Manga Moveable Feast: Rumiko Takahashi Ramblings

April 25, 2011

This month’s focus for the Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Rob over at Panel Patter, is Rumiko Takahashi and all the wonderful things she’s written. I linked Rob’s front page because he’s got a lot of interesting Takahashi-centric content going on right now, but you should also check out his archives for his year-long focus on Takahashi.

Anyway, Takahashi. I think she’s one of those “fans of a certain age” authors, where in addition to having her entire body of work available in English (with the exception of, like, 2/3rds of Urusei Yatsura), she generates a lot of interesting conversation as a “first time” author for a lot of older fans. I’m guilty of that. Ranma 1/2 was the first graphic novel I ever picked up, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I even recall cracking open the cover when I was 14, getting a few pages in, then slamming the book shut, scandalized, when Ranma and Akane’s bare breasts appeared. Back then, I had to mail order my manga (and walk barefoot to school through five feet of snow), so I didn’t know what was in the book before I bought it. I hid it under my bed and wasn’t brave enough to look at it again for the week. But my love for the bizarre gender-swap comedy overrode my fear of nudity, and I wound up buying a lot of her other work while I was in high school. Granted, there wasn’t much available at the time for girls (and we also amused ourselves by going out and dancing the lindy hop on Fridays in the town square), but Takahashi’s quirky ideas and unique sense of humor still stand out to this day, even with thousands of volumes of alternatives.

Anyway, I’ve had this site for seven years or so, and in that time, I’ve talked about Rumiko Takahashi A LOT. I’ve got some more stuff to look at this week, but in the meantime, here’s a little list of everything I’ve taken a look at through the years.

There’s Ranma 1/2, of course. The last volume came out in 2006, and I don’t have a whole lot of Ranma content since I read most of it before I started the site. I’ve probably read the early volumes of Ranma 1/2 more than any other series, because with no alternatives as a teen, I would read them over and over again. They’re funny, and stay that way through multiple readings. This series has a couple different editions, including old large-format $14.98-or-so volumes that go through volume 21. At that point, the series switched to the smaller $9.98 format, and all the early volumes were reprinted to match. I could’ve sworn there was an unflipped VizBig edition, but alas, it does not exist. Ranma 1/2 is the perfect series for that format, though.

Similarly, my favorite of Takahashi’s series is not covered on this site because I read it before I started here. It’s the superb Mermaid Saga, where Takahashi makes the horrifying legend of immortal mermaid flesh her own and does a straight-up horror manga, with plenty of violence and none of her typical humor. It was reprinted not that long ago, but I’m fond of my older editions.

Conversely, I’m not fond of her newest series, the supernaturally-themed Rin-ne. It’s kind of like Inu-Yasha, but Rin-Ne and Sakura bust ghosts for classmates, whereas Inu-Yasha and Kagome kill demons as a survival strategy. Rin-Ne and Sakura have yet to grab my interest at all, and the goofier supernatural threats in Rin-Ne still aren’t quite up to either the gags in Ranma 1/2 or the supernatural coolness on display in Inu-Yasha. But I read it, and love it, because Rumiko Takahashi writes it.

I’m least familiar with Maison Ikkoku, her straight-up romance series. I promise I’ll read it when a customer sells them at the used bookstore I work at. I have read the beginning and the end, though. I have to say the first volume put me off with its somewhat tired jokes and tropes, but I know Takahashi has it in her to make all these characters likable. Also of note is the Hiroshi Aro series that… uh, parallels this one, called You and Me. I like Hiroshi Aro a lot, and You & Me is bizarre if nothing else. Only seven issues came out in English, and they’re uncollected.

I’ve also only read a little bit of Urusei Yatsura, her first series. I keep waiting for Viz to come back to it, and I’m hoping VizBig is the way to go for this. But the one-volume Perfect Edition is such a wonderful collection of madcap and utterly insane nonsequitors that it’s an absolute joy to read. The dated translation only adds to it, I feel. And I love that everything and anything can be explained away with aliens. Also, that Ataru is still one of the perviest manga characters of all time. I also have a soft spot for the movie adaptations of this series.

And that brings us to Inu-Yasha, her magnum opus. I’m late to the party on this one, I think the last volume just came out in English. 56 volumes is quite a formidable length, but I jumped on board with the VizBig editions, which are a great deal money-wise and make collecting less daunting (though 19 huge volumes is… still a lot). I can’t get over the fact that Takahashi has made an honest-to-goodness couple of Inu-Yasha and Kagome almost immediately, since one of her favorite devices is keeping the main couple “separate” through the end of the series. Also awesome are the constant monster fights, which would be boring in any other series (and almost are here, as well) except for the fact that Takahashi’s monster designs and knack with mythology are first rate. I also love the struggles of Inu-Yasha while he discovers new powers and tries to figure out if he likes being human or demon best, and whether he likes Kagome or Kikyo, his love of the past. It’s great stuff, and the three-volume omnibus is a necessary length when I blow through the volumes so fast.

Last, but not least, is One Pound Gospel, an easy-to-miss but still worthy gem. It was written over the span of 20 years, only finished recently. It follows the simple heart of Kosaku, an amateur boxer who falls in love with Sister Angela. She cheers for him as he struggles with weight limits for his fights and making friends and enemies of his opponents. A little bit funny and a little bit sweet, four volumes was just the right length. This also has two different English editions, but the newer 4-volume edition has the ending that the old 3-volume edition doesn’t… and I want to say the 3-volume edition is also missing some other stories.

And that’s a quick look at all of her major series, sans summaries since you can read the reviews for that. Be sure to check out more Takahashi-themed commentary at Panel Patter this week (there are literally volumes of interesting topics about Rumiko Takahashi), and I’m hoping to have some more content myself in a day or so.

One Response to “Manga Moveable Feast: Rumiko Takahashi Ramblings”

  1. DeBT Says:

    Your first Ranma 1/2 experience is certainly interesting. What I found really interesting about the casual nudity was that it was there at all. I only read Heavy Metal because of the promise of the occasional scantly-clad chicks there. So when I read this series, it was practically a revelation to me. It was like what an underground comic gone mainstream would be like. Usually, with skin comics like these, I would’ve skipped straight to the nude scenes. So it’s saying something that I read the first five books from start to finish without missing anything in between – multiple times! I COULD’VE gone straight to the titilating panels, but I didn’t want to. Compared to American comics, I WANTED to read these stories.

    Good to see a honorable mention for the Mermaid Saga and One Pound Gospel. Like you, I prefer the covers for the former, since it also collects the first story in one convenient package.

    With Rin-Ne, I feel that Takahashi’s basically phoning it in now. So many of what’s happening is gleamed from bits and pieces of her previous works, and only her most devoted fans can tell the difference. Which may be how she’s still able to keep working – she’s a familiar presence, and a welcome author to return to. The only advantage to that otherwise predictable series is that, if she dies suddenly, there’ll be no great sense of loss, since we won’t have to worry about a boring Bishy Big Bad threatening the whole storyline. (I’m looking at you Naraku)

    To me, Ranma 1/2 will be the pinacle of her comedic creativity. I wasn’t too crazy about the translated versions of Lum, until I read past where Viz’s run ended, and the archetype for Ranma’s father was introduced. Now THERE’S a real bastard.

    Also, You & Me is hell to find, since unlike Futaba-kun Change!, it’s made up of common words, and those don’t show up in bittorrent searches. Good luck trying to find copies of the issues on Amazon or Ebay!

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