The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Rumic Theater

Title: Rumic Theater aka Rumic Theater Anthology aka Takahashi Rumiko Gekijou
Company: TMS Entertainment/TV Tokyo
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 5 Jul 2003 – 27 Sep 2003

Synopsis: What if normal people leading normal lives suddenly find themselves in unusual situations? A married woman forced to babysit a penguin… a former high-level company executive working at a noodle restaurant… a woman who finds out her neighbor probably murdered her mother… two children who believe their parents are taking them to a “family suicide”… watch as little stories of little people unfold before your eyes. And discover that sometimes, there is more to them than meets the eye…

The Highlights
Mood: Melancholic and funny at the same time.
Episodes: Some of the best “little stories” ever.
Plot: Theme of “social superiors” overused.
Drama: A few episodes lacking in impact.

Being a huge fan of Takahashi Rumiko, I was in high spirits when I found out that her early Rumic Theater manga volumes were to be animated. Would the directing be able to keep up with Takahashi-sensei’s unique style of storytelling? Would her tales – which were strangely unsettling sometimes – be presented uneditied? I was really eager to receive answers to these questions, and I wasn’t disappointed. Mostly.

Each episode of Rumic Theater tells one story, and the heroes of these stories are genuine normal people leading genuinely normal lives… until something happens which breaks that comfortable “normality”: A woman living in a house where no pets are allowed has to babysit a penguin. A former businessman used to dealing with high-level executive decisions and management work takes a job as an employee in a noodle restaurant. A man who’s been married for a decade gets an invitation for a class reunion and finds out that the girl he was in love with during his school days might still have a crush on him. All these stories might not sound very exciting at first glance, but (as one would expect from Takahashi Rumiko), there’s much more behind these “everyday stories”.

In fact, all the heroes of Rumic Theater are presented in such a nice and personal way that you get to like them within the first few minutes. They are faced with unusual situations, and most times, there is no easy way out. There is always a solution, but it’s absolutely not obvious, and on the way to the solution, you are assured to get a good laugh by brilliant situation comedy. At the same time, though, you feel for the people in these stories and grow emotionally attached to them, and even though you are smiling, their misery touches your heart.

A few episodes do this in an absolutely brilliant way, namely episodes 4, 6 and 10, which are among my all-time favourite anime stories ever told. In a few other episodes, the drama does not work too well, especially in episodes 2, 9 and 13 (the last being the worst, too, as it is way too predictable and you see where all of this is heading from the first minute on). Also, throughout the episodes, one theme is overused: the protagonist of the story is in a predicament he can’t get out of because someone of higher social station causes a problem for him and it would be “embarrassing” to address the problem towards a social superior. If the entire situation can be solved by a simple conversation and the episode basically revolves around the hero not daring to have that conversation, that’s not a very exciting plot. And it pops up several times.

All in all, Rumic Theater is a beautiful little series you really shouldn’t miss if you like “normal stories”. It’s definitely a change from all those big mysterious epics which currently dominate anime, and it’s Takahashi Rumiko too. Give it a chance, you probably won’t be disappointed.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Taleweaver

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