Someone will say that Rumiko Takahashi was born in 1957, she was a woman ahead of her time, as she crossed several patriarchal boundaries to achieve her goals and share her creations with the world. Despite the challenges she faced, her triumph helped pave the way for other diverse voices to enter the manga and anime industry.
Although anime has been relevant around the world for some time, its relatively recent move to streaming platforms has made it more accessible than ever. As anime has become more accessible than ever, it has become more popular than ever, not only increasing the demand for anime content, but also requiring more diverse viewpoints to satisfy a wider audience.
Most viewers in search of this more diverse content often turn to newer, newly created anime to find stories and characters that reflect their experiences. However, such anime and manga were created before there was really a demand for diversity. Before there was demand, there were some writers who created stories in which traditional concepts were viewed from less common points of view for the sake of expression, and Takahashi was among them.
Takahashi is considered one of the most successful manga artists in Japan, he is often even called the “princess of manga”. Of course, as is usually the case in the entertainment industry, her success in the written art moved into media art, and her work quickly became popular among the anime scene as well. Her compositions not only became internationally popular, but also brought her several notable awards and titles.
However, success was not the only thing for which Takahashi’s work received recognition. Her characters were usually strong, intelligent girls and women who often became the heroes of the story. Moreover, her late 80s series “Ranma ½” was constantly praised by the LGBTQ+ community for being one of the first representations through one of the main characters who has both male and female identity.
Although Urusei Yatsura was the first of Takahashi’s fairy tales adapted for anime, her most famous and internationally successful works that have been adapted for anime include Inuyasha, The House of Ikkoku, and The Scar of the Mermaid. Like her more popular short stories, most of her well-received works were romantic comedies, which often talked about relationships based on the importance of mutual respect and balance. Probably what made these stories so popular (especially among female viewers) was that they offered a more honest and realistic female point of view, even in terms of concepts and during periods of time when women would normally have less leeway.
One factor that is usually attributed to Takahashi’s legacy as an author of various viewpoints was the wisdom she received from her early mentor Kazuo Koike, who often emphasized the importance of intriguing characters. Takahashi’s ability to capture completely unique characters with bold and complex emotional reactions not only makes her characters intriguing, but also makes them close. The lessons her mentor passed on to her, combined with her natural talent and understanding of people, seem to have paid off for her, especially considering the difficult start she had when she was taken seriously in her career.
Takahashi’s legacy was her ability to create more diverse stories, but nevertheless, she also wrote stories intended mainly for a male audience, such as Maison Ikkoku. Although this series follows a male protagonist, it still functions as a novel and has a female love interest. Thanks to this setup, Takahashi was able to bring to life a story that men could connect to, but could also learn something from. Even in her stories about male characters, intended primarily for a male audience, the female characters were still stronger and smarter than they were usually represented in anime. By writing them this way, male viewers were still introduced to more realistic female characters whose purpose in the story was not only to be the object of romance or sexual attraction.
Despite the fact that Takahashi was one of the richest women in Japan, she remained relatively modest, given the amount of success she had achieved in life. Even now, with her accumulated wealth, she spends most of her time writing new content. As the number of her devoted fans grows, so does her reputation as an author who writes characters with whom fans can communicate. It’s hard to deny that giving voice to underrepresented voices in anime is part of her creative vocation, and because of that, she seems to feel obligated to constantly create such content.
There are those who believe that Takahashi was one of the first women who entered and left a significant influence on the senen genre, which certainly speaks to the magnitude of her influence.