In the Loop: Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer

It’s a joke now that we’ve all been repeating the same day over and over for more than a year now. I had been thinking about this and also my unapologetic love of time loop movies.

Welcome to In the Loop, a project where I will write about time loop movies (and on occasion, TV shows) once a week.

Note: I will be writing about all of these movies as if you’ve seen them, so spoilers ahead!

Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (1984, directed by Mamoru Oshii)

  • Time until the loop begins: 15 minutes
  • The cause of the loop/inciting incident: Lum makes a wish
  • Number of time loops: Three in the movie but many more before the movie starts
  • Lessons learned: Love is all you need

In the Loop logoThe characters of Urusei Yatsura are getting ready for their school carnival, crafting, oddly, a Nazi-themed cafe (the movie never once addresses the why of it) and getting into all kinds of shenanigans. The movie just tosses the audience right into the action and assumes familiarity with these characters (which I assume most people were). Then things get weird and basically stay weird.

Where to even start with this?

Director Mamoru Oshii wrote an original story without much consultation or input from Rumiko Takahashi, the manga’s original creator. Based partially on the Japanese folk tale, Urashima Tarō, it definitely feels pretty representative of Oshii’s work, tackling philosophical issues in a surreal way.

The characterization doesn’t feel strong but it doesn’t need to be. Ataru is a horny teenage boy. Lum is the beautiful but innocent alien in love with him. Sakura is the mysterious (and sexy!) school nurse. And so on. Knowing and understanding these characters is secondary to the discussions that are had.

While it starts out as a time loop, that element is really no longer a factor a little bit past halfway. Then it becomes a post-apocalyptic movie of a sort where our cast of characters (and Ataru’s parents) seem to be the only ones left alive.

Then it really gets weird (not that it wasn’t weird before). It turns out that the demon Mujaki is behind all of this! Queue a lot of talking about the nature of dreams and desires and …

… there is a lot of talking in this movie (I watched the English dub because that was all that was available) and most of it works. I don’t think it’s quite as deep as it believes it is (although that’s possibly just the translation) but it does have many thoughtful ideas and concepts even if it doesn’t necessarily take them to the conclusion.

The animation is inventive and I did appreciate this movie visually. Oshii’s work always has a certain amount of twistiness and it’s great seeing an early example of it.

Eventually, Ataru defeats Mujaki by declaring his love for Lum. He’s returned to the school and everyone is back where they started. It seems to be implied it’s now the day of the school festival, although that’s not specifically said outright. Everyone’s life goes on as it was.

I could’ve used a few more time loops in this and wish it had explored that idea a bit more. But how many loops are necessary for it to be a time loop movie? I think what was here was enough.

Next week on April 20: The Endless

In the Loop logo by Sarah Burnett. If you’d like to support this project, buy one of my Polaroids.