Born in 1957, some would say that Rumiko Takahashi was a woman ahead of her time as she stepped over several patriarchal boundaries to obtain her goals and share her creations with the world. Despite the trials she faced, her triumphs helped to set the stage for other diverse voices to enter the manga and anime industry.
While anime has been relevant across the globe for some time now, its relatively recent transition to streaming platforms has made it more readily available than ever. Because it’s more available than ever, anime has become more popular than ever, not only making the demand for more anime content grow, but also requiring a more diverse span of perspectives to cater to a broader audience.
Most viewers in search of this more diverse content often look to newer, more recently made anime to find stories and characters that reflect their experiences. However, there were such anime and manga being created before the demand for diversity really began. Prior to the demand, there were some writers that created stories that viewed traditional concepts through less common perspectives for the sake of expression, and Takahashi was among them.
Takahashi is considered one of Japan’s most successful mangakas, often even referred to as the “Princess of Manga.” Of course, as the entertainment industry usually goes, her success in the written arts carried over to the media arts and her work quickly became popular among the anime scene, too. Her writing didn’t just stop at becoming globally popular, but also won her several notable awards and titles.
Success wasn’t all that Takahashi’s work received credit for, though. Her characters were commonly strong, intelligent girls and women that were often the heroes of the story. What’s more, the late 80s series, Ranma ½, has constantly been praised by the LGBTQ+ community for being one of the earlier pieces of representation, through one of the main characters who has both a male and a female identity.
while Urusei Yassura was the first of Takahashi’s tales to be adapted to anime, her most commonly known and globally successful works to be adapted into anime include Inuyasha, Maison Ikkoku, and Mermaid’s Scar. Like her more popular stories, most of her well-received works were romantic comedies that often featured relationships that were founded on the importance of mutual respect and balance. Likely what made these stories so popular (especially among female viewers) is that they offered a more honest and realistic female perspective, even in terms of concepts and during time periods where women generally would have had less agency.
One factor that has commonly been credited with Takahashi’s legacy as an author of diverse perspectives was the wisdom she received from her early mentor, Kazuo Koike, who often expressed the importance of intriguing characters. Takahashi’s ability to capture completely unique characters with bold and complex emotional responses, not only makes her characters intriguing, but it also makes them relatable. The lessons that her mentor passed on to her, paired with her natural talent and understanding of people, seem to have paid off for her, especially considering the difficult beginning that she had with being taken seriously in her career.
Takahashi’s legacy was in her ability to create more diverse stories, but still, she also wrote stories that were intended for a primarily male audience, like Maison Ikkoku. Although this series follows a male protagonist, it still functions as a romance and features a female love interest. Through this setup, Takahashi was able to bring to life a story that men would be able to connect to, but would also learn something from. Even in her stories that followed male characters and were intended for a primarily male audience, the female characters were still stronger and smarter than they were generally represented in anime. By writing them as so, male viewers were still exposed to more realistic female characters whose purpose in the story was more than being an object of romance or sex appeal.
Despite being one of the wealthiest women in Japan, Takahashi has remained relatively humble considering the amount of success that she’s achieved in life. Even now, with the wealth she’s accumulated, she spends much of her time writing new content. As her committed fan base grows, so does her reputation as an author who writes characters that fans can connect to. It’s hard to deny that giving a voice to underrepresented voices in anime is part of her calling as a creative, and because of this, she seems to feel an obligation to continually create such content.
There are those that believe that Takahashi was one of the first women to enter and leave a significant impact on the Shonen genre, which certainly speaks to the magnitude of her influence. Even though Rumiko Takahashi may not be pumping out storylines at the same rate that she once was, her creative capability will likely last as long as she does, and her legacy will last far beyond that.
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Source: Wikipedia – Rumiko Takahashi