Mao, the latest manga by legendary mangaka Rumiko Takahashi, explores a world defined by time travel, curses, yokai, and murder mysteries.
Legendary mangaka Rumiko Takahashi has had a prolific career spanning four decades. From her first hit movie, Urusei Yatsura, to the most popular series Inuyasha, Takahashi has created worlds full of magic and wonder, with a colorful cast of characters who have become iconic popular culture. Some of these works include her more established romantic comedy anime, Maison Ikkoku, the sex-centered comedy series Ranma 1/2, her classic horror anthology Mermaid Saga, and even a series popular recently as Rin-ne. So, what will her latest series, Mao, bring?
Mao Vol. 1 follows high school student Nanoka Kiba, who is a survivor of a tragic car accident. Orphaned at the age of 7, Nanoka lives with her grandfather and his housekeeper, Uozumi, more or less leads a normal life. That is, it is not until her schoolmates decide to check out a haunted shopping plaza that is supposed to be one day, that she discovers it harbors a strange secret. Not only was the scene of the car accident that claimed her parents’ lives, but Nanoka also discovered that a parallel world existed on the other side of the entrance to the square. This fact seems to have existed in 1923 (Taisho era) where the travel time varied. There, she meets a mysterious man named Mao and his assistant Otoya who are on the hunt for a mysterious cat yokai known only as byoki.
Fans of Takahashi’s work will immediately recognize some of the episodes that resemble many of Mao’s manga. In many ways, Mao Vol. 1 is a love letter to her previous works, most notably the fan-favorite series, Inuyasha, and her horror thriller, Mermaid Saga. Like Kagome Higurashi in Inuyasha, Nanoka is a high school girl who discovers she can travel between the past and present timelines by visiting a specific location that only she has. admittance. Just like Kagome, Nanoka also discovers she is part of an event in history older than herself, which allows her to meet Mao, the male protagonist. The discovery that she can travel between Japan’s Taisho era and the present causes Nanoka to prioritize otherworldly events over her school life, just like Kagome.
While Inuyasha tends to blend horror with humor as the main characters embark on a long journey to defeat a common enemy, Mao follows a more horror-based story structure similar to Mermaid Saga . A prime example is the two main characters Mao and Nanoka, who have similar motivations to Yuta and Mana in the Mermaid Saga. Like Yuta, Mao is a man cursed for centuries with youthful immortality. Like Mana, Nanoka also suffers from a similar curse that is implied to come from the same source. Like Yuta and Mana, the two characters team up to investigate mysterious cases in the Taisho era that may be related to the origins of their respective curses.
Takahashi’s artwork in Mao Vol. 1 offers some equally stunning visuals. Through a combination of digital and traditional artistic methods, Takahashi succinctly captures the ordinary world of the present and the more magical world of the Taisho era. In terms of character design, Takahashi gives each character – from the main character to the support members to the monsters – distinctive designs that make them easily identifiable on the page. While not as action-heavy as some of Takahashi’s previous works, she still delivers live action sequences in scenes that require them, complete with well-composed frames.
Overall, Mao Vol. 1 is a gift for reader Rumiko Takahashi. Fans of Inuyasha will easily recognize and enjoy the familiar premise of the story, while fans of Mermaid Saga will immediately notice the horror tone, characters, and familiar story structure. made Takahashi’s classic series.