Urusei Yatsura is one of a couple of properties I credit for really making me an anime fan as I was getting close to abandoning it in the early 90s with what was being released stateside. There were neat projects but a lot of video game adaptations that back then were just awful. But the UY TV series got me hooked and then the second feature film, Beautiful Dreamer, made me a complete fan. At the time, AnimEigo was alternating releases on beautiful blue VHS tapes where we’d get a TV release, then a movie release, and then swapping those out with OVAs until it was just TV material. The film side of the series is an interesting journey where we see Mamoru Oshii doing some workmanlike material in the first film and then showing his true colors with Beautiful Dreamer. After that, Kazuo Yamazaki handled the next three films with a kind of mix of the familiar and lightly experimental but they never registered in the same way. With the fifth film adapting the end of the manga, it was three years later that we eventually got this film, Always My Darling, in the summer of 1991.
The film wasn’t really designed to be another feature-length story in the traditional sense because we had the ending already. What this really was is nothing more than simply being a tenth-anniversary special of the TV series starting that lets the gang go for one more romp. It also serves as a side story that can fit into the series pretty much anywhere after the bulk of the characters have been introduced. As it focuses primarily on Lum and Ataru and the secondary cast takes a back seat, it doesn’t impact things in general. And that’s a pretty big advantage because I’m not sure if fans would want to take a look at events beyond the ending as adapted without a huge signoff by Takahashi, though part of me has always wanted to see how these characters ended up in a years-later and older sense.
The plot is light and fun and fits well with the tone of the last couple of releases in the movie series. Lum and Ataru are being their usual selves and during one of the culture festivals, it’s not surprising to find Ataru chasing girls like mad and Lum becoming one of his prey until he realizes who it is. This, of course, leads to some brief comical chase sequences before things settle down into the larger storyline. Unbeknownst to either of our characters, a princess from another planet has been searching through the databanks to find herself the most lecherous being in the universe. Much to Lum’s parents’ disappointment, Ataru has fit that match and they let Lum know that someone’s been searching for it and has pegged Ataru. Before Lum realizes it, Ataru has gone missing and there’s no hint of where he may have gone.
Kidnapping Ataru isn’t exactly something that happens though, as he’s approached by the princess who is intent on capturing him but he’s more than willing to go wherever a beautiful lady is so he’s quickly inside her spaceship without even wanting to hear what she has to say. He just wants here and he’s true to the core and can be easily believed to be the most lecherous being in the universe. For Princess Lupica though, he’s a real problem and her bazooka only barely keeps him at bay. Though she needs him for her goals, she can’t believe just how bad he actually is and how much he’s able to break out of just about any kind of jail or restraint to go after her.
Lupica’s plans are pretty simple and fit in the fun vein of things as opposed to a philosophical-style plot. Being a princess, she’s in love with someone of a lower social class on her home planet and desperately wants him to fall in love with her. To achieve her goals, she’s decided that she’s going to go to the northeast quadrant of space where there’s a holy temple that’s as old as the ages and within it contains the ultimate love potion. This potion can only be reached by the most lecherous person in the universe as it’s filled with all sorts of traps that a person with this kind of ability can actually navigate. Though Lupica tricks Ataru into getting it for her by promising to go on a date with him, Ataru’s ability shines through beautifully and you can see how his years of girl chasing has definitely paid off.
Interestingly, with this being at the ten-year mark, what we get for the characters and animation are strongly reminiscent of the Ranma ½ material than the Final Chapter movie was. Though it’s not as soft as that series is nor is quite the near stick-figure format that the early Urusei Yatsura episodes were, there’s a definite growth in the character designs and animation here that tie it much closer to shows done from Takahashi materials of this time than of the original release time. Lupica in particular looks quite a lot like some of the women from the Ranma ½ rogues gallery. This in general I think works in its favor since it’s interesting to see how it has adapted to the changes of Takahashi’s own artwork over the years.
Following after a trio of movies that were a bit more pedestrian than one had hoped for after Beautiful Dreamer, Always My Darling brings a lot of fun and outright comedy to the project. It’s not my favorite work by a stretch but it serves as a perfect kind of bookend to the first film and all that comes in between. It’s simply a lot of fun with some good emotional beats along the way, knowing what it is as the real end to the property in animated form. It certainly won’t change the world but for fans of Urusei Yatsura, it will bring many smiles and plenty of laughter, and a strange kind of closure.