Itsudatte My Darling
(Always My Darling)
by Mason Proulx
Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on this film. Maybe I set my expectations so high that they can never be met. The 6th movie in the Urusei Yatsura series is really not that bad. It has sharp, dynamic animation, colourful characters, lots of action and comedic situations. It's certainly an earnest effort. No small amount of love went into the creation of this inconsequential little movie.
But no matter how much I try rationalizing, I can't bring myself to like this film. It's just not Urusei Yatsura. I'm sure if I had never heard of UY and this was the first thing I saw, I might actually think it was pretty good. But after the brilliance that was the original series, something this mediocre and detached is painful for me to watch.
Even though it's called Urusei Yatsura and has Urusei Yatsura chracters, this doesn't feel anything like Urusei Yatsura. There are several reasons for this.
The first thing that tends to jump up at people is the animation and character design style. Wow, is it ever different! It looks so modern and angular, so expressive, so animated. Too bad it doesn't match the series. It's too much of a departure from the old style and bears absolutely no resemblance to either the manga or earlier anime incarnations. The characters have become so unrecognizable that the audience has a hard time forcing interest in what happens to them. It's like when a soap opera changes actors around so that this week, the role of "Chet" is being played by some new guy. Sure the character is supposed to be the same world-travelling surgeon with a dark past he always was, but you just can't get used to his new appearance and mannerisms. He'll always feel like an imposter to you. This is the mistake the animators made in choosing to completely update Urusei Yatsura's look.
Appearances are one thing, but even on the level of the characters themselves, they are far removed from their original selves. They may perform their trademark sight gags, or show off a dominant personality trait, but catch phrases and predictable behaviors does not a character make. The animators showed no insight into the more human qualities that made the characters so appealing. They have so many nuances and comlpexities that the viewer is always discovering something new about each cast member thoughout the series. In this movie, they're just going through the motions. For example, the movie called for Ataru to be known as the most lecherous man in the universe. But that's ALL he was. Yes Ataru is lecherous, but he has a million other facets to his warped personality. To reduce him to a one-note perv is doing a great disservice.
The other characters were similarily compromised. Most of them would just come on, do their little hat and cane routines and leave. The movie focused much of its time on the new characters of Lupica and Rio, who turned out to both uninteresting stock charaters, and much less time on the actual established cast. The impression I got watching this movie is that the writers had never watched more than a few episodes of Urusei Yatsura, read a grocery list biography on each character and decided they had enough information to write a screenplay. The funny thing is, that the screenplay was actually co-written by a vetran of the series, Tomoko Komparu, who had written screenplays for Urusei Yatsura since the beginning. She even wrote the screenplays for "Only You", "Remember my Love" and "Kanketsu-hen." While the main story was by Hideo Takayashi and she was only the co-writer, the fact that someone with her history with the series let such an unfaithful treatment of UY slip through doesn't reflect well on her either. I can assure you just about any Urusei Yatsura fan in Japan at the time could have written a better movie based on the series. Heck I've even seen poorly written fanfics that would would have made a better screenplay (and I can't stand fanfics, but they're more UY-like than this movie is). Oh Tomoko, what were you thinking?
Let's forget about familiarity for a bit. How does it fare as a stand alone anime? At best, it's mediocre. The animation is modern and pretty attractive, but the storyline was is derivative that it had nothing to say that Urusei Yatsura hadn't said a dozen times before. It's a hack job. I can tell that when creating the story, the creators lifted every one of the movie's ideas from situations that had arisen before in Takahshi's manga, only altering them slightly give them semblance of originality.
This movie was released on the 10th anniversary of Urusei Yatsura's TV debut. Even though the series had officially concluded years earlier Kitty released this movie, being the 6th feature film in the series, updated for the 90's with a brand new story. It played as a double-bill along with the first Ranma ½ movie. It was universally panned by longtime fans, and seen as an unoffensive yet forgettable bit of fluff by casual viewers who went in only to see Ranma. So who was this movie for? It may have been dumbed down for the masses, but even the masses didn't really care about the movie. It's a film without an audience that really shouldn't have been made. Takahashi herself wasn't too pleased with it either. This movie put the final nail in Urusei Yatura's coffin. After this, Takahashi made sure there would be no more animated adaptations based on these characters. I say good for her. Even today some less informed people call this the "final movie." but it really isn't. That honor is reserved for the 5th film in the series. This one is just an extended OVA.
In the end, this is not a bad movie, but it's certainly not a good movie with which to introduce anyone to UY. This was an attempt to squeeze more money out of the old cash cow even when it had long since dried up. It's mildly entertaining enough so you might even like it if you give the movie a try. Just don't accept it as part of the Urusei Yatsura canon. Think of it more as a misguided homage.