Urusei Yatsura Movie 6: Always My Darling
There's a problem with coming too late to the party, and that's exactly what Urusei Yatsura: Always My Darling did. After a decade of madcap lunacy, in the early '90s the franchise began to wear out its welcome, and the film series concluded with the fifth entry, The Final Chapter. As any good horror film fan knows, putting "final" or "last" in your title virtually guarantees another one will follow, and that's what happened in this case. The problem is, The Final Chapter provides a satisfactory conclusion but not a definitive one, and Always My Darling plays like nothing more than a very fun extended episode somewhere in the series. Anybody expecting something remotely like an ending to the entire ball of wax will be sorely disappointed...and the artistic style they introduced doesn't do them many favors. Yet if you set those considerations aside -- along with the opening cliché that's painfully overused by this point -- you'll find an enjoyable film at the heart of it all.
Things are normal in Tomobiki...which is to say that Ataru is asking out every girl within earshot and Lum is busy shocking him into submission. But normal never lasts for long! Ataru is kidnapped by a space princess for the umpteenth time, which makes me think they need better defenses or bodyguards or something...but I digress. Unlike in previous features, though, nobody from outer space really wants to marry Lum or Ataru. The space princess Lupica is of age to receive hundreds of gentleman callers, but the only one she really wants is Rio, the tofu boy who has faithfully delivered his goods to her door since childhood. She doesn't realize that Rio is just as much in love with her as she is with him, so she's after a special love potion that makes the one who drinks it fall in love with the next person he (or she) sees. Where does Ataru fall into this plan? The potion itself can only be retrieved from its secret hiding place by the most lecherous man in the universe...'natch. Of course, Ataru does get the potion, and every lovelorn soul in the galaxy wants it. Romance and massive explosions ensue.
For once, there's something unique to say about a UY movie's technical profile. This one looks...different. It's clearly an attempt to update a visual style that was ten years old (a lifetime in anime terms). The characters now reflect certain artistic peculiarities of the 1990s, but some of them are hardly recognizable. It's not bad, but it can be disconcerting. I enjoy it when animators try something new with older properties, but I don't think they fully succeeded here. That said, I quickly got over it and enjoyed the film in spite of the differences.
For me, the dominant question to ask of any comedy is simple: is it funny? Always My Darling is. I haven't laughed at any UY film more since the second one, Beautiful Dreamer (even though that one is more entertaining overall). It recycles an awful lot of ideas from the TV show and other movies -- it's not A grade entertainment, by any means -- but it manages to be entertaining in its own right. It also was nice to see a film that wasn't totally about Lum and Ataru. Lupica and Rio are the heart of this film, and they add a love story that is (unlike most of them in the UY universe) just plain sweet. It also reflects the simple fact that the funniest UY stories revolve around side characters, not dilemmas with the leads. If you come into Always My Darling without much baggage, I think you'll enjoy it like I did.
However, I will say that it's not a filling finale. I don't think it was meant to be. I see this as an attempt at relaunch rather than wrap-up. I said it before I ever saw this movie, and I was right: even the casual viewer (and most certainly the fan) should watch this film before seeing The Final Chapter. Otherwise, you may be left scratching your head...or worse, you'll be annoyed or angry, which seems to be the case with a lot of reviewers who reached this movie years ahead of me. If you can't get into the Lupica/Rio storyline, it won't work.
Does this movie add a ton to the world of "those obnoxious aliens"? Not really. To be honest, I don't have a lot to say about it, relatively speaking. It is what it is -- a bunch of crazy gags and jokes, some of which work and some of which don't. But of the four Urusei Yatsura features I've seen in the last few months, this is the one I liked the best without question.
Urusei Yatsura Movie 6: Always My Darling -- comic violence, profanity -- B+