Monday, January 26, 2004

Rumic Theater

Genre: Comedy
Parental Guidance Recommended
2003 Rumiko Takahashi, TV Tokyo

Rumic Theater DVDs, Books & Merchandise
MarkPoa's Description:
A 13-episode series which showcases Rumiko Takahashi's manga short stories.

Chapter One: The Tragedy of P
Chapter Two: The Merchant of Love
Chapter Three: Old Man, Young Teen
Chapter Four: Hidden in the Pottery
Chapter Five: Stray Family F
Chapter Six: As Long As You're Around
Chapter Seven: One Hundred Years of Love
Chapter Eight: To Show My Appreciation
Chapter Nine: Love Song in the Living Room
Chapter Ten: House of Garbage
Chapter Eleven: A One Day Dream
Chapter Twelve: A Large Size Happiness
Chapter Thirteen: Senmu's Dog

A mixed bag of fun and wonder... >>> by MarkPoa
The main thing to remember about watching Rumic Theater is this: be prepared to enjoy a variety of styles. Rumic Theater is an animated anthology series that features some of manga goddess Rumiko Takahashi's short stories. The stories are a mixture of different genres, themes, and styles.

A majority of these stories center around ordinary people experiencing extraordinary things. Though the characters are different in each episode, you quickly get to know about them and their motivations. Quite a feat for episodes with less than 30 minutes of time. I guess one reason for this is because the characters are unique, yet you could identify with them. They could easily be your friend, your next door neighbor... or you.

Being an anthology, some of the episodes stand out more than the others, depending on your preferences. Personally, I found the first episode, "Story of P", to be a bit dragging. I liked the Family Suicide episode the best, but I also laughed out loud at the ones about the family getting trash dumped in front of their house and the gruff salary man learning to be a pleasant storekeeper (and failing).

Each story, though, is good in its own right. But for different people, the attraction to the story would really depend on what genre you're already interested in. I doubt watching one of the dramatic episodes would suddenly make you like dramatic stories or something.

One good thing about an anthology is that you needn't have seen a prior episode to enjoy a new one. The stories are all self-contained. Each story has a beginning, a middle, and an end - which is quite satisfying if you're like me who would always like to know how a story ends.

Small note: It's also fun to see some things in one story "leaking" over into another story. Watch out for the cameos, especially in the latter half of the series.

Another note for casual watchers: a majority of the stories here have glimpses into the culture of Japan. Sometimes, there are instances where the morality or lesson of the story might be something we might not agree on (such as one where the family agrees to keep a boss's mistress) or beliefs that are completely foreign (such as the idea of the spirit sakishiwarashi). But, remember that the target audience for this was originally Japanese, so it wouldn't help to complain about not getting it. Just think to yourself: it's a culture thing. And then do some research.

The animation and art are simply gorgeous for such a short series. I'd like to give particular propos to the animators for giving different episodes different moods: the serious ones are appropriately dramatic, while the comedic ones are light and filled with color. Character designs are quite faithful to Rumiko Takahashi manga artwork, which is sure to please fans of the Rumic Theater manga.

The music in the different stories are different as well. I found that each episode benefitted from minimal background music, which only appeared in appropriate places. It is especially effective in the dramatic stories, where the music plays a part in setting the mood.

The opening sequence music is weird. I don't know if it is supposed to be Enka or something, but it sounded like a traditional Japanese piece with a wailing woman singer. Still, the sequence is fun to watch. I especially enjoyed wondering which character in the opening belonged to which story. I didn't find the ending sequence to be very memorable, though.

For fans of Rumiko Takahashi, this series is a must-see; it easily shows her versatile storytelling abilities. This might also serve as a good start-up series for new anime fans; it can easily show the variety in anime in just a short 13-episode series. Casual anime fans might want to give a few episodes a try, as well. You might find something to like among the different stories. Unfortunately, you wouldn't really know your favorites until you watch the entire thing; so it's still a good idea to do so, don't you think?

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 7; Characters 9; Sounds 7

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