Utau! Dairyugujo (うたう！大龍宮城 Sing! Great Ryugujo) is the 13th entry in the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series, running for a total of 51 episodes in 1992. However, even among the rather unique selection of tokusatsu that make up the Fushigi Comedy Series this series is particularly unique, being a musical extravaganza loosely based on the fairytale of Urashima Taro. In this story, the titular hero was a fisherman who helped rescue a turtle and was rewarded by travelling to the Dragon Palace (Ryugujo) beneath the sea. There he spent what he thought was several days in the company of the princess Otohime, but when he returns home he discovers he was actually away for 100 years. Worse still, When he opens the forbidden jewelled box given to him by Otohime on his departure, he transforms into an old man.
However in this version of the story, Taro is a schoolboy who saves a taxi driver from a rather irksome television reporter. When the taxi helps Taro make his getaway, he discovers the driver’s name is Hiki Kameyama (Turtle Mountain) and jokes that now he should take him to Ryugujo like the old story. Of course, Taro didn’t expect to be quite so on the nose with this.
Arriving in Ryugujo he meets the princess Otohime, who proves her legitimacy by temporarily transforming Taro into an old man using the flute of the forbidden jewelled box. She explains that Ryugujo used to be a happy place full of fun and musical numbers, but pollution from mankind has thrown the kingdom into chaos. She begs Taro for help, and he agrees to think about – suddenly arriving back in the real world.
Meanwhile his parents are getting ready to jet off on a business trip to Fiji for a whole year like all Japanese parents tend to in these stories, but they can’t leave because they have Taro. Taro wants to get out of studying, and Otohime is looking for a new place to live so it looks as though everything is falling into place. Nice to know his parents are happy to leave him with a complete stranger.
After a brief musical number Taro discovers his plan wasn’t quite so flawless, as Otohime is actually really interested in studying since she isn’t allowed to do it back home. Not that she’s going to have much chance here either though, because her parents King Whale and Queen Coral have also decided to come and live here! They also partake in a rather jaunty musical number, and then everyone has a dance to Otohime’s magic music.
At the same time, the reporter from earlier has tracked the taxi driver down to Taro’s house, and witnesses the Otohime’s magic powers. So she kindly responds by turning him into a baby, and then dumping him far away until the magic wears off. And so the story and obvious shenanigans begin!
Utau! Dairyugujo certainly isn’t your conventional tokusatsu (when it comes to Western expectations of the word anyway) so will likely be overlooked by many, but if you’re into musicals and Japanese folklore adaptations this first episode suggests it should be a pretty good time. Otohime’s slow musical number does break the flow of the episode a little, but it’s a beautiful piece of music so can be forgiven. The characters are all extremely likeable and the show has a great sense of humour and uses the original Urashima Taro cleverly, so definitely feels like a winner in my book.
If you’re looking for something a little different from the norm (not that there isn’t plenty of that available on the Toei Tokusatsu World Official channel), then I highly suggest giving Utau! Dairyugujo a go!
You can now find Utau! Dairyugujo as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.