Takahashi was awarded the 2019 Grand Prix at France’s Angoulême Festival, but fans in her native Japan were confused by how her work was framed.

Odds are if you haven’t enjoyed one of Rumiko Takahashi’s works as a modern day anime fan, you at least recognize a bunch of them by name. Her first hit came with 1978’s Urusei Yatsura, a sci-fi comedy orbiting around cute green-haired heroine Lum. Shortly after followed the apartment rom-com Maison Ikkoku, with her third hit – genderbending martial arts tale Ranma 1/2 – running through the ’80s and ’90s. Inuyasha, a story blending modern and feudal Japan through its titular half-dog demon protagonist and modern girl lead Kagome, started in the ’90s and ran through to the late ’00s.

And those are just the major works! Takahashi has only taken one calendar year off since she started producing manga, and the hard work has paid off. She’s well-known and well-loved across the world, and is finally starting to receive acknowledgement even in the West: after years of being nominated for the Eisner Hall of Fame she was finally inducted last year, and now France has added another accolade to her collection: Angoulême International Comics Festival’s 2019 Grand Prix.

▼ Even if you don’t understand French, check out the fun montage of her art!

When awarding Takahashi with the Grand Prix 2019, a speech was given. Of particular note was this part:

“Dans une société où l’on accepte mal la différence (“le clou qui dépasse appelle le marteau”, dit un dicton bien connu au Japon), Rumiko Takahashi s’est toujours attachée à mettre en avant les outsiders et les excentriques, en faisant valoir leur droit à une seconde chance.”

Loosely translated: “Society is unwilling to accept those who are different (an expression in Japan claims “the nail that sticks out will be hammered down”), but Rumiko Takahashi has always focused on highlighting the outsiders and eccentrics, awarding them with a second chance.”

This is deserved praise when you consider that Takahashi’s most famous characters include Lum, a literal space alien, Inuyasha who is half canine, and Ranma, whose body changes from male to female with a splash of water. However when you consider the surrounding cast it seems a little more misplaced: Kagome from Inuyasha isn’t especially strange at all, and the cast of Maison Ikkoku is inherently relatable.

▼ Fan art celebrating the award depicts Takahashi surrounded by her own characters

Takahashi’s win (the first for a Japanese manga author since Akira’s Katsuhiro Otomo in 2015, and the second woman to receive it in the history of the reward) was celebrated throughout the Japanese Internet. However, the evaluation of her body of work earned its share of puzzled commentary.

“I think they’re reading into her work too much…”
“When you stop and think about it, it is pretty strange for a widow and a flunk-out to be in a rom-com together.”
“Do the characters really ‘stick out’ enough to be mentioned like that?”
“I think it’s just the norm for manga characters to be weirdos and freaks. Maybe it was different back in the old days?”

Eventually one commenter seemed to come up with an answer:

“Maybe they mean it’s rare for a woman to write shonen [boy’s] manga.”

Weird or not, this award is well-earned. Takahashi is still currently producing a manga, Kyokai no Rinne, and shows no signs of slowing down. Who knows what future awards she might scoop up? In the meantime, if the Angoulême judges want outsiders and eccentrics, we have a handful of manga recommendations we think they’ll appreciate.

Source: Nikkan SportsKinisoku
Featured image: YouTube/France Culture