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The Rumic Dog

In my articles about The Girl Who Leapt Through Time I pointed out how TSUTSUI’s story about an empowered girl was a subtle reflection of the changing female reality of the time it was written in. As were the comics for girls created by female artists in the same time frame that changed the medium in Japan forever. Comics for girls already were an established entity, unlike in the West where the medium almost exclusively catered to and still is primarily read by male audiences. Yet the previous comics for girls were written by male authors, more often than not on the side, and it was the female perspective and imagination that made comics for girls popular and influential beyond the female target group.

After TEZUKA’s story manga and the realism of gekiga,1 劇画, dramatic pictures, a more mature form of comics that depicted sex and violence as part of human reality and reflected the political movements of their time. the literary style of shōjo manga (comics for girls) by the 49ers2 昭和24年組, a group of female manga artists born around the year 1949, the baby boomer generation, including IKEDA Riyoko, HAGIO Moto and TAKEMIYA Keiko. were the third big step of developing post war manga in Japan. Their success inspired other women and also men to self publish their original work on the comiket (comic market), a convention for selling dōjinshi (fanzines) founded in 1975.3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comiket Publishers discovered and scouted many new talents here before its reputation was hurt by the rise of anime parody which was viewed as a derivative and unoriginal style.4 Amateur manga subculture and the otaku panic. Nevertheless publishers still more often than not followed trends set by the so called otaku that had originated from the comiket.

The biggest star to emerge very early from the comiket was TAKAHASHI Rumiko, who went on to become one of the richest women in Japan and the most widely read female comic artist world wide. She was the first female artist to succeed not with a female target group but with male audiences, which still constituted the larger half of the market also in Japan. Same as gekiga, the new shōjo manga added a new dimension of mature themes and realism, both in terms of depiction of human relationships and of female sexuality, the latter including the female monthly cycle and the trauma of first sexual encounters. For male authors, being exposed to this subtle depictions of female sexuality became the starting point of an outright erotic genre called bishōjo (beautiful girls) manga and, on the mainstream side, love comedy. Human relationships and openly expressed female sexuality proved to be very popular with the male audience when coupled with humor and TAKAHASHI was the lead pioneer to develop this genre, before it was widely adopted by male shōnen manga (comics for boys) artists.

TAKAHASHI’s sexy heroines like Lum, an alien who wears a bikini as if it were the most normal of daily attires (which intimidates the male lead more than it entices), or Ranma, really a boy who lacks the feminine modesty to cover his boobs when he turns into a girl, humorously reflected changes in society in ways that appealed to an audience of millions. But love comedy wasn’t her only forte, she also released many darker stories that didn’t rely on humor. One of them is Fire Tripper written in 1983, a short story about a girl who travels through time when faced with a deadly explosion. Given the release of ŌBAYASHI’s movie adaptation of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in the same year, it is quite obvious where TAKAHASHI took inspiration for her story. Despite the similar premise it is an unique take on the time traveling girl and I highly recommend reading it. The most significant difference is the sengoku jidai (age of the warring states) setting, or in other words the distance that is traveled in time. Instead of going back a few days to undo events like Kazuko, TAKAHASHI’s fire tripper Suzuko travels between two ages separated by 400 years.

While not everyone might know Fire Tripper, a later longer version of it gathered great popularity in the 90ies and after. Inu Yasha adds another distinguishing element, the male companion the female time traveler befriends in the medieval past, is half dog spirit and half human. Both dogs and halves are recurring and defining themes of TAKAHASHI’s work. In Maison Ikkoku, a love comedy for an older male audience without any fantastic elements, protagonist GODAI Yūsaku has an unlikely rival competing for the love of OTONASHI Kyōko. Who is a widow and named her dog after her late husband Sōichirō.

Soichiro-san!!

If he was still alive…

Take care on your way home.

Thank you for your troubles.

his flaws would surely become apparent.

But a dead person is invincible.

Inside her mind, he will become more and more idealized.

A love triangle with one ideal, but already dead lover. Again, there seems to be a mutual influence between TAKAHASHI and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, as Kazuo in the movie is also already dead and described as ideal too. Given the order of publication, this time it would have been ŌBAYASHI who was influenced by TAKAHASHI though, since these aspects weren’t part of the original story. As for the dog named after the deceased husband, in Maison Ikkoku the dog signifies a remnant of the past. Even without utilizing the fantastic, the narrative keeps the dead alive with a name.

In 1985, two years before TAKAHASHI concluded her realistic master piece Maison Ikkoku and started her next fantastic fan favorite Ranma ½, she again takes up the dog motif in Excuse me for being a dog and this time couples it with the one of the half, foreclosing both Ranma ½ and Inu Yasha.

Here the dog signifies defeat and having to run. Shiro is still alive but turns into a dog, as opposed to Sōichirō, who is already dead and has been replaced by and his name turned into a dog. Now Inu Yasha being a half dog spirit living in the 16th century makes him a powerful warrior, again signifying the past, or more precisely, a past of war. But it also makes him obedient as he can’t ignore the 20th century girl Kagome when she commands him to sit.

TAKAHASHI’s stories are about being torn in half. Half past, half present. Half Japanese, half Western. Half man, half dog. Half dead, half alive. Half man, half woman. Half war, half peace. Half shinigami (grim reaper), half human. That’s what resonates with her audience and the dog is a recurring example of this contradiction.

Timetable

タイトル title creator # date publication
めぞん一刻 Maison Ikkoku Rumiko TAKAHASHI 1 11/01/1980 Big Comics Spirits Extra
時をかける少女 The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Nobuhiko ŌBAYASHI 07/16/1983 movie
炎トリッパー Fire Tripper Rumiko TAKAHASHI one shot 1983 Weekly Boys Sunday August Extra
犬で悪いか!! Excuse me for being a dog Rumiko TAKAHASHI one shot 1985 Weekly Boys Sunday 1985/47
めぞん一刻 Maison Ikkoku Rumiko TAKAHASHI 161 1987 Big Comics Spirits 1987/19
らんま1/2 Ranma ½ Rumiko TAKAHASHI 1 1987 Weekly Boys Sunday 1987/36
らんま1/2 Ranma ½ Rumiko TAKAHASHI 407 1996 Weekly Boys Sunday 1996/12
犬夜叉 Inu Yasha Rumiko TAKAHASHI 1 1996 Weekly Boys Sunday 1996/50
犬夜叉 Inu Yasha Rumiko TAKAHASHI 558 2008 Weekly Boys Sunday 2008/29

  1. 劇画, dramatic pictures, a more mature form of comics that depicted sex and violence as part of human reality and reflected the political movements of their time. []
  2. 昭和24年組, a group of female manga artists born around the year 1949, the baby boomer generation, including IKEDA Riyoko, HAGIO Moto and TAKEMIYA Keiko. []
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comiket []
  4. Amateur manga subculture and the otaku panic. []
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