Not all is normal in Tomobiki, even by its standards. The students have been preparing feverishly for the first day of the student fair, which is scheduled to go on the next day. However, problems arise when some begin to notice that the next day simply will not come. As the students begin to try to find the reason for the problem, their beliefs about reality and the world of dreams are challenged.
Urusei Yatsura is one of my favorite anime series for many reasons, and one of those reasons is the wacky brand of comedy that comes with it. That said, Beautiful Dreamer is completely different from any other work related to this series. The comedy is still there, but it's greatly toned down and replaced with more of a serious story as the cast of characters find bizarre things happening to the world around them. It's a drastic change to the usual feel of the series, but the end result is something I've long considered a masterpiece.
The story, of course, is fantastic.
The art is very good for its time, that being the early 1980's, and the music fits perfectly with what's going on in the movie. But one of the things I enjoyed the most about this movie relates to the cast of characters. Normally with the Urusei Yatsura series, Ataru and Lum are focused on very heavily. And while they are a big part of this movie, they also take a backseat for a lot of it, allowing some of the supporting characters to take much bigger roles than usual and show some of their depth. Onsen-Mark, Sakura, and Mendo all get a rare chance to shine, and it's really a pleasant change from seeing them in the background all the time.
Even if you've never seen any of the Urusei Yatsura series before, this movie is a great, great watch. I know because it was the first piece of the Urusei Yatsura anime that I had the pleasure of watching, and I enjoyed it so much that I sought out the rest of the series afterward. If you ever find yourself awake at 1 A.M., pop this movie in your DVD/VHS player. There are few better things to watch right before you go to sleep for the night.
The Ursei Yatsura franchise & TV series is an insane, wacky, hyperactive, frantic, comedy show with most of its humour rooted in Japanese culture and in general it's not really my cup of tea. However the director, Mamoru Oshii of Ghost in the Shell fame, whilst using the characters and setting of the TV show tones down the madcap slapstick nonsense a notch or two and instead creates a trippy, surreal, philosophical film concerning dreams and how they interact with reality. It's still a comedy but this has got miles more depth than anything seen in the TV series.
Without any knowledge of the TV series
this film will probably baffle newcomers with its strange cast of weird characters and its odd and unreal universe. However if you can get past that obstacle then there's a really clever and well made film underneath that explores themes and ideas concerning the nature of dreams and what we percieve as reality, territory that Oshii would return to and expand upon in his later films, whilst reamining an enjoyable and light hearted comedy. A quick briefing on the Japanese folktale of Urashima Tarō and Zhuangzi's butterfly dream may also aid understanding of the plot if needed!
What happens when director Mamuro Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) and creator Rumiko Takahashi come together to make a movie? Well, in 1984 the second Urusei Yatsura movie debuted. It is regarded as the best of the Yatsura movies by the fans. An interesting fact was after the “failure” of the first movie; Oshii wanted to stop catering to the fans and do the film his own way. This was so far from the original show that Takahashi almost rejected the script. How did it turn out?
Urusei Yatsura is a wild and crazy time with all of the characters interacting behind Ataru and Lum. It
is a hilarious non-stop comedy fest with little regards for a story and primarily focusing on making the viewer laugh. However, Oshii went the opposite and minimized the slap-stick humor and created a plot, and story involving all the characters. It is still a comedy at heart, but with a story on top of it, really invoked the viewer of the franchise to something incredibly fresh and interesting. Plus, the art, animation, and sounds are all top-notch to still hold up today.
There are two downsides to Beautiful Dreamer. One, if going into the movie without a simple knowledge of the show and its characters, the casual fan will probably suffer a bit. Two, as the show focuses on Lum and Ataru and each episode continues from there, Beautiful Dreamer seems to focus on all the shows characters as a whole. Basically, not enough Lum and Ataru until near the end.
Not much of the actual plot can be explained without ruining the experience of watching and learning yourself. If one could guess, based on Oshii’s future works, it has something to do with reality and what it means to perceive it.
Beautiful Dreamer is a pleasure to watch and the supporting cast of characters get a chance for air time in the foreground instead of the background. A little more Lum and Ataru time would have been nice, but a fun watch none the less. Who knows, it might be good enough to motivate some to watch the original show.
"Things are a mess for Yusojusunku, time and space are objective things. Fact is, time is simply a creation of your human consciousness. Now, what if there ain't no human beings anywhere in the world? Wouldn't clocks and calendars be a waste? Maybe there ain't no such thing as time that flows in one direction..."
Ah, the Urusei Yatsura series--one of the flagstones of the 'Rumik' empire, and probably Takahashi's very first legitimate hit series. The last thing someone would expect to go well with Rumiko Takahashi's slapstick wild style of character writing and gag jokes would be Mamoru Oshii, the man best known for directing
Ghost in the Shell. But here, in the second Urusei Yatsura movie, it was decided that the film should be helmed by Oshii himself. It results in a fun, wild, surreal journey of the mind that never fails to enchant.
