'Maison Ikkoku'.

Rumiko Takahashi is one of the most important female mangaka in Japan and nicknamed "The Princess of Manga". She earned her reputation by creating romantic comedy stories which all became incredible bestsellers. Her signature series are 'Maison Ikkoku' (1980-1987), 'Ichi-Pondo no Fukuin' ('One Pound Gospel', 1987-2006), 'Ranma Nibun-no-Ichi' ('Ranma 1/2', 1987 - 1996) and 'Kyokai no Rinne' (2009- 2017). Yet she has proven herself able to tackle other genres too. From science fiction like 'Urusei Yatsura' (1978-1987) and 'Za Sūpāgyaru' ('Maris the Chojo', 1980), over historical fiction like 'Honoo Torippā', 'Fire Tripper' (1983) and 'Inuyasha' (1996-2008) to horror such as 'Warau Hyōteki' ('The Laughing Target', 1983) and 'Ningyo Shirīzu' ('Mermaid Saga', 1984-1994). Takahashi is a master in character-driven stories with captivating intrigues, lots of verbal wordplay and funny, occasionally zany schemes. Some of her series take inspiration from Japanese history and mythology, which makes her work very appealing to nippophiles. Yet Takahashi is not just a star in her home country. Her comics have been translated in many different languages and are very popular in the United States, France, Italy and Vietnam as well. Given her status as a bestselling artist and sitcom-like comedy writer it comes to no surprise that her work has often been adapted into films and TV series. Today she is one of the wealthiest Japanese businesspeople.

Early life
Rumiko Takahashi was born in 1957 in Niigata, Japan. She went to the same high school as future mangaka Yoko Kondou. In interviews she claimed that her interest in manga came late. She considers novelist Yasutaka Tsutsui her biggest creative influence, rather than any specific manga authors. As a young woman she went to Gekiga Sonjuku school in Tokyo, where she took a six-month course drawing under legendary manga writer Kazuo Koike. One of her friends there was Atsuji Yamamoto. As a university student Takahashi also went to the same class as Hanako Mejiro. In 1975 Takahashi debuted with 'Katte Na Yatsura', publishing other dojinshi manga stories along the road, like 'Bye-Bye Road', 'Star of Futile Dust', 'Time Warp Trouble', 'Shake Your Buddha' and 'Golden Gods of Poverty'. All were just try-outs before her first success came along...

'Urusei Yatsura'.

Urusei Yatsura
'Urusei Yatsura' (うる星やつら, September 1978-1987), sometimes translated as 'Lum' and 'The Return of Lum', though a more literal translation would be "Those irritating aliens", was Takahashi's breakthrough. The series revolves around an extraterrestrial invasion on Earth. The creatures dare the human race to partake in a game, if they want to avoid being enslaved by them. As a challenge they have to touch the horns of their alien Princess Lum, for which they receive a week time. Ataru, a young teenager, is selected to fulfill the task. He soon finds out he is too clumsy and stupid to catch her. Eventually he manages to pull her bra off, which distracts her long enough to make him able to touch her horns. Since Ataru's girlfriend Shinobu promised to marry him if he won, Ataru expresses his joy, but Princess Lum gets the wrong idea and thinks he wants to marry her. Soon a complicated situation arises, where Ataru wants to seduce Shinobu while Lum tries to win him for her. Even if she has to use electro shocks...

Serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday, 'Urusei Yatsura' wasn't an instant success, but slowly but surely gained a cult following. Before Takahashi knew it she'd expanded both the narrative and the characters up to 11 volumes. She took on two assistants to help her. They were deliberately women, because Takahashi felt men would be "too distracting". 'Urusei Yatsura' won her both a Shogakukan Manga Award (1980) as well as a Seiun Award (1987). It was developed into an animated TV series, 'Urusei Yatsura' (1981-1986) by Fuiji Television. Mamoru Oshii adapted the franchise into two theatrical films, 'Urusei Yatsura: Only You' (1983) and 'Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer' (1983), while the next two pictures, 'Urusei Yatsura 3: Remember My Love' (1985) and 'Urusei Yatsurra 4: Lum the Forever' (1986) were directed by Kazuo Yamazaki. Satoshi Dezaki added two extra films to the list, 'Urusei Yatsura: The Final Chapter' (1988) and 'Urusei Yatsura: Always My Darling' (1991). The franchise also inspired soundtrack albums and video games.

