Aliens invade Japan! And the only way to keep them from totally taking over is for one randomly selected human representative to beat the daughter of the alien leader in a game of tag. Ataru Moroboshi, the human, just has ten days to catch Lum, the alien, and touch her horns. Considering Ataru is considered incredibly unlucky and not terribly bright or talented while Lum can fly, shoot electricity, and is pretty clever, this can only go well.
Urusei Yatsura originally ran in the late 1970s through the 1980s, and it is very apparent in the art, comedy, and general formatting of the manga. The art is thicker and looser lines more typical of 1970s art, with very straightforward paneling. In fact the panels are so straightforward, and the story so episodic, that sometimes Yatsura feels more like a comic strip along the lines of Archie rather than the standard of manga more typical today. Much of the art also is indicative of this manga as a comedy, using very simple faces and over the top facial expressions to help convey jokes. It is well drawn though, and Rumiko Takahashi’s skill is apparent in scenes with high levels of detail, such as one such with a battle between two alien races.
The comedy of Urusei Yatsura is very slapstick and full of visual gags, which can get old over time, especially because so many of them are at Ataru’s expense. Yatsura is meant to be a parody comic, so it makes sense that everything is so over the top and somewhat repetitive, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get old over time. We get it, he’s not great at doing basically anything except enduring Lum’s electric shocks. This can be especially hard to endure on top of the fact that somehow Ataru has two girls after him: Lum, the alien, and Shinobu, his childhood friend. Ataru is essentially a stereotype of high school boys in that he shows immediate interest in and devotion to any attractive woman who pays him any attention (and sometimes when they don’t). There’s very little character growth through the span of volumes 1 and 2, aside from Ataru showing that he just might have feelings for Lum.
It was incredibly difficult for me to get into the story of Yatsura, because so often it felt like I was being dropped in the middle of situations with no setup. Even the first page of the manga feels like I missed something, and I don’t know if this has to do with the formatting choice of this edition, or if that’s the general feel of Yatsura in general. There are periodic breaks in the story for segments called Data Files, which focus on different characters or character relationships, as well as translation notes and occasionally notes from Takahashi herself. The Data Files feel like something that was published in the back of each volume and are written as if set in the world of the story. Sometimes they have additional information to help add detail to the environment and story, but sometimes they talk about situations that I never saw happen in either volume of this edition.
Ultimately, Urusei Yatsura is a classic in the manga world, and many people have fond memories of reading or watching the anime when it was originally popular. And of course, Takahashi is in the Eisner Hall of Fame, as well as still publishing, so her body of work is still quite relevant aside from historical value. If a library is looking to expand their manga collection to include more classics or has a population that loves Takahashi’s works, this is a great option, because Yatsura is getting the republishing treatment in these omnibus editions that make it easy to add to the collection.
Urusei Yatsura vols. 1-2
By Rumiko Takahashi
Art by Rumiko Takahashi
vol 1 ISBN: 9781974703425
vol 2 ISBN: 9781974703432
Publisher Age Rating: T+(16+)