The most important thing for any film adaptation is to recreate the feel of the original work. Slavishly adhering to the original plot is not necessary as long as the main features of the story are retained and its essence is transferred from the page to the screen. The 1978 Urusei Yatsura accomplished the task of retaining the essence of the manga in spades. One wonders why the new 2022 version was ever made. Many people are put off by older styles of animation, and I suppose that the animators thought that they could render the story palatable to new audiences. The 2022 version changes the veneer of the tale without replicating the soul of it. The result is that people are still better off watching the 1978 version of Urusei Yatsura–if they can’t stand the animation, tough!
A major part of the story is the protagonist Ataru’s abnormally high libido which induces him to chase after every pretty face. In the 70’s, one could see that as a product of the Sexual Revolution, which promised freedom, pleasure, and happiness. “Make Love, Not War!” At the present time, we see the fruits of the Sexual Revolution in how it has damaged the relationship between men and women and taken out much of the levity in this relationship. Society’s view of sexuality has passed from the idyllic imagination to either a moral or a diabolical one. People have reverted to the sexual morays of the Christian past, tried to invent a Byzantine morality of consent, or taken their hedonism very seriously. The idyllic playfulness of the 1970’s, such as we see in Ataru, has gone the way of the dodo. As far as I can tell, nothing about the 2022 Urusei Yatsura cements the viewer into the 70’s, with the result that Ataru’s character comes across as completely absurd–different from the amusing stupidity of the original character. To make a character like Ataru work, you really need immersion into the era in which the manga was written.
Nor does the new anime faithfully reproduce the style of Takahashi! One wants an anime adaptation faithfully reproduce the style of the mangaka. Recent Rumiko Takahashi adaptations like Rinne and Yashihime both succeed at that. Eschewing the style of the creator takes more of the soul out of the story. For example, Lum in the original can hit all of the notes from immature to cute to sexy. I can only see her as childish in the 2022 adaptation, which does a disservice to her character. A one dimensional Lum also takes some of the humor out of Ataru’s desperation to be rid of her. Lum is the only woman in the universe who really wants Ataru and only Ataru. She is also the one woman who is most available to Ataru and the only one in the universe he does not want. I cannot imagine the new Lum ever convincing the viewer, as the old Lum does, the Ataru might well be perfectly happy espousing this extraterrestrial.
Part of me wants to criticize the voice actors too, but they are probably playing the characters as they were told to play them. Anyway, watch the original 1978 anime or read the manga. It’s quite funny, and the characters grow on you as the story continues–even the annoying protagonists. Avoid watching the 2022 version unless you want to see a story without the soul.
Are any of my readers watching this remake? What’s your opinion?