Rumiko Takahashi

Takahashi was born on October 10, 1957 in Niigata, Japan. She displayed no special talent or interest for manga (Japanese comics) while attending Niigata Chuo High School, but while attending Japan Women’s University, she enrolled in Gekiga Sonjuku, a manga school founded by Kazuo Koike (artist and writer of the mangas Lone Wolf and Cub, Crying Freeman and Lady Snowblood). His influence in her work is considerable. He stressed the importance of interesting characters in one’s manga series. Takahashi took his lessons to heart: her characters often break the stereotypes inhabiting manga at the time. Takahashi takes care to portray her women to be as tough and as intelligent as her men. Almost none of them can be called an out-and-out villain. They often have different motivations and goals which puts them at odds with each other, and from this arises the dramatic tension of her stories, and quite often, the comedy as well.

In 1976 she started publishing short manga. At this point, she needed to make an important decision, continue as a manga artist or make rounds interviewing for a regular job as a Japanese salary person. If she failed in manga, she would have difficulty getting work because companies would often prefer young, fresh graduates. Despite her parents’ advice to take the more cautious path, she decided to press on.

Her first manga series was Urusei Yatsura in 1978, published in Weekly Shonen Sunday. It concerns an alien invasion of earth that can only be stopped if the horniest boy in the world manages to catch an alien girl. It eventually became a cultural phenomenon, lasting nine years and spawning a long-running television series, Urusei Yatsura (1981). Urusei Yatsura (1981)was partly directed by Mamoru Oshii (_”Kôkaku kidôtai” (1995)_, aka Ghost in the Shell). Oshii first rose in prominence thanks to his work in Urusei Yatsura.

Her second manga hit was Maison Ikkoku (1980 to 1987 in Big Comic Spirits). Here, her experiences as a young adult making the rounds of job interviews, plus living in a small apartment while working for a living, became inspiration for her manga. Maison Ikkoku doesn’t have any aliens, demons or martial-arts experts, instead it is a simple love triangle between a college student, Godai, his beautiful apartment manager, the young and recently widowed Mrs. Kyoko Otanashi and the rich, handsome tennis coach Shun Mitaka.

Mitaka could have been a typical love rival, rich, handsome but self-centered. Instead, Takahashi actually makes him sympathetic; his love for Kyoko is as sincere as Godai, and he is also a nice guy. In fact it becomes one of the themes of Maison Ikkoku: if all things are equal, if both suitors have good characters and both sincerely loves the woman, then should Kyoko pick the richer suitor? The manga series charts Godai’s maturation from callow youth ruled by hormones to a successful, responsible adult.

The complex webs of relationships in Urusei and Maison are her secret recipe for generating endless configurations of conflict and humor. They keep readers waiting eagerly for the next installment at the same time gently remind them that that’s how life is like with regards to romance, a tangled free-for-all that, despite its seemingly frightful messiness, Takahashi magically keeps clear and coherent for her readers.

Maison Ikkoku also became the successful anime, Maison Ikkoku (1986). In 1987, Not only did she end her two successful manga, Urusei and Maison, she also did short manga (Mermaid Saga and One-Pound Gospel), and started her third long-run manga series, Ranma 1/2.

In 1987, the manga field was full of martial arts stories, so Takahashi was interested in trying her version of a martial arts manga, however, with a few innovations of her own. Ranma is a martial artist betrothed to a tomboy martial artist, Miss Akane Tendo, and when they marry they will inherit the dojo and the tradition of “Anything Goes” Martial Arts. The big twist is, when Ranma gets wet, he turns into a busty, red-headed girl. Takahashi pokes fun at (and gives homage to) martial arts, boy-girl relationships and other bizarre permutations that can arise from a web formed by a boy/girl, a tomboy girl as well as a menagerie of quirky supporting characters.

Like Urusei and Maison, Ranma became an anime series,Ranma ½ (1989), which lasted from 1989 to 1992. She ended the manga in 1996, and then started her fourth major manga series, Inuyasha.

Inuyasha is set in medieval Japan. A modern schoolgirl, Kagome, is magically transported to the past, and she must help the half-demon Inuyasha collect shards of the powerful Shikon jewel. In this series, the tone is darker and less comedic than her other works. Characters and bystanders often die here and the major characters themselves are frequently in danger. Takahashi also introduces her first purely evil villain, the demon Naraku. Naraku is a kind of Iago to Inuyasha’s Othello, letting others do the dirty work for him. Inuyasha became an anime in 2000 (Inuyasha (2000)), lasting until 2004. It has already spawned several films, with the last one released in December, 2004.

In terms of material rewards, Takahashi consistently makes the list of top ten Japanese tax payers from the manga community, an indication of the royalties she receives for her work, both old and new. Her fan base has spilled out of Japan, where she is virtually ubiquitous. She now has devoted followers from Europe, the United States and many fellow Asian nations. Her old work, from Urusei Yatsura up to her short manga up to the anime versions, have been reprinted and translated, finding their way to newer generations of readers and viewers.

However, Takahashi continually keeps busy, meeting her deadlines, creating new manga. She admits she has little time to spend her money, devoting most of her time in her studio drawing and plotting the next installments of her manga, for the sake of her legions of fans worldwide.

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