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JAPAN'S J.K. ROWLING One of the richest women in Japan is no heiress or industrial magnate's sweetie: Rumiko Takahashi is a manga-ka--a cartoonist. Like her closest Western sister in fame and fortune, J.K. Rowling, she has created lively fantasies that attract countless fans worldwide of both genders and across generations. No stranger to librarians, Takahashi and all her stories belong in teen and adult collections.
Takahashi created dojinshi (amateur manga) in high school and later studied with Kazuo Koike, who was lionized for Lone Wolf and Cub (LJ 1/03). Choosing a manga career against her parents' wishes, she went pro with several short stories and the teen comedy Urusei Yatsura, known in the United States as The Return of Lure. Running 34 volumes, the series follows the volatile romance of girl-chaser Ataru with extraterrestrial cutie Lum in a hilarious havoc of classmates, relatives, aliens, and supernatural beings. Some episodes shine with surreal lunacy, as when the protozoas in the school's swimming pool grow to a giant size and battle the students. This skill at slapstick became Takahashi's calling card. Unfortunately, only nine volumes of Lure have been published in English, and the first volume (Lum*Urusei Yatsura Perfect Collection) is out of print (try online used book sources).
Her second series, Maison Ikkoku, centers on lackluster college student Yusaku's infatuation with his newly widowed landlady. As he matures postgraduation, Kyoko grows past her grief. The two develop a mature love and finally marry despite complications and plot twists. This 24-volume adult work has considerable character development and serious emotional (and some sexual) content, interweaved with Takahashi's now-trademark comic relief.
Takahashi began her most famous comedy, Ranma 1/2, about teenage martial artist Ranma who becomes a girl when splashed with cold water owing to a magical curse. A battle of the sexes in several senses, the 36-volume saga has become incredibly popular domestically since the early 1990s. It was also the first popular gender-bender story. The U.S. publication wrapped up just last year with Ranma about to tie the knot with his feisty fiance, Akane.
Shortly after starting Ranma 1/2, Takahashi began her supernatural "feudal fairy tale," InuYasha. Schoolgirl Kagome's magical adventures with the cute demi-demon boy have become almost as well known as Ranma's hijinks. Up to 49 volumes in Japan and 29 here, InuYasha features more elegant and detailed art, plentiful action, less comedy, and touches of horror.
Her shorter works are regrettably lesser known. The four-volume Mermaid Saga showcases her skill with the horror genre (see review on p. 75). One-Pound Gospel stars a cheerful young boxer who can knock out opponents but not his voracious appetite--or his passion for demure Sister Angela. Unfinished in three volumes for a decade, this briefer romantic comedy concluded recently with a final volume in Japan (Takahashi's U.S. punisher, Viz, will probably reissue the series as now complete). Takahashi has also penned numerous quirky short stories, only five volumes collected in English as Rumic World Trilogy and Rumic Theater.
As the beloved "Princess of Manga," Takahashi has won three Shogakukan Manga Awards and the Inkpot Award at San Diego Comic-Con. Of the thousands of girls reading manga in bookstore aisles and checking out their library's InuYasha, surely somewhere among them is an American Takahashi, eh? (For much more about Takahashi, see www. furinkan.com.)
* Baker, Kyle. Nat Turner. Vol. 1. encore ed??. Kyle Baker Pub. 2006. 95p. bibliog. ISBN 978-0-9747214-2-2. …