Much as I love sprawling, multi-volume manga, I have a real fondness for short stories as well. Instead of finding it off-putting to find that a volume of a favorite series has an unrelated short in the back, I’m usually delighted because it shows the creator’s abilities in a different light.
That’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of Rumiko Takahashi’s Rumic Theater (Viz), a charming collection of short stories from the creator of hits like Maison Ikkoku. The main reason, though, is the opportunity it provides to see Takahashi tell small, sweet, stand-alone tales.
Don’t get me wrong. Maison Ikkoku is wonderful. But my favorite parts are when it seems like a small, self-contained tale has been placed in the larger context, almost independent of the ongoing will-they-won’t-they comedy. That’s all Rumic Theater is.
Apartment dwellers try and conceal the presence of a penguin from their pet-averse neighbors. A family is plagued by the misconception that their house is a garbage pick-up location. An elderly woman returns from the brink of death with remarkable powers. Wackiness often ensues, but misunderstandings are cleared away, and the characters find honest, warm ways to connect.
It’s vintage Takahashi, in other words. The shorts are a great showcase for her trademark wit and warmth. As always, her characters are stylized but look real and human, even in the extremities of comic distress.
So if you’re mourning the conclusion of Maison Ikkoku and need a Takahashi fix, consider Rumic Theater. It’s a great way to enjoy her work in small but satisfying doses.
(I ordered this book directly from Viz during a sale at their on-line shop. It’s still available and still discounted. The Viz rep I spoke to said it’s also still in print.)