Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer
Part 1: The Characters
Despite the fact that I am not heavily into watching animé and that I've seen very little of the Urusei Yatsura TV show, Beautiful Dreamer has become my favorite animated movie of all time. A bizarre comedy with an unusual plot, the movie tells the tale of a group of highschool kids and an alien girl named Lum who become trapped in a strange world that seems to be repeating the same day over and over again. (Although that description might conjure memories of the Bill Murray move, Groundhog Day, don't worry, the two are nothing alike.) As each day repeats, one-by-one people begin to vanish, until eventually, the entire city of Tomobiki becomes vacant, with seemingly no explanation. It appears that only a select few students of Tomobiki High School are the last people left on earth, and they spend their days having fun since there are suddenly no obligations and the food in the nearby grocery store is mysteriously restocked every day.

The story and characters of Beautiful Dreamer are based on two things: 1. A manga/anime series by Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2, Inu-Yasha) called Urusei Yatsura (which roughly translates as "Those Obnoxious Aliens"), and a Japanese legend about a turtle. As the legend goes, a man named Urashima Taro saved a turtle's life. As a reward, the turtle allowed Taro to ride on his back to a wonderous Dragon Palace where he attended a great feast. After Taro left the Dragon Palace and returned home, he discovered that hundreds (possibly thousands) of years had passed. His whole village had changed and he couldn't recognize anybody. This folktale is central to UY2's weird plot.

Just as central are the cast of quirky characters who come from the manga and anime series that the movie is based on. Now, some claim that it's difficult to follow the movie if you aren't familiar with the series, but this was the first thing related to Urusei Yatsura that I ever saw, and I didn't have much trouble. There are some in-jokes you won't get and maybe a few things here or there that won't make much sense, but generally speaking, the movie works extremely well as a stand-alone entity. For the most part, the writers did a good job of establishing each character and what he/she is like just through their dialogue, mannerisms, and the way they react to each situation. No lengthy backstories are required and we aren't left scratching our heads. (I didn't know, at first, why Lum could fly and shoot lightning bolts, but then it's mentioned quickly after she shows up that she's an alien. Check.)
But just for good measure, I'll start off this tribute to my favorite animated movie with an introduction to all of the major characters in the cast. Be aware that this document will contain some spoilers, so if you plant to watch this movie and don't want anything spoiled, you're best off not reading this. (Also, if you're someone who's familiar with Urusei Yatsura and knows the ins and outs of it, you're probably going to laugh at my general lack of knowledge.)

LumLum: Lum is a green-haired, horned girl from another planet. She is based on the "Oni", a mythological Japanese demon that has horns on its head, wears tiger skins, and can fly. In addition to all of that, Lum can also shoot electric bolts out of her fingers, and she has a habit of doing this when she's really angry. The people of Lum's planet had come to Earth with the intention of destroying it. They gave the Earth people one chance to save their planet, and that was only if Ataru Moroboshi, a lecherous loser of a highschool student, could grab Lum's horns within three days. But since Lum could fly, it was almost impossible, until Ataru found a way to trick her. With Earth saved for the time being, Lum fell in love with Ataru and decided to stay with him. Unfortunately, Ataru is a hopeless lech who is constantly chasing after other women. This is what usually leads to him getting fried by Lum's lightning bolts. Lum is sweet (almost sickeningly so), very naive, and has an innocent charm about her. All the boys in school lust after her, and no one can understand exactly what it is that she sees in Ataru. But Lum's wish is only to live happily ever after with Ataru and all of their friends.

