Urusei Yatsura, Omnibus 2

By Rumiko Takahashi. Released in Japan in two separate volumes by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Camellia Nieh.

UY gets a bit of a reboot about a quarter of a way into this omnibus. The cast is streamlined, with a lot of the alien girls after Ataru vanishing (some will be back – Benten, Oyuki – and some won’t – Kurama), and Megane and his three friends also vanishing from the manga (the anime will keep them around, for good and ill). In their place we get Shutaro Mendo, and he immediately shows us that he is going to be a main cast member fot the long haul. Indeed, after Ataru, Lum and Shinobu he’s the biggest member of the cast, and much of this volume is dedicated to showing off his best features (his money, his looks) and his worst features (everything else about him). Takahashi makes a point of showing early on that without his wealth and good looks, he’d be just like Ataru – but of course, he DOES have wealth and good looks, so the girls all fall for him anyway.

This includes Shinobu, who the endnotes at the end of the volume call out for having bad taste in men, and it’s hard to deny, as Mendo will forever be willing to abandon her at a moment’s notice if he can get Lum instead. (Shinobu will get a happy ending, but you may have to wait till Omnibus 16 or so to start seeing it.) There are a few chapters that show off Mendo trying to woo Lum, but he’s at a huge disadvantage, as Lum’s love for Ataru never really wavers at all – even when she’s dating others, it’s in an effort to make him jealous. Here we see her even disguising herself to save Ataru from his own foolishness, or alternatively so he can pretend she’s a real Japanese girl when they go out. As for Ataru, at the start we see he has the same attitude about Lum as he did before – he wants her gone – but this also changed as the story moves forward.

Ataru is, for the most part, a womanizing creep, and this won’t change, though it’s worth noting that even with these traits he’s still one of the better catches in the class. The ‘fake girl for Ataru’ chapter, which the anime put at Christmas and expanded greatly, is the first time that he actually realizes that Lum is gorgeous, and that plus the fact that she clearly went out of her way to help him leads him to soften his stance on her. He still declares that they aren’t going out or married, but she’s become an ally to him now. Two chapters in a row show this off best. In one, he befriends a caterpillar that wants to eat everything – and we do mean everything – and he and Lum try to protect it from the rest of the class, who find it creepy. This works out better than anyone could expect. In the other, possibly the most famous chapter of the series (its anime adaptation was voted the #1 episode by Japan), Lum vanishes, leaving behind only a cute little doll that looks like her, and Ataru worries that he genuinely drove her off.

Heartwarming moments like these are far more common in the anime than in the manga, but they do happen, and for a good purpose – now Ataru is fighting against his affection for Lum, rather than just seeing her as an invader. Now that the core cast of four has been solidified, we can also start to expand the world once more, and we’ll see that in the next volume. Also, Takahashi’s art settles down here – there are some gorgeous pieces of art on display in these pages.

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