Urusei Yatsura TV Vol. #30 (of 50) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, December 06, 2004
Release Date: Thursday, October 14, 2004



What They Say
In the 30th installment of the show that is slowly rotting the brains of the entire AnimEigo staff, Mendou and the gang search for the family treasure in the strangest of places in "Haunted Special: Raiders of the Lost Mendou." The squared circle gets twisted when Cherry returns from a trip with a set of magical boxing gloves in "Love and Fighting Spirits: Gloves vs. Pants." Lum gets bitten by a cow which has a strange effect on her horns in "Lum the Cow." And Megane, using his artistic intuition, and a few friends at Tomobiki High School, directs a movie "his way" in "Lum's Movie of Youth."

The Review!
Becoming the first series that we've actively reviewed that hits volume thirty, Urusei Yatsura continues to break the mold from where it came.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its only language of Japanese. With the show being so old, it's a very basic audio track that's listed as 2 channel but is essentially a mono mix with everything coming through the center channel. Dialogue is clear and there aren't any noticeable dropouts, but the volume does sound a bit lower than discs we're used to listening to. Otherwise, it's about what you've come to expect from this show.

Video:
Things are about as expected here. Colors look good for the most part though there's some occasional bleeding in the reds. The problems we experienced previously with the macroblocking in the backgrounds, particularly blue skies, are far less pronounced this time around and in general the transfers seem a bit brighter and sharper. The feel of the cels continue to be apparent as we get further into the series. Some of the ghosting issues are still there and there's a fair bit of aliasing to be seen in many scenes but overall this looks like I expected it to but a bit better.

Packaging:
The purple flavored covers continue here and while they're not the best looking covers, they're all we're going to get with this series. The cover for this round goes for a double shot of pint sized folks as it has some very soft images of Ten and Cherry floating around. As usual, it's decent enough considering how few materials are available but it's just very soft and indistinct in so many areas due to its sourcing. The back cover maintains consistency to the past volumes and provides a short bit on the episodes as well as a character shot and witty comment. No inserts or "recipe cards" are included with this release as they've been moved to program notes on the DVD itself, a change I'm fully for and welcome with a big smile.

Menu:
Episode selection is from the main screen, and whichever episode is highlight, it also lists its original air date. The layout remains the same as past volumes but this looks a bit better with an actual background, this time of a darkened moon in the sky, helps it to not feel quite as bland as earlier menus. One thing area that's also finally fixed is the ability to use the stop button from the menus, something that was weirdly disabled before and required you to actually be in the show to get it to stop playing.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While a few series around this one are closing in on the big three-oh in terms of volumes, a lot of them are ones that aren't really linear in the same sense that Urusei Yatsura is. While there are certainly more Pokemon DVDs out there than thirty, it just doesn't have the same impact as something like this hitting thirty volumes. Only twenty more volumes to go!

The new season continues here and there's some really great material to be had, almost in my mind better than some of what we got on the previous two volumes that had some really great stuff. Two stories in particular stand out on this release that I want to cover.

The first is the "Haunted Special" called Raiders of the Lost Mendou. Mendou stories to me can either be horribly bad or some of the best material that they put out. It depends on how the character is handled and how outlandish the situation. While the recent one with him and Ataru being trapped in a flooding basement was fun and I really enjoyed it, it fell into the too outlandish area in my mind. This special comes close to that but manages to avoid some of the basic over the top problems. A situation arises in the Mendou household that has him along with Lum and Shinobu going off to find one of the rarest of octopi that they have on the property, one from the Antarctic, so they can use it to find the greatest treasure out there. With Mendou's grandfather close to death, this needs to be done. Of course, Ataru and the Stormtroopers tag along and cause him all sorts of grief.

While everything is done within the Mendou estates, they go from the horribly cold Antarctic environment where a single octopi lives to the jungle recesses where there are tigers, giant snakes and more. There's a lot of very spot on comedy throughout this episode that's driven by the character interactions, including some fun with Shutaro getting shut in the dark again, as well as situational events such as the panther leaping on Ataru or the extremely oversized octopi that starts tearing off Shinobu's clothes, much to the guys delight even as they're being crushed to death. And the end gag with what the giant treasure really is was priceless, including the poor boob that was left guarding it all these years. You really wonder what kind of loyalty oaths that people who work for the Mendou family must sign or whether they're simply born into servitude these days.

The other episode that really had me in stitches is the Lum's Movie of Youth. Megane, in his eternal quest for focusing all things on Lum, manages to fool everyone into funding a movie that he goes on about as being about all of them and what youth and romance really means. Similar in a way to the movie done within the theatrical movie of the series, this episode has everyone involved and being serious about what they're doing while Megane starts to really make cuts and edits that keeps things focused on Lum. Telling everyone what they want to hear so that he can get them to participate, he promises the world. Even better, when Ataru starts to become problematic, he creates new scenes where his character is tortured, shot at and run across a field of land mines, something that Shutaro has no problem in helping to finance since he wants more screen time with Lum. There are a lot of great little in-jokes throughout this piece and the way everyone gets into their roles is just a lot of fun, particularly the way Lum turns into a sad girl for a good number of scenes and it starts to seep into her real self as well.

In Summary:
It's almost like being a broken record, but in a way I'm still fascinated that this series is as funny as it was in the beginning to me and even with the weak episodes there is plenty that still makes me smile. These characters are simply so familiar and comfortable to me that being in their presence is like being with old friends in a way. This volume has some really great material and we really only focused on the two episodes that I thought were the best of the batch, which isn't a slight to the other two at all. While this series isn't for everyone, I'm glad that I'm finding it enjoyable and that it tickles my funny-bone so well since having something like this just feels right.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: AnimEigo
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Urusei Yatsura