Urusei Yatsura OVA Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, January 22, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, April 12, 2005



What They Say
This episode centers around what happens to Lum, Ataru, Shinabu and the gang when they get a glimpse of their possible futures and have a chance to change them--thanks to a chance meeting with a group of interdimensional doommakers in rabbit suits.

The Review!
Just when you’d think the fans would have had enough of Urusei Yatsura, they apparently demanded more and so many OVAs were produced. And it was good.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. As this is also the only language it was an easy choice as the decision was made not to dub the OVA series like they did the movies. The stereo mix for the show is fairly decent but it’s pretty reminiscent of the same kind of mix we got with the TV series itself so it’s not exactly a wild hopping time of sounds coming from every direction. The mix does sound good, and clearer than the TV mix since it’s several years more recent, and is free of problems such as distortions or dropouts.

Video:
Originally released to video back in 1987, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Looking quite different from the TV series and much closer to the Final Chapter material in that it’s a brighter and much more fluid look piece of animation that took a lot of the design improvements from the Ranma production. The transfer here looks quite good overall with solid looking colors throughout most of the print with only a few areas showing any blocking in some of the large solid areas when upconverted to 720p. Cross coloration is pretty much non-existent here and other than just a bit of the usual aliasing that’s somewhat the norm for shows like this it’s a very good looking transfer.

Packaging:
Using much the same design style as the movie releases but just swapping out the word movie for OVA, the cover for this release is similar if not the same as the VHS release if my memory serves me well. It combines the images that are strongest with this particular OVA such as the rabbits running around, the doorways and the characters dressed up in the rabbit outfits. While it may not make much sense on the surface it is a cute looking cover and shows some of the noticeable differences in the character designs, The back cover provides a couple of shots from the show itself but most of the space is given over to a lengthy summary of the setup for the OVA. The discs technical and production information is also very easy to find and while the layout isn’t exactly how I’d like it, they do mirror the technical grid format without using the grid itself for much of it. As with most of their releases now, no insert is included in this release.

Menu:
Going with a bit of animation from the episode with the doors flying everywhere against the black backdrop the menu is a bit dark overall since the doors aren’t all that bright but it’s a nicely animated piece. The menu selections are minimal along the bottom but navigation is quick and easy and the layout overall very well in-theme for the show. Access times are nice and fast and since languages aren’t the norm our players presets weren’t exactly an issue this time.

Extras:
The extras are fairly minimal but there aren’t exactly a lot of materials for something like this. The image gallery is pretty straightforward while the liner notes cover about eleven screens worth. There isn’t a lot of new cultural stuff here but they do go into various parts of the Inaba material.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When these were originally coming out from AnimEigo, they followed the movie releases but were still coming out close to within the first ten or so volumes of the TV series. With such a wide gap between where they stood in time, they weren’t the easiest things in the world to get into but after some of the strangeness of the later movies as well as some of the bland nature to a couple of them, they showed that the humor and comedy was still very much a part of the franchise down the road, something the movies didn’t exactly show in the same way. The VHS releases gained significant replay value for me at a time when there wasn’t more than a handful of releases a month and watching these repeatedly gave more small insights into various cultural instances.

Never released on laserdisc, it’s been at least eight years now since I’ve last seen these and in fact I had just sent out those tapes a few weeks prior to receiving this set after auctioning it off. Being able to revisit these again after so long it’s reminded me just how vividly they stand in my memory since they came from a time when it was far easier to watch and re-watch something and not have a million other titles floating through my head at the same time. With the first volume, which contains the hour-long OVA called Inaba the Dreammaker, seeing it again has certainly reminded me of why I enjoyed it and that while it wasn’t my favorite from the OVA run it’s one that’s definitely memorable.

As there isn’t a real sense of continuity in the franchise other than when characters show, it’s easy to place this anywhere within the series for the most part, though some gags such as the boss that wants Shinobu may fall a bit flatter until you meet them in the series. This story focuses on three of the leads of the series with Ataru, Lum and Shinobu. Shinobu ends up being the catalyst this time around as through an accidental encounter, she meets Inaba, a young man dressed in a rabbit outfit who finds himself smitten with her since first glance. Though he wants to try and pursue her, he’s actually late for work and with a helpful fist from Shinobu, he’s sent flying back into his dimension. But in their meeting, he has dropped a key which Lum informs her is actually a key to subspace.

The advantages of an alien for a semi-friend come into play and Lum builds a subspace access doorway out of a normal door and the trio head right into it, only to fall into an open-ended realm where there are nothing but doors and lots of gravity that doesn’t seem to affect said doors. What they learn after falling into one of the doors is that the realm is a gateway that leads to a variety of different futures. The future they find themselves in is very amusing as Shinobu and Ataru are married and have a young son named Kokeru, a pun which works beautifully for the little whippersnapper. All sorts of other things are slightly different and comical in this future, such as Ataru working for Shutaro and more. With the knowledge that in that future there is no marriage between Lum and Ataru, Lum shoos them all out and they want to start investigating other doors. But before that can happen, Inaba catches up with them since he needs to get the key back and he ends up taking them on a journey into the various futures.

In a similar way to how the dream sequence/futures was done in Beautiful Dreamer, this kind of adventure is just a lot of fun since they do go through with lots of it. We see instances where Lum and Rei are married or Lum and Shutaro while Ataru is one of his personal lackey’s. There’s even a great sequence where Ataru gets his harem at long last and they all live in one room and complain about the amount of space there. There are just so many little nods and changes that are interesting, particularly to long time viewers, that stories like this are just immensely entertaining. Of course, there is some danger to all of this and it comes from the group of rabbits who maintain the entire sacred room of the doors and they do their best to stop what’s going on, though Lum’s ire tends to drown out all other things as she continues to find no future for her and her darling.

One of the things that I really enjoyed with this episode when I first saw it and do once again now is the differences in the character designs. While the series did progress in designs from the very early episodes, particularly where Ataru almost seemed like he had sticks for legs, the much smoother and rounder designs and brighter colors used here that seem heavily influenced from the Ranma series gives a new life to the characters and has them seeming even more vibrant. This is also well noticed when dealing with their future selves and they’re a bit older and lost most of the lanky nature of being teens. The overall production values here are quite good and definitely showcase a difference between its TV self and its OVA self.

In Summary:
These were some of my favorite stories from when I was first into my Lum fixation and now some ten years later they’re still very enjoyable and are episodes I can see being watched again in the near future. The first OVA is one of the better of the batch, though my favorite is still to come, and with it having an hour to tell its tale it’s well paced and has a lot of fun revealing a number of amusing futures for some of our favorite characters. This is good stuff and since it was never one laserdisc they are some of the episodes I’ve wanted for the longest time.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Liner Notes

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and 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: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: AnimEigo
MSRP: 19.98
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Urusei Yatsura