'Urusei Yatsura'.

Maison Ikkoku
Now that Takahashi had a hit in her hands she decided to create a new series. Since 'Urusei Yatsura' aimed at a teenage demographic, she now wanted to make a manga series for slightly older readers and more grounded in everyday reality. At the time Takahashi lived together with two co-assistants in an apartment block. This was naturally not always easy, but it inspired her next installment, 'Maison Ikkoku' (めぞん一刻, 1980-1987), serialized in Big Comic Spirits. The series takes place in a flat, where university student Yusaku Godai has had quite enough of his co-habitants. His neighbour Yotsuya is an obnoxious old voyeur. Akemi is a bar hostess who stays up so late that she usually arrives home either drunk or tired. Equally alcoholic is Hanae, a nosy woman who always wants to know the latest gossip. All of them frequently bully and torment Godai. His only motivation for not moving out is the young and beautiful Kyoko Otonashi, who works there as the building manager. They become a couple, but are still plagued by their obnoxious neighbours and several other eccentric apartment dwellers. It leads to many zany and hilarious situations. 'Maison Ikkoku' was in many ways Takahashi's first mature work as a storyteller. Despite a cast of dozens of colourful characters she still managed to keep the love story the main focus. Once again she had a bestseller and Fuij TV adapted it into an anime TV series, 'Maison Ikkoku' (1986-1988). This was followed by a live-action film, 'Maison Ikkoku' (1986) directed by Shinichiro Sawai, and an animated theatrical film, 'The Final Chapter' (1988). Soundtrack albums and video game adaptations sold well. 'Maison Ikkoku' was a huge influence on later manga series, such as Ken Akamatsu's 'Love Hina' (ラブ ひな, 1998-2001) and Akira Kojima's 'Mahoraba' (まほらば, 2000-2006).

Maison Ikkoku
'Maison Ikkoku'.

One-shots: Maris the Chojo
With two popular series running at the same time, Takahashi still found time to create some shorter manga stories. From 1987 on they would be collected under the title 'Rumic Theater'. Several were also adapted into the anime series 'Rumiko Takahashi Anthology' (2003). The first in line was 'Za Sūpāgyaru' (ザ・超女, 'Maris the Chojo', October 1980), a funny story about a superstrong extraterrestrial woman named Maris. While inhuman strength might seem like an advantage to most, it gives her nothing but trouble. Maris often clumsily damages things or hurts everyone in her vicinity. To avoid this she wears a harness to surpress her powers, but to little avail. She is constantly broke because she has to repay so much damage. Then a financial opportunity comes along. A billionaire is kidnapped and ransom demanded. Maris decides to find him and collect the reward. Unfortunately the kidnapper turns out to be someone with whom she has unsolved business from the past... 'Maris the Chojo' ran in Weekly Shonen Sunday and was adapted into an animated short by Studio Pierrot in 1986.

'Maris the Chojo'.

The Laughing Target
Takahashi delved into horror with 'Warau Hyōteki' (笑う標的, 'The Laughing Target', February 1983). Yuzura and his female cousin Azusa are the last descendants of the nearly extinct Shiga clan. In order to save their family line Azusa's mother and Yuzuru's father decide upon an arranged marriage for their children once they grow of age. A decade later Azusa is ready for the marriage, but it turns out Yuzura already has a girlfriend, Satomi. They soon find out that Azusa is not the kind of person who takes this insult kindly. In fact, she is not the kind of person anyone expects at all... 'Warau Hyōteki' appeared in Weekly Shonen Sunday and was in 1987 adapted into an animated short by Motosuke Takahashi and Studio Pierrot.

