Urusei Yatsura 4 - Lum the Forever Movie Review
Shuutaro is ferrying Lum, Ataru, Shinobu, and Lum's guards in a van after finishing shooting a film for the day. A power outage hits Tomobiki-cho as they arrive in town. At school the next day, Lum and Ran have lots of small birds around them, which Megane captures on film (Lum only) as the two can commune with birds at some level. That night at a hanami on the Mendou Estate, Shuutaro has tons of people over to celebrate under Tarouzakura, a 300 year old cherry tree. Because the tree won't survive another year, it is being cut down, which will be part of the movie they are shooting, but part of the tree will be grafted to a new cherry tree to make a new Tarouzakura. Sakura-sensei arrives with a host of youkai, but though Lum gets angry, she ends up laying down at the base of the tree and listens to its song.
A couple of homeless men in a junkyard find a TV that comes on as well as all the other TVs, displaying an image of Lum. Meanwhile, work continues on the movie about Tarouzakura and the Oni-hime, played by Lum. Ataru as part of his role, takes an ax to the giant tree, but one small blow fells the massive tree, where it mostly dissolves away to everyone's amazement. At the moment this happens, the youkai hanging out with Sakura-sensei all leave. The film production continues with Lum coming in as Oni-hime, but Ataru has an accident that knocks down a bunch of props. As Ataru is berated for his mistake, Lum goes into a trance for a bit. Further, the weather at Tomobiki-cho goes strange.
At school, Ataru defeats Perm in an eating contest. He then goes to hit on Shinobu, setting her off, but using his great skill, Ataru breaks free of Shinobu's attack and is at Ryuunosuke's desk to try to land a kiss on her. Lum goes to electrocute Ataru with flair, but he barely feels it. Lum is worried about this and tries a sneak attack on Ran, who barely notices. Meanwhile, strange things continue to happen with the arrival of a massive amount of dragonflies and cicadas. When Lum and Ataru are out on a date, Lum finds she can't fly and keep up with him. Further, even Ten-chan can fly faster than her. Ataru decides to take advantage of this, so he targets a random babe blocks away and goes for her. Lum and Ten-chan try to find him and as Lum is on an escalator and sees Shinobu and Shuutaro going the other way, they act like they don't know her.
Shinobu and Shuutaro have a nice date, but that night, just before Shuutaro kisses Shinobu, he suddenly remembers passing Lum and leaves in a hurry, pissing Shinobu off. The next day at school, winter has returned in April as Megane, Chibi, and Kakugari are suddenly following cute girls from another school in spite of their pledge of loyalty to Lum. Lum reports to Sakura-sensei about her losing her abilities when a cone shaped mountain rises where Tarouzakura stood, the hollow cone of the mountain somehow filling with water. That night, Lum is out in the city with Ten-chan when she suddenly goes into a weird, dream state. She wakes up to a concerned Ten-chan. The following day, she goes jogging as the birds look at her concerned.
That night, Shuutaro is home relaxing when he makes a shocking discovery, leading him to call Ataru over immediately. Reluctantly, Ataru comes over, where he hears Megane's tale of looking at other girls. Ataru is unimpressed and about to leave when Shuutaro shows him a photo album where Lum is now missing from the pictures. While Lum starts writing a diary in Ataru's room, Ataru, Megane, and Shuutaro discuss how the tale of Oni-hime is coming true. The three head down to visit Shuutaro's grandfather to learn more about the subject while back at Ataru's place, Lum's horns have disappeared. After putting Ten-chan to bed, Lum thinks she sees Ataru and a young version of herself, so she goes out to find them. At the same time, Shuutaro, Megane, and Ataru retrieve a piece of Tarouzakura, finding a skeleton in the roots of the tree in a rotting, elaborate kimono, causing the trio to panic.
Ataru races home, only to find Lum is gone and only her diary behind. He learns from his mother that Lum decided to go out while at the same time, Lum is at Tarouzakura Mountain, where she enters the water. Shuutaro has a dream that he's a famous gladiator in the future with Ataru as his chief assistant. He has a whole harem of women he marries, including Shinobu and Sakura, but when he sees Lum passing by, he has Ataru go find her. Ataru goes and is surprised when he remembers her, only to have Lum vanish. When Shuutaro wakes up, he discovers that buildings from his dream are now frozen around the base of the mountain. Picking up Shinobu on the way to school, she has a dream as well, set in the past. When she awakens, places from her dream are now added to the frozen mix around the mountain.
