Commentary on How Rumiko Takahashi Recreated the Shonen Manga Genre for Herself with "InuYasha"

2013 marks the 35th year of Rumiko Takahashi's career as a manga artist. Takahashi's popularity has remained unwavering over the years, a feat considering the rapidly changing tastes of the audiences, in particular within the shonen manga genre. The most well-known of all of her works is the manga InuYasha.

From the American cable TV network Cartoon Network to South America and Asia, the InuYasha anime was aired all over the world. In North America, the TV and movies raked in record video sales, making InuYasha one of the most popular Japanese anime in history. Even today, five years since the completion of the series, cosplay at anime conventions and fan art of InuYasha can still be seen, and InuYasha goods are still popular among fans. Some of the merchandise include pins, T-shirts, caps with InuYasha's ears and more.

Inuyasha: Inuyasha Fleece Anime Cosplay Cap:

InuYasha: Kagome Yellow Anime Cosplay Backpack:

InuYasha: Kirara Face Tote Bag:

InuYasha: Sit InuYasha Junior T-Shirt:

InuYasha: InuYasha 8" Plush:

InuYasha: InuYasha and Sesshomaru Pin Set of 2:

Before InuYasha, Takahashi was known for more comedic works such as Urusei Yatsura and Ranma ½. She also drew romance-themed manga, such as Maison Ikkoku and other shorter works for seinen manga magazines. However, InuYasha stood out with its comedic elements combined with the scale of a serious shonen manga story. Takahashi's works are known for their seriousness as well as supernatural themes with the introduction of monster characters.

In Urusei Yatsura, characters included "ghosts" and "demon cats," making the supernatural theme essential to its plot. In Ranma ½, the story revolves around a curse on the protagonist that turns him into a woman when immersed in water. This is yet another example of a touch of the traditional Japanese supernatural folklore. Even though Takahashi was already known for using monsters and curses as the foundation of her works, the first full-length manga that paved her way to fame was InuYasha.

Takahashi's next major work after InuYasha was Mermaid Saga. It is a story that exposes the dark side of human nature through the tale of desire and fighting for the mysterious "mermaid flesh" that is rumored to grant immortality if eaten. With no slapstick comedy, the manga has very strong supernatural elements. The manga elaborates on the brutality of mankind who desire the "mermaid flesh," and is worlds apart from the optimistic worldview reflected in Takahashi's previous works.

Compared to Mermaid Saga, InuYasha was shipped as more of a shonen manga due to the human relationships and human-monster relationships described in this heavy, gruesome tale. In InuYasha, violent scenes, such as brutal defeats and monsters eating humans, that were absent from Urusei Yatsura, Ranma ½, Mezon Ikkoku and the like were essential to the story. Of course, as a large-scale manga based on the entertainment standards of the shonen manga genre, such scenes were perhaps inevitable.

If you think of InuYasha as Takahashi's personal work instead of a folk tale detailing the origins of this supernatural creature, the questions that come to mind first are probably why she chose the theme of a traditional Japanese supernatural story as well as why she included the violent scenes that have caught the attention of many readers and critics alike. Takahashi wanted to create a new "shonen manga of her own." As a result, she included elements of violence often used in seinen manga. With this combination, InuYasha was no longer a mere love comedy and was able to transcend the genre.

Of course, Takahashi has preserved the essence of love comedy that she had grown up drawing through her career. The romance between protagonist Kagome and the half-demon InuYasha, as well as other characters can be considered one of the major selling points of the series. Many fans have been attracted to the series because of the romance.

As a work that has sustained its popularity over ten years of serialization, InuYasha can be seen as a summary of all of Takahashi's works. The incorporation of supernatural elements from Urusei Yatsura and Mermaid Saga, the descriptions of the relationships among characters from Maison Ikkoku and One-Pound Gospel, as well as romance are all present in InuYasha. Unknowingly, InuYasha fans have experienced all facets of Takahashi's creations, including her comedy works.

Currently, Takahashi is authoring the manga Rin-ne, serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday. The story revolves around the heroine Mamiya Sakura, who can see ghosts, and the protagonist Rokudo Rinne, who is half human and half death god. It is a school drama in which Sakura and Rinne solve ghost-related problems. Rin-ne is very different from the serious, lengthy InuYasha, and more similar to Takahashi's older love comedies. However, both Sakura, who has a dry sense of humor, as well as Rinne, who is shy and useless, are character types that have not appeared much in Takahashi's works. We cannot help but wonder what kind of world Rin-ne will take us to as Takahashi challenges herself to the fame of InuYasha. We will be looking forward to the prolific creativity of this great manga artist from now on as well.

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.
*Written by: Usaco*

Commentary on How Rumiko Takahashi Recreated the Shonen Manga Genre for Herself with "InuYasha" 1
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