and our’s … well isn’t. Guess whose name popped up? You guessed it.
His opponent is a devastatingly gorgeous young Oni named Lum and Ataru is instantly smitten by her looks and immediately agrees to the contest—a game of tag and chooses to chase Lum (and get his hands on her incredible bod in the process). Unfortunately, Lum also possesses the ability to fly which turns the contest in her favor as Ataru belatedly discovers. After 10 days of trying and failing, and with the fate of Earth hanging in the balance—Shinobu promises to marry Ataru if he can win to bolster his flagging spirits. Re-energized, Ataru cheats and Lum loses. Unfortunately, Lum takes Ataru’s scream that now he can get married to be a marriage proposal to her; and immediately accepts while Shinobu once more breaks up with Ataru, believing that he’s cheating on her with Lum which begins the endless love comedy with Ataru constantly straying to whatever good looking female happens to catch his eye and Lum is constantly trying to get him to stay faithful to her.
Unlike Earth girls—Lum has an electric personality plus the power to generate lightning bolts to electroshock Ataru into good behavior or at least temporary paralysis. And she’s constantly trying oddball alien super-technology to assist her quest to get Ataru to fall in love with her.
Various other aliens, sometimes friends or rivals get into the mix along with some genuine unusual humans too who populate the wacko world of Urusei Yatsura.
The manga (what I’ve seen of it) seems to have Ataru and Lum’s relationship to be far more dysfunctional than the anime version. The anime Ataru at least, seems to actually like Lum a little and returns her affections to some small degree unlike the manga in which he’s constantly scheming to get rid of her so he can score with some other female which gets a bit old after a while and you wonder just what is wrong with Lum that she’s so set on this guy who is determined to cheat on her? Maybe it’s just me, but John Gray wasn’t kidding when he proclaimed that Men Are From Mars, and Women Are From Venus since Lum remains hopelessly and faithfully determined to remain tied to her elusive man. The manga appears to draw considerably upon Japanese folklore and legends although sometimes updated for a bit of a sci-fi twist and silliness too.
The anime and movies are so different and diverse that I’m going to have to discuss and rate those separately and simply say that the manga Urusei Yatsura is good, but does not quite approach the slapstick quality of comedy that Rumiko Takahashi’s later works such as Ranma ½ possesses. I have to say that it’s a decent intro to the anime and movies, but it’s definitely could be improved in certain areas. I have the feeling that this series is more for teenagers and young adults as children might not find the tangled relationships as funny or understandable and there is quite a few Japanese cultural jokes or characters being drawn upon.
RATING: 3 STARS.