Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 1996 – 1 volume
As much Rumiko Takahashi as I’ve read, I still haven’t tackled very many of her early volumes of short stories. I’ve got one more after this one, so let’s see if I can’t somehow find time in my busy schedule to squeeze these charming volumes in.
Reading this directly after Cross Game, by Mitsuru Adachi, is a little daunting. Both these stories and Cross Game are the right balance of sweet, funny, and utterly human, and they are irresistible. It’s easy to see why Adachi and Takahashi are two of the immoveable anchors of Shounen Sunday. They tell a good story that’s easy to relate to.
Well, actually, this volume has stories that ran in Big Comic Original, not Shounen Sunday, so the target audience is adult men rather than younger boys/general. Oddly, all the main characters are housewives or old women, so… that strikes me as a strange choice of protagonist for Big Comic Original. Also, the fact that most of the stories are about housewives dates this more than a little. The stories are about 30 years old at this point, and a lot has changed. But they’re still all sorts of sweet.
The first story was my favorite. In The Tragedy of P, a housewife has to keep a temporary pet secret from a very strict neighbor that insists on the “no pets” policy in their apartment building. But the secret pet is a penguin, and all the neighborhood kids, including the strict woman’s young son, come over to see Pippin constantly. There’s not really a point to this, other than the theme of seeing an issue from both sides, but Pippin was awfully cute, and I also liked that the story maintained a relatively serious tone despite the penguin silliness. The fact that either Pippin or the family housing him would be evicted soon hung over the entire story.
Another story about seeing an issue from both sides is Hidden in the Pottery, about a reviled housewife who has to weather the deaths of both her mother-in-law and her husband. Terrible rumors abound about this woman, who seems to show no remorse over the deaths. A housewife falls for the rumors and various snippets of memory that make the widow look bad, then we hear things from the widow’s point of view. It’s a very sad, touching story with none of the humor that threads itself through the others. The change in perspective was nice at the end, though you could see it coming a mile away.
Another story, One Hundred Years of Love, shows that a change of perspective doesn’t always mean a whole lot. This story was slightly sillier and less grounded in reality (it starts with an old woman coming back to life who then flies around on a crutch). The old lady’s mission is to help a young man who is the spitting image of a former flame. She wants to keep the young man from meeting the same fate as her young beau, who died tragically young. History repeats itself as her nurse is in a position she found herself in decades ago, and though the old woman is distressed, nobody pays much attention to her, which makes this story even better than it should be. In the end, the old woman’s memories are proven to be faulty anyway, and I enjoyed the fact that the twist didn’t amount to much.
What else… there’s a really bizarre story about a gremlin (mostly a comedy, but with a sweet ending) and a “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”-type story to round out the volume.
Much like Cross Game, I’m failing to convey what it is that makes these so charming. They’re a simple slice of life, for the most part, and I know a lot of people aren’t really looking for something like this in their comic perusals, but it is a fine volume of short stories if you happen across it. I enjoy this style, which is slice of life with a little bit more humor and zest than what you’d normally find, a bit more than what you’d find in, say, Aria, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys this type of story and runs across it.
But then again, you knew I’d say that. I’ve read… what? Something like 100 volumes of her manga? Am I going to tell you this is terrible? Probably not. Then again, I’m pretty honest about Rin-ne, so maybe you can trust me.