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I've never heard anything negative about her', said Frederik Schodt, author of MANGA! MANGA! THE WORLD OF JAPANESE COMICS. 'In fact, everyone I've spoken to who has met her has come away thoroughly charmed'. The career, like the personality, of Rumiko Takahashi is also seemingly spotless -- rising from a university student taking night classes at art school to the world's most famous female comic artist, with over 50 million of her books in print.

Born in 1957, Takahashi first trained at the manga school of Kazuo Koike, author of LONE WOLF AND CUB and CRYING FREEMAN. Her influences included folklore, the slapstick novels of Yasutaka Tsutsui, and American Marvel comics (for the action). In 1978, at the age of 21, she took the plunge into professionalism, debuting with various short stories and winning publisher Shogakukan's annual 'New Artist Award'. Subsequently, each series has been increasingly popular, has been made into TV shows and movies, and has enjoyed success abroad as well as in Japan.

URUSEI YATSURA, Takahashi's first series (commonly known in the U.S. as LUM), debuted in 1978 in SHONEN SUNDAY. URUSEI YATSURA -- a blend of science fiction, folklore, high school comedy and sheer weirdness -- was successful mostly with young boys, the exact opposite of the shojo manga market. For Takahashi, URUSEI YATSURA was an opportunity to experiment with completely unpredictable slapstick; few things proceeded logically from page to page, let alone episode to episode. Only the characters personalities -- Takahashi's greatest strength -- connected the stories.

MAISON IKKOKU, Takahashi's next series, went in a completely different direction and vastly increased her adult readership. Starting in 1980 in the salary man magazine BIG COMIC SPIRITS, MAISON IKKOKU was a realistic tale of the troubles -- in school, work and love -- of beleaguered college student Yusaku Godai, based on Takahashi's own experiences living in cramped apartments on tight budgets. MAISON IKKOKU became a long, involved romance as Godai gradually won the heart of his widowed landlady, Kyoko.

Takahashi again changed her target audience with RANMA 1/2, published from 1987 to 1996 in -- again -- SHONEN SUNDAY. Described by English translator Gerard Jones as a 'martial arts sex comedy', RANMA 1/2 became surprisingly popular among young girls. Humor, relationship comedy, and multiple-issue fight scenes dominate the story of Ranma, cursed to turn into a woman whenever splashed with cold water. RANMA 1/2 continuities crossed over multiple cliffhanging episodes, unlike URUSEI YATSURA.

In the manga industry, Takahashi is known for her politeness and ability to meet deadlines. Her attitude towards English readers of her work has often seemed close to benign surprise. 'Because I consciously feature Japanese daily life such as festivals and the traditional New Year's holiday rather often in my manga', Takahashi has said, 'I sometimes wonder if American readers understand what they're reading'. However, in 1994 Takahashi visited the San Diego Comic Con, where she was greeted by thousands of fans and honored with the annual Inkpot Award. Her fame continues to grow.

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