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AKA: Rumic Theatre, Takahashi Rumiko Gekijou
Genre: Slice-of-slice comedy
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently unlicensed in North America; originally licensed by Geneon
Content Rating: 10+ (adult situations, mild violence, slapstick)
Related Series: None
Also Recommended:
Notes: Based on the manga by Rumiko Takahashi, itself a collection of various one-shots she's done in magazines over the years collected into separate volumes. New Rumic Theater stories are still made on the occasion to this day.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars
 

Rumiko Takahashi Anthology

Synopsis

Rumiko Takahashi Anthology tells 13 different stories about 13 different groups of people, all beginning and ending in a single episode each.


Review

In the modern world of anime, Rumiko Takahashi Anthology is very basic a concept for a show: 13 standalone stories, one episode each. Forgotten today even by Rumiko Takahashi fans, it didn't garner a lot of attention even then, which is a bit of a shame. While not every episode of the series hits a bulls-eye, there's a certain level of charm here that you can't find in way longer Rumiko Takahashi shows like InuYasha or Ranma 1/2. (I'm not going to dissect and discuss all 13 episodes of Rumiko Takahashi Anthology, but I will touch upon my favorite/least favorite episodes near the end of the review.)

Let's talk about Rumiko Takahashi Anthology's technical aspects. TMS updated Rumiko Takahashi's widely known designs quite a bit for the year 2003, which looks a bit off with the digital coloring, considering Takahshi herself has never used digital coloring in any of her works. Despite that, they go a good job of diversifying each episode's cast; you'll never confuse one episode's characters for another, that's for sure. The animation, while fairly consistent and never bad, is nothing to write home about. It probably looked good for 2003 standards, but it hasn't aged well since. Same goes for the music, which is pretty forgettable on the whole.

However, there is one interesting note about the audio; Rumiko Takahashi Anthology's rich Japanese voice cast. Every episode of the series features a familiar actor/actress from a previous Rumiko Takahashi anime adaptation in it. Not just the popular ones, like Kappei Yamaguichi (Ranma, Inuyasha), Satsuki Yukino (Kagome, InuYasha), Megumi Hayashibara (female Ranma), and Sumi Shimoaoto (Kyoko, Maison Ikkoku), but even Asako Dodo, Daiki Nakamura, and even Fumi Hirano, the voice actresses of Urusei Yatsura's Lum who's barely done any other voice acting work in the past 15 years. (Curiously Kenichi Ogata, who's been in almost every major Takahashi anime adaption, is missing. A bit disappointing.) My inner geek got excited for each next episode to hear a familiar voice.

My favorite episode of Rumiko Takahashi Anthology was episode 7 (100 Years of Love), which deals with an old woman named Risa temporarily dying in a hospital and coming back to life with ESP powers, including comically flying on her walking stick. I enjoyed this episode because I've always enjoyed the way Takahashi writes her older characters. She doesn't just have them old grumps or, in the case of men, creepy perverts; she makes them fun, energetic, and alive. Risa is a good example of this, a 90 year-old woman with more character and passion for her mission (protecting a man who looks like her lover when he was young) that had me far more gripped than any argument between Kagome and InuYasha in InuYasha. I also enjoyed episode 5 (Stray Family Fire!), which deals with the daughter of a poor family who's in financial debt, and their going out on a big, expensive business trip. She's hesitant to enjoy it, since she knows her family's woes and think there's something more to it. I won't spoil it, but the ending ends up being pretty cute. (But not before the episode gets a bit of dark humor in here and there, mostly at the lead girl's expense.)

I'll now talk about 2 more episodes I enjoyed. First up is episode 10 (House of Trash), which has a housewife named Ritsuko dealing with her husband's boss throwing around vintage African-style stuff near their house after a misinterpretation that their house is a trash dumping site. The boss's wife keeps throwing her husband's stuff out, he picks it up, and the cycle continues, driving Ritsuko insane. Again I won't spoil it for you, but the ending is another heartwarmer. The last episode I'll mention is episode 12 (Large Size Happiness), which deals with a housewife named Hanako and her husband Ryuuichi's mother Kayoko moving in. Hanako has to keep being on eggshells because Kayoko is helping put the down payment on their house, but a mischievous spirit named a Zashikiwarashi (who only Hanako can see) keeps getting in the way. The last third of the episode, which deals with Hanako's frustration and crying about how she loves her mother-in-law Kayoko and doesn't mean to hurt her, is one of the series' most touching moments. Worrying about a mother's love to the point of crying isn't a sight you see often in any of Rumiko Takahasi's work at all.

For my least favorite episode, that would have to be episode 2 (The Merchant of Romance), which deals with a struggling wedding service about to close down due to inactivity. Before they close an old man and his girlfriend of many years want to get married, and they get married there due to the man knowing Yukari (the current owner)'s father, who gave him money when he needed it. At the same time Yukari has to deal with her recent divorce from her husband, while one of her workers, the teasing Betto, keeps giving her grief. Sounds like a good set-up for an episode, right? Well what kills it is Yukari herself and her relationship with Betto. These two are supposed to be adults, but they squabble/argue like children, in the oh-so-typical Takahashi "comedy" that she uses with every one of her damn couplings, including (yes) slapstick. It gets old really fast, and ruins what would otherwise be a good episode. This sort of things happens in several other episodes, where the wife is a loud nagger who thinks her husband is a weakling, and the husband treated like dirt until episode's end (this happens in episode 11 and the final episode, too).

I also really didn't like episode 8 (To Show My Appreciation), which deals with a bitchy apartment management director and her underlings who run the place, and force jobs on others just because her husband is rich and powerful. It's a really mean-spirited, hate-filled episode, and even the conclusion doesn't leave you feeling good. Instead, it feels unfinished, as if the director of the episode couldn't think of a way to end it, and just had the problem resolve itself through a last-minute plot device. Dumb.

So overall I have mixed feelings for Rumiko Takahashi Anthology, but that's because I've always had mixed feelings on Rumiko Takahashi's work as a whole. I prefer her earlier work on Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku to her later series like InuYasha, and most of the Rumic Theater stories here were written between those titles. Also, while I enjoy the way she writes older characters and kids, her lovers/married couples drive me batty at times. (Again, Kagome/InuYasha!) Despite that, for the most part I enjoyed Rumiko Takahashi Anthology. Even the series' weakest episodes have their moments of comedy if not brilliance, and again there's a certain charm to be found in these one-shot stories you don't find in her longer series. It's ambitious, if nothing else. And if you're a Rumiko Takahashi fan, that alone might be reason enough to watch. For everyone else, it's worth an episode or two just to see not all her works are sci-fi, romance, or action comedies.

Very much a hit-or-miss series, Rumiko Takahashi Anthology is a nice curiosity, if nothing else. At best, it's a very interesting look at the long, creative career of a world famous manga artist.Tim Jones

Recommended Audience: Though there's almost no fan service, several of the episodes deal with issues like divorce, death, and acceptance of past wrongs. Nothing that older kids couldn't handle, but they might not find the charm here in these stories that veteran anime/Rumiko Takahashi fans would.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with English subs only
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Rumiko Takahashi Anthology © 2003 Rumiko Takahashi / Shogakukan / Project Rumiko Takahashi Anthology
 
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