Stephen reviews: Urusei Yatsura: Only You (1983)

Urusei_Yatsura_Movie_1_Only_You-255847611-largeUrusei Yatsura: Only You [うる星やつら オンリー・ユー] (1983)

Starring Fumi Hirano, Toshio Furukawa, Saeko Shimazu, Akira Kamiya, Kazuko Sugiyama, Ichirō Nagai, Shigeru Chiba, Yuko Mita, Yoshiko Sakakibara

Directed by Mamoru Oshii


This was manga artist Rumiko Takahashi’s breakout hit. Although these days she is better known for Inu-Yasha, it was Urusei Yatsura that would cement her reputation as the best romantic comedy writer in the industry. One of her biggest strengths lies with her puns, and that is something horribly difficult to translate. The title alone is a pun, taking the Japanese word urusai (“obnoxious,” or “shut up!” when used as an exclamation) and splicing it with the word for planet to give it an alien flavor. (Yatsura, if you care to know, means something along the lines of “bastard” or “asshole.”) Thus the title was officially translated into English as Those Obnoxious Aliens. It’s a series that lives up to its title admirably, with story after story about some alien invader or supernatural monster popping up and causing misery for everyone, usually leaving the main character, Ataru, the most miserable of them all.

Way back when I was in high school Urusei Yatsura was unquestionably one of my favorite anime, but I only ever saw the TV series and a little bit of the manga. I actually had no idea the films even existed. But time went by, the series went out of print, and I haven’t paid much attention to it in years. One of the fun things about writing these reviews is revisiting old favorites, and I had a lot of great nostalgia moments watching this film. Every time a character popped up on screen I shouted out their name and laughed, as if meeting an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. And this is where the film can cause something of a problem. It dumps a lot of characters together without much explanation. The movie is basically one over-sized episode of the TV series, and unless you already know the major players you’ll be pretty lost in this film.

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Stephen reviews: They Were 11 (1986)

2010-02-16_11They Were 11 [11人いる! Jûichi-nin iru!] (1986)

Starring Akira Kamiya, Michiko Kawai, Hideyuki Tanaka, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Kōzō Shioya, Michihiro Ikemizu, Norio Wakamoto, Tesshō Genda, Toshio Furukawa, Tarako, Tsutomu Kashiwakura

Directed by Satoshi Dezaki & Tsuneo Tominaga


I’m not all that familiar with the mystery genre. It’s not one of the more common anime genres to bump into. But the basic premise of They Were 11 is just that. It’s not a murder mystery mind you, but it’s still an odd sort of whodunit. It is also a science fiction film, and in this area, I’m on more familiar ground.

The story starts off with a space station somewhere in the universe. It’s a great big university that cranks out the best educated people in the galaxy. The main character of film is Tada, a young man going through the entrance exams. He gets sent on to the final test, as one of a crew of 10 potential students on a derelict spaceship, hoping to survive for 53 days without dying or otherwise screwing things up. But, of course, the film is called They Were 11, and that’s where the mystery comes in.

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Stephen reviews: Fist of the North Star (1986)

Fist of the North Star: the Movie [劇場版 世紀末救世主伝説 北斗の拳 Gekijōban Seikimatsu Kyūseishu Densetsu Hokuto no Ken, Fist of the North Star the Movie: Legend of the Century’s End Savior] (1986)

Starring Akira Kamiya, Chikao Ohtsuka, Kenji Utsumi, Toshio Furukawa, Kaneto Shiozawa, Mie Suzuki, Tomiko Suzuki, Yuriko Yamamoto, Junpei Takiguchi

Directed by Toyoo Ashida


I hope you’re ready for the most intense, hyper-masculine orgy of ultra-violence ever made, because I sure as hell am. I haven’t seen this movie since high school, and after watching Expendables 2 I was suddenly in the mood for cocky, musclebound men performing manly feats of impossibility. So I tracked down the DVD and found that Fist of the North Star has aged like a fine wine; its ridiculous violence and ’80s styling making it a savory delight even better than I remembered.

The DVD case proudly advertises Fist of the North Star as “the most violent and action packed animated film of all time,” and my first reaction when I saw the box was disbelief. There has to be something even more over the top. But I really couldn’t think of many examples. Maybe Berserk or Claymore, but even those didn’t seem to fit the bill. Now that I’ve watched the film again, I can say that no, there is nothing I am aware of that has more violence and more machismo concentrated into one package.

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Stephen reviews: Odin: Photon Space Sailor Starlight (1985)

Odin: Photon Space Sailor Starlight [オーディーン 光子帆船スターライト, Odin – Koshi Hansen Starlight] (1985)
AKA Odin: Starlight Mutiny

Starring Toshio Furukawa, Hideyuki Hori, Keiko Han, Goro Naya, Gentaro Ishida, Tessho Genda, Takeshi Kato, Tsubasa Shioya

Directed by Takeshi Shirado & Eichi Yamamoto


There are two versions of this film floating around. One, Starlight Mutiny, is a heavily edited version available with English dubbing, while Space Sailor Starlight is the unedited version that was never dubbed. The DVD was kind enough to include the option to watch the “standard version” which is actually the reduced and edited version, or the “extended version” which is actually the standard, unaltered version. I suppose it sounded better than “butchered version” and “unbutchered version.” Are they really that different? I didn’t bother trying to watch the short version, but since it cut nearly an hour from the runtime something important had to have been dropped.

To be honest, though, the film was pretty slow, so maybe trimming a few things down wouldn’t have hurt it. It’s almost two and a half hours long in its full edition, which can get pretty tiresome despite its kickin’ ’80s rock montages of people running around on the spaceship. Seriously, these guys board ships with more gusto than a pirate raiding a boat load of gold and virgins. At first I was unsure if they were taking the ship by force, or if they were just starting a rave. It turned out they were just getting to their posts. Somehow this required a lot of exuberance and hard rock. The spaceships in Odin are supposedly powered by laser beams shot from various places around the solar system, but I think it’s actually the concentrated power of pure awesomeness from rock concert light shows. How else can you explain the intense guitar riffs that kick in every time they hit the accelerator?

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