What Is It?
Rumiko Takahashi Anthology is a 13-episode series based on Rumiko Takahashi’s Rumik Theater short stories. The show, which debuted on Japanese TV on July 5, 2003, was directed by Akira Nishimori (Turn A Gundam, Vampire Princess Miyu) and animated by TMS.
The series follows the tales of thirteen unique individuals, each plucked from the streets of the world around us. In this world, where the logical doesn’t always exist, and the very idea of “normal” can seem like a distant dream to many, the extraordinary shows itself in the most unlikely of places. If one listens closely, he can hear whispers, murmurs of these particular individuals, whether it’s a middle-aged man haunted by his departed wife, or a recently unemployed office worker who takes on the most ill-fitting of jobs.
Why Was It Passed Up?
Rumiko Takahashi Anthology was an incredibly low-profile release by Geneon. At the time of its release, Geneon was spitting out title after title, with the hope that anything, anything would stick and become profitable. This meant that many of the company’s releases wouldn’t get the promotion they needed, nor would they have the opportunity to reach their audience, or much of any audience. Only of the highest of high profile shows for the company would get their proper marketing budget and, unfortunately, Rumiko Takahashi Anthology was anything but this.
The first volume hit stores in January 2005, shortly after the sluggish holiday season. During the month, we saw the following high-profile releases hit store shelves:
- GetBackers Volume 3
- Mezzo Volume 2
- Wolf’s Rain Volume 4
At the same time, ADV rolled out Sorcerer Hunters Part 1 and Slayers: Book of Spells as titles in their Anime Essentials line.if you recall, this was ADV’s budget label, which featured enhanced 5.1 audio, and a suggested retail price of $19.99 per volume. February would also prove to be a crowded month, with highly publicized titles like Gantz making their American DVD debut. A small, generally un-promoted title like Rumiko Takahashi Anthology was easily ignored* by the greater market in the face of incredibly stiff competition.
*In a 2009 ANNCast, it was revealed that the show sold fewer than 200 copies.
Why This Show?
Rumiko Takahashi Anthology is a title that stands on the sheer strength of its writing. Takahashi’s shorts all feature a playful, naive charm that seems to be missing from titles like Inu Yasha or Ranma.
The episodic format of the show allows for numerous concepts and styles to be tested. Some episodes’ strengths lay in finding humor in both the mundane, and the dark. This is exhibited in episodes like Aberrant Family F, in which a girl buys into the rumors of financial trouble and plans for familial suicide when they reveal a surprise vacation. Others will find a way to bring out the bittersweet nature of even the most absurd of situations. For example, Merchant of Romance revolves around the owners of a failing marriage chapel, while his own marriage is coming apart at the seams. As the owner and his ex-to-be struggle to make the last wedding work, they must face the realities of love itself and answer difficult questions about themselves.
Of course, this is a Takahashi show, so there are crazier installments, like a woman that needs to hide a penguin from her landlady, or a cleaning woman that gets caught in building politics. But, by and large, the tone is subdued, simple, and generally effective.
Rumiko Takahashi Anthology manages to condense the best elements of the great storyteller’s talents, while shedding much of the dead weight that seems to plague her longer works. Without the luxury of hundreds of episodes, we instead see a greater focus on character and plot, and the story becomes about the people, rather than just how damn many characters can be crammed onscreen at once.
The show’s willingness to focus on an audience that knows the pains of dealing with problems like downsizing, neighborhood politics, and divorce is incredibly refreshing. At its most sublime, one can see glimmers of Maison Ikkoku, while others will put a charming wink-and-nod to situations that many of us face in the world around us.