Ranma 1/2

Sorry for the dearth in posting; I’ve been reading, but not in the right mindset for reviews. I’ll try to squeeze them in this weekend between work.

I was looking around online for manga recommendations, and many people seemed to have enjoyed the Ranma 1/2 series. It’s written by Rumiko Takahashi, who is also known for her long-running Inuyasha series.

Years ago Akane Tendo’s father promised one of his daughters in marriage to his friend’s son Ranma Saotome so that their martial arts schools would be joined. But Ranma and his father do not arrive without mishap. While practicing in ancient Chinese training grounds they fell into cursed springs. Now whenever they come into contact with cold water, Ranma turns into a girl and his father becomes a giant panda; hot water reverses the change. In addition, Akane and Ranma don’t take kindly to their engagement. She thinks the curse makes him a pervert, while he wants nothing to do with a tomboy.

Ranma 1/2, Vol. 1 introduces most of the major characters and plot points, including Akane’s sisters, pompous schoolmate Kuno who is in love with both Akane and the female Ranma, and Ranma’s martial arts rival Ryogo. In Ranma 1/2, Vol. 2 Ryogo reveals misfortunes of his own, while Akane and Ranma meet new competition during rhythmic gymnastic wrestling in Kuno’s  ruthless sister Kodachi. Unfortunately Kodachi decides that Ranma is the man on her dreams and vows to take him from Akane–who still isn’t even sure she wants him.

I was a little hesitant going in about Ranma’s gender changes, but there’s nothing twisted about it–and didn’t Shakespeare work with similar material in Twelfth Night? In fact, the main point of this premise seems to be that it provides a myriad of plot opportunities. Something as simple as a spilled drink or unexpected rain can cause Ranma’s transformation, and he must constantly be on his toes to keep his secret from his clueless classmates. In addition, he and Akane seem to inspire love at the drop of a hat in all the wrong people. The whole story is really a screwball comedy of errors. I found myself laughing out loud many times, occasionally even over small jokes going on in the background.

The characters are straightforward and engaging. Ranma and Akane would both rather turn to martial arts than deal with their personal problems, but it seems like eventually they will have to learn that fighting isn’t the answer to everything. Even if they still don’t like being romantically linked they are beginning to get along and realize what they have in common. The rest of the cast is humorously endearing as well, even the rivals.

The art itself is well-drawn but simple, more like a comic than other finely detailed manga. It is easy to tell all the characters apart, too, though I did prefer Akane with long hair. Finally, Takahashi draws wonderfully appealing animals. Mr. Saotome’s panda form makes me smile ever time, while the pig P-chan is just too cute.

One brief note: due to Ranma’s condition there is quite a bit of female skin shown to illustrate which form he is in. It’s cartoonish, and not meant for promiscuity, but probably not appropriate for younger readers. The characters are all in high school.

The story stretches out over 36 volumes until we finally learn whether Ranma breaks the curse and if he and Akane ever admit their feelings (though cover images pretty much give away the latter). Luckily the library has all of them!

Published in: on October 2, 2009 at 10:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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