There are few manga artists in the world we adore as much as Rumiko Takahashi. A 40 year veteran of the weekly manga game who shows no signs of stopping any time soon, Rumiko Takahashi penned a number of works that defined multiple generations of anime and manga around the world.
Urusei Yatsura captivated the hearts of everyone who watched and read in the 80s. Ranma ½ is a go-to classic 90s anime that everyone here’s willing to throw on at any time. Finally, Inuyasha was a huge part of international anime fandom in the early 2000s that the now 30-year-old former and still weeb contingency will never forget.
Being one of the biggest names in manga for a long, long time, it’s no surprise she’s won myriad awards over the years. Just to name a few, from Japan she’s won the Shogakukan Award and Seiun Award twice each and in the United States, she was inducted to the Eisner Hall of Fame in 2018. Truly she deserves all the accolades and acclaim in the world.
A Rumiko Takahashi Pre History
Rumiko Takashi was born on October 10 all the way back in 1957 hailing from Niigata, a bustling port city. While she was a younger lady attending Niigata Chuo High School, she’d get up to doodling quite a bit although over the years she’s given contradictory statements about when she wanted to become a professional. Regardless of what the truth is, by the time she was ready to attend university her path was clear.
Takahashi enrolled in Gekiga Sonjuku, an actual manga school founded by legendary Lone Wolf & Cub creator Kazuo Koike. Clearly she was determined to become a professional comics artist and nothing was going to stand in her way. During her time at Koike’s manga school, she often
illustrated original doujinshi before launching the work that would cement her career.
Her Lifelong Relationship With Shogakukan and Weekly Shonen Sunday
Maybe knowing Kazuo Koike, who often published in the magazine himself, gave Rumiko Takahashi an in at Shogakukan’s premiere boys magazine Weekly Shonen Sunday. However, it’s clear that once Rumiko got her start in publishing stories in its celebrated pages, where other huge names like Detective Conan, Touch, and Cyborg 009 would run, she would never stop.
Seemingly a match made in heaven, Rumiko Takahashi has been publishing the majority of her manga in Weekly Shonen Sunday from 1978 with Urusei Yatsura all the way to the present day with her current MAO. That’s over 50 years contributing to the same magazine! No wonder Rumiko Takahashi herself and Weekly Shonen Sunday are practically synonymous.
Even her few titles that weren’t published in Weekly Shonen Sunday were also housed at other Shogakukan magazines. The celebrated Maison Ikkoku was serialized in the same company’s Big Comic Spirits, a weekly Seinen magazine that still runs to this day with some of its more recent signature series including I Am A Hero, Goodnight Pun Pun, and Junji Ito’s Uzumaki. Interesting to see what Takahashi has laid the path for over the years.
Going Over The Major Works Of Rumiko Takahashi
At this point we’ve already slung around the names of many different series. When it comes to Rumiko Takahashi, some of us being older heads, it’s hard to not assume the entire fandom isn’t intimately familiar with the majority of works. She’s been such a huge creator for such a long time and after all, you probably grew up with Inuyasha right?
Time moves on and her latest complete work Rinne, while by all means a success, wasn’t the rallying cry of a generation in the ways Inuyasha, Ranma, and Urusei Yatsura were before it. With both the fandom and the amount of titles you could invest your time and money in bigger than ever, older titles that were once seemingly eternally popular get lost in the shuffle. Here we present an overview of all of Rumiko Takahashi’s major works.
Urusei Yatsura was Rumiko Takahashi’s first major work and her first major hit! Previously she had run a few short stories in Shogakukan magazines including the one-shot that would later become this hit comic. She couldn’t have known at the time just how much of an iconic character Lum-chan, as she’s referred to in Japan, would become.
A quick to anger alien Oni girl who for some godforsaken reasons falls for the somewhat dubious Ataru, Urusei Yatsura is much more a sitcom manga than it is a proper romance story. Every chapter some new alien or spirit or human weirdo makes a vie for either Lum or Ataru and the hijinks never fail to ensue after.
