Urusei Yatsura Movie 4: Lum the Forever (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, January 31, 2004
Release Date: Monday, October 20, 2003
What They Say
Strange things begin happening in Tomobiki Town when a great cherry tree, Tarouzakura, is cut down while Lum & Co are making a movie. Lum loses her horn - 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.
"Huh?" That was the prevalent thought running through my mind as I watched Lum The Forever.
The movie is presented in Japanese stereo only. The mix is nice and showcases the great music and atmosphere well, and during my viewing I noticed no dropouts or distortions.
Once again use is made of VHS masters, only they don't fare quite as well as the first movie in terms of video quality. The subtitles (hard subs burnt into the film print) are often quite blurry with plenty of pixellation around them. The film itself suffers from some general macro-blocking throughout, and there's a lot of movement in the backgrounds of darker scenes. The film does carry a cheaper price as a result of the barebones release, and of course, at the time of release, there was no DVD release of the film in the US. Nonetheless, while understandable the quality is quite disappointing.
This movie gets a nice cover (a modified version of the Japanese cover), which sees a large shot of Lum turning her head toward the camera on the left side, with a smaller image of Ataru running on the right hand side. There's also an image of the town, that is mostly obscured by the red bar which says the name of the movie. The style of the front is nice, and I like the consistency between movies, but the bottom bar is a little too big for my tastes. The back cover contains a single screenshot, along with staff credits and a brief synopsis of the movie.
As you'd expect, and inline with the other movies in the series, the menu is barebones. The main menu has the movie theme playing, with two shots of Lum that look quite grainy, and the two choices of "Play Movie" and "Scene Index". The scene index is a static menu with a brief shot from each of the movie's ten chapters. The menus are rather dull, but are of course nice and fast to access.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Lum The Forever is a very hard movie to review. The simple reason is that it's so darn weird. I am still very new to the franchise, with this only being my second time delving in, and quite simply, it was baffling. The character interactions weren't quite as much fun as in Only You, and I definitely left the movie with a sense of "did anything actually happen?"
The film opens with the usual gang of Ataru, Lum, Mendou and the Stormtroopers travelling home from discussing the school movie they're about to start filming, and the city's power goes out. The next day on the way to school, Lum is talking to a flock of birds that are swarming around her, and Ran tells Ataru that she and Lum can actually understand them on a basic level. Later, Mendou has a banquet to celebrate that "Tarouzakura" – a tree that has been like a guardian angel to the Mendou family - will be three hundred years old that year. Mendou plans to cut the tree down to for the movie, and plant a second to replace it. Sakura then arrives, with a group of odd spirits (like a snake) that apparently are on familiar terms with the tree. Ataru runs straight to her, annoying Lum. She soon gets everyone present trying to hear the song the cherry tree is apparently singing, while elsewhere in a junkyard she appears on some random TV screens.
The next day, filming begins. During a scene where Ataru, who's playing the lead, chops down the greatest of trees, Tarouzakura, there's another blackout and so the scene isn't caught on film. At the same time, the spirits leave Sakura's house as she can't make them food anymore. Back to filming, and the evil spirits of the village in the movie reveal themselves with the tree chopped, so the Oni Princess, played by Lum, shows up and makes the spirits flee. During the scene's filming, Ataru manages to collapse the set, much to the frustration of Megane, the director, and Mendou, who based this scene on the Oni legend told in his family to portray Lum's beauty. As it turns out, Lum has oddly spaced out, and then weird things start happening.
The spirits come out on the set at Mendou's home, and Lum's powers begin to weaken. Her electricity has little effect on either Ataru or Ran, and when she goes shopping with Ataru, he runs off after some girls when he realises she can't catch up with him quick enough by flying. Mendou is out on a date with Shinobu, but mysteriously neither of them notice Lum when she passes by them. Mendou is about to kiss Shinobu when he suddenly remembers Lum and runs off. The Stormtroopers begin to fight over other girls they see, before they remember that they'd never before paid attention to anyone but Lum. She is examined by Sakura, who puts everything down to the stress she felt while filming. But all is not well, and Mendou, Ataru and Megane get together to discuss what's happening, as Lum no longer appears in his photo album. Lum starts having weird visions, and suddenly parts of people's dreams begin appearing in the village as frozen scenes.
From here, the movie spirals into a set of dreams becoming reality, and an attempt by the town of Tomobiki to fight back. But it's just all so... odd. It's extremely hard to judge the movie, especially after just one viewing, because it's so hard to take in. It's not terrible, either. It's filled to the brim with atmosphere, good music and some extremely intriguing imagery. But it's also very challenging, and that can always go one of two ways. In Lum The Forever, it really hinders what could be a great movie.
One thing that is totally clear is that the director is trying to send a message out here, but quite frankly, it's so mixed up and confused that it's hard to see exactly what that message is supposed to be. I could say "it's about life", but that's about as far as my analysis will go. It's extremely unfortunate because the movie does look really good; the story is just so bizarre that it only suffocates under its layers rather than peel them off.
Disappointingly, too, the comedy that was prevalent throughout the first movie, and from what I gather from research, the comedy that makes Urusei Yatsura such a loved series, is all but gone here. The movie is almost devoid of any fun, and it's a real shame. The cast of characters is excellent, and even coming into the series at the first movie, it's clear that their relationships are all well developed and the creative staff were extremely comfortable in expressing the characters. But this is just not evident in this movie, as it tries to be serious and profound, and it doesn't work. While I have little right to say it as I've seen hardly any of the series, it's almost as if the film takes the heart out of Urusei Yatsura, which is a shame.
But it's not all bad. There are some very interesting moments and some great imagery, and while they may not be as much fun as they were in the first movie, this is still a great cast of characters, and just watching them gives more enjoyment than a lot of stuff out there.
Since it's so difficult to ascertain what, if anything, was going on, and what, if any, message was being portrayed, it's a tough film to review. On one hand, it had its moments, but on the other, it's likely a film that will really only appeal to fans that have seen far more of the franchise than I have. It's so tough to get your head around that some people will be instantly turned off, and anyone looking for the comedic Urusei Yatsura will find little comedy in Lum The Forever.
The DVD itself is again barebones, with hard subtitles and less than stellar video. Notable as an extra that's not actually an "extra" as such (hence it's not mentioned as an extra above) is that after the movie credits roll, a subtitled trailer for the fifth movie plays (not that it's mentioned anywhere on the box). Hopefully that is a better movie than this.
Lum The Forever is a very disappointing movie, but one that doesn't dampen my eagerness to see more Urusei Yatsura. While it's message is unclear and its story muddled, it does have its moments of enjoyment, and it had a very dark and broody atmosphere with imagery to boot. The lack of comedy is frustrating, since the cast fits that so well, and this is far from the best example of the series for someone new to it like myself. Nonetheless, it's not a terrible film, and with its cheap price tag, it's worth it if only to see more of the loveable cast of characters.
Japanese Language,English Subtitles
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: C
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
Running time: 94
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Urusei Yatsura