That was the night, leaving behind only those three twinkling trails that Ten and Lum and all their friends left Tomobiki town for good. Those of us left were all struck by sadness almost as if a great festival had finally come to an end. But, when a festival ends, everyday life begins again. – Shinobu Miyake, Remember My Love
I don’t want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again. ― F. Scott Fitzgerald
In my initial days of viewing Urusei Yatsura, I had often wondered how a show which essentially thrives on absurdity could be so popular as to dissolve boundaries of cultures and generations. Sure, it has enough ingredients to nourish you for sustained periods of enjoyment, but so do dozens of other anime with fantastical settings. But beyond the numerous (both native and western) pop cultural references, captivating women, and an eccentric director at the peak of his creative gifts, most importantly it also played into our childhood psyche. Remember My Love not only extends the themes that the show and its two predecessor movies touched upon, but adds depth to the aspect rarely tended to among all the chaos Tomobiki’s inhabitants deal with on a regular basis, Lum and Ataru’s relationship.
That Frightful Age
Anime may depict fictional worlds, but I nonetheless believe that at its core it must have certain realism. Even if the world depicted is a lie, the trick is to make it seem as real as possible. – Hayao Miyazaki
The sensitive years of high school brings with it freedom as well as oppression in equal shares. We have the opportunity to explore, but our desires are also restrained by various measures; in Urusei Yatsura’s case, it may be Mark Onsen’s unyielding mandates, the duty to carry out one’s own family name, being victim to abusive parents or relations, or a combination thereof. And so begins the craving for a world that is free from those limitations, unbeknownst to outsiders, where we are free to add or subtract elements at our will, a world that will never be ours. This is where the arrival and subsequent existence of Lum was so important to the cast. To put it straight, she’s a bland character on her own, but she’s the thread that binds them all together. Her arrival gave them access to that strange world full of endless possibilities, and made their daily tribulations a little more bearable, even if most of them were oblivious of that fact.
This is skilfully demonstrated in the movie when Lum’s companions leave for their home planet upon their failure to find her whereabouts. After a certain time period, Shinobu lost her inhumane strength to lift classroom furniture, Mendou realises he can’t feel the emotions of his pet octopi, Ryoko loses her ability to interact with her sakura tree monster, and girl hunting turns out to be banal for Ataru.
And wouldn’t that be true for all of us as well? Without the timeless themes of myths and fairy-tales passed on to us for generations, allegories and metaphors granting us the opportunity of self-transformation and to perceive beauty in the mundane, in short, without the fantastical and fanciful, wouldn’t we be lesser humans?
A child’s need of affection early in his life is also touched upon. Ruu, having no other companion besides his pet tanuki (raccoon dog) and an occasional visit from his home tutor craves for parental warmth. So despite Lum accusing him of having a mother-complex, it’s understandable why he’d abduct her because she resembled her mother, although, consequences of childhood neglect and abuse had already been covered on a few occasions in the series and in better ways. So Ruu’s story falls flat in comparison to those.
Ah, leave me alone in my pubescent park, in my mossy garden. Let them play around me forever. Never grow up. – Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Ideals are dangerous things. Realities are better. They wound, but they’re better. – Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan
The boundless imagination and wonder of childhood also feeds unto itself irrational, unspoken fears of the unknown. Is it any wonder then, that many antagonists from popular fiction are merely characters who wanted to resist change? But reality doesn’t allow us that privilege, at one point or another, all rebellion against reality, no matter how beautiful and spellbinding, must cross the finish line, give in to convention and disappear. That is the tragic fate of fantasy. In that moment fate forms a contract with our emotional attributes, and forces us to give in.
Lum in this movie speaks in favor of embracing adulthood, telling Ruu that she can’t stay a child forever, so it’s perfectly fine if she can’t have her innocent smile from before, because it is something she decided herself. Contrast this with the Lum who caused the groundhog loop in Beautiful Dreamer, so are we to assume she has grown out of that phase where she wants the happy and cheerful moments in high school to continue forever and wants to move on? Hopefully so, or we await another story arc for that to happen. Nevertheless, this development is a good addition to her character.
I cannot but bring in a comparison here in regards to this matter. This outlook of lost childhood wonder has arguably been dealt in a better way in the Minky Momo OVA- La Ronde In My Dream that came out in the same year as this movie. For those who are unaware of how it unfolds, Momo, our female protagonist finds herself lost in a kingdom where only children are allowed to exist, but as circumstances would have it, they soon enter into a war with the real world, with grave consequences. Unlike Remember My Love, it didn’t preach to the viewer about the preferable path to take, but left a more ambiguous note, that we should be able to choose our own paths instead of others deciding it for us. Our phases of growing up belong to us, after all.
Here’s a glance at some of the notable dialogue sequences from the Minky Momo OVA.
– Where did everybody go?
– Everybody who was alive returned to their respective times. And they became aged adults, forgetting the dreams of childhood…
You… who is at the end of this thread.
The ‘Red String of Fate’, specifically its Japanese variant also known as ‘akai ito’ or ‘unmei no akai ito’ is an important motif in this movie. According to this legend, two people who are destined to be together are attached by an invisible red string bound from a male’s thumb to a female’s pinky finger (generally, though not always, at the first knuckle from the fingernail; also, nowadays it’s become more common to show both parties attached at the pinky). So our world may have its share of obstacles, but nothing in it happens by accident. This is played cleverly here, when Lum traces her thread back to Ataru but he, embarrassed at his situation, shows her he possesses several of the same kind. This suggests that he has feelings for other girls in his life being the true “love them all equally and wholeheartedly” guy he is. But he realizes that without a certain someone, none of the other strings would matter.
Putting the jokes aside, he has played significant roles in the lives of other women, knowingly or unknowingly. But furthermore, he also realizes that without Lum it’s all futile, nothing else will make sense in his life; they’ve been together for too long, they’ve shared too much. This is something we already noticed in the second movie, Beautiful Dreamer.
Adding to this development is the multiple threads on his fingers, implying that his mischievous persona isn’t going anywhere soon. And Lum maybe the most important woman in his life, but there will always be other women he’ll look out for, no matter how much he gets shocked and knocked around.
All in all, ‘Remember My Love’ weaves a gripping tale despite the overabundance of age-old fairy-tale motifs and was an excellent addition to an already beloved and classic franchise.