I have to be honest, here. I really dislike the stereotype of anime fans as needy otaku who live in their parents’ houses long into adulthood and have body pillows of girls with big eyes and improbable bodies. That said, part of my introduction to the works of Rumiko Takahashi was an ex of mine who lived with his parents—actually, we both did for part of our relationship—where I have for years referred to Lum of Urusei Yatsura as the other woman in our relationship. Which is part of why I to this day don’t really like Urusei Yatsura.
On the other hand, even leaving aside that particular work, we are talking about a woman who gave us Ranma 1/2 and Maison Ikkoku and the eerie Mermaid Saga. And of course Inuyasha, which is to me best represented in the old Adult Swim cartoon of Inuyasha and Kagome yelling one another’s names back and forth, making it the other Takahashi work I don’t really care for. Still, she’s one of the best-selling authors in Japan, apparently, and one of the richest manga creators. She has also won the Grand Prize at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, putting her in the company of Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, and Art Spiegelman.
And Florence Cestac, the only other woman to have won the prize thus far. (I’ve never read any of her work.) She’s said to be the second Japanese person to win, after Katsuhiro Otomo (I haven’t read any of his, either, but I’ve seen both Akira and Steamboy), but Akira Toriyama (I’ve never read any of his, and Dragon Ball doesn’t appeal to me) won the fortieth anniversary prize. Still. It’s fairly elite company that she’s in. The prize seems most likely to go to French cartoonists I’ve never heard of, though Bill Watterson won in 2014?
I will say that Takahashi has some tropes she likes. She’s really fond of the love triangle—or whatever shape it is that Ranma 1/2 forms. (In high school, we called it the Dodecahedron of Love?) She likes her characters to be incapable of just saying what they’re feeling. She’s also really fond of the not-terribly-helpful circle of friends, like the tenants of the eponymous Maison Ikkoku who just make everything so much worse for Kyoko and Godai. And there is a fair amount of casual violence. Not just the Anything Goes Martial Arts, either, but women hitting men for what they do.
I feel as though she doesn’t get noticed as much when anime is talked about. Or manga. She’s incredibly prolific—One Pound Gospel and Rumic World are only four volumes, but Inuyasha is 56—and incredibly popular. The art is well done. The characters, in my opinion, are interesting. In the ones I read, you could do a story about practically any character who has more than three lines and have it be interesting. Come to that, I’d really like a story about why the area around the Tendo Dojo has so many roaming goldfish vendors and so forth!