Urusei Yatsura TV Vol. #34 (of 50) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Release Date: Sunday, November 07, 2004



What They Say
In the 34th volume of the highly un-decaffeinated series, Mendou has some trouble with one of his sister's dolls in "Don't Die! Ryoko's Special Voodo Doll." Ataru and a lot of other people get involved in Mendou's pseudo marriage proposal in "Omiai Hell! Is The Armored Girl A Beauty? Or A Beast?" A war breaks out (again) and a secret weapon is unleashed in the thrilling conclusion, "The Love Of The Armored Girl; Her Heart Sways To And Fro." And that loveable fox returns with a sack full of magical nuts in "I Miss You So Much, I Could Die! The Return Of The Pure-Hearted Fox!"

The Review!
Getting past the lulls of the previous volume, this installment provides a lot of laughs throughout the entire run.

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 dark 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. Continuing with the irregular characters, Shutaro's omiai in her armored form without her helmet is running across here. 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.

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)
Getting back to a bit of variety in the tales and adding a two-episode storyline, this installment of episodes moves forward nicely after the unbalanced set of episodes in the previous volume. It's been a bit since a two-part tale came along as well so it was good to see them flex a bit more in keeping the gags running in a creative way.

The opening episode went right for the comedy gold though by giving us a glimpse of Shutaro as we normally don't and as his sister never does as he plays up the hero role in a movie he's watching with his pet octopi and mimics all the movies. It's pure Ataru in him though that hides all of that and goes to reading poetry when the alarm goes off that his sister is on her way over to visit. To his despair, she's come to inform him that she's made a new voodoo doll of him and can't help but to do things to it, causing him massive amounts of pain. Even worse, she sends it away so that he can't take it from her and entrusts it to Ataru to wear day in and day out, since she considers him to be noble man.

The expected results come of course, though Ataru doesn't do anything knowingly since he doesn't know that it's a doll of Shutaro and instead treats it well. But circumstances, Lum and the way Ataru is causes it to be affected and for Shutaro to be affected as well. There's some great scenes where Ryoko sends off wild stampeding animals to cause him trouble and Shutaro goes into self-sacrifice mode to keep Ataru alive and the two are almost incredibly romantic about the entire ordeal, a mood that helps elevate the episode just a bit higher than if they'd kept whacking at each other.

The two-part episode is definitely one of my favorites however. It brings up the problem that Shutaro really has to face as the son of a major clan in that he's going to be pretty much forced into a marriage of some sort some day. Though he longs for Lum and is holding out for her, events will conspire as they do here where his parents set up an omiai for him. Amusingly, not only does he freak out about it but Ryoko panics about it as well as she doesn't want to lose her brother. Even worse for Shutaro is that Ataru is somehow there and he's all for it as well since it'll get Shutaro out of his hair. Against his will, Shutaro is set to at least go meet the girl however.

The girl as we learn is a most amusing character. To Shutaro's surprise, she's the little sister of Ton, his long hated family clan enemy. When he confronts Ton on it, he's surprised that Ton doesn't even know he has a sister and learns of his family's tradition of not letting any male members of the family seeing a daughter born to the clan until she turns fifteen, not even the father gets to see her! So all these years, she's been in seclusion except when she goes out to train. And when she does go out, she wears a massive 200kg suit of iron armor to protect her as it covers her entirely. As a drawback to the way she's been raised, she's never seen a man and is now completely afraid of such "Creatures", particularly when the likes of Ataru manages to unmask her first.

The back and forth on this is just a lot of fun to watch. Ataru learns that she's a hottie under the armor but hides it, Lum gets mad at him about it while Shutaro has freakish dreams of marrying an iron woman. The parents are comical as they change the omiai from a date to an engagement and Shutaro's father goes on about how being engaged means you should at least be able to get to third base as a "benefit" of being engaged. Ton's finding out that he even has a sister is well done as are all of Asuka's reactions to this new world that has men in it. This is definitely one of the more enjoyable multi-episode stories in recent memory.

In Summary:
Usually when there are the multi-part episodes you know you're in for something good and this one is no exception. Combined with a very fund physical slapstick episode at the front and a quiet episode at the end that features the return of the quiet fox looking for his love Shinobu, this volume covers all aspects of what makes this series so much fun to watch.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Program Notes

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