April 26, 2011

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Takahashi Manga Movable Feast: Ranking Rumiko

Hello and welcome to Day 2 of the Rumiko Takahashi Manga Movable Feast!

Today I'm going to take some time to rank all of the Rumiko Takahashi manga I've read. Now keep in mind, I have not read every single book of Takahashi that's available in English. Sadly, some of it is out of print and not easily acquired, so in some cases, I've only read part of a series. I'm sure that gives this list a bit of bias towards those that I've read more from. However, given this is a celebration of all things Takahashi, I thought it might be fun for people to get the opinion of the Feast's host on the material of the subject.

A note on the images: These images are not mine. I found ones that looked interesting to me and used them in good faith as part of a shared love for Rumiko Takahashi. If anyone has a problem with their image being used, please let me know.
7) One Pound Gospel This is really the only Rumiko Takahashi book I've read that I wasn't overly fond of after finishing it. While it has a lot of the usual Takahashi concepts that I like, such as the playfully antagonistic relationship, quirky villians, and a long-suffering father figure, I just could not get over the idea that we were supposed to root for a young woman to give up her religious vows for a boy who is, quite frankly, a loser. This manga still has its moments, and I know a lot of people like it better than I do, but I would only recommend this one for the most fervent of Takahashi fans. (I do admit I wouldn't mind seeing the live-action adaptation, however, just to see how they attempt to bring Takahashi's visual jokes into a real-world setting.)

6) Maison Ikkoku This is the one I expect to get a lot of flack for, as I understand it's a personal favorite of a lot of Takahashi fans. I admit that part of my lack of love for this one stems from the fact that I've had a hard time over the years trying to find enough volumes to be able to read it consistently. However, the reason why this one is so far down on my list is primarily because the setting is just too pedestrian. A lot of Takahashi's manga could be said to share elements with sitcom comedy, I think, but what makes it rise above that link is the fact that her characters generally do things that are completely outrageous. In the Ikkoku volumes that I've read so far, I just don't see anything that has that stamp of insanity. I'm finally putting together a fair number of these books together for a re-read, so keep an eye on Year of Takahashi to see if I change my mind with a larger sample. This one may just be a victim of availability.

5) Rin-Ne This is Takahashi's newest series, and, in typical Takahashi fashion, looks to have a lot of life left in it before we reach an ending. The general reception of Rin-Ne seems to be weak among long-time Takahashi fans because it's yet another run down familiar territory. We have a couple that doesn't know they're a couple, some ghosts/monsters to be vanquished, and so on. That's definitely true, but it's not like anyone should be surprised by Takahashi repeating themes she's explored in the past. While it's not an amazing manga, I like stupid, slapstick jokes and old vaudevillian-style money riffs, so I am having fun with this one. I'm placing it here at number five mostly because it has a lot of time to either be better or worse.
4) InuYasha For me, InuYasha is a lot of fun because it has the comedic elements I like from other Takahashi books, but contains an unflinching ability to add horror to the mix, providing terrifying creatures and concepts just a few pages after we're laughing at a dumb visual gag. It certainly does have the feel of a concept that maybe went on a bit too long ("What if Ranma was a demon with a link to Akane?"), and I will be honest in saying I haven't read this one even close to all the way through. However, what puts this one above, say, Ikkoku for me is that the fantastic setting allows Takahashi to be more outrageous with her antagonists and do things to and with her characters that simply would not be acceptable in a real-world setting such as the one Ikkoku has. I'm sure my love of horror skews the ranking of this one, so keep that in mind as well. You are reading the ramblings of a person who owns entirely too many Hammer Horror films, after all!

3) Rumic World Trilogy This top three is probably built on 2/3 nostalgia and 1/3 fact. Each of these last three are the first Takahashi manga I read, though I don't exactly recall in what order. I think I've said Ranma 1/2 came first, but the more I think about it, the more I think it might have been Mermaid Saga.

At any rate, as a fan of short stories and anthologies, it's only natural that I would rank Viz's Takahashi short story collection pretty far up on my list. We tend to think of Takahashi as the scribe of long, extended series with recurring characters and plots, but if you can find any of these books you'll see she's also right at home telling smaller stories without sacrificing any of the quality we've come to expect from Takahashi's pen.

I do not remember much about this series beyond liking it a lot. It is definitely on my "looking for" list, and I've love to get a re-read in before the end of my Year of Takahashi.

2) Mermaid Saga Think of Rumiko Takahashi as the provider of light-hearted comedy? You might have to think twice after this series that is another admittedly nostalgic choice. As possibly the first Takahashi series I read (Oh how I wish I had started keeping a list back then!), this one really struck me in its ability to provide a dark story in what I referred to then as the "cartoony" style of manga. Up until that time, I had only read action manga or comedies, if my memory holds. With the reading of Mermaid Saga, I got a chance to see that there was a lot more to Japanese comics than first met my eye.

I've almost got the complete series, and am eagerly looking forward to re-reading it later this year.



1) Ranma 1/2 While this is also one of the first Takahashi manga I've read, I make no bones about the fact that it is easily my favorite. I love Ranma 1/2, as those working along with me in my Year of Takahashi posts well know. From the characters that draw you in from the moment they're introduced to the skewering of the idea of honor in martial arts to the complete abandonment of reality somewhere around book five, Ranma 1/2 is arguably one of the best humor-themed comics of all time. It captures the feeling of slapstick on the printed page in a way that many, many writers try but only a few writers can manage. Written for children but with jokes for adults (not unlike a typical Jeff Parker Marvel Adventures), Takahashi's best work is in this 36 volume series that often boils down to jokes so stupid you'd hit your friend if they told them to you. But instead of wanting to hit Takhashi, you just want more. Ranma 1/2 is and (almost certainly at this point) always will be my favorite Takahashi manga.

So that's my personal ranking. David Welsh has asked others to list their favorites, which you can see here. Feel free to have a friendly argument with me in the comments about my rankings or share your own opinions. I'd love to see how others place these books!