Ataru MoroboshiAtaru Moroboshi: Ataru Moroboshi is an all-around lecherous loser who, confoundingly, is the love interest of Lum's life. Although deep down inside, he truly cares for Lum, you wouldn't know it from how he acts most of the time. He likes having perverted dreams about the other female characters in Urusei Yatsura and fantasizes about living in a harem. He doesn't seem to particularly care that his fantasies often cause grief for his friends, especially when Lum indiscriminately shoots lighting bolts at him (and anyone close to him) out of anger. Ataru has a particular rivalry with Shutarou Mendou. They both like Lum, and, more importantly, their personalities are such polar opposites that Ataru's bumbling often annoys the straight-arrow, pompous Mendou. (What's interesting is that in the English dub they're both voiced by the same actor, Vinnie Penna, yet it's almost impossible to tell from just listening to them because they're so distinct in both voice and mannerisms.)

Shutarou MendouShutarou Mendou: Mendou is, without a doubt, my favorite character in this movie. He's largely responsible for why the movie works so well. Without a straight-arrow character for the others' comedy to play off of, and a foot to keep held in reality as the story continues to get weirder and weirder, you'd just have a bunch of obnoxious nonsense going on. But Mendou gives us a character to identify with, one that realizes the situation they are in is *not* normal and the potential danger it poses. But Mendou is not completely without his quirks. He's prone to yelling at people for no real reason, laughing maniacally and making wacky facial expressions when he's frustrated, and going completely insane when the lights go out. You see, Mendou is scared of the dark, and he'll whip out the sword he always carries around with him and start swinging it violently while yelling, "I'm scared of the dark! I'm scared of the dark!" Mendou comes from a very rich family that's obsessed with military equipment. In the course of this movie, he commandeers a tank and a harrier jet. He is pompous, arrogant, and seems to loathe being with the rest of the ruffian cast of Beautiful Dreamer, except for Nurse Sakura, who is the only other one besides Mendou who has any real brains.

Video clips of my four favorite "Mendou Moments":

1. "Stop dragging me into your disgusting dreams!"

2. "Tanks don't go bathing, you idiot!"

3. "I'm scared of the dark! I'm scared of the dark!"

4. "Nobody ordered any!"

SakuraSakura: Sakura is my second-favorite character in this movie right after Menodu. She is the nurse of Tomobiki High School, a no-nonsense type who has no qualms about bopping her patients over the head with a reflex hammer for coming to her with stupid ailments (such as not feeling well from eating too much.) Sakura is one of the first to realize that something strange is going on, both from an odd tale relayed to her from the schoolteacher, Onsen-Mark, and from a strange encounter with a suspicious taxi driver who tells a nearly identical story. Sakura has spiritual powers - she can sense the presence of demons and spirits, and she can banish them. She gets along particularly well with Mendou, partially because they both understand the true danger the situation poses to them (people keep disappearing, Sakura knows she could be next), and partially because they both share the same disgust for Ataru and his friends. Acting more like an investigator than a nurse, Sakura stays right on top of things and is the first to completely figure out the puzzle.

Perm, Megane, Kakugari, & ChibiPerm, Megane, Kakugari, & Chibi: These four characters, along with Lum, Mendou, Shinobu, and Ryuunosuke, make up the rest of Ataru's gang. Individually, they don't have much characterization. Collectively, they become an entity that almost seems to exist outside of the material. They're like a bunch of wisecracking people who are along for the ride, but don't particularly care much about their situation because they seem to be "in on the joke". Of all of them, only Megane, being the poetic one of the group, reflects on what it's like to be one of the few people left on earth, and even then his conclusion is to pass out and then go on having fun as usual. There's a reason for this: According to some sources, these characters weren't even supposed to stay in the series (they eventually vanished from the manga), but they were kept in because the directors put their own personalities into them. Perm is the tall geeky one with the permed hair (of course). He seems a bit pompous, but more reserved about it than Mendou. Megane, the one with glasses, shares Mendou's tendency of yelling at his comrades when they start acting too stupidly, but unlike Mendou, he retains a lot of their silliness, too. Kakugari is the fat, dopey one who's always either dragging Chibi (the smallest one) around, carrying him on his shoulders, or beating him up. Chibi, strangely enough, doesn't seem to mind getting picked on. These characters are so clueless, so oblivious to common sense and good taste, that upon being charged with creating a themed café for the school festival, they choose the worst possible theme imaginable: a Nazi one. No one ever tried to claim these characters weren't depraved individuals, and it's reinforced by their lack of concern over the entire population of the town disappearing. (That explains why Megane is dressed the way he is for most of the movie, and it also explains why they had Mendou's tank in the school...but it still doesn't explain how they got that tank into the school and onto the third floor.)

