In my articles about The Girl Who Leapt Through Time I pointed out how TSUTSUI’s story about an empowered girl was a subtle reflection of the changing female reality of the time it was written in. As were the comics for girls created by female artists in the same time frame that changed the medium in Japan forever. Comics for girls already were an established entity, unlike in the West where the medium almost exclusively catered to and still is primarily read by male audiences. Yet the previous comics for girls were written by male authors, more often than not on the side, and it was the female perspective and imagination that made comics for girls popular and influential beyond the female target group.
After TEZUKA’s story manga and the realism of gekiga,1 劇画, dramatic pictures, a more mature form of comics that depicted sex and violence as part of human reality and reflected the political movements of their time. the literary style of shōjo manga (comics for girls) by the 49ers2 昭和２４年組, a group of female manga artists born around the year 1949, the baby boomer generation, including IKEDA Riyoko, HAGIO Moto and TAKEMIYA Keiko. were the third big step of developing post war manga in Japan. Their success inspired other women and also men to self publish their original work on the comiket (comic market), a convention for selling dōjinshi (fanzines) founded in 1975.3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comiket Publishers discovered and scouted many new talents here before its reputation was hurt by the rise of anime parody which was viewed as a derivative and unoriginal style.4 Amateur manga subculture and the otaku panic. Nevertheless publishers still more often than not followed trends set by the so called otaku that had originated from the comiket.
The biggest star to emerge very early from the comiket was TAKAHASHI Rumiko, who went on to become one of the richest women in Japan and the most widely read female comic artist world wide. She was the first female artist to succeed not with a female target group but with male audiences, which still constituted the larger half of the market also in Japan. Same as gekiga, the new shōjo manga added a new dimension of mature themes and realism, both in terms of depiction of human relationships and of female sexuality, the latter including the female monthly cycle and the trauma of first sexual encounters. For male authors, being exposed to this subtle depictions of female sexuality became the starting point of an outright erotic genre called bishōjo (beautiful girls) manga and, on the mainstream side, love comedy. Human relationships and openly expressed female sexuality proved to be very popular with the male audience when coupled with humor and TAKAHASHI was the lead pioneer to develop this genre, before it was widely adopted by male shōnen manga (comics for boys) artists.
TAKAHASHI’s sexy heroines like Lum, an alien who wears a bikini as if it were the most normal of daily attires (which intimidates the male lead more than it entices), or Ranma, really a boy who lacks the feminine modesty to cover his boobs when he turns into a girl, humorously reflected changes in society in ways that appealed to an audience of millions. But love comedy wasn’t her only forte, she also released many darker stories that didn’t rely on humor. One of them is Fire Tripper written in 1983, a short story about a girl who travels through time when faced with a deadly explosion. Given the release of ŌBAYASHI‘s movie adaptation of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in the same year, it is quite obvious where TAKAHASHI took inspiration for her story. Despite the similar premise it is an unique take on the time traveling girl and I highly recommend reading it. The most significant difference is the sengoku jidai (age of the warring states) setting, or in other words the distance that is traveled in time. Instead of going back a few days to undo events like Kazuko, TAKAHASHI’s fire tripper Suzuko travels between two ages separated by 400 years.