Crude Ink 02.22.08 | Ranma ½

ranmaheader.jpgHaving conquered comics, Terri now tiptoes into the weird, wonderful world of anime with the classic TV series adaptation of Rumiko Takahashi’s genre-bending, gender-bending martial arts romantic comedy.

 

 

"Where is Furinkan High School?!" This is how my charming boyfriend likes to taunt me when I get lost. I always get lost. Without the GPS navigator in my car, I probably couldn’t find my way out of my own driveway. The point is, I’ve been hearing "Where is Furinkan High School?!" every weekend for months. Although I probably should have known better, I asked what the heck he was talking about. He told me, "It’s anime. There’s this guy in the show that gets lost looking for the school right behind his house. He’s almost as bad as you!" Oh.

Boy-type and girl-type Ranma. Click for a larger image.The show was Ranma ½, which we started one Saturday afternoon, and have been watching almost every weekend for a couple of months now. Apparently it’s a classic, because there are seven seasons of the show (based on an even bigger collection of manga), multiple movies, and soundtracks. I don’t know how I managed to miss out on the party—maybe I didn’t hang with nerdy enough guys in school—but I wish I would have know about this show earlier, because it is amazing.

For the uninitiated, Ranma is a pig-tailed teenage boy who turns into a girl when splashed with cold water, a result of falling into a cursed spring during martial arts training in China with his father. His father, thanks to another cursed spring, turns into a giant panda. In the first episode, Ranma is betrothed to Akane, the daughter of a dojo manager who wants the two to take over the business. Akane has zero patience for her new fiancé—she is not shy about telling Ranma off when he does something stupid. She is also a martial arts expert herself, and always ready for a fight. For all this, Ranma frequently refers to her as "un-cute," but I absolutely adore Akane.

The plot in every episode is pretty much the same: a long-lost fiancé finds Ranma, or a boy at school falls in love with Akane—or with girl-type Ranma—and Ranma must fight off the offending boy or girl with his skillz. The real genius is in these characters that show up to fight; some of them are downright insane. Ryoga, the "Lost Boy" mentioned earlier, turns into a teensy little pig when wet, and becomes Akane’s pet, which really infuriates Ranma, and creeps me out—she lets that pig in her bed at night! Tatewaki Kuno, an upperclassman who calls himself "Blue Thunder" and quotes Shakespeare at inappropriate times, is in love with girl-type Ranma, but hates boy-type Ranma. I don’t believe he ever figures out they are the same person. Ranma’s other recurring fiancée is a Chinese Amazon  called Shampoo who believes she’s bound to marry him by the laws of her tribe, and who turns into a cat when wet. (Ranma, naturally, is deathly afraid of cats).

Clockwise from top: girl-type Ranma, Akane, Ranma's dad the panda, Ryoga, Mousse, and Shampoo. Click for a larger image.There is an old lady who likes to cause trouble, and an old man who is trouble—he spends most of his time pilfering women’s underwear, and the rest of the time prattling about it. (Both these old folks are about knee-high to the rest of the characters. Boy tells me this is normal for anime, but I’m not sure I get it. Do Japanese folks shrink like that in real life?) My favorite character so far, though, is Kodachi, Kuno’s loony sister. She is just as melodramatic and delusional as her brother, but has the additional advantage of terrorizing classmates by attacking them with ribbon dancing. Yes, ribbon dancing. If I were going to learn martial arts, I think rhythmic gymnastic battles would be the way to go.

Obviously, Ranma ½ gets silly pretty quick. Before you get very far into the show, there are transvestites, ghost cats, and monkey brides thrown in the mix. Most of the fights aren’t really based on martial arts; they tend to be competitions like a Chinese food delivery race, or beachside swimsuit competitions. Not the type of cartoons I’m used to, but hey, I have a sense of humor. I just have one complaint: there is a limit to the number of episodes you can safely watch in one day. Do not try to marathon this show, because it will turn your brain into jelly.

Until next time, girl-types and boy-types! | Terri Gudowicz

In this edition:
Ranma ½ (Viz Video)

The Ranma ½ TV series spans 161 episodes, which are currently available on English/Japanese bilingual DVD from Viz Video in seven full season box sets. The series also spawned two movies, one mini-movie, and eleven straight-to-video specials. Ranma ½ is based on the 36-volume manga of the same name by Rumiko Takahashi, creator of InuYasha and the best-selling female comic book artist in the world.

For more information, visit Viz.com or check out the encyclopedia entry at Anime News Network.

 

 

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