Urusei Yatsura Movie 3: Remember My Love

I miss the 1980s. Born in 1974, this isn't really a surprise...we all tend to idolize the age when we were at the height of childhood, around 7 to 13 or so. It's the reason why the 1950s were the "ideal" for so long in TV and film...the generation coming out of the baby boom after WWII was enormous. Anyway, being a child of the 1980s is why I can still appreciate hair metal, Family Ties, and Space Invaders. What still surprises me is how much I enjoy the stylings of 1980s anime. Maybe it's because I grew up on Robotech and Battle of the Planets, but the anime of today often looks sterile in comparison to that of the 1980s. Characters went off model and the artwork was sometimes cheesy, but there's something special about the era I miss. My youthful innocence, most likely. (OK, I'll stop now before my readers either cry or throw up.)

Not everything from that era is perfect, however, not even coming out of a beloved franchise like Urusei Yatsura. That isn't to say that the third film in the series, Remember My Love, is bad; it's not. I enjoyed the basic story, the artistic style, and the various bits that reminded me why I enjoy anime from its era (which is 1985, for those keeping track). But the front and center problem with this film is that it's not particularly funny. In a madcap comedy series, that's rather surprising. Of course, the films would go even further afield by the next entry, Lum the Forever. But this tale is a bit too serious -- and otherwise too straightforward -- to be a better entry in the canon.

A lost invitation to celebrate Lum's birth drives an old hag to curse her to a life without the fulfillment of true love. One would already think that the curse was fulfilled through Lum's fiance/louse/lech Ataru, but I guess not. Skip to 1985, and the gang are all planning to attend the incredible carnival that's come to town, full of aliens and strange creatures and rides and whatnot. But as it turns out, this is all a front, a lure to get Ataru turned into a pink hippo. There's no possibility of love between Ataru and Lum then, right? There's a search for a cure, as well as an explanation as to why this happened in the first place. By the final reel, we'll have a peek into a possible future...one where Lum is gone and the city of Tomobiki is back to (almost) normal. But is that really what everyone wants? Is the invisible thread that binds Lum and Ataru together strong enough to span even alternate timelines?

The directing baton was passed from Mamoru Oshii to Kazuo Yamazaki for this one, and while his resume has some nice highlights, he's clearly getting his sea legs here. The visuals are nice and, at times, beautiful; I really liked the backgrounds a lot in many scenes, and while they are dated now, they give a strong sense of place throughout. There's nothing wrong with the animation, though there's not a ton of motion and nothing outstanding. The opening and closing themes are in English, and I found them amusing in the same way as Project A-Ko's soundtrack, but once again, they show their age. The film has a workman-like quality to it; it's all professional, but there's no panache. I liked it, but even in its day it was no technical marvel.

Part of the reason the direction is uninspired is because the plot of the film doesn't call for a whole lot of flair. We know from the very beginning that Lum is cursed; thus, while we might be surprised at the details as they play out, the film shows its hand too early. If the movie had more comedic moments, the plot wouldn't really matter all that much, but here the comedy is subdued (by the standards of the television show, at least). The final third of the film is rather melancholy, which isn't what most people expect from a Urusei Yatsura film.

That isn't to say the movie is boring. I never found my finger on the fast-forward button. There's little fat in the movie, and cameos often relate to central plot threads rather than being random appearances to please fans. Indeed, once you set your mind on the fact that this film is trying to do something different, you can enjoy it for what it is. Remember My Love is actually more akin to the second film, Beautiful Dreamer, than it is to the first, Only You, in that it wants to break the mold. In this case, it attempts to engage the audience by implying a real relationship exists within the Lum/Ataru pairing. It doesn't completely succeed because, frankly, Ataru has never loved Lum in any conventional sense and, in fact, enjoys the game of tormenting Lum via his constant lechery. Lum may be annoying and have a tendency to shock "Darling" into submission, but she's too good for him. It's hard to get poignant about all that. Yet somehow Remember My Love does manage to pull at some heartstrings, particularly near the end. I can't explain it, but I enjoyed the film once I let go of my expectations.

Remember My Love was a Netflix rental for me, and I think that's appropriate. I'm glad I saw it, and I certainly liked returning to the unique beauty of anime from its era. But would I watch it often? Nah. With such solid features as Beautiful Dreamer in the Urusei Yatsura oeuvre, this is merely a decent diversion for the fan of the series who wants to see more.

Urusei Yatsura Movie 3: Remember My Love -- mild profanity, mild slapstick violence, very brief nudity -- B-