Urusei Yatsura TV Vol. #44 (of 49) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, February 07, 2006

What They Say
In the 44th installment of the show where flame retardant diapers are a true sign of parental love, Ten cools down and shows a softer, less volatile side when his mom stops by for a quick visit.

The Review!
The varied tales continue with lots of fanservice, fun with older characters and some great gender bending moments.

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.

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.

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. Lum returns to the cover once again with this installment as she gets a nice full body shot as she stretches out a bit with a nice clean image that doesn't have some of the fuzziness of some of her earlier pieces. 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.

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 Mount Fuji in the background radiating yellow and red working properly again is the ability to use the stop button from the menus, something that was weirdly disabled in some volumes before and required you to actually be in the show to get it to stop playing. With the language selections being as they are, the players' presets didn't matter much.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While no clear theme is really evident across these episodes, the overall feel of this volume is more solid and enjoyable than the previous one with its emphasis on the weird things that happen when Lum and alien technology interact with things on Earth. The return of some old favorites is a positive here as well and we even get a Jariten story that doesn't make me want to punt him like Ataru does.

The opening episode brings Jariten back as the central character for a bit as we have him and Ataru going through their usual routine of cat and mouse and reversal of fortunes but it all comes to an amusing pause when Jariten's mother comes to visit for the day so that she can see her son. Once she's there he's all in his good boy behavior mode which Ataru has a lot of fun messing with as she talks with all of them about how she hopes he's being good and that Lum is able to keep a good enough eye on him. Since she's a firefighter she's not able to spend too much time there but she wants to spend it with Ten who can only think of wanting to please her, so he sets off on a journey to find some present in order to make her happy. This takes him through a less than enjoyable segment but the ties to his mother and the way they all deal with each other more than makes up for it overall as he does his best to get back to her before she leaves. His mother is a fun character and with her being fluent it means she's able to be more active in the storylines than Lum's mother.

The episode that surprised me the most is the second piece here with the Blue Bird. The book ends to the story have some thing about a galaxy police style group that looks like small deformed versions of caricatures from the Edo period but what they're about is tracking down a missing Blue Bird that's made its way to the "Galaxy" which means it's arrived in Tomobiki itself. The Blue Bird is a strange critter that simply wants to make people happy so it grants them their wishes but in doing so they get a cute topknot attached to their head. Some of the first things are bad puns and jokes and the Blue Bird finds Lum impossible to please but it's Ataru that's the real magic. He gains the power to transform people from one gender to another. Mendou suddenly becomes a girl and Ataru flips his skirt, causing him to scream like a little girl. Ryuunosuke's a guy as is Shinobu while many others are now girls. It's gender chaos and it is simply priceless.

While we've had a fair number of Ryuunosuke episodes in this box set, this volume has another that's fairly fun and shows a bit more of her past as it focuses around some of the foolishness of her father. The episode is set up as something of a grudge match between the two as it goes back to show why it happened, naturally dealing with Ryuunosuke wanting to express her feminine side and actually wear a bathing suit that summer, and it goes into the way that others manipulate it into an actual match. Some of the material as they show her as a child going to school for the first time and the way Fujinami does stuff is quite comical but it's just as good in the present as he keeps changing the day his wife died and then talking about how she's still alive. He's quite a frustrating character in his oddity and continues to be one of those that you really just want to straighten out and have fly right so that so many other little things would be fixed.

In Summary:
Add in an episode with that damn Kitsune fox that I just can't stand and you've overall got a good batch of episodes with some really sharp moments and the return of some old favorites. Each of them has something that's nicely done in them and maintains an interest even when it shifts away from the two main lead characters. Mendou is the one that seems to get the short end of the stick this time around which is unfortunate but just like Lum and her gadgets, him and his wealth can make too many stories far too easily done and repetitive. Even as the series gets closer to its conclusion, episodes like this do a good job of capturing some of the "glory of the early shows" and still be very entertaining. I'm loving the fact that twenty years after its original airing I'm finally able to see and enjoy this show as much as I am.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, 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