I have a long and pretty weird history with Rumiko Takahashi manga.
When I first got started as a manga fan, Barnes & Noble wasn’t stocking much manga yet, there wasn’t a Borders in my area and I hadn’t discovered my local comic book store yet. My options were pretty limited to mall stores, what B&N did carry and the Viz mail order catalog. The Viz mail order catalog was amazing reading material, let me tell you.
I was also 13 years-old at a time when manga was priced at $14.99. It was hard enough keeping up with Fushigi Yugi (my gateway drug) let alone another series on that kind of a budget. I think I only flipped through a few copies of Ranma 1/2 and bought two volumes of Inuyasha before getting bored with it. On top of everything, in those early years, my mother really did not approve of this whole manga-reading business I was getting up to. She had a travel guide to Japan that said something about there being pornographic manga and clearly that meant I was getting up to no good! That did not help things, but I persevered.
Then, when I was about 15, I found a copy of Rumic Theater while I was visiting my dad. Back at my mom’s place, I made the rash decision to re-read it when I should have been doing chores. My mom caught me, took the copy of Rumic Theater, which I’m pretty sure was out of print back then, ripped it apart at the spines in front of my eyes and threw it away somewhere. I looked in our garbage cans, our fireplace and everywhere else I could think to look for it. I never found it. I was devastated. It was valuable to me. But when I think about it now, I don’t even remember the stories in it. The pain I felt because of her actions might have been a bit of psychological trauma because of that violent rejection of what I loved, not because I loved the manga over all the others in my collection.
That was really it for my experience with Takahashi’s body of work until college. When I joined the anime club at my university, they were in the middle of watching Inu Yasha. Unfortunately, that meant that not only did I not understand what was going on, I didn’t like all the filler I was seeing. Then we decided to watch Mermaid Forest, which went entirely unappreciated by most everyone in the club but myself. For me it was an introduction to a Takahashi much more serious and creepy than the relatively goofy ways of Inu Yasha. The only problem was that the fun and goofy Takahashi is what everyone liked! It was also a good reflection of my changing tastes in manga at the time, under the influence of friends at the anime club, I began to get into different types of manga, not just my usual shoujo. We also watched Ranma 1/2 at the very end of my college days and I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if I’d continue to watch it on my own.
In 2009, Viz began to serialize Takahashi’s latest work, RIN-NE, online and simultaneously with the Japanese release. It was actually a pretty exciting moment in manga history as it was the first manga to do. Unfortunately, it’s been on hiatus since the Tohoku earthquake in March.
I don’t really know why I began to read RIN-NE considering my past experiences with Rumiko Takahashi’s manga. The fact that I liked Mermaid Forest was proof I could like her work, but RIN-NE was more like Ranma 1/2 in nature than Mermaid Forest. Still, I read RIN-NE often and while I don’t own the printed volumes myself, I have bought them as gifts to friends. It’s an alright manga, although I can certainly see why a lot of people find it unsatisfying. But RIN-NE is currently running, not a finished work. And reading a complete series in a short period of time can be a lot different than faithfully reading a series as it’s running.
Rob McMonigal, host of this month’s Manga Moveable Feast, recently reviewed One-Pound Gospel on Panel Patter, didn’t really like it and offered it up on Twitter. Since I’m interested in out-of-print manga, I asked him if I could have it and he happily obliged. (I had totally forgotten about the MMF, but it was great timing on his part!) But I liked One-Pound Gospel. It was cute and the focus was much more on Kosaku’s weird boxing career than his attempts to romance Sister Angela. But more on that later, I want to write a proper post just on One-Pound Gospel.
I finally got to finish a Rumiko Takahashi manga! Without all the pain of reading one of her many extremely long series! (My boyfriend, whenever Takahashi is mentioned, likes to crack jokes about her inability to finish a story.) I’ve been a manga fan for almost 11 years now and I haven’t read an entire series by such a popular mangaka before now.
How did this manage to happen? I feel like I’ve somehow upset the manga gods! But in the end, One-Pound Gospel wasn’t mindblowing or even really great. It was a fun read, but I wonder if Takahashi’s work will ever be more than light entertainment for me. So, perhaps, it will take me another 10 and a half years to deeply enjoy a Rumiko Takahashi manga.