The weakest Urusei Yatsura movie. It's not one of the weird ones, so you won't have any trouble following the story. No problem there. It's just that it's a bit dull.
This film was the last Urusei Yatsura anime that would ever be released. 1991 was the franchise's tenth anniversary, but it was also five years since the TV show had been wound up in favour of OVAs. What's more, the last film had been 1988's The Final Chapter, which as the title suggests had been an adaptation of Rumiko Takahashi's final manga storyline. That's the real end of the show. This is just a random cash-in. If you wanted to watch all the movies in order, you'd have to slot this sixth one somewhere amid the preceding five.
What's more, it doesn't really seem to fit. I'm not talking about continuity problems here, you understand. Urusei Yatsura laughs at continuity. No, my complaint is that it's pedestrian and underpowered. It's lacking energy. Admittedly it would be hard to sustain this show's typical level of manic invention for the length of an entire feature, but on the other hand this is the shortest of the six movies. Back in the old days, this story would have been a standard 25-minute TV episode and not even one of their better ones. The villain is lame. The (superb) supporting cast are underused. The McGuffin is underwhelming and wreaks far less havoc on Tomobiki than you'd expect. Basically the film doesn't even begin to make you think everyone in Japan must be insane, although it does manage one or two deranged moments.
Ataru is the main character of the film, as would seem to be right and proper, but I think that was their first big mistake. To tell the truth, I've never found Ataru particularly interesting. He chases girls. That's all he ever does or even thinks about. However when he finally catches one (e.g. Lum), he immediately loses interest and goes off in search of more. It's like watching a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't like him if I met him and frankly I'd be happy to see him battered to a pulp if it weren't for the fact that Lum cares about him. Personally I'm not a fan of Urusei Yatsura's early Ataru-centric years, in the days before they'd built up their supporting cast. They had this problem too. Admittedly Ataru can be funny when he's provoking extreme reactions in others, but as far as I'm concerned, he works best as a catalyst rather than a protagonist. This film makes him a protagonist. Yikes. In addition Lum gets plenty of screen time, along with her friends Benten and Oyuki. They're fairly boring, although in fairness Benten gets a fun introduction as she uses an energy weapon to blast the living hell out of a fairground shooting range.
This is doubly regrettable since Urusei Yatsura has a huge supporting cast of lunatics, most of whom get at best a line of dialogue or two. Every time we return to the hordes of Tomobiki and the film starts getting out of control, it improves a thousandfold. It would have been easy to make this a much better film, simply by staying in Tomobiki and ignoring all those losers who keep scooting off to other planets. Ataru's gone? Good! Maybe we'll be able to drag Asuka the Armoured Girl into things, or allow Sugar, Ginger and Pepper to appear for more than two seconds.
There's another way in which the film feels uncharacteristic of the show, though. It doesn't look quite right. Oh, there's nothing wrong with the animation, even if it's clearly far from being the most expensive anime film ever made. It's by Madhouse. I like Madhouse. Nonetheless there's something off about the art style, despite faithful likenesses of almost all the main characters. It feels generic and a little bit wrong, as if they're deliberately distancing themselves from Takahashi's art style. I can appreciate the way they draw women, though. Ataru's mother looks wrong to me, though.
So what's the plot? It starts with yet another space princess coming to Earth and abducting Ataru, this time because she's done an internet search for the most lecherous thing in the universe. At first this is amusing. Princess Lupika has underestimated Ataru's persistence and becomes sufficiently annoyed to shoot at him with a bazooka. Hey, I laughed. However what she wants is a love potion which only Ataru can get for her, in an Indiana Jones pyramid raid sequence that unfortunately keeps us away from Tomobiki until the 35 minute mark. You see, Lupika loves someone. She wants to put the potion in his drink and make him infatuated with her. Supposedly this is romantic, although if the genders were reversed we'd be calling it date rape. Nonetheless Lupika's relationship with the man she loves is at the heart of the movie... and yet it's being overplayed as a cliche for comedy value. You know how the whole story will go within ten seconds of first seeing him. It's theoretically possible that the film hasn't realised how hackneyed this story element is and is thus really being that dumb, but I don't think that's the case. This is Urusei Yatsura we're talking about here. Sometimes it's sweet and real. Sometimes it's just goofy. However it's always predictable, which is never good when it comes to finales.
The film does manage a few enjoyably surreal moments, though. The tofu seller's flying bicycle was just the right kind of throwaway impossibility, while I laughed at "Stupid TV Until Dawn". The climax also has the world's maddest volleyball sequence, which is apparently a parody of a high school sports anime called Attack No. 1.
At the end of the day, it's not much good. We've seen the Lum-Ataru stuff a million times before, the villain isn't even a villain and the whole thing just isn't particularly funny. Even the music's nothing to write home about. Its director and one of its two scriptwriters had never worked on Urusei Yatsura before, for what it's worth. Every so often it'll manage a funny line, a bit of trademark surrealism or a mildly heartfelt scene, but they're just isolated spots. Mediocre.