Fire Tripper
Takahashi's third one-shot manga from this period is 'Honoo Torippā' (炎トリッパ, 'Fire Tripper', August 1983), which ran in Weeky Shonen Sunday. The story stars Suzuko, a 20th-century school girl who is transported back in time by an explosion. She wakes up in the 16th century, at the time of the Japanese civil war. A handsome young man named Shukumaru saves her from rape. He takes her to his village, where he introduces her to his little sister, Suzu. Suzuko is very flattered by her rescuer. Particularly when he wants to marry her. Yet she discovers she was actually born in the 16th century, not the 20th. Eventually she reaches the mind boggling conclusion that Shukumaru's little sister is in fact herself, as a child! Suzuko no longer wants a relationship with Shukumaru, since they are apparently brother and sister. But she still wants to find out how all this is possible and travels back to the 20th century... 'Fire Tripper' was Takahashi's first, but not last excursion with time travel. In interviews she admitted she didn't do much research about the 16th century, because to her the characters are more important than historical accuracy. In 1985 'Fire Tripper' was adapted into an animated short by Motosuke Takahashi and Osamu Uemura.

'Mermaid Saga'.

Mermaid Saga
By the mid-1980s Rumiko Takahashi added a third major and long-running series to her credentials. 'Ningyo Shirīzu' (人魚シリーズ, 'Mermaid Saga', August 1984 - February 1994) took its inspiration from Japan's fascination with mermaids. According to ancient traditions eating a mermaid's flesh would grant a person eternal life. Yuuta the fisher is a mermaid-eater who suffers some bad side effects. The supercentenarian has survived all his friends and is now so lonely he wants to become mortal again. Yuuta embarks on a long journey to find a mermaid who can help him out. Along the way he meets another immortal woman, Mana, who has the same quest. Yet Mana has been sheltered all her life and is therefore somewhat unwordly. 'Mermaid Saga' is by far the darkest of Takahashi's works and reads like a horror tale. The mermaids are cannibalistic monsters who make a lot of victims. Several scenes feature gruesome killings and other horrific images. The series ran for nearly a decade in Weekly Shonen Sunday and was adapted in two animated shorts: 'Mermaid's Forest' (1991) by Takaya Mizutani and 'Mermaid's Scar' (1993) by Morio Asaka. In 2003 Tokyo Movie Shinsha adapted it into an anime TV series: 'Mermaid's Forest' (2003), which toned down some of the violence. Despite this censorship executives still took the decision to cancel the series after only 11 episodes. The remaining episodes were afterwards released direct-to-video.

One Pound Gospel
In 1987 Takahashi terminated her two oldest series up to that point, 'Urusei Yatsura' and 'Maison Ikkoku', and started two new ones. 'Ichi-Pondo no Fukuin' (1ポンドの福音, 'One Pound Gospel', 24 July 1987 - 21 December 2006) ran for nearly two decades in Weekly Young Sunday, making it her second-longest running series of all time. Though it must be stated that its run wasn't uninterrupted. Takahashi is somewhat notorious for having trouble reaching deadlines and some of her series therefore went into hiatus for a few weeks or months. 'One Pound Gospel' follows the young talented boxer Kōsaku Hatanaka who suffers from overweight and gluttony. Both his coach and a young nun, Sister Anjera (Angela in English translation) try to help him diet. While his condition improves, Kōsaku and Anjera fall in love with each other, which is problematic because of her vow of chastity. 'One-Pound Gospel' appealed to many readers for different reasons. The impossible romance captivated teens and twens, while sports fans appreciated the boxing sequences. All demographics loved the sitcom-like comedy. In 1988 Osamu Dezaki adapted the manga into a similarly titled animated short film. Between 12 January and 8 March 2008 Nippon TV broadcast a live-action TV series based on the series.

'Ranma 1/2'.

