Along with Akira Toriyama (the creator of Dragon Ball) and Hiromu Arakawa (the brains behind the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise), and so many others, one of the most renowned mangakas of all time is Rumiko Takahashi. She has crafted among the most well- known works in all of anime, including Urusei Yatsura, One Pound Gospel, Ranma ½, and (of course) Inuyasha. However, there is more than a little trace of infamy associated with Takahashi's name. In some circles, many of Takahashi's products are criticized for having cardboard-cutout characters, for having a horrible taste in comedy (mostly relying on slapstick and groan-inducing running jokes to force laughter), for churning out overly predictable story lines, and for ranking as among the most cliché-ridden works in anime history. Crammed beneath this mangaka's mainstream money-makers is what's one of her finest works: Rumiko Takahashi's Anthology, the culmination of 13 separate short stories spawned over years of the mangaka's career. In other words, your average anime reviewer once again discusses another tragically underrated series.
For such a hidden gem, Anthology has managed to showcase among the greatest voice cast, as well as the quirkiest, that I've ever seen. All-Star actors and actresses like Karen Strassman, Wendee Lee, and the great Liam O'Brien perform no-name roles for this title (At one point, O'Brien pulls off the voice of a dog. That's right; the man who delivered such a career-defining performance as Monster's Kenzo Tenma is reduced to uttering a bark or two). In what's perhaps the most peculiar voice casting decision of all time, model Karen Thompson popped into the studio to portray an embattled housewife. As for the characters themselves? They're pretty decent, I guess, but since they're just everyday people, they're not that memorable. However, this reliance on the ordinary is among Anthology's most unique features.
"The passage of time is three-fold. The future approaches with hesitation. The present flees with the swiftness of an arrow and the past stands forever still," Saeko Shima (Episode 11)
Though the episodes in Anthology are different from each other, they all share one characteristic: they all discuss the meaning of life as it relates to time. The episodes focus on remembering the past, and how it relates to current and future events. The episodes focus on how temporary and short-lived the here and now is. The episodes focus on how the future always feels sluggish and chronically late. Anthology's episodic plot, which is mostly easygoing but sometimes dark, emotional, and touching, often questions the most basic yet philosophical concepts in life, like morality, love, and loyalty, among others. Rumiko Takahashi's Anthology also spares time to include a variety of references that help solidify this series, from Walt Disney's Aladdin to Power Rangers and even Inuyasha (What's also unique about Anthology is that characters from different episodes make cameos in others. For example, I can't tell you how many times I've seen that massive pink bunny). As is custom for episodic, slow-moving slice-of-life series, Anthology can become a bit predictable at times with the episodes revolving around a housewife in an apartment 9 times out of 10 (Okay Takahashi, now I know what your occupation was before you became a mangaka but, yeah, you don't need to shove it in my face) but the series consistently redeems itself with memorable moments overflowing with pathos (climaxing in episode 13's Hall-of-Fame scene, where this pathetic businessman protects his boss and stands up to him at the same time while ultimately establishing himself as the almighty "Man of the House".
When others watch Anthology, they often claim that the animation is one of the weakest, if not the weakest, aspects of this series yet it's no better or worse than other titles of the time (early 2000s). However, you could establish a case that Anthology's animation sort of stands out from other series of the time, thanks to its stunningly realistic CG (which anime titles often screw up) and its cinematic symbolism. This series' soundtrack is one of the most enjoyable and eccentric I've ever heard (I will forever be angry that this OST isn't available on YouTube). Anthology often relies on its lively yet smooth and entrancing jazz for the most part; sometimes, soft and slow melodies are present to complement the series' more emotionally stirring scenes. There are occasional East Asian chimes as well as an accordion that shows up every now and then, and in one episode, the sound of traditional African chanting invades your eardrums. Name another series that contains all of that in its soundtrack.
Rumiko Takahashi's Anthology has a nice, relaxing theme song (speena's "Tsuzureori") that sucks you into the series right away and its equally peaceful ending theme (Kumachi's "Sayonara") does a fantastic job of briefly recapping the events in the episode. The features in Anthology, by themselves, are appealing but, when everything comes together, the end result is an excellent and highly recommended title. This is the definitive slice-of-life series, a collection of sagas about everyday people with a touch of the supernatural, and a beautifully written hidden gem that's simply unlike anything you'll ever see today. If only more Takahashi related anime titles were as worthwhile as this
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