Judge Mike Pinsky feels like he's stuck in a bourgeois fairy tale every time he waits in the checkout line at Whole Foods.
"It seems the residents of this condo have lots of drama with each other."—Kobato, "In Lieu of Thanks"
Geneon continues their thirteen-episode showcase for Rumiko Takehashi's short stories with this latest collection. As with the earlier volumes, you will pay a bit too much for three tales of fantasy-laden bourgeois anxiety and a few production sketches. So what is in store this time?
"Hundred Years Love:" Risa Hoshino is dead at the age of 90. Oh wait, there she is again, alive and feisty and full of psychic powers. She can bend objects at will and fly around the neighborhood on her crutch, like one of those little shrunken-apple witch-heads you made in crafts class as a child. And she is convinced that a teenaged couple are about to reenact the tragic love affair of her youth.
This episode plays off of the Japanese reverence for the elderly (a standard Takehashi comic motif), but the fantasy elements and romantic subplot do not mesh as successfully as other Takehashi Anthology tales. The real fault lies in the requisite twist ending, which this time deflates the story's emotional gravity and makes the whole business rather silly. I suspect Takehashi came up with the gimmick for this one first (psychic old lady) and tried to shoehorn it into a story, rather than focus on the characterizations, as her more successful works do.
For instance, "In Lieu of Thanks," appears on the surface as a sort of parodic fairy tale: a middle class housewife crosses paths with the haughty "queen" of her condo association and gets some unusual help from the building's resident "witch." The story works because Takehashi does not overplay the fairy tale structure of the story (in fact, many viewers may not even catch it) and keeps the mcguffin (what is the queen's embarrassing secret?) from getting silly. So the tale becomes classic Rumiko Takehashi: mild satire of middle class social codes driven by realistic and sympathetic characters.
The touch of sadness that I noted in the previous volume emerges in the next episode, "Living Room Love Song." In this modern Tokyo version of Blithe Spirit, a widower must contend with his wife's ghost when a young co-worker starts hanging around his apartment. The fantasy element (haunting) is grounded by our sympathy for the protagonist and his gradual emotional recovery over his wife's death. This is the sort of tale Rumiko Takehashi excels at: the psychological struggle of characters to overcome their own emotional barricades, even while assaulted from the outside by crazy and fantastic circumstances. In two of the three episodes in this volume of Rumiko Takehashi Anthology, the queen of Japanese manga nails it once again.
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