Glossary Entry : Takashi, Rumiko
Abstract:   A very prominent, popular and prolific manga author.
Without doubt the leading female Manga-ka active in Japan at the moment. Staggeringly popular in Japan with well over 100 million books printed. Her work, while actually strongly Japanese, has been warmly received in the west and her titles have an active and enthusiastic fan-base. The only reason not to collect her manga is because she's also prolific and tends towards long series.
Actually pinning down what makes Takahashi so good is really difficult. It's much easier to pick the weaknesses in her work, and there are a couple. The first thing is that she's got a very strong sense of style and personality to her work, which does lead to a certain sense of similarity between them. She's also got, in general, a relatively light touch with a rich vein of humor and a willingness to play around with the story and characters. Ultimately she's out there to entertain, rather than tell deep stories or epic tales. The downside is it can seem that she's simply `filling space', especially if her inspiration seems to temporarily fail her.
The trick is that you will stay with the story. This is partly because she actually is amazingly skilled with character, story and moment and you know that you will be rewarded with a golden story full of memorable scenes. The other reason is because you've become so fond of the wonderful characters she creates. Almost all of Takahashi's titles have a strong basis in some sort of reality. Characters will do mundane things, have important and trivial interactions, and go through their lives. This is wonderful for someone interested in Japanese life but it also means that you start to feel like a guest observing real people and events. Her characters, even when strong or magical, are also human and interesting as people. The strong character drama is what provides the foundation for her inventive weirdness and character crisis, whether horror or comedy. And her characters tend to be memorable, sympathetic, intriguing and become more complex and interesting as the title progresses.
Other interesting aspects include the fact that her basis is very `blue collar'. Takahashi characters eat cheap food, have money problems and live in `normal' housing. So many anime and manga authors gift their characters with limitless and ill-defined mansions and seemingly inexhaustible wealth...not so here. And this provides a suprisingly novel setting for stories.
Another interesting element is her female characters. Just as the previous paragraph makes you feel that Takahashi has done the poor student bit this part makes you feel she's probably a little bit different as a person. Her views of women are quite different from those of many other manga authors. Indeed her women are considered by fans to be a trademark of her work. Takahashi women tend to be stubborn, strong-willed and willing to act on it. This can extend to being casually violent or actually quite emotionally cruel. They can be cute or kind, but unlike many other manga they're not restrained in what role they can take. Female villains, Jealous females, violent females and even greedy or gluttonous women are nothing special in a Takahashi manga. And while there's no reason this should be unusual, in practice it actually is. Certainly she's steadfastly avoided any sort of `Shoujo' affiliation.
Her visual style is seemingly clean and minimal. It's also willing to make use of super-deformed elements and visual gag's to enhance effect if the material is comedic. However she does have quite a lot of life in her linework and is a master at suggesting emotion and character. She's also suprisingly good at action, with some of the martial arts sequences in Ranma being imaginative and easy to visualise from their manga representation.
However there is also some bad news. While I find myself addicted to her manga output I'm less enarmoured of the anime that has sprung from it. I've never heard any suggestion that she involves herself with the production of anime based on her works, and I must admit that her subtle magic doesn't seem to translate. The story elements are sufficiently strong that the anime is generally alright, but an awful lot of the subtlety and charm is lost. Some of the anime manage to add their own flavors and influences to make up for this, but often they end up being inferior to her manga.
Needless to say these are only my opinions. This rather impressive Takahashi page is worth visiting to find out more. In addition trying some of her manga, most of which is reviewed on my page and should be easily available, is the best way to discover the truth of her talent.Written: Mon Feb 19 20:18:51 EST 2001