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Urusei Yatsura    Maison Ikkoku    Ranma 1/2    Inu-Yasha    One-Pound Gospel    Other Takahashi Stories    Copyrights

Manga: Takahashi Rumiko


Takahashi Rumiko
(Self-portrait)
(From Rumic World)
Takahashi Rumiko, one of Japan's most talented (and prolific) manga-ka, several years ago (1995) sold her 100 millionth copy of her work. She is the author of several long manga series (Urusei Yatsura - fifteen 400-page widebon volumes; Maison Ikkoku - fifteen 180-page tankoubon volumes; Ranma 1/2 - thirty-eight 180-page tankoubon volumes; Inu-Yasha - thirty-four 180-page tankoubon volumes, and still going strong), as well as a variety of shorter works (the Mermaid series, Fire Tripper, Maris the Chojo, Laughing Target, Wasted Minds, One-Pound Gospel and many others).

Takahashi's works range from slapstick comedy and heartbreaking romance to science fiction and supernatural horror (sometimes all at the same time). Her stories often include numerous Japanese historical and literary references (not to mention puns and other wordplay), making them exceptionally interesting to serious manga enthusiasts.

If her stories are taken in chronological order (of creation), Takahashi's skills as an artist and storyteller can be seen to evolve as her characters and stories gain increasing depth. The most appealing part of Takahashi's skill is her ability to bring her characters to life; the reader feels that he actually knows them and can sympathize (and empathize) with them.

Urusei Yatsura

Urusei Yatsura is Takahashi Rumiko's first major manga series (1979-1986); it has been compiled into fifteen widebon, and was turned into anime as a 197-episode TV series (1981-1986), eleven OAV stories, and six movies.

Urusei Yatsura is a complex story about a beautiful space-alien girl (Lum) who marries a high school student (Ataru). They seem like a perfect match, except that Ataru does not acknowledge the "marriage", and refuses to confine himself to only one woman; he is an incurable (and unsuccessful) lecher, who prefers instead to chase every attractive female he sees (except for Lum, the only girl who actually loves him). Lum, on the other hand, is pursued by a variety of suitors, but is, alas, hopelessly in love with Ataru. She is extremely jealous, and dispenses electric shocks as punishment for his attempts at infidelity. On top of all that, the unlucky Ataru is invariably rejected by any woman he pursues. And of course, there is a huge supporting cast of family, schoolmates, and aliens to round off the stories.

This is a slapstick comedy, full of chases, space aliens and alien technology, with Japanese cultural and historical references scattered liberally throughout, and the relationships between the characters evolve throughout the series. As the story develops, one gradually begins to realize that Ataru does indeed love Lum, but for complex emotional reasons will not (or cannot) acknowledge that fact.

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Maison Ikkoku

Maison Ikkoku was Takahashi Rumiko's next major manga series (1982-1987); it has been compiled into fifteen tankoubon, and was turned into anime as a 96-episode TV series (1986-1988), one OAV, and one movie.

Maison Ikkoku is a charming and deceptively simple story about the lives (and loves) of the denizens of a run-down boarding house called Maison Ikkoku. There is the flunk-out student Godai, desperately trying to study to pass his college entrance exams, and who has fallen in love with the beautiful (and older) new boarding house manager Kyoko, who is hiding from her painful past. Then there are the noisy (and nosy) residents who continually interfer in their lives, and of course family and other suitors (for both Kyoko and Godai) who enter the story to further complicate matters.

This romantic comedy is variously funny, touching, and sad. At times, the meddling residents are the most honest folk in the story, as Godai and Kyoko continually tiptoe around their feelings. While continuing to dwell on her past, Kyoko is afraid of reliving it. Godai, on the other hand, is continually striving to make something of himself so that he can be worthy of Kyoko's love, but is continually battling his own feelings of inadequacy.

The Maison Ikkoku manga has been released in English by Viz in graphic novel format in fourteen volumes; several episodes omitted from the graphic novels were published later in Animerica Extra vol. 3 nos. 1-2 as Maison Ikkoku: The Lost Episodes. The original Japanese manga are available in most larger Japanese bookstores in the US.