Perhaps more famous than the series itself is Urusei Yatsura star Lum. You can see her to this day all over the world; In The United States, you can find her on the bookshelves thanks to the new Urusei Yatsura manga reprint. In Japan, she commonly adorns T-Shirts, accessories, and advertisements till this day. Finally, look up any Future Funk compilation on YouTube and you’re guaranteed to catch a glimpse of the space alien girl who’s been capturing hearts since 1978.
Out of Rumiko Takahashi’s more significant works, Maison Ikkoku stands alone for a few reasons. To start with, it’s her only major series specifically aimed at a seinen audience, although we guarantee anybody can enjoy it. It’s also her most down to earth series, with time traveling to Feudal Japan to fight demons nor science fiction alien babes attempting to probe the innocent masses.
Maison Ikkoku is the simple story of the potential romance between Yusaku Godai, a penniless college student, and Kyoko Otonashi, the manager at the boarding house he lives in. She’s recently widowed and he’s unsure whether he’ll pass his finals! With a whole gang of other weirdos living in the building and the well to do local tennis instructor Shun Mitaka competing for Kyoko’s attention, how will Yusaku succeed?
As is the nature of any Rumiko Takahashi comic, Maison Ikkoku goes for the comedic more often than not. However, the gags and bits serve the characters and story more so than the other way around like in Urusei Yatsura. It’s not nearly as melodramatic as your average shojo manga, but it’s more realistic take on romance is as refreshing and earnest today as it was in the early 80s when first serialized.
The old school classic! Ranma ½ is a big part of anime fandom in the 90s no matter which side of the pacific you dwell on. Any true old school fan will have fond memories buying 50 dollar two-episode Ranma ½ VHS tapes and they’ll fight to the death over their favorite girl. While the TV Series never aired on the likes of Cartoon Network, word of mouth made it a huge hit.
Basically carved into the annals of anime history at this point, but Ranma ½ is the story about an incredible martial artist who turns into a girl when doused with cold water. Ranma and his dad, who turns into a panda, take residence with the Tendou family and the hijinks roll in from there. You have people turning into pigs, cats, and giant beasts and a whole variety of different martial arts techniques ranging from real Karate to ‘Martial Arts Tea Ceremony’.
In the series, Ranma ½ took the comedy and charm from Urusei Yatsura and paired it with a bunch of zany fights. Earlier in the series, the martial arts were all rather comedic with Ranma partaking in the likes of ‘Martial Arts Dining’ and ‘Martial Arts Cheerleading’ more often than engaging in genuine bloodshed. However as the series went on, Takahashi’s interest in portraying more serious battles heightened.
One of the defining anime of the Toonami generation, it dates us to know that there are now millions of anime fans who aren’t intimately familiar with the Inuyasha and Kagome’s feudal Japan adventures. The two constantly screaming ‘Inuyasha’ and ‘Kagome’ at each other , with the occasional ‘Sit boy’ thrown in for good measure, still echoes in our minds.
Starting serialization in 1996 in Weekly Shonen Sunday less than a year after Ranma finished up, Inuyasha was when Rumiko Takahashi decided she was going to make more convention shonen manga. You wouldn’t mistake Inuyasha for a Jump mainstay like Naruto of course, but it features more tooth and nail scraping than her manga ever did previously. The trajectory makes sense, with Ranma ½ getting more serious with its battles the further on it went.
Kagome hails from modern Japan and one day after getting dragged into a well by a giant centipede, she finds herself in the 16th century during Japan’s Sengoku period. There she meets Inuyasha, a half man half wolf demon, and the two begin begrudgingly traveling around Japan fighting demons and picking up allies along the way. Lasting for a genuinely lengthy 56 volumes, it’s by far the most gargantuan in Takahashi’s collection.
