Rumiko Takahashi is one of those manga artists whose influence it is impossible to overstate, but the prolific nature of her manga series might make her works seem a bit daunting to the average reader who might not feel like picking up 56 volumes of Inuyasha or 36 volumes of Ranma 1/2. Many manga bloggers are choosing to focus on shorter series and her short stories this week, and I’m no exception as I decided to finally read a couple volumes of the Rumic World Trilogy that I’ve been hoarding for just such an occasion. Somewhere in a closet I have stashed a few single issues of Uresei Yatsura and one of my favorite Takahashi stories, Firetripper, which appears in collected format in the Rumic World Trilogy Volume 1. Firetripper is probably a contributing factor to why I like Shinobi Life so much, as it features a time traveling romance about a girl from modern times who ends up meeting a warrior from the past.
The second volume of the Rumic World Trilogy is almost a self-contained volume, as it features five stories with the same characters bookended by two short stories, “The Golden Gods of Poverty” about an unfortunate boy who is used by his rapacious parents to summon the lucky gods who don’t seem to be very lucky anymore, and “The Entrepreneurial Spirit” about fundraising seances in high school.
“Wasted Minds” are the five linked stories in this volume, which are a comedic adventure story about two spies with special powers. Yura Enjoji functions as the team’s strongman, and she is fiercely protective of her long hair. Tamuro Gomi’s last name (trash in Japanese) is a reflection of his skills because he is a teleporter who can only teleport from trash heap to trash heap. They start investigating a rival spy agency along with their hapless handler. They run into pigs that transform machines into trash, sea monsters, and a school for teen juvenile delinquents. As they flit from garbage dump to trashcan, there’s plenty of adventures and a little bit of romance. Whenever I pick up a Takahashi title, I’m struck by the simplicity of her illustrations and clear action sequences of her art. It seems like many manga titles today rely on an abundance of screen tone and occasionally confusing panel composition, so it is a relief to my eyes to pick up a title like this that is so easy to read.
The third volume of this series features a nice selection of short stories. I enjoyed the first one, “Wedded Bliss” about a new couple who happily fights all the time to the detriment of their neighbors. “War Council” was an amusing take on the “evil student council” type story that so often pops up in manga, as an ordinary boy who agrees to serve as student council president because he has a crush on the vice president is caught between the warring factions of the jock student organization and the nerd student organization. “When my Eyes Got Wings” shows more of a horror influence as a sick boy with a scary pet bird develops a crush on a high school girl, and strange things begin happening around her boyfriend. “Sleep and Forget” is a dramatic romance that resembled “Firetripper” in plot and tone. A girl and boy with a connection to dogs relive and reenact events from their past lives, as they struggle with the vicious spirits of a dog and the old woman that was its master. “The Face Pack” is a goofy story about a group of students dedicated to the art of disguise. Also included is an autobiographical sketch of what happened to Takahashi when she suddenly found herself cat-sitting. Out of all of the stories in this volume, I found “Sleep and Forget” the most memorable, just because tend to enjoy Takahashi when she turns her hand to more serious stories that blend action and romance.
If you’re a little intimidated by the thought of tackling Takahashi, I think that these Rumic World Trilogy volumes are a worthwhile investment. While they might be out of print, they are still easy to acquire. Sometimes when reading anthology manga volumes, I put them down thinking that most of the stories were auditions for longer series that didn’t quite make the grade. I didn’t get that feeling when reading the Rumic World stories, as everything seemed nicely resolved and self-contained.