“Beautiful Dreamer” skews even further towards Mamoru Oshii’s interests than the series ever did. Oshii loves military technology, and so the film features a Leopard tank as well as a Harrier jet. As reality deteriorates in Lum and Ataru’s closed universe, characters sink into puddles and dissociate in dark alleyways. The local high school mutates into an MC Escher realm of shadows and stairs. Ringing furin bells, debilitating summer heat, and crumbling buildings impart a sense of unease. Years before Satoshi Kon blurred the line between reality and dream in Japanese animation, “Beautiful Dreamer” laid the groundwork for what that might look like. It was the first of Oshii’s filmography to be recognizably that of Oshii the auteur. “This film,” Oshii said to Central Park Media, “became my revenge.”
At the same time, “Beautiful Dreamer” is more than just an Oshii film. You can’t have “Urusei Yatsura” without character designer Akemi Takada. Other prominent talent from the series, like Kazuo Yamazaki and Yuji Moriyama, came onboard to deliver their best work yet. A notable new addition is the film’s art director Shinichiro Kobayashi. Kobayashi was already one of the medium’s greatest art directors back then, and would go on to design the worlds of classics like “Revolutionary Girl Utena” and “Berserk.” He brought a sense of surreal magnificence and decay to “Beautiful Dreamer” that hadn’t been seen in any other “Urusei Yatsura” entry up to that point. The team’s wildest ideas, like the image of Lum and Ataru’s neighborhood floating through space on the back of a giant turtle, would simply not work without an artist of Kobayashi’s caliber at the helm.