Event Remembrances: Rumiko Takahashi’s appearance at the 2000 San Diego Comic-Con
It’s been almost 12 years since I last visited the San Diego Comic-Con. I attended the con 5 times before the 21st century, and it was my first major eye-opener to the world of comic creators, panel discussions, and much more. I keep saying that one of these days I’ll go back, but after hearing how big the convention has grown (not to mention the masses staying in line for days to get in to certain panels!), I wonder if I dare to. Even so, this year’s convention fueled a memory of one of my favorite experiences there.
In February of 1998, my first (official) introduction to the world of Japanese anime and manga came when I checked out Urusei Yatsura Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer from a local video store. It served as my gateway to the works of manga creator Rumiko Takahashi, and within the span of a year, I had gotten into her other major series, such as Maison Ikkoku, and Ranma 1/2.
I really grew to love Takahashi’s art style, and was one of the few that spoke up about their love for her first major work, Urusei Yatsura. At the time I had discovered Urusei, Viz Communications had begun to cancel the manga series, due to low sales (believe me, it was too weird for the majority of American audiences, but not for me!).
Not wishing to be denied over 60 % of the series’ stories, I soon after started up a small fan-translating group online called Project ILM: Industrial Lum & Manga (much like the series relied on puns, so did I for my group’s name). Made up largely of a volunteer squad of dedicated fans, we succeeded in translating and compositing the remaining stories of Urusei Yatsura by 2003. The Project’s site has come down since then, but our translated stories are still floating around out there (you’ll find several with my name listed as a compositor).
In the Spring of 2000, an article in a far corner of the internet announced that Rumiko Takahashi would be making her 2nd stateside appearance that summer at Comic-Con (she had last appeared there in 1994). This appearance would entail both a discussion panel, and an autograph session!
The year 2000 was the first time I spent 4 days at the con, and in the end, it was good that I came prepared. Once I arrived that Thursday (July 20, 2000), I was informed that there was a 350-person limit to the autograph sessions (200 set for Saturday, and 150 for Sunday). I spoke with a couple fans who were also reading the fine print, and it seemed that this was to prevent what happened in 1994. Apparently, autograph tickets were available on a first-come/first-serve basis at that show, and the majority of them were scooped up by sellers on the floor, who then took some of their wares to Takahashi, and then marked up the signed items for bigger sales later on.
On Friday (July 21, 2000), as soon as we got past the entrance, I made my way down towards the Viz Communications booth, and got my ticket. At their booth, a representative for Viz made the announcement that there would be 4 drawings on Friday (for the Saturday autograph session), and 3 drawings on Saturday (for the Sunday session). Also interspersed within the autograph tickets, were several ‘gold’ passes, that would not only get you an autograph, but a personal sketch drawn by Takahashi herself! When the time came for the drawings, many of us crowded around the booth’s limited floor space.
The first few drawings were a bust for me, but third time proved to be the charm, as they posted the drawing information at their booth, and I saw my ticket number announced! I eagerly stepped forward, and received my autograph ticket:
The next day (July 22, 2000), I came armed with Volume 15 of Urusei Yatsura, and made my way up to the ‘Sail Area’ on the convention center’s roof. The wait in line was definitely a lot of fun for us Takahashi fans. There were some people who had brought animation cels for Takahashi to sign, and one person even dressed up as Genma Saotome in Panda Bear form! I was also fortunate enough to meet another fan of Urusei Yatsura, who had also brought Volume 15 of the collected manga with him as well!
Eventually, I made it to the head of the line. I stammered out some praise towards Takahashi-sensei, and eagerly handed Vol 15 over to Toshi Yoshida, one of Viz’s translators. However, there arose a question: where should Takahashi sign?
Eventually, I chose for her to sign her name on the first page, which featured a watercolor/ink print of the main characters Lum, and Ataru Moroboshi, in wedding attire. Below, you can see a scan of the image along with Rumiko’s signature. One fun addition that Takahashi made, was a tiny little image of the piglet P-Chan, from Ranma 1/2 (you can see him just to the left of her signature!). I caught up later on with the guy who also had the same volume as I did. Not only did he also choose the same place for Takahashi to sign, but she drew a little Piyo-Piyo chick from her series Maison Ikkoku for him.
After the autograph session, the next event that many of the fans were awaiting, was a question and answer panel in Rooms 6A/B. I endured discussion panels by Kevin Smith and then the gang of Futurama, before it was time for Takahashi.
I actually came prepared to record the session, and previously had 90% of the panel discussion posted on the internet back in 2000 (transcribed, of course). We were also treated to some newly- dubbed episodes of Ranma 1/2, and the first animated preview for the soon-to-be-released Inu-Yasha television series (based on Takahashi’s recently-released manga title). There were some predictable questions (“What does Maison Ikkoku’s Mr Yotsuya do for a living anyways?”), and even a couple that debunked some rumors (“I heard that Lum was a nickname of yours. Is that true?”).
I managed to ask Takahashi the 4th question of the panel, which was in regards to the character Akane Tendo from Ranma 1/2. Originally, Akane had long hair, but 13 stories in, it was chopped to a shorter look that she retained through the rest of the series. I had to know from Takahashi, “what was your main reason for cutting Akane’s hair?”
After some discussion with translator Toshi Yoshida, I got my response:
“That’s just the way the story developed. I’m sorry.”
The discussion panel lasted for 1 hour and 45 minutes, before Takahashi gave a graceful thank you and left the stage.
Since those few days at Comic-Con, I’ve looked all over the internet, but never found anyone else who had chronicled this appearance by Takahashi. It seems this may have been her last US visit, as I have been unable to find information about any appearances since then (whether in San Diego, or other major American cities). Because of that, I feel kind of special that I could post this information. I originally had a small page on Geocities dedicated to the event, and it’s supposedly still out there in cyberspace, along with my transcript of the discussion panel. I’d love to post it up somewhere, but am not sure where. I’m sure several fans would love to read some of those questions and answers from that July day.