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Ranma 1/2

Ranma 1/2 was Takahashi Rumiko's third major manga series (1988-1996); it has been compiled into thirty-eight tankoubon, and was turned into anime as a 161-episode TV series (1989-1992), eleven OAVs, and two movies.

This incredibly long-running manga is based on a simple premise: Ranma, a not very bright high school teenage martial arts enthusiast, and his father, Genma, each fall into an accursed spring in China during a training exercise. The result? When either is splashed with cold water, they turn into whatever drowned in the spring last. In Genma's case, that something was a giant panda. Ranma, on the other hand, is "condemned" to turn into a stunning red-haired girl (Ranma girl-type). Fortunately hot water restores them to their original forms, and characters are frequently seen chasing one another with buckets of water and/or boiling teakettles. The results have to be seen to be believed.

As if that's not enough, it eventually appears that half the population of Furinkan (a mythical suburb of Tokyo) has at one time or another managed to find its way into the same springs. Ducks, cats, pigs, etc. are as likely as not to turn human on being appropriately doused (or vice versa). The term "shape shifting" acquires a whole new dimension here.

What has kept the series alive for so long, however, is not so much the slapstick as the unspoken affection between Ranma and his unwilling fiance Akane. To Akane, the phrase "three little words" usually means "Ranma, you jerk!" ("Ranma no baka!" in Japanese). Ranma, in turn, is not unwilling to taunt Akane with the fact that he's better built than she is (at least in his Ranma girl-type form).

The Ranma 1/2 manga was released in English by Viz in graphic novel format. The original Japanese manga are available in most larger Japanese bookstores in the US.

Ranma 1/2 Television Series

Japanese anime series come and go with startling speed; it is rare for a series to go on to a second season. Ranma 1/2, however, survived for a startling 161 episodes, surpassed only by Urusei Yatsura's anime incarnation. The reasons are easy to see: outstanding character designs, scripts which stick closely to the manga and as a result retain much of the lunatic flavor of the original, superb seiyuu (voice actors), and music which ranges from the circusy to the contemplative to the outright manic.

The Japanese release came in two collections: the first consisted of 18 episodes, and the remainder as a continuous series under the name Nettouhen (Chapter of Hard Battle). The American releases, by Viz Video, break these into arbitrary "seasons" (a total of seven). The first three of these "seasons" are among the best comedic anime ever made, and should not be missed. Even the English dubbed versions are considerably above the usual American dub standards, with some memorable voice acting.

Some bad news, however: after these three superb "seasons," the fourth came as a serious disappointment. Not only did the animation quality suffer a severe decline (in some cases the characters didn't even look like they were following the original character designs), but a change in the English voice actor doing Ranma boy-type was distinctly for the worse. Some of the plotting is rather thin as well, reflecting the stretching of some relatively slight manga chapters into entire half-hour episodes without enough real substance to sustain them. There are still some good to excellent episodes scattered throughout, but as a whole this season could go a long way towards explaining why the series was dropped without warning long before all of the stories in Takahashi's manga had been animated. (A few were done later as OAVs).

A note about the episode order: While you don't need to watch all the episodes (and the OAVs and the theatrical films) in the correct order to enjoy them, I strongly recommend that you at least start by viewing the first season episodes in order, as they pretty much form one uninterrupted story and introduce most of the characters that appear from then on.

By the way, don't miss the priceless "You Know You've Been Watching Too Much Ranma 1/2 When..." Web site.

