For nearly 25 years Miss Rumiko Takahashi, reknowned Japanese comic book (manga) creator of such hit manga as Urusei Yatsura, Ranma ½, Inuyasha and Maison Ikkoku has been entertaining millions of people in Japan and worldwide. She is, without a doubt, the most comercially successful female comic book creator in the world having sold well over 100 million copies of her works in Japan alone. This landmark doesn't even include international sales which are considerable. She remains one of the first female manga-ka to write comics aimed at young males. However her comics continue to be universally popular with both boys and girls. Both adult and child. With the combination of her highly in-demand comics, the influential animated series that spawned from her works and the endless merchandising, it isn't hard to see how she's become the richest woman in Japan.
Takahashi is probably best known for her specialty of hilarious, light-hearted comedy that gets heavy laughs with it's true-to-life human interactions, brutal physical comedy, clever punnery and crazy storylines. Most of her creations are humorous explorations of human relationships and romance mixed in with very weird and comical circumstances. But although comedy and slapstick is her forte, she is quite versatile and is equally suited to drama, action or horror. To each of these she brings a fresh approach that leave fans wondering how she comes up with her ideas. Takahashi often uses her comics as a parody of popular culture, but she mostly takes a heavy influence from the traditional Japanese experience, with some influence from Chinese and Japanese mythology and history.
A true original in the world of manga where other creators are often mimicing other people's manga creations. She is one of the most likeable personalities in comics. A woman who loves Sumo, beaches, and most of all manga. She is also reknowned as one of the most reliable comic creators around. Not only are her manga always timely, but there is a consistant level of quality in her stories that never ceases to amaze me. She has written what I've estimated as 1300 stories throughout her careeer and still has yet to write a bad one. Her illustrations are undeniably appealing, but her greatest asset is her wonderful sense of storytelling and the perfection of her writing skills.
Her art style is somewhat soft and inviting with a noticeable feminine quality, yet at the same time it is solid and powerful with very masculine appeal. Even at their most cartoon-like, her charictures have a very human quality that most manga seems to lack. Her manga artwork ranges from realism to an exaggerated cartoon style. Often alternating back and forth between the two. Some find her cartooning to be simplistic but even in it's minimalist style it has an increadible aesthetic beauty. She is easily able to draw accurate and detailed art, depending on her time restrictions or artistic intentions. Her style has really changed over her career. In the late 70's when she started doing comics professionally, her art had a somewhat crude, yet effective cartoon style with the sense of eggagerated motion that was vaguely reminiscent of Osamu Tezuka (Astroboy, Metropolis). At the start of the eighties, her style began changing into something far removed from her influences and instead into something uniquely hers. Ever since, her art has gotten dramatically better and more detailed year after year. Partly in thanks to bringing great drawing assistants on board, partly because she's been drawing non-stop since she was a teenager. And while her early art style is just as enjoyable as any of her later works, the added refinement of her recent works with their thin, sharp lines and improved sense of physics makes it irresistable eye-candy.
Takahashi has an absolute genius for characterization. It was her characters that first attracted me to her manga. All of her comics are graced by an unforgettable cast that carry the story along. She has an unparalleled ability to create characters that the readers are sympathetic with. They're all strange, yet so believably rendered that they begin to feel like real people. For her characters she tends to give them a multitude of strange traits and human flaws stretched to extremes. There aren't many irredeemable villains in her works. Conflict is created with grudges, misunderstandings, jelousy, rage, ambition and differences of opinions. One re-occuring theme in her works through all the clashes the casts go through together is that ultimately friendship prevails and that while people may cause harm because of their misguided self-interest, no one is truly evil. (although Inuyasha fans might point out that Naraku seems pretty close to pure irredeemable evil).
Another trend in her works is the depiction of characters who remain eternally childlike. With the exception of some of her more serious works, every wonderful character she creates has an underlying immature nature that keeps them lively and enthused about life. Hers is a world where everyone is young at heart and passionate about something. The casts of her manga do mature mentally as their respective series move on, but they always retain some of their childlike behavior. With Takahashi's teenage comedies, grown-up themes like sex and marriage are referred to, but never truly seem to take place. There's talk of marriage, and awkward teenage reactions to sexual natures are displayed, but the characters remain innocent. As for her more mature works, these adult themes are delt with yet not dwelled upon, although they are very emotionally powerful when done (as evidenced by Maison Ikkoku). Takahashi still seem's far more interested in everyday human interactions, than going for easy gratification by showing her characters having sex and getting married. A symbol in most of her works that she sometimes inserts is the image of a baby chick who makes the sound "piyo piyo." The chick is the symbol of immaturity and suggests that the characters will remain innocent and immature forever. Perhaps this re-occuring theme in her works stems from her own name. If we analyse the name Rumiko it becomes a three-ideogram name which breaks down as follows
The popularity of her comics lies with her talent for understanding and depicting the intricate web of human relationships. Even in her early days she had already developed her acute awareness of how people think and the fine lines between love and hate. Seeing as comic creators tend to be a bit anti-social, it is surprising that she has developed the ability to understand people and human nature so well. Many are equally surpised that she has a unique ability to see life from the perspective of both males and females and write them as characters who see the world from very different points of view, yet basically want the same things out of life.
She is undeniably my favorite manga artist and writer ever. I have read a lot of great manga and comics in my lifetime and her comics are the only ones that I can still get excited over. Four of my favorite manga series of all time, Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku, Ranma ½ and Inuyasha: Sengoku Otogi Zoushi are all her creations. No other writer on the face of the earth can make stories like Takahashi. Her passion for manga is undying and I'm continually grateful that she's sought to share that passion with all of us.
If you'd like to learn more about Takahashi's other manga series, head on over to Rumic World and take a look-see at some of the other titles. To buy some of her work translated into English, check out Viz Comics for their extensive catalogue of Takahashi manga. Pick up a couple of her graphic novels for some great rainy-day reading.