Updated January 20, 2023 by Ernie
Urusei Yatsura is a beloved comedy classic of the ’80s, it is well-known for its references to Japanese society and culture and its ridiculously absurd style of slapstick comedy.
The series’ immense popularity made it possible for Rumiko Takahashi, the creator of both Inuyasha and Ranma ½ and now one of the most renowned and wealthiest manga artists in Japan, to propel her career into stardom.
Its iconic status was probably what got the anime a remake in the first place. It was responsible for introducing one of Japan’s cultural icons, “the original otaku dream girl” Lum Invader, who was the pioneer of waifu culture.
As curious anime lovers, we’re interested to see how the reboot will fare against its iconic 40-year-old predecessor. We want to know how it differs and if it will serve as a better adaptation compared to the original.
Which Urusei Yatsura version is better?
For those who are new to the series, Urusei Yatsura follows Moboroshi Ataru, a girl-obsessed and silly teenager who had the misfortune of being born on a “Friday the 13th” of April (4 is considered an unlucky number in Japan).
Throughout the show, Ataru is plagued with bad luck resulting in him being put in various unlucky situations and being a victim of the town’s ire. It certainly doesn’t help that he has a scummy attitude towards women in particular and that despite already having a girlfriend, he constantly flirts with other girls (tsk tsk).
As a consequence of his incredible misfortune, Ataru gets randomly chosen to become the Earth’s defender from the Oni Invasion. For some inexplicable reason, the Oni didn’t immediately take over the Earth, but instead gave the humans a chance to fight for the freedom of the planet through a game of tag wherein the human player must grab the oni player’s horns within a week.
Ataru, in all his lecherous glory, only accepts the challenge when he finds out that Lum Invader, the daughter of the oni leader and his opponent, is an ethereal being with an exotic beauty. Honestly, I don’t blame him, I would probably fold so fast too.
However, he quickly finds out that his predicament is a lot harder than he originally thought, so his girlfriend Shinobu, in an attempt to encourage him, promises to marry Ataru if he wins the game, which he thankfully manages to do!
Unfortunately for him, however, his excitement for marriage gets misunderstood by Lum as a proposal to her! She decides to accept his “proposal” and start living with him, and so begins the wacky misadventures that follow Ataru and Lum!
Like most anime that can make you laugh, the whole series is episodic in nature, with a distinct story being generally covered by each episode all full of ridiculous wacky hijinks of the cast.
Animation and Art Style
The most glaring difference between the 1981 series and the newer 2022 reboot is, obviously, the animation and art style. With over 40 years between the two series, it’s fascinating to see how art and animation have evolved within that time frame.
The original series was definitely a product of its time, with its distinct 80s aesthetic and character designs. It’s clear that the remake has a certain advantage when it comes to this aspect.
For one, the new version has a cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing design compared to its predecessor, making the reboot have a more updated look and better anatomy overall.
It’s also clearly infused with Rumiko Takahashi’s iconic art style and has remnants of the original ‘80s art, giving the reboot a sort of nostalgic feel to it.
I also like my beloved Lum-chan’s iridescent hair a lot more than the iconic green she possessed in the original anime. With iridescent hair, she looks better and more out of this world both literally and figuratively.
Interestingly, her hair was originally supposed to be iridescent, but due to animation difficulties, she was instead given the iconic green hair! Thus making her included in our list to be one of the best anime characters with green hair!
The Visual Gags, Jokes, and Adaptation
What sets apart the original 80’s anime, for me, was how it did not shy away from making the series and the characters look absolutely ridiculous and zany. The series is littered with out-of-nowhere visual gags that leave you both amused and bemused!
The first episode of the 1981 version is a great example of this. Just before he finds out about the Oni Invasion, Ataru is suddenly kidnapped by some agents and a comical high-speed car chase then ensues accompanied by exciting music!
Watching that made me laugh in confusion because of how random it was and because of how cartoonish the whole scene looked. For some reason, there were helicopters and tanks involved and in the end, they just drove him to his house!?
“Make it make sense!” I say, but it will never make sense because the original anime relishes in how ludicrous everything is, raising the series’ comedic value. The animators certainly had a good grasp of both comedic timing and visual comedy.
Compared to all that, the 2022 version’s rendition of this scene is not as funny. Instead, it takes on a more serious tone, completely deciding to have erased the absurd kidnapping scene of the original series.
However, the reboot does get more points for being faithful to the original source material, because that was how it originally went down in the manga. There was no “kidnapping” in the first place.
That’s the thing though, the 1981 anime, compared to the reboot, doesn’t do well as an adaptation as it sometimes deviates from the manga.
Another example of this is how Shinobu promises Ataru her hand in marriage. In the manga, she does this while they are in his room with friends, but in the 1981 anime, an overly dramatic soap opera-esque scene plays with both of them alone.
The remake serves as quite a faithful adaptation, but I think that the original anime wins this round with its creativity.
Another thing that I noticed in the 2022 version is how the main character is slightly different from the original series. While Ataru is still the same girl-obsessed teen, the reboot takes care to make him look a lot less scummy than the 1981 version.
The original series tended to over-exaggerate his lecherous personality for comedic effect. He drools at the sight of other girls, and he even turns down Shinobu’s pleas in exchange for getting exam cheats and an introduction to a beautiful student from an all-girls school.
It’s a miracle Shinobu even stayed with him for as long as she did. I guess that’s why they say love is blind! Nevertheless, he does show some form of loyalty to her as he denies Lum’s advances in favor of being with his girlfriend.
Since the reboot decided to cut out that part of the series there isn’t much to compare, but I think it’s significant to mention that this comedy manga didn’t include the prospect of Ataru being introduced to another girl.
The original story that aired back in 1981 ran for 4 seasons with 195 episodes in total, along with 6 films, and 12 OVAs. A testament to its acclaimed status. The reboot, it seems, is scheduled to have fewer episodes overall.
Like I mentioned earlier, the reboot is scheduled to run with fewer episodes compared to the original’s 195. This would mean that the reboot would have to have a different pacing compared to the 1981 anime.
The original anime series went on for so long in favor of comedy rather than what little plot the series had. Yet, this also allowed the characters to breathe and have time to grow in the longer format.
Instead of making the audience go through another 100+ episodes of slow-burn, the remake is trying to compact the whole story within 46 episodes. Opposite of the original, the remake, it seems, is going for more plot than comedy.
This means that the animators and production company didn’t include other filler stories in between and decided to remake the series with its best episodes with a little more plot.
We can see this with how quickly Shinobu dumps Ataru for Mendo in the reboot in episode 3 compared to the original where Shinobu meets Mendo in episode 14! Either way, good for her for finally dumping his lame troublemaker!
It’s pretty clear that Urusei Yatsura (2022) and Urusei Yatsura (1981) both have their own strengths and weaknesses. I can’t say for certain which one is better than the other because they are both equally good series for many different reasons.
While I personally prefer the reboot for its compacted pacing and art style, I do rather enjoy the comedy aspect and slow-burn of the 1981 version. And actually, it is still and should be in the list as one of the best comedy anime of all time.
For fans of the older series, I’m sure they would find the reboot just as whimsical as the beloved 80s version, and for the newer generation of fans, I do recommend doing a binge-watch of the original!