What They Say:
Strange things begin to happen in Tomobiki Town.
When a great cherry tree, “Tarozakura,” is cut down while Lum&Co.; are making a movie, Lum loses her horns – and her powers! Thus begins the strangest and most lyrical of the Urusei Yatsura movies. To explain any more would be to do you a disservice. Watch it, and draw your own conclusions.
The audio presentation for this film brings us the original Japanese language track and the English language dub with it encoded in stereo at 192kbps. The stereo mix for the show is fairly decent but it’s pretty reminiscent of the same kind of mix we got with the TV series itself so it’s not exactly a wild hopping time of sounds coming from every direction. The mix does sound good, and clearer than the TV mix since it’s several years more recent, and is free of problems such as distortions or dropouts.
Originally released in 1986, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The transfer for it looks pretty good all things considered and makes out better than Remember My Love did. The main issue with that transfer was the blockiness showing up in the black and deep blue sequences. That’s far less pronounced here though you can still see some movement and shiftiness in there. There is a general level of film grain throughout the movie that isn’t all that surprising but it doesn’t terribly affect things much if you’re used to it from films of this era. Aliasing and cross coloration are both pretty minimal and the show looks pretty decent all told, again considering its age and in comparison to the previous movie.
Continuing to use the same style as previous releases, the cover for this movie uses what I believe is the same artwork as earlier releases on different media. It’s got a nice shot of Lum, this time with purple hair and bikini outfit (that was pretty hard to find during this movie) while Ataru is looking at her while running. The mix of oranges and purples and the green may not work in general but for some reason I think it manages to work fairly well here. This isn’t the most eye-catching cover but artwork for the Urusei Yatsura series in terms of actual video releases has never been all that great to begin with. The back cover provides a couple of small shots from the show and a lengthy summary of the movie’s premise. The discs features and technical information is clearly listed though. As is now standard, the liner notes are now on the disc instead of on the recipe cards so there isn’t any insert with this release.
The main menu is setup with various pieces of animation from the movie that’s being filmed in the show so it has separate animated parts playing together well while some of the instrumental music plays along. It’s a cute menu and looks decent considering the source materials but the three separate instances of English dialogue used for it will be off-putting to some folks and you’ll want to get through the menus quickly or be thankful for auto-play if your player has it. The menus are quick and easy to access and the navigation is pretty straightforward. The menu load times aren’t bad but there are transitional animations, with even more English dialogue, all over here.
There are a number of extras included here but most of it is English language centric. The voice actors for Lum and Ataru each get their own interview segments where they talk about their own experiences with the show and their parts in general. The behind the scenes segments covers characters that didn’t get their exposure in the other two behind the scenes pieces with pieces of them doing their recordings and dealing with the trials and tribulations of being a voice actor. For both sets of fans, there’s the liner notes which has twenty-six screens worth of notes and background information on various puns and situations.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
From what I’ve been able to tell, the timing of this particular movie in Urusei Yatsura history is a chaotic one. Director Kazuo Yamazaki had for quite some time taken over helming the TV series after Oshii had left to go on to other projects. At the time that the movie production was getting underway, the TV series was about to be shelved at long last due to the fact that Maison Ikkoku was about to be animated and the entire creative team at Studio Pierrot that worked on Urusei Yatsura was going over to work on that. And even while finishing out the TV series and getting this movie rolling and still starting a new one, they had time to squeeze in the first couple of OVAs for the Urusei Yatsura franchise.
The more I read about Yamazaki the more impressed I became. When I found that some of his later works included A Wind Named Amnesia, City Hunter, Project A-ko and Please Save My Earth it changed my opinions just a bit on how I thought of this movie. With as much as was going on with this movie at the time and then understanding some his later projects, my tastes for this particular movie has changed considerably over the years. The first time I had seen it back on VHS it had barely registered with me. Something didn’t click right and it felt like it was trying too hard. That mellowed a bit a few years later when I got it on laserdisc and had a bit more of the show under my belt and gotten to know the franchise much better. So now the third iteration of it and I’ve found it still to be weak compared to the previous two movies but that it was more interesting on its once more.
Movie 4 takes the premise of having the bulk of the school characters filming a movie with Mendou’s money. A huge ancient family tree on their grounds has reached its age and is going to be cut down so he intends to film it and use it in a story to give it a proper sense of history in the family archives. Using the story of the Oni Princess legend as his basis, he writes up all the parts and casts everyone in their respective roles and begins production with Megane as the director. As we’ve seen in past TV episodes, Ataru’s actually rather good at playing it straight and the story of his arrival in a village of raccoon people who are dealing with a devil princess is quite well done. The seriousness of Ataru as he plays the role is well broken-up by the off-camera moments between all of them as they goof around and just have fun with their youth.
It wouldn’t be Urusei Yatsura though if things didn’t start to go wrong somewhere. During the actual tree cutting sequence when Ataru swings the axe into the trunk, a single point of entry causes a massive bubbling to exude from the tree and within seconds the entire thing has fallen. Within a few minutes the tree itself is eaten up by the fluid and all that is left is a series of tree “bones” for lack of a better phrase. Within a day, the entire region where this has happened has gone from being a nice simple flat area on the estate to morphing into a volcano where the remnants of the tree now reside inside a lake in the mouth of it.
The surreal aspect of the movie begins to creep in more heavily as Lum’s powers begin to fade and Ataru finds himself free to chase all the girls he wants. The dreams of many of the towns’ residents begin to come true and a patchwork new world is slowly being built out of it. As one of the hapless residents says while watching the chaos ensue, nothing good ever happens in this town. When Lum ends up disappearing and her Stormtroopers begin to fall in love with other women, you know something really isn’t right. The surrealness of the movie in a way is the part that to me felt forced during the initial viewings, as they looked at it and said, “well, it was done in movie 2 and 3, we’d better do it here as well.” The surreal nature isn’t badly done, such as we get some good material from Mendou’s mind and I love the little bit for Shinobu, but the parallels to parts of the previous movies and some of the things done in the TV series just didn’t click too well. Over time though, I’ve appreciated it more for what it is and the character study that it does allow and have grown to like it more and more.
Much of the shows production values in a way mirror the third movie as well as maintaining continuity with the TV series. From my memories, since it has been awhile, I only really recall some of the OVAs really showing much of an increasing animation budget but that was more due to them being made later and with better techniques and bright color palettes. This particular film fits in well with what had gone before for both the TV and movies so there’s nothing revolutionary here nor really evolutionary either. This is a solid continuation in the series of good movies from the franchise.
Even at its worst, I think Urusei Yatsura is good so there’s some skew to my perceptions of the show I’m sure. This movie has shifted heavily in its quality in my opinion since I had first seen it due to a variety of reasons, but after all these years since my last viewing I think it stands up better and better the more of the series I see. Since it was done at the close of the series that isn’t too surprising either. This movie continues on with the apparent tradition of doing strange and surreal events and trying to be a more serious piece with a heavy dose of comedy mixed in. It succeeds better than I had originally thought and I found myself enjoying it this time more than I have ever before.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Interview with Lum, Interview with Ataru, Behind the Scenes of the Dub Process, Liner Notes
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: AnimEigo
Release Date: October 5th, 2004
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.