Friday, January 4, 2008

Reprint This! 22. Urusei Yatsura

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected a couple of dozen titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

Three more entries to go in this series, and I've gotta say, I'm winding down, and really running out of new ways to say "This is really great, somebody should reprint it," and I want to have this feature finished before the end of the month. So Rumiko Takahashi's fans will, I hope, forgive me if I don't do URUSEI YATSURA, her first continuing comic series, justice. You'd think this would be a no-brainer for Viz, who have repackaged almost all of her other series for US distribution, but the poor sales of an earlier effort still have an impact on this property.

Briefly, because I'm winding down here, Urusei Yatsura is a sprawling, silly gag strip in which aliens from the planet Uru stop by Earth. A dimwitted teen named Ataru Moroboshi, who hopelessly chases girls with tongue a-droolin', inadvertently proposes to their princess, a cute girl named Lum. She wears a tiger-striped bikini, has an incredibly short temper, has fallen passionately in love with Ataru, and works out her issues of jealousy by electrocuting Ataru often enough for him to go off the idea. The aliens decide to stay in Tokyo indefinitely, or at least until Lum and Ataru agree on a wedding date. Since Ataru has no intention of ever doing such a thing and giving up his flirting, this might be a while. Wacky hijinks follow, especially as many of Lum's friends and family show up to find out what's happening on Earth, and like it enough to set a spell and cause havoc.

Urusei Yatsura first appeared in the pages of Japan's Shonen Sunday in 1978. If I understand correctly, it had a number of short tryout runs of six or eight weeks for its first two years before it finally joined the regular lineup in 1980. It ran weekly until its conclusion in 1987, spawning a TV series, several video games, feature films and direct-to-video releases. As with most Japanese series, the weekly output is enormous, and the series was repackaged in a number of formats, most commonly a series of 34 digests, each about 180 pages. Urusei Yatsura is still phenomenally popular in Japan, and Lum a heavily-licensed icon who appears on pachinko machines and ads for electric companies, and the series has stayed in print through a variety of differently-formatted editions. The original run of 34 books begun a hugely-promoted re-release last year with new introductions and artwork contributions by other Japanese artists; about two-thirds of these new volumes are back in print.

Urusei Yatsura would appear to be a good introduction to Takahashi's work since it is very broad and very silly, without much continuity or ongoing plotlines. But this might actually work against it, as her more popular series in the US have been the longer, serialized stories. Back when Viz was producing traditionally American-sized comic reprints, they released a few Lum miniseries in that format, and some of these were collected in their older, odd-sized $14.95 line of graphic novels. But while they eventually repackaged Maison Ikkoku in the more familiar, less expensive digests, and restarted Ranma 1/2 and InuYasha in those lines, Urusei Yatsura was left behind due to low sales, with the bulk of the series untranslated. But really, Viz, it's been years and it's time to do the series right and promote it to a new audience. Besides, it's looking like y'all will be running out of Dr. Slump and Golgo 13 books to take my money in a few months' time, so you'll need something new on the shelves I want to buy. So how about it, guys?

Background on the series' publication was pilfered from the good folk over at the wonderful Takahashi fan site Rumic World. Visit them for more information! And while this is entry's about the comic series, have a pinup from one of the animated adaptations fer yer Livejournalling pleasure. Be back Friday for another entry as I wrap up this feature.

(Originally posted January 04, 2008, 02:50 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you. Viz NEEDS to reprint this awesome manga series! Preferably in its entirety this time.