Shuutaro holds a massive meeting to discuss what he thinks is going on when Ataru bursts in with Ten-chan to announce that Lum is missing. While Lum stays in some pseudo dream state in the water, Shuutaro decides that the only way to return normality to the world is to provoke Tobimaru into a private war to destroy the frozen dreams, but the war does little to damage the dreams but seriously damage Tomobiki-cho. Ataru refuses to take sides in the war and goes jogging despite the bombs and shells exploding all around him. Eventually, Shuutaro and Tobimaru call for peace as Tomobiki-cho is in ruins but the dream buildings are mostly intact. The people of the town long to return things to the way it was.
A tired Ataru trips and falls to the ground as a fog rolls in, where he calls Lum's name. Lum, who's dream state has her with the child form of her friends and Ataru, apparently hears his call and tells the kids she has to go. An electronic voice stiltedly tells Lum that its OK as it can live on the memories. Meanwhile, Kotatsu-neko wakes Ataru up. He notices that the frozen dream structures are collapsing and he sees Lum walking to him. People encourage Ataru to run to Lum, which he does. Everyone wonders if the place will ever return to the way it was. As Lum and Ataru reach each other, Megane leads the guard to attack Ataru with rockets and bullets while at the junkyard, one of the broken TV's shuts off.
Just when I thought I'd seen something about as surreal as it gets, this fourth Urusei Yatsura movie shows up to take the cake.
The main problem I have with surreal stories is that writers don't have to make sense, follow logic, or do anything else that makes regular stories interesting. As such, the writers can write anything they want and justify it under the guise of "it is surreal, symbolic art."
Thus we have this movie, where anything goes. As best as I can make out, Ataru's felling of Tarouzakura, which shouldn't have been possible, unsealed the real oni-hime, who saw Lum as her, and then that's as far as I can make any logical sense of things. There's no understanding these dreams come to life in a frozen form. There's no understanding why folks who claim to love Lum suddenly are looking at other women.
As to the dreams themselves, there was some interest there. For Shuutaro, we see that while he may have belittled Ataru for his skirt chasing, Shuutaro's dream is identical to Ataru's in the fact that he too longs for a harem of women. The only difference is that Shuutaro doesn't just want to be the only man in a giant room full of naked women who all want him. Shuutaro also longs for fame, fortune, and respect, as seen by his dream featuring a polite and respectful Ataru as his personal assistant.
Shinobu's dream seemed to be set in the Meiji period, though the term "shoujo manga" would not have been part of that era (the term "manga" was apparently coined in this era though). So you see what I mean about the surreal. Still, Shinobu's dream reflected her feelings for both Ataru and for Shuutaro.
Then, there's Shuutaro's resolution to the dream crisis. I can appreciate the idea of destroying the iced, dream buildings, but how did having the Mendou military battling the Mizunokoji military help? The dream buildings were mostly untouched and Tomobiki-cho was destroyed, with everyone being drafted into one of the two militaries. Even when Lum returned, the town was still destroyed although the dream structures crumbled.
I've read that some gush over this movie as wonderful art. If you are reading my article and are in that camp, don't take what I'm about to say personally. Frankly, when I see an explanation or justification of something as "art," it means it has no substance. Thus, in a desperate attempt to give something without substance some meaning, it is "art". Sorry, not buying it; massive symbolism can get stuffed.
Also, I noted that some folks had to watch it multiple times before they supposedly understood it. Sorry, not buying that either. I have no problem with people going back and watching something a second time or more. Heck, I did that with Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki, not because I didn't understand it, but because I realized the anime was crafted in such a way that the harem elements I came for was just icing on the cake, but the real story was done in layers underneath the frosting. In the case of Lum the Forever, watching it multiple times and coming to an understanding is code for me that the viewer has created some happy zone within their mind where they can finally accept this surreal stuff as brilliance, then move on with their lives.
Frankly, I see this movie as just random scenes strung together to see what would happen when everything was thrown into the pot -- a type of nabe if you will. This pot of nabe wasn't for me, and I certainly won't be coming back for more.