Lasting for a long 40 volumes, Rumiko Takahashi finished serializing Rin-ne in Weekly Shonen Sunday in 2017. The comic ended only second in length, regarding her bibliography, to Inuyasha which is quite impressive with how far along into her career Takahashi is. Seems the Queen of manga just can’t keep her pen off paper.
Rin-ne continues the fine tradition of shonen manga about Shinigami, making it company to 2000s Bleach and Death Note. Launching the comic in 2009, it’s possible Takahashi and her editors were influenced by the trend of Death God manga which led to them creating one of their own. Thankfully it doesn’t read as a rip off of either popular shinigami manga and instead reads as classic Takahashi.
You have Sakura Mamiya who’s had the ability to see spirits and oddities following a certain incident that occurred when she was a young child. You have Rinne who’s working as a Shinigami while being half Human and half death god. They meet one day and more or less become inseparable since, as they begin to work together to put spirits to rest.
Okay, maybe it’s a little too early to call MAO a major work but it’s shaping up to be. Launching in 2019 once again in Weekly Shonen Sunday, all the signs are pointing at MAO being Takahashi’s next significant work. Publishing week to week at the time of writing, we’ll be keeping our eyes on MAO for the foreseeable future.
MAO starts with a high school girl getting transported to the past, and the Taisho era specifically, where demons roam the earth. There she meets Mao whose hunting for an unspecified entity who used a cat demon to curse him.
Admittedly the plot sounds similar to Takahashi’s mega-hit Inuyasha, but we’ll allow the author to retread her own footsteps. While not available in English yet, MAO’s already received some critical praise in Japan making it on culture magazine BRUTUS’s year end manga list next to SpyxFamily and act-age. We hope for an international release soon.
Clarifying The Difference Between Rumic World and Rumic Theater
When looking up Rumiko Takahashi you might have run into the phrases Rumic World and Rumic Theater. Since neither are readily available in English anymore, you might be confused as to exactly what’s up with them and which you should read first. Furthermore, they both seem to have anime adaptations that are both atypical for different reasons.
Let’s talk about Rumic World first as it was published first! Rumic World is a series of short stories that Rumiko Takahashi illustrated from 1978 through 1983, meaning they were made concurrently with Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku. Three of these short stories were made into single episode OVAs under the Rumic World umbrella, with Fire Tripper generally being the stand out among them.
Rumic Theater, still technically ongoing though not frequently updated, are the collections of the short stories she’s put out from the mid-1980s until today! Rumic Theater also got an anime adaptation during the mid-2000s in the form of a 13 episode anthology show. Each episode adapts one story, and it does a serviceable job, but we recommend hunting down the manga if you can find it.
Rumiko Takahashi Books Have Been Getting Reprinted In Great New Editions Lately
Most of the essential Rumiko Takahashi catalog either remains in print or has gotten rereleased in the past five years. There are a couple of important nuggets missing we’ll get to, which will require you to brush up your Japanese skills or dosh serious coin on the second-hand market.
Thankfully though you can still walk into a Barnes & Noble or hit Rightstuf.com to cop these Rumiko Takashi essentials which are some of the greatest manga that’s ever existed. If we haven’t made that clear. Now that many of them have been made easily available again for the first time in years, you really have no excuse.
The Urusei Yatsura Reprint Is A Must
One of the unexpected developments we’re most happy about is the Urusei Yatsura omnibus reprints that Viz Media started putting out in early 2019. For years and years and years, the series that the world-famous icon Lum-Chan came from was unavailable in both anime and manga form, sans the Mamoru Oshii directed The Beautiful Dreamer film.
Her earliest big work, Urusei Yatsura is both homework we’re assigning to all you manga readers out there and an absolute delight from start to finish. Aliens, demons, and all sorts of wacky classroom hijinks, it’s everything you could ever want from an 80s comedy. The new editions present the story with bigger, and properly flipped, art for the first time in English.
