What is Urusei Yatsura?

The Dust Covered Graphic Novel
by Michael Ward

Although it is the way life works, it has always amazed me how something one is commpletely oblivious of can become a focal point of one's life, or, to a lesser extent very important. That is what happened to me when I discovered Urusei Yatsura.

Honestly, I have not been a fan of Urusei Yatsura for a long time. In fact, I have only been a fan of anime/manga in general since that faithful day of May, 24 1997 when I first viewed the classic anime movie Project A-Ko. However, let it be understood that when I become a fan of something I become very obsessed with it, and become very single-minded in collecting that item. Anyway back to Urusei Yatsura.

Of course I had heard of the works of Rumiko Takahashi before I bought my first copy of Urusei Yatsura manga, Ranma1/2 and Maison Ikkoku were to of the first few series that I collected. Yet, I was, for some reason, reluctant to buy Urusei Yatsura, but that all changed on July, 25 1998, when I picked up the Lum*Urusei Yatsura Perfect Collection published by Viz Communications. I had watched this graphic novel collect inches of dust at the bottom of my local comic book shop's manga shelf for a long time, hidden beneath old issues of Area 88.

To this day, I still do not know what possesed me to pick it up. Maybe it was because I had bought all of the Maison Ikkoku graphic novels that were available? Maybe because I didn't really won't to buy that Outlanders trade paper back? However, the reason I believe I bought it is that I felt that I was being left out of something great, and that this book was the key to that something great.

My comic book dealer was shocked when I brought that book up to the counter, and told me that he had had that book on the shelf since 1995. He told me that the series was twenty years old, this did not bother me for I like the classics. Then, he proceded to tell me that the artwork was not up to par with the likes of Ranma1/2 or Ms. Takahashi's newest creation Inu Yasha. Well, of course, I thought, knowing that this was Ms. Takahashi's first major series, and that she was only around twenty or twenty-one at the time she wrote and drew it. I was not expecting it to be the best piece of art I had ever seen. It was not the best, but I knew, from watching the evolution of Maison Ikkoku, that the art would improve by leaps and bounds. By the time I had read the fourth graphic novel, The Return of Lum*Urusei Yatsura, I thought the art was beautiful.

When I returned home that evening, I ate dinner, and then sat in my favorite chair and began reading the 400 page monster, and for four hours I did not leave the chair because I had read the book twice in a row, fueled by the caffeine of carbonated beverages and chocolate covered raisins. I had fallen in love with Urusei Yatsura, and the next weekend I returned to the comic book store and purchased The Return of Lum*Urusei Yatsura and The Return of Lum*Urusei Yatsura: Lum in The Sun, reading both twice that same day.

The reasons that made me fall in love with the series are numerous, but two reasons really stand out in my mind. First, is that the series is completely unpredictable, and, second, that it, like Maison Ikkoku and Ranma1/2, has a huge cast of unique characters that draws in the reader, making them feel like they are right there beside Ataru, Lum, and Shinobu. I found myself, like Ataru, falling in love with every female character, especially, Lum (Well, duh), Sakura, and Oyuki. Ataru's four nameless friends, who I later found out were named Megane, Chibi, Perm, Kakugari, reminded me of myself and my group of high school friennds, and the good and bad memories of the days of algebra, bad lunches, and my group staring at the pretty girls who would not give us the time of day.

Now Urusei Yatsura is my favorite manga/anime series, besides Maison Ikkoku, and I can honestly say that it was a major reason why I changed my college major from the study of Czarist Russia to the History of Japan.

Criticisms welcome: Daitokuji31@hotmail.com

 

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