Ranma 1/2 Set 1 Series Review

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"Ranma 1/2 makes you laugh, question what the hell is going on, experience a massive range of emotions, laugh some more, and best of all— remember the roots of Japanese animation and why we love it so much."

Rumiko Takahashi, the creator of Ranma 1/2 has proven that stories are a wonderful thing to behold on paper, but an even better experience to watch on television. I say this mostly because of having grown up with her stories on my shelves (Can I get an InuYasha from the crowd, please???), most of which were my introduction to manga, and later, a great excuse to beg my mom to let me stay up late enough to watch the anime on Adult Swim and pout when she said no. All these years later, I must say, I'm still not disappointed in Takahashi’s art. While there may be earlier examples of gender-benders or crazy martial arts, or comedic romances, or even combinations of all three, Ranma 1/2 is one of the best of at least two of those genres. Ranma 1/2, simply put, makes you laugh, question what the hell is going on, experience a massive range of emotions, laugh some more, and best of all— remember the roots of Japanese animation and why we love it so much.

The story seems to begin like any other generic shounen romance. Soun Tendo owns a martial arts school but has only daughters. He therefore has made an agreement with his friend Genma Saotome, who has a son the same age as the youngest Tendo daughter and not that much younger than the oldest. Tendo neglected to tell the girls that one of them would have to marry the young Saotome until the day he receives a postcard telling of the Saotomes' imminent arrival. When he breaks the news, Kasumi, Nabiki, and Akane are understandably upset, none moreso than man-hating Akane, the youngest at sixteen. All of this soon seems negated when a large panda and a teenage girl arrive, the girl proclaiming to be Ranma Saotome. Nabiki's pretty upset, but Akane's utterly relieved... until it turns out that after a hot bath girl Ranma turns into boy Ranma! Talk about a buzz kill.


"However, the cast of characters will never fail to disappoint and that’s one of the things I love so much about old-school manga and anime like Ranma 1/2."

You see, Ranma and his father, the panda, took a trip to a special training ground in China made up of many cursed springs. If you fall into, for example, Spring of Drowned Girl, you become a girl when doused with cold water. Hot water, obviously, will turn you back to your original self. Kasumi and Nabiki, upon learning this, quickly gang up on Akane and make her Ranma's fiancée, saying that it's perfect because he's half a girl. Thus begins a crazy epic of animal/gender swapping, insane martial arts, and an on-again/off-again romance.
Characters are plentiful, but at this point, Volume 1 of the anime, they are all very distinct. Ranma himself is the least formed character; at first he feels badly about his affliction at how it affects others, but soon, he starts to use this to his advantage, and really, it's hard to blame him there. He also clearly likes Akane far more than she likes him; however, her usual treatment at the hands of boys, she's regarded as a prize to be won, does inform her blanket dislike of her new fiancé. Nabiki, the middle Tendo sister, is in some ways the most interesting character, a self-serving strong-minded young woman who seems to enjoy manipulating others. Her interactions with Upperclassman Kuno are particularly entertaining, although it must be admitted that Kuno in general is pretty amusing in an annoying way. However, the cast of characters will never fail to disappoint and that’s one of the things I love so much about old-school manga and anime like Ranma 1/2. Back then, there was almost a blank slate when it came to defining anime tropes.


"To put it simply, Ranma 1/2 is just as enjoyable now in its unflipped, omnibus form as it was years ago when it was one of my first manga experiences."

Nowadays, it can seem like certain behaviors have become too common and c’mon— you know you’ve groaned when someone mentioned a genderswapped version of your favorite character. Ranma 1/2 truly set the stage for Japanese rom-coms. However, what is also cool is that it also has some differences that will seem refreshing to a modern readership. For example, girl Ranma objects to other girls grabbing her breasts, something that is somewhat plentiful in many stories today (Isn’t fan-service beautiful?). There is also a level of goofiness that has become a bit passé, and, of necessity, more fluidity in gender roles than we see as given rather than as something to gloat about.
Lastly, the audio and visuals of Ranma 1/2 for the most part are outstanding for their time period. Character designs are superb, and animation for the first seasons is incredible. The soundtrack also has great numbers for the opening and ending with terrific vocals and upbeat, catchy melodies. The remaining seasons don’t receive the same blessing. With so many talented artists bringing their expertise to this title, Ranma is definitely a must see for anime fans. Although the length does drag the series down, don’t let it turn you off from checking it out. To put it simply, Ranma 1/2 is just as enjoyable now in its unflipped, omnibus form as it was years ago when it was one of my first manga experiences. It has aged well, with the out-and-out lunacy of the story remaining fun and fairly fresh, the art still attractive and not too dated, and a generally entertaining atmosphere. If you've never read it or watched it, this is a good time to do so, because there's a reason people are enamored with this classic. And let’s be honest here— who can’t love a romantic comedy with a few punches thrown around? It’s got something for everyone, young or old, boy or girl (or both!); it is a timeless work of art that should always be remembered in today’s anime scene.

Review by: Sara Perfin | Review Format: DVD | Running Time: 530 Minutes

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