Go Get Those Ranma ½ Two In Ones
Like Urusei Yatsura, Ranma ½ was also hard to find for a long time. However, earlier in the 2010s Viz Media decided to rerelease the anime on Blu-Ray and give the manga its first proper right to left format release. We strongly recommend the two in ones Viz started putting out a few years ago overlooking for older releases.
The classic series stars Ranma, the martial artist boy who turns into a girl who doused with cold water, and a host of other one of a kind personalities only Rumiko Takahashi could come up with.
A girl who’s weapon is a giant Okonomiyaki spatula? Check. A martial arts rival who turns into a pig and gets lost for weeks at a time account of his crappy sense of direction? Ranma has that too. Ranma ½ keeps the hits coming from chapter to chapter, episode to episode.
The Viz Big Inuyasha Run Is Worthwhile Too
While we don’t think Inuyasha has held up as well on its own as Ranma ½ or Urusei Yatsura, its an important part of international anime fandom. The story of the girl who falls down a well and finds herself in a mystical ancient Japan traveling with a half-human half dog spirited left lasting impressions on hundreds of thousands of teens in 2003. If you’re looking to complete your education, you’ll give it a shot.
A number of years ago, Viz Media started putting out oversized 3 in 1 ‘Viz Big’ editions of Inuyasha. It’s the only print run where every volume contains the unflipped right to left art, yes Inuyasha is ‘left to right manga volumes for some reason’ old, and it’s cheaper than hunting down the individual volumes.
Maison Ikkoku Is Finally Coming Back Too
Less iconic stateside than your Ranmas and your Inuyasha’s, perhaps due to its more subtle sensibilities but one of the most beloved comics of all time for your seasoned manga readers. The classic boarding house love story Maison Ikkoku is finally coming back into English print this summer.
Announced as a collectors edition, these new volumes will be printed as oversized 2 in 1 books. Too few people out there probably have complete sets of either older Maison Ikkoku editions and now you have a chance to finally pick up this heartwarming classic that sat forgotten for a long time.
Get the Rumiko Takahashi Anthology books if you can find them.
Unfortunately, there are a few of great Rumiko Takahashi manga that are no longer in print in English. With Maison Ikkoku Omnibi on the way, a series which is every bit as good as Urusei Yatsura and Ranma ½, one of the white whales is returning. However, there’s still more lost to us, at the time of writing.
You also have your Rumiko Takahashi penned Rumic Theater and Rumic World anthology books which contain some fabulous one-shots and short stories from the legendary creator during her peak. If you know Japanese or wanna burn some cash, hunting down these books wouldn’t be a bad call.
Are Any Rumiko Takahashi Anime Better Than The Manga?
While we wouldn’t say most of the Rumiko Takahashi anime adaptations are better than their original manga, they’re definitely enjoyable in their own right. Inuyasha and Ranma ½ are a pretty similar experience across both versions and the Maison Ikkoku anime, as charming as it is, doesn’t present any significant difference from its original. Maison Ikkoku and Ranma do sport some great OSTs though.
The Urusei Yatsura anime sports some noteworthy directing here and there from Ghost In The Shell’s Mamoru Oshii. Whether you want to use the word ‘better’ or not, they demand you at the very least watch those portions of the Lum anime.
At the very least you really should watch Urusei Yatsura 2: The Beautiful Dreamer. To this day the film remains one of Mamoru Oshii’s best, and you could see him itching to explore some of the more esoteric qualities he does further in Patlabor 2 and Ghost In The Shell.
Yes, Even Some Live-Action Movies And TV Shows Adapted From Rumiko Takahashi Works Exist
In 1986 a live-action film of Maison Ikkoku came out, although it’s extremely hard to track down. What may be easier to find is the 2007 live-action special based on the series which at least came out during the digital era.
In 2011, studios in Japan also produced a live-action Ranma ½ special to the surprise of many. These specials aren’t terrible but they’re nostalgic romps at best, not worth the time or effort to track them down unless you’re really that curious.