By Nick Benefield / July 26th, 2019
The story surrounding Viz Media’s localization of Urusei Yatsura takes us back all the way to the early 1990s. After a bombardment of requests from fans of the series, Viz decided to begin serializing the manga under the name Lum * Urusei Yatsura. Unfortunately, that venture did not prove profitable for them and it was cancelled after just eight short issues. Moving forward a few years, Viz attempted to bring the series back, this time as The Return of Lum. This iteration lasted slightly longer than the first, but it ultimately suffered the same fate and Viz cut the series short before all the original volumes could be translated.
Since then, Viz has sat patiently on the series, presumably waiting for the right opportunity to try again. Luckily for all of us, that time is now. Viz announced back in January that they would begin issuing volumes of the manga once again, this time in large, multi-volume chunks. To date, they’ve already released volumes one and two. Together, these volumes include the original volumes 1-4, all freshly re-translated and ordered from right to left as originally intended. Urusei Yatsura means a great deal to me personally, so I was immediately drawn to the opportunity of digging into the first two volumes. Without further ado, let’s see how these releases stack up against the rest.
Allow me to briefly introduce the story. As I touched upon in my retrospective of the anime series a few months back, the structure of Urusei Yatsura is incredibly loose. The story centers around Ataru Moroboshi, a high school student whose life is plagued with misfortune. Over half of this misfortune stems directly from Ataru’s constant womanizing and general idiocy. The other half comes from Ataru’s fateful encounter in chapter one. At the onset of volume one, Ataru comes home from school to find that the fate of the entire world has been placed on his shoulders. An alien race from the planet Oniboshi has decided to invade Earth and their supercomputer has randomly selected Ataru to be a spokesperson for the humans. He soon finds himself locked in a game of tag with the beautiful alien princess Lum as his challenger. While apprehensive at first, Ataru’s infatuation with Lum supersedes all of his initial worries and he wins the contest against all odds. There’s been a slight miscommunication though and Ataru now finds himself married to Lum as a result of the victory. Worse yet, Lum refuses to tolerate Ataru’s infidelities and responds to each of them with negative reinforcement (electric shocks).
Rest assured that the events described above encompass only the story of chapter one. From chapter two onward, the only central narrative to speak of is the state of Ataru and Lum’s relationship and how absurd it is. Each chapter is essentially its own contained story and the consequences of each rarely carry over to the next one. For the new release of volume one, the stories mainly consist of Ataru and his childhood friend Shinobu trying to maintain their existing relationship while avoiding a very jealous Lum. The second new volume deviates from this with the arrival of Shutaro Mendo, Ataru’s rival who despite having a massive fortune and good looks is just as moronic. Shinobu shifts her romantic attention towards Mendo, leaving Lum and Ataru to become closer. We see Lum and Ataru’s relationship grow a little bit, but not without some interesting hurdles.
Shifting gears, let’s talk about some of the changes specific to these new releases. It’s worth noting that these releases are indeed the first in the west to be ordered from right to left. The aforementioned Lum * Urusei Yatsura and Return of Lum releases were reordered from left to right to read more like western comics. Even the Perfect Collection omnibus is ordered this way. For those reasons, I’m very happy to see that these new releases are being left in the intended order.
Additionally, these releases come with a number of special new additions. In between each part (that is, between each sub-volume), there is a special section titled “The Rumic Star Special”. This section spans around 10 pages and includes in-depth looks at various topics and questions about the series as a whole. Have you ever wondered why Shinobu’s attitude and feelings for Ataru change so drastically after volume one? Where is Tomobiki and should you consider moving there? Perhaps you care more about the hard-hitting questions. “The Rumic Star Special” has those covered too with tallies for how many times Ataru gets shocked, kissed, and wastes money on food throughout the series. I went back and thumbed through my older copies of the manga and I can confidently say that these special sections are indeed new and unique. I was surprised when I first came across them, but I feel that they are a wonderful addition.
There’s are even notes from and about the series creator, Rumiko Takahashi. In one such note (after the conclusion of volume one), Takahashi talks about some of her memories from when she first began drawing Lum back in the late 70s. She discusses the amount of effort that she put in while designing Lum’s character and how she views Lum as her polar opposite. There are several notes like this one spread throughout the pages of these first two volumes, but I’ll let you seek those out on your own and enjoy for yourself.
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