Lum doesn't need much assistance going ballistic when everyone in Tomobiki gets an invitation to Ataru's wedding -- and she's not listed as the bride! It seems that some 11 years ago, Ataru played "Shadow Tag" with a young girl named Elle and won. Unfortunately, Elle was yet another Alien Princess; and on her planet, if a boy steps on a girl's shadow, they have to marry.
When Elle's emissary comes to make arrangements, Lum redefines the term "the atmosphere was electric," but to no avail: a force-field now protects Ataru from her high voltage love-zaps. Lum's friend Benten suggests a pre-emptive wedding, and they proceed to abduct Ataru and all of the wedding guests, and the stage is set for the shotgun wedding of all time!
During the first half of the nineteen eighties, Urusei Yatsura was the most popular anime series in Japan. The story of a beautiful alien who falls in love with a womanising teenager, it's credited with bringing the Otaku culture out from basements of Japan and into the public consciousness. Spawning a long-running TV series that ran between 1981 and 1986, as well as a series of films, the series remains popular in Japan to this very day.
Several years afterward, the series found a new audience when it was brought over to the United States during the nineties. Despite retaining its popularity in Japan, in
the West it has faded into relative obscurity, with only a small cult following comprised largely of the original Western fanbase, topped up by the few among the younger generation of fans willing to venture into classic anime.
The first in a series of six films produced for the franchise, "Only You" is often neglected by contemporary critics, particularly in the West. Overshadowed by the sequel "Beautiful Dreamer" -which is an altogether more ambitious title than the other films in the franchise. But while ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ may be the superior title, it fails to capture the original ‘essence’ of Urusei Yatsura. While it’s not as distinctive, nor as ambitious as its younger sister, "Only You” deserves far more recognition than it gets, because it manages to summarise exactly what made Urusei Yatsura great in the space of a single film. World-class comedy driven b y one of the greatest casts in anime history.
One of the main reasons that 'Only You' so closely resembles the Television series is that they share the same basic plot: Ataru Moroboshi meets an alien girl, whom he accidentally proposes to due to a lack of familiarity with the marriage customs of an alien race. Such blatant recycling of the plot might lead one to think "Only You" is actually an adaption of the TV series –and arguably it would have been better if it was- but it’s not.
The film takes place within the same universe as the TV series... which if you've been following it, makes this the third occasion that this premise has been used. While it’s a not very original (and some would say, lazy) to use the same idea three times, it’s worth taking into account Urusei Yatsura’s strength was never in its storyline.
The plot could also do with some improvement; the film was Mamoru Oshii's big screen debut, and his inexperience shows; the film lacks a clear 'Beginning - Middle - End' structure, which results in it feeling overly long, despite its fairly average runtime of just 100 minutes.
Even so, there are a few hints of the genius about to blossom; most notably one of the films few sad moments; a particularly powerful scene featuring a beautiful musical interlude that strikes an emotional chord similar to the 'Boat Scene' in Oshii’s later work “Ghost in the Shell”.
Urusei Yatsura's strong suit has always been its great cast of characters and 'Only You' features many familiar faces from the TV series; almost all of them, in fact. And thankfully, they’re on top form here.
Protagonist Ataru Moroboshi stands out as the best character in the film; a perpetual womaniser, he continues to chase women despite being 'engaged' to Lum (though he denies this). In 'Only You', he discovers that he proposed to another alien girl when he was a child, years before meeting Lum -when friends and family start receiving invitations to their wedding. After being told that his young bride has grown into a beautiful woman, he agrees to travel to her home planet and meet her. Of course, Lum tries her best to intervene, and make Ataru realise that she is the one he really loves.
Despite his questionable behaviour, Ataru is actually quite a likable character; While Ataru has a sleazy side to him, he also has a silly, funny side to him. And as the film progresses his character even shows a fragile, human side seldom seen in the series. Ataru’s character has been a major influence for male leads, especially in harems- but Ataru manages to stand apart from these characters Much of it can be attributed to the work of his excellent seiyuu, Toshio Furukawa, who’s excellent range and distinctive nasally tone really set Ataru apart from the many imitators of that have cropped up over the years
Although Ataru is the lead, Urusei Yatsura's most famous character is the lightning powered alien girl, Lum Invader. The image of Lum dressed in her trademark tiger-stripe bikini is so well known, it’s often used to symbolise the anime of the nineteen eighties; or even anime in general.