Ranma 1/2
Takahashi's second new series was 'Ranma Nibun-no-Ichi' (らんま 1/2, 'Ranma 1/2', September 1987 - March 1996), her first manga not set in Japan, but China. It follows a highly unusual premise. A young boy, Ranma, and his father fall into cursed springs, which causes them to take on the physical form of a previous drowning victim from centuries ago. His father turns into a panda, while Ranma becomes a girl. Luckily hot water makes them return to their normal physical form, but cold water makes them a panda and a girl again. Despite this obstacle, Ranma tries to live a normal life and goes to a martial arts school. There he meets a girl, Akane Tendo, with whom he was supposed to have an arranged marriage. Yet Akane doesn't want to marry someone she never met before. Ranma, on the other hand, is more troubled by the fact that he changes into a woman whenever sprinkled with cold water. Akane and Ranma frequently have to fight people who ridicule them. Others feel attracted to respectively one of them. Or better said: the physical shape they appear to have. But in this universe one can never sure whether anyone they meet isn't cursed by the same shapeshifting fall in a river...!

'Ranma 1/2'.

Intentionally ridiculous, 'Ranma 1/2' became Takahashi's most popular manga. Readers of Shounen Sunday loved the way this already absurd concept got more insane as the series progressed. It comes to no surprise that it was heavily merchandised. Studio Deen produced the anime TV series 'Ranma 1/2' (1989), which was broadcast on Fuji TV until low ratings led to its cancellation. The show was then retooled as 'Ranma 1/2 Nettōhen' and managed to last until 1992. Higher viewership led to three theatrical film adaptations between 1991 and 1992, followed by no less than 11 direct-to-video shorts. 'Ranma 1/2' was not only a popular anime show in Japan, but also managed to crack the Western market. It was the first anime TV series to be released in English with effort to hire professional English dub voice actors. This English dub happened to coincide with the emerging popularity of Internet, causing many worldwide fans to create sites, fanfiction and forums about the series. In 2011 'Ranma 1/2' also received a live-action TV TV special on Nippon TV. Naturally soundtrack albums and video game adaptations couldn't stay behind.

The popularity of the 'Ranma 1/2' anime was beneficial for Takahashi's original manga too. The only downside is that many fans feel it motivated her to keep the franchise running far longer than it should have. Eager for more material, film and TV producers started adapting every possible 'Ranma 1/2' manga story, even those which were merely filler.


The 1990s only saw one new manga series by Takahashi's hand, but with 22 years it would become her longest-running nevertheless. 'Inuyasha' (犬夜叉, 1996-2008) is somewhat comparable to 'Fire Tripper' in the sense that it starts off from a similar premise. Kagome, a 20th-century girl travels back in time to 16th-century Japan. There she discovers she is the reincarnation of a warrior priestess, Kikyo, who guards the magical Shikon Jewel, which grants the owner's desires. This jewel is, however, shattered all over the country. Kagome and her companion Inuyasha, a yokai (a sort of of demonic dog), have to cobble all the pieces back together. They start their journey alongside many friends and allies, but need to hurry because they are not the only ones interested in these pieces. A demonic spider-demon Naraku also seeks it and wants to obtain its magical powers...

The epic saga ran in Weekly Shonen Sunday from 13 November 1996 until 18 June 2008. A global bestseller, it won a Shogakukan Manga Award in 2002. The series is beloved for its captivating plot full with fantastical creatures, from demons, goblins, ogres to other monsters. Many were inspired by Japan's own folklore. Sunrise adapted 'Inuyasha' into an anime series (2000-2004), followed by a new series, 'Inuyasha: The Final Act' (2009-2010), a few years later. Between 2001 and 2004 four animated films were released, but these weren't adaptations of any pre-existing 'Inuyasha' stories. The franchise also spawned two theatrical plays (2000 and 2017), video games, soundtrack albums and a novelisation written by Tomoko Komparu with illustrations by Takahashi herself. On 6 February 2013 another chapter of 'Inuyasha' was published in Weekly Shonen Sunday to raise money for the victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan. Takahashi was one of several mangaka to make a graphic contribution to this charity special, 'Heroes Come Back', among them Takashi Shiina, Hiromu Arakawa, Kazuhiko Shimamoto, Fujihiko Hosono, Masami Yuuki and Kazuhiro Fujita.