Rating: (First three seasons); (Fourth season)

The Ranma OAVs

After the television series was terminated without fanfare, clamor from Ranma 1/2 fans for more episodes didn't just go away. Eventually a number of OAVs were released, animating some of the more popular remaining stories from the manga. Of these, probably the best is An Akane to Remember, which unlike the other 1/2-hour OAVs lasts almost a full hour. Animation quality is back up to high standards, and since Viz Video released these in the U.S. relatively early on they feature the same English voice actors as the first three television seasons. Highly recommended, but I do suggest you see at least the first television season first.
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The Ranma Movies

There are two Ranma 1/2 theatrical releases: Big Trouble in Nekonron, China, and Nihao, My Concubine (also informally known as "Silicone Beach" due to certain, er, enhancements in the character designs). Both are entertaining, well animated, and well plotted, but for me they somehow lack the Ranma magic. But for the Ranma enthusiast they're no doubt a must.
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Inu-Yasha

Inu-Yasha is one of Takahashi Rumiko's most recent manga series, and has been turned into anime as a TV series and two movies.

Inu-Yasha is a story of a junior-high school girl (Kagome) from present-day Japan who gets pulled into an old well at her family's shrine by a hideous centipede-woman (the first of a truly horrific collection of fearsome monsters to come) and is transported into Japan's past, into the Sengoku-Jidai "Warring States" period (1534-1615). There she learns that she may be a reincarnation of a priestess (Kikyo) who saved the village from a demon (Inu-Yasha) by pinning him to a tree with her arrow. That was fifty years ago, and when Kagome frees Inu-Yasha to help fight off another demon, he is less than pleased to see the reincarnation of the priestess who had killed him. Circumstances force them to become unwilling allies in a quest to recover the shards of the powerful Shikon Jewel, which unfortunately seem to attract a continual stream of demons, monsters, thieves, etc.

This is a historical supernatural horror story, with comedy to break up the tension, and a bit of romance on the side. Kagome takes on the challenge of fighting demons in the past, while still trying to maintain her studies in the present; however, it is often difficult trying to keep the two worlds separate. And of course, there is a continual parade of new characters (allies/friends and foes) continually being introduced. As the series progresses, Kagome, Inu-Yasha, and their new friends develop an understanding, and respect, for each other.

We also learn that there is far more to Inu-Yasha himself than originally meets the eye (the name Inu-Yasha is essentially a complex pun in itself, more or less loosely translatable as "demon dog-boy"), and that as is so often the case in both anime and manga, first impressions can be deceptive.


Mermaid Series

Takahashi Rumiko's Mermaid series (1988-1993) consists of nine short stories. The series is a combination of gothic/supernatural horror and love stories, about those who eat the flesh of the mermaid, and the consequences of their actions. While others around them are seeking immortality, Mana and Yuta are trying to become human again.

The series has been translated into English by Viz in graphic novel format in three volumes (Mermaid Forest, Mermaid's Scar, and Mermaid's Gaze); the original Japanese manga are available in the larger Japanese bookstores in the US.

There have been two OAVs (Mermaid Forest, and Mermaid Scar) released by U.S. Manga and Viz, respectively, on VHS.

One-Pound Gospel

Takahashi Rumiko's One-Pound Gospel series (1989-1996) contains several short stories. The series is about a junior boxer who is trying to succeed, and the novice nun who encourages him.

The series has been translated into English by Viz in graphic novel format in three volumes; the original Japanese manga are available in the larger Japanese bookstores in the US. There has been one OAV.

Other Takahashi Stories

Other Takahashi stories have been translated into English and compiled into graphic novels by Viz; these graphic novels are titled Rumic World Trilogy (3 volumes) and Rumic Theater (2 volumes). They contain three better-known short stories: Fire Tripper (time travel); Maris the Chojo (science fiction/comedy); and Laughing Target (supernatural horror), which have also been made into OAVs. There are also some less well-known stories such as Wasted Minds (originally published as Dust Spot!!), which is a secret agent comedy, and a variety of comedy, horror, science fiction, and romance short stories. The original Japanese manga are available in the larger Japanese bookstores in the US.

Looking at Takahashi's earlier stories, you can see rough drafts of many of the characters which would become so well-known in her later works; early versions of Ataru, Sakura, Yotsuya, Godai, Kyoko and others abound. It is definitely worth the time to read these lesser-known works.


Copyrights

Ranma 1/2 Copyright Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan, Inc./Kitty/Fuji TV * RANMA 1/2 is a trademark of Viz Communications, Inc.
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This page last updated 2/5/2010.