She is also an archetype, and like Ataru has been a major influence on many modern anime characters, displaying hints of some popular character traits today. Her fiery relationship with Ataru has led some to claim she is the original tsundere. However, to refer to Lum as a simple stereotype would be a great injustice to her character; unlike many of her contemporaries, Lum's personality feels entirely natural, and not like something included simply appeasing a certain section of the fan base.
However, in "Only You" Lum's character doesn't show much development, changing very little over the course of the fikm. While her commitment to Ataru is admirable in its own way, she never seems to doubt his feelings for her. Nor do her feelings for him ever falter, something that feels a bit unrealistic at times. Even so it's hard not to feel a bit moved by it sometimes.In those few, precious moments where Urusei Yatsura is not an outrageous wacky comedy, but instead a tender romance- the sweet innocence of Lum’s character is always at the centre of it.
The antagonist of the film is a female Alien named Elle, an entirely new character created solely for "Only You". Despite being the key to most of the developments in the film, her presence in it is rather limited, leaving her character seems a bit unremarkable, though by the end she proves to be a pretty interesting match for Ataru.
The supporting cast of Urusei Yatsura is almost as good as its lead characters, with some of its many members even managing to surpass them. Characters like Ataru's former girlfriend Shinobu and her new boyfriend Mendou Shutaro make as large a contribution to the film as Ataru and Lum do. Even minor characters with only brief appearances -such as Ataru's Mother- never fail to produce a quick laugh.
Casts as good as this are few and far between, and the lengthy run of the TV series is testimony to that. With a run of almost 200 episodes despite having no set story, it's long run is a feat that can be attributed solely to the strength of its cast and its outstanding comedy.
While the animation in the Urusei Yatsura TV was never that good, it wasn't that bad either. Character designs were kept simple and animation sequences were rather plain, but it never felt choppy or poorly made; it was cost effective, rather than low budget.
"Only You" continues this standard, but with the welcome addition of some extra detail. Everything is better drawn; characters, vehicles, backgrounds - the lot. The animation remains plain for the most part, but a few scenes do stand out- the title sequence for example features some interesting perspectives and animation.
On the whole, the artwork in "Only You" is 'the same, but different'. The same can be said of the soundtrack.
The film’s opening theme is the same as one of the ending themes from the TV series, albeit with a different beat, while it's ending theme is identical to another ending theme form the TV series. Much of the backing music and sound effects are also recycled from the TV series, leaving only "Lum no Ballad" as the only noteworthy new song.
Which makes it all the more fortunate that the Urusei Yatsura soundtrack is so good; sci-fi tinged Eighties pop music with plenty of hooks and catchy lyrics that will have you singing along -broken English intact. The backing tracks are of similar quality, and although they can be a bit limited with instrumentation, they are used effectively, and manage to set the mood perfectly. Even sound effects like Lum's "take off" noise, which sounds like it was lifted from a 50s B-Movie fits right into place.
So, who exactly should watch "Only You"?
It goes without saying that fans of the television series should check it out; it's as close as you'll get to see the TV series in true movie form. Similarly, if you're interested in the TV series but are feeling squeamish about its high episode count, "Only You" makes for an excellent taster. The first twenty or so episodes of the TV series are quite slow paced and can be something of a chore to sit through. This film is much like the shows later episodes, making it a good indicator for whether or not Urusei Yatsura will appeal to you.
However, keep in mind that the film was intended for people who are already familiar with the TV series, and some characters are given little introduction. This can be a little disorientating given the size of the cast, but most of the characters aren’t essential for understanding the film and the film itself shouldn't be too hard to follow.
Lastly, the film may be of some interest to fans of its Director, Mamoru Oshii. As his big-screen debut, it’s an important title in Oshii’s history by default. However, fans expecting the serious tone or mature themes of his later works are in for a disappointment. Unlike most of Oshii’s productions, in “Only You” he was not given complete creative control; the result is a film far more mainstream than his later works.
Ultimately, if you are seeking something thought provoking, it’s probably not the film you’re looking forl but that’s not to say you should discount it completely. Because while ‘Only You’ may not absorb you in the way that ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ might do, but it will capture your heart the way that Urusei Yatsura does- and that’s something that deserves to be remembered.