Onsen-MarkOnsen-Mark: Onsen-Mark is a schoolteacher and Nemesis Numero Uno to Ataru and his friends. Even though the idea of the school festival is "management by the students", that doesn't stop him from poking his head into their business and ordering them around. Onsen-Mark is the first to truly realize that something strange is happening in the city. He feels as though he's been reliving the same day over and over again. At the end of each day, someone always says, "It's just one more day, and tomorrow is the school festival." But then the next day comes, and they're still preparing for the festival, and again someone repeats that same phrase. His suspicion is confirmed when he returns to his apartment and finds it covered in dust and mushrooms, as though no one had lived there for hundreds of years. He relays the story of the turtle and the Dragon Palace to Sakura in an effort to convince her that something strange is happening, but she doesn't truly believe it until Onsen-Mark mysteriously vanishes without a trace the next day.

ShinobuShinobu: Shinobu is a character who is tough for me to describe because she's just sort of...there. She apparently has an interest in Mendou, but he hardly even notices her existence. Shinobu is more level-headed than the rest of Ataru's gang, and there seems to be some sort of in-joke about her having super-strength. This is evidenced once when she catches four people on her shoulders, again when she tears open a garage door, and finally when she holds a huge fish many times her size over her head. There is one really hilarious scene where Shinobu becomes completely frustrated with everyone's really bad table manners at dinner, and she stands up and shouts at them. Shinobu's frustration eventually starts to get in the way of the others' happiness, and therefore, she vanishes like Onsen-Mark did. It's at that point that Sakura realizes they can't keep ignoring the situation and desperately begins working on a solution.

RyuunosukeRyuunosuke: Ryuunosuke is a girl who is forced to look, act, and dress like a boy because her father (the owner of the school store) wanted a son very badly, but never got one before his wife died. She doesn't have that much of a role in the movie except for an hilarious fight scene with Ataru and Mendou inside a tank at the beginning (pictured here), and an even funnier scene near the end where she gets to live in her lifelong dream. Her dream, as it turns out, is to hug and swim through hundreds and hundreds of identical dresses. One part of the English dub that always confused me is when Mendou says of the store owner, "He's now without his only son." I assumed this was a mistake in translation and he meant to say "daughter", but it appears to be correct: an in-joke because of how Ryuunosuke is regarded as being a boy by her father. That's one of the things you wouldn't be able to understand without knowledge of the animé series or manga, so hopefully this'll clear up any confusion.

TenTen: Ten is Lum's little cousin, and just like her, he can fly. The English dub of the movie refers to Ten as being female, but in the series, Ten is a boy. Ten annoyed the hell outta me when I tried watching some episodes of the series, but thankfully, he only has a very small role in this movie. He finds a mysterious little piglet that he keeps for a pet. He claims a stranger gave it to him, but no one knows (or even really seems to care) where this piglet truly came from or what purpose it serves. It has an odd tattoo on its hindquarters and it never eats anything...

MujakiMujaki: Mujaki is the strange taxi driver that Sakura has a weird encounter with early in the movie. A comical little fellow, it turns out that he is a dream demon, and is possibly playing some role in all of the weirdness that the city and the kids are experiencing. Exactly what role Mujaki plays and what his true purpose is, I will not reveal here. You'll just have to watch the movie to find out.
For more information on Urusei Yatsura, visit Tomobiki-cho, The Urusei Yatsura Website (External Link). This site helped me immensely in learning things about the characters I wouldn't have otherwise known just from watching the movie and the first few episodes of the series.



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