This is a very simple storyline under a very complex guise. You ever see the movie Groundhog Day? That's the basic idea of how the movie starts out--the same day seems to be repeating itself over and over again, that is, the last day of preparation before the school festival. But as the days repeat, the world itself seems to see some impact of this 'Groundhog Day' as the people around them start to disappear and the world itself seems to crumble into decay. That is, aside from specific places needed to cater to the needs and desires of those trapped within.
All in all there are technically a lot of unneeded scenes that are just there for the surreality factor but in all honesty it all comes out looking pretty good story-wise. The viewer does understand by the end exactly what is going on in this strange situation. The only part that I personally didn't get is why Ataru seems to be getting blamed for it, when it seems more like the creation of this world is the fault of Lum. But this was the 70s, I suppose, and blaming pretty girls wasn't in vogue at the time.
This is a difficult one because, well, to be fair...the animation has a lot of fun stylistic choices and tends towards being very inventively surreal. But I won't lie: this isn't exactly high budget animation. It seems like a lot of money was cut out of the character animation to make absolute sure that the more trippy scenes hit harder, resulting in some pretty inconsistent character faces and movements. It's worth watching for those surreal scenes (I'm particularly fond of their flyover of the Tomobiki turtle), but the rest of the animation is mostly just serviceable at best.
This is Takahashi in her earliest days so the actual style itself is still kinda goofy. It isn't yet the more refined style of Inuyasha, nor the goofy-but-consistent style of Ranma 1/2 in its earlier runs. If that isn't your thing, especially in combination with surreality, then this may not be your kind of movie. To me I feel that the stylistic choices mix together surprisingly well.
Let's start out with the music--it's a combination of atmospheric creepy tones and 80s synth. And lemme tell you, the 80s synth gets really hilarious really quickly. Its hard to contain your chuckles when the movie goes from a serious moment of contemplating the situation...to what looks like an 80s music video for a resort. It mostly all balances out, and I suppose the 80s synth fits the scenes in their own chuckle-worthy way, but it can still get a bit intrusive. It probably seemed less so when the movie was actually released.
Now on to the dub. The voice work here is fairly over-the-top to match the exaggerated personalities of the characters, and for the most part I feel like a lot of the voices DO fit in their own ridiculous way. But it is hard to call this a 'good' dub as it falls into almost every classic pitfall of a bad dub job: mispronouncing names (Mendo as MenDOW, Sakura as the classic SaKOOra), switching character genders (an overall issue of the Urusei Yatsura dub is that Ten, Lum's little brother, is referred to as female for some reason), and flapping lips that don't quite line up with what's being said (though to be fair, this may just be the animation).
Most laughable of all is the voice actor for Mujaki--this guy cannot act. He has an opening appearance with a lot of promise in its foreboding tone but it immediately gets shot to hell the second he reappears. None of his lines seem to match up with his lip movements or even the emotion he's trying to display. I personally feel nostalgic value for the dub, but otherwise, I'm not sure if it would sit well with your average viewer.
Rumiko Takahashi wackiness at its best. Ataru the thoughtless lecher (probably one of the few anime perverts who DOES deserve what's coming to him), the serious Miss Sakura, the naive and childish (but aggressive) Lum, the uptight and 'sophisticated' (read: up his own ass) Mendo, and the four off-beat but somehow charming friends of Ataru....all of them are inherently flawed as people because its just funnier that way, and it tends towards making most of them likeable.
Even Lum, who fills a character slot I don't usually like, is charming in her naivety and childish views on the world. In a situation where she would normally seem selfish and vain for what is going on, she instead comes off as more of a well intentioned but misguided individual. Even the person acting on her whims, Mujeki, again comes off as simply well intentioned but misguided. They're all pleasant to watch for the most part, because while they're overexaggerations of personality traits there is a certain realness to how they react. Accompanied by silly Takahashi facial expressions, of course.
Now I may have talked down to a few elements of this story, but the fact is that a whole group of simply okay aspects can come together to make a solid and enjoyable movie. Beautiful Dreamer does just that. The characters never keep you in a state of being uninvested, and the story has a certain weight to it that truly lends itself to some of the heavier dialogue. Despite some obvious cutting corners in the animation, a good amount of it actually does keep the viewer attention with some of the more elaborate and surreal scenes.
I personally enjoy this film every time I sit down and watch it, flawed or not. So my personal enjoyment for this just happens to be very high. Your buck may vary, I suppose, but I would have to say that it is something of a visual classic that is definitely worth a watch if you have the time.
It is easy to say that the most beautiful anime are those produced by Studio Ghibli. For sure, Ghibli’s films set the bar for what is anime art. However, although five of their films populate this list of the 20 most beautiful anime, other examples from the past four decades are just as impressive.