Urusei Yatsura was a highly popular weekly Japanese comic series (called manga) which ran for 34 collected volumes over 9 years and went on to become one of Japan's most influential animated television comedies. Airing from 1981 to 1986, in total the animated UY had produced 195 TV episodes, 6 movies, 9 original animated videos, and a neverending merchandising bonanza. In Japan it was, and still is regarded as one of the most beloved anime series of all time. Today the reruns continue to air all around Japan in syndication while the comic series still generates steady sales. Japan being a country that is always craving the next big thing, it speaks volumes about Urusei Yatsura that it still is enjoyed today.
The comedy was originally created by renowned female manga artist Rumiko Takahashi and featured in Shonen Sunday weekly comics anthology. It is probably among the most bizarre and arguably most imaginative series Japan has ever produced. Like with most of Takahashi-sensei's manga titles, it is chock full of slapstick and physical comedy. But also as is with all of her series, she blends this edgy comedy with ludicrous situations, lovable characters, cheezy puns, and unique brand of empathetic drama. Takahashi went on to create other great hits such as Maison Ikkoku, Ranma ½ and most recently, Inuyasha. UY was her first big hit and consequently her most playfully creative body of work.
The story of Urusei Yatsura concerns the tempestuous relationship between two focal characters: Ataru Moroboshi who is possibly the most unfaithful, unlucky and lecherous idiot to have ever been born...and Lum, a tigerskin-bikini clad alien package of sex appeal, jealousy and electricity who's fallen for him. The series chronicles the misadventures of these two stubborn teenagers along with a veritable entourage of super-weird characters. Among the supporting cast is is the richest boy on the planet, a superhuman schoolgirl, a fire-breathing baby, a powerful priestess with a day job as a school nurse, a cute and psychotic alien vixen with a split personality, a gender-confused martial artist, an alien biker chick, an ice queen of Neptune, a deranged monk, a giant ghost cat and hundreds of other lunatic personalities. Aliens, humans and inhumans alike interact in endless hysteria in a town named Tomobiki (and, big surprise, the namesake of this very web site.)
The series includes a lot of parody of the science-fiction genre. But more than just sci-fi, Urusei Yatsura pokes fun at everything under the sun, from film and television clichés to ancient legends and lore. It is a melting pot of love triangles, fantasy, Japanese and Chinese mythology, high school life, pop-culture and so much more. It's the type of show where literally anything-goes so there's something for everyone to enjoy. The anime undergoes a dramatic changes throughout it's long run as it starts out with fairly simple animation and slowly builds towards an exceptional level of quality unmatched by any other TV show from its era. Yet it is consistent in the way that it is always well worth watching. It's silly and whimsical but at the same moment it has a kind of sophistication to it.
Over here on western shores, the manga series had been partly translated by Viz Comics using the title "The Return of Lum*Urusei Yatsura" and the television series, movies and OVAs are being gradually released in North America by AnimEigo. With it's very Japanese sensibility, Urusei Yatsura has been proven difficult to translate. While it loses some of it's wit and verve when transliterated to English, the domestic American releases are still very much worth it to track down.
Whether viewed in English or its original Japanese, I still believe that it is the greatest anime and manga series to have ever come out of Japan and after exploring this expansive web site I call Tomobiki-cho, I hope you too will come to understand the appeal of Urusei Yatsura.