Kyokai no Rinne by Rumiko Takahashi
'Kyokai no Rinne'.

Later works and 'Rinne'
Having ended all of her long-running series by the end of the 2000s, Takahashi returned to one-shots for a while. On 5 March 2009 she released her one-shot story 'Unmei No Tori'. A few days later, on 16 March 2009, her collaboration with Mitsuru Adachi appeared: 'My Sweet Sunday'. A month later a new long-running series took off. 'Kyokai no Rinne' (境界のRINNE 22 April 2009- 13 December 2017) is set in high school, where the girl Sakura has the ability to see ghosts ever since an incident in her youth. Now that she is a teenager this ability starts to annoy her. Willing to lose this power, she meets up with Rinne Rokudo, a classmate who is also a shinigami (someone who guards spirits from Earth to reincarnation). The series ran in Weekly Shonen Sunday and was adapted into an anime TV series in 2015-2017, produced by Brain's Base.

Right from her early beginnings, Takahashi's talent has been noticed by many experts. She won the Shogakukan Manga Award twice, in 1980 and 2001, as well as the Seiun Award, in 1987 and 1989. Outside her home country she was honoured with an Inkpot Award (1994) and an induction in the Eisner Hall of Fame (2018). In 2019 Takahashi received the Grand Prix at the annual Angoulême comic festival in France, being only the third woman after Claire Bretécher (1982) and Florence Cestac (2000) to win this prestigious award. After Akira Toriyama (2013) and Katsuhiro Otomo (2015), she is also the third manga artist to receive this honour. In an even rarer honour she was also inducted in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (2016), as only the second comic artist after Jean Giraud (2011) and so far the only manga artist, not counting Hayao Miyazaki (2014), who was included more for his animated films.

'Un Bouquet de fleurs rouges' (赤い花束, 'Akai Hanataba', 2005).

Legacy and influence
Rumiko Takahashi is one of the major Japanese mangaka to gain popularity outside Japan. Her books have been translated in English, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Romanian, Turkish, Arabic, Icelandic, Hebrew, Indonesian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Russian. One aspect that suffers in translation is Takahashi's love for puns and verbal wordplay. For instance, her series 'One Pound Gospel', which revolves around a boxer falling in love with a Catholic nun, may seem like an odd combination for many non-Japanese audiences. However, the Japanese word for "priest" (牧師, 'Bokushi') and "boxing" (ボクシング, 'bokushingu') sound similar, thus explaining the hidden joke. Nevertheless she attributes her global success to the fact that she deals with very recognizable human emotions. A large part of Takahashi's mystique is also that she has given only a few interviews and carefully guards both her private life, as well as any deeper explanations about her work. The fact that she is still single and unmarried has also led to a lot of speculation.

She was a major influence on Chihiro Tamaki, Queenie Chan, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Colleen Coover, Elsa Brants, Patricia LyfoungRiad Sattouf and Gisèle Lagacé. Pop singer Matthew Sweet referenced imagery from 'Urusei Yatsura' in his music video 'I've Been Waiting' (1992), while the Scottish rock band Urusei Yatsura named themselves after the series altogether. In the episode 'Up the Long Ladder' (1989) of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' two ships can be seen, named after Urusei Yatsura and Tomobiki. In the 'Futurama' comic strip story, 'Monkey Sea, Monkey Doom!' (issue #1, 2000), written by Eric Rogers and drawn by James Lloyd, Lum and Ten from 'Urusei Yatsura' have cameos. Ben Dunn's 'Ninja High School', Shinobu Ohtaka's 'Sumomomo Momomo' and Syun Matsuena's 'Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple' also betray her influence.


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