Ranma ½ – Series 1

November 17, 2006 on 8:38 pm | In Ranma ½ | 9 Comments

Ranma ½: one of the holy grails of nineties anime fandom. That’s the period of holy grails I tend to be most interested in, quite possibly because I had the means to read about anime for about six years before I had the means to watch it. Many people will cry out with the law of diminishing returns, but, I will argue, there can be no return more diminished than the sequels to Project A-Ko.

The reason that I liked the first season of Ranma ½ as much as I did was because it had that charming earnestness that was the hallmark of several titles of the era. My only real problem is that this first series is somewhat insubstantial, but the existence of six other series soothes that to a small degree.

Of course there is always the possibility that rather than substance being added to the insubstantial, Ranma ½ snowballs into an avalanche of the insubstantial. Naturally, I will reserve judgement until a later date. For instance, there are still many characters to be introduced.

A girl and a panda run through the rainy streets of Tokyo. They arrive at the home of the Tendo family, and seek shelter. The girl, Saotome Ranma (Hayashibara Megumi), reveals that her father had arranged an engagement with one of the three Tendo girls.
Some confusion and one hot bath later, Ranma reveals that she is actually Saotome Ranma (Yamaguchi Kappei), cursed to turn into a girl whenever doused in cold water. Likewise, the panda is Ranma’s father, Genma (Ogata Kenichi). Cue the transgender martial arts comedy!

I’ve long held the idea that there is no true gateway anime; there is not one title that I can think of that has absolutely no bugbears that will ambush and eat closed minded people. I described the concept of Ranma ½ to some people at work: one simply couldn’t get her head around it; another said “you actually watch that?” (although it should be noted, by and large nobody cares that I watch anime; that’s not the point I’m making).

The inclusion of a far out concept and not infrequent nudity makes me wonder how this managed to become such a break out hit for Western fans, but perhaps the answer is included in the question.

As I said earlier, Ranma ½ is not often hilarious; it generally has that earnest slice of life feeling about it that comes from a group of people living together and sharing vague stories that sometimes involve punching and kicking people.
The hot water/cold water concept means that there is a constant supply of old ladies purifying their gateways with water; conveniently out of frame water troughs; and people dumping buckets of water out of their windows (and forever being chastised because “there could be someone down there”).

This is just at first, though: the laughter comes more frequently with the introduction of Ryouga, who is forever lost. The stupidity of his stories and the ensuing duplicity of his character make him fun to watch, even though he does challenge suspension of disbelief in his relations to Akane. The highpoint of this entire series is when all four of Ranma’s “enemies” are featured trying to ruin him (or her, as one of the characters loves his boy form and another his girl form) in the rhythmic gymnastics martial arts tournament.

Ranma ½ isn’t entirely smooth sailing, though: Viz’s DVD treatment is fairly primitive (Madman has done as good a job as they could with the source material), with hard subs, an incredibly bad Japanese cover job in one episode where Genma tries to “sign” to Ranma, and song translations the lyrics of which have almost no relation to their actual meaning.
On the “not the Americans’ fault” front, the introduction of Shampoo was moved into the first season for whatever reason, and consequently Ranma has a flashback to something that had not actually happened at that point of time. The other big problem was that the final episode of the series was a clip episode; using my XBox 360, I watched it at 4x speed, reading the subtitles at the speed of light and playing the (pointless) new material at normal speed.

I’m not sure how long the Ranma ½ charm lasted; one of the aspects of the first series I really appreciated was its serial nature, even though a huge story was never told. The second season is episodic to the point that Viz felt confident to completely reorder the first twelve episodes (let the record show that I do not approve).

Still, Ranma ½ is funny and sweet. One must note that I am measuring it on my personal “Doenau Sweetometer”, so it almost certainly is not for everyone.


  1. I have all 7 seasons on DVD and the OVAs…It’s is one of my favorite series of all time….I’m the biggest Shampoo mark…The whole time I was watching Ramen Fighter Miki …I kept saying… Shampoo could still beat her…heh…
    P.S. there is no point to this comment…just had to let my Shampoo love shine….heh

    Comment by Voodoomage — November 18, 2006 #

  2. Wow that’s… nostalgic.

    Back in the day when Ranma was still a current series… it was such a part of the scene, both when it was a fansub favorite and when Viz got ahold of it. Many of the first anime related web pages were Ranma fansites… Ah if only there was a Way Back machine that could reach those days (about 91-92).

    Oh youth, shine in 14.4 kbps memories…

    Comment by gingersoll — November 18, 2006 #

  3. I don’t understand what your problem with Ryoga is. I didn’t see any duplicity. He is entirely consistent, and if Ranma is too dumb to see it, then it’s Ranma’s problem. If you mean him using his P-chan form, then I don’t think it’s any kind of duplicity either, only a trick. He does not bear a loyalty to Ranma, so there’s no treachery. Similarly, his feelings towards Akane seem fairly well explained, if perhaps somewhat infantile.

    Comment by Pete Zaitcev — November 18, 2006 #

  4. I said the duplicity made him fun to watch! He’s a pig and a human and he uses the pig form to advance his “relationship” with Akane, which is duplicity, although a very literal interpretation thereof.

    Comment by Alex — November 18, 2006 #

  5. Ah, Ranma 1/2… my very first anime ever. There might not be such a thing as a ‘gateway anime,’ but this was the series that got me hooked on the thing… back in 1994 or so.

    I’m not even sure it’s aged well; heaven knows that when I showed the first two episodes (on VHS!) to the Duck U. Anime Club, it was met with a resounding “meh.”

    Still, I like it… a lot. Maybe because I never made it past the first season?

    Comment by Wonderduck — November 19, 2006 #

  6. It’s much more laid back than a lot of more recent stuff. It has a very leisurely orientation period, which means that we’re not rushed with concepts or technobabble.
    Essentially it’s initially Ranma + cold water = boobs. That’s easy for anyone to understand. Anything after that is just extra fun.

    Comment by Alex — November 19, 2006 #

  7. :] first of all… HAPPY THANKSGIVING MY FELLOW ANIME FANATICS! second… great post, I myself get a little too into anime… –I recently stumbled upon Ranma 1/2 (upon my uncle’s advice) , and upon searching for a reliable fansub, found this site. — And i find myself in agreement with fellow ryoga-dissers… i mean, i understand that they him for conflict and plot purpouses… but why can’t we just stick to the good ol’ girl getting jealous over the guy like Negima and such… hmm… i feel lucky though, i’m on season one episode 21 and i can tell it’s going to keep my interest throughout the series! (thank you for filling the void left after so many epic animes!)

    Comment by TacoHuman — November 24, 2006 #

  8. “i understand that they *have* him for conflict and plot purpouses”

    Comment by TacoHuman — November 24, 2006 #

  9. Ranma 1/2 has got to be one of the greatest anime I have ever seen…I want to whatch every single one…FIVE TIMES OVER!!!! I havn’t seen many of them though :[

    Comment by Shade — February 15, 2007 #

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