Ranma 1/2, Vols. 5 & 6

By Rumiko Takahashi. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz.

One of the benefits of re-reading this series after so many years is seeing which characters I’ve changed my opinion on in the interim, and after more experience with anime and manga in other forms. Most of this volume deals with the Chinese Amazons – Shampoo, who returns to Nerima; her great-grandmother Cologne, who is determined to marry her to Ranma; and Mousse, Shampoo’s childhood friend who loves her but is unable to take no for an answer. I’ve never really liked any of the characters, and made an effort to avoid writing any of them in the Ranma fanfics I wrote back in the day. To an extent, that’s still true; Mousse is a creep, and his “master of hidden weapons” schtick is something he uses as a license to fight dirty. Shampoo is surprisingly passive in this volume, mostly relying on either her body or her grandmother in order to win Ranma; she still needs a stronger personality. That leaves Cologne, and she was the one I found myself appreciating more this time around.


Cologne is your standard trickster mentor character, and for all that she’s here to ensure Shampoo marry Ranma, this becomes a secondary concern once she realizes that Ranma has real potential. She’s sizing him up, testing his resolve and his stubbornness along with his martial arts skills. Not to spoil anything, but it’s notable that she’s the one major antagonist he never defeats through the series – at least not in a physical fight. After their first major battle, which is mostly ‘you will stay a girl forever till you agree to marry Shampoo’, Cologne surrenders the cure because Ranma actually made her try hard in a fight – something she hasn’t done in “over fifty years”. This isn’t just about Shampoo’s spouse anymore, Cologne wants to train Ranma personally.

That said, Ranma is not the type to simply acquiesce to this, so we see the start of many training matches couched as something else – in this case, a fight with Ryouga deep in the mountains. Ryouga too is reluctant to accept Cologne’s help in training, until he realizes that Ranma, driven by the events in the first half of this book, has grown MUCH better as a martial artist – to the point where Akane is almost giving him a pitiful look, his worst nightmare. Cologne takes him on, not so much for Ryouga’s sake as to drive Ranma into more desperate situations. Ranma tends to learn fastest when he’s under duress or threat of some sort, and Ryouga’s sheer toughness helps there. Akane, unfortunately, is used as kidnap bait here – she’s as disgusted with this as we are, thankfully, and for the most part rescues herself.

Speaking of Akane, she’s now settled into her standard characterization – whenever jealous, embarrassed, or otherwise emotionally overwhelmed, she lashes out at Ranma, mostly with drop kicks. Now that the majority of the cast are miles above her in martial arts talent (leaving her merely one of the most talented martial artists in the entire town – just wanted to note that), she tends to function as a Greek Chorus a lot, and her sideways flat glance, with implied, “…really?”, will also become a trademark. Akane has, I think, been burned out by too much chaos in her life all at once, and it will take a long time to sort out.

If I forgot to mention Gosunkugi, that isn’t a surprise. He’s played up as a non-entity from the start, with people not even noticing him till he draws attention to himself. He’s a grade A stalker creep, though, managing to learn of Ranma’s secret weakness by hiding under floorboards, in bushes, etc. He also has a fondness for voodoo dolls, which seem to accomplish nothing. The anime wrote him out of the early episodes, replacing him with the Kuno’s comedic ninja, Sasuke (who is anime-only). It didn’t really affect anything to see him dropped, either. He does, however, allow us to see the Cat Fist, which shows off the sheer stupidity of Genma Saotome. Genma tries to imply that he hadn’t read the instruction noting how stupid the training was, but honestly, I think he’d have done it anyway – certainly Ranma’s cat Fist *is* strong, and I think mental and emotional trauma would not bother Genma in the least if this was the result.

There are some long running gags that get introduced here: Akane’s horrible cooking, and her inability to swim, as well as the Saotome Secret Technique, one of the best gags in the entire volume. We also get Martial Arts Watermelon Smashing, which given it’s a beach story I can just about accept, and then we see Martial Arts tea ceremony, which is right about where the idea loses touch with reality altogether. Though it doesn’t help that this is easily the weakest arc in the book, with Sentaro being painfully stupid, and the story being too short to really develop anything further than ‘lol, my fiancee is a gorilla’.

The art is, as with the previous two omnibuses, taken from cleaner scans and looking much nicer in general. The translation is pretty much the same as before, with some nice lines (“Shampoo, I think it’s time we had a talk about bathtubs and men”.) Shampoo still talks in broken Japanese, but Cologne does not – her excellent Japanese is commented on, which is fine, as she’s over 100 years old. Mousse seems to speak perfect Japanese too, and one worries that Takahashi is using Shampoo’s accent for comedy effect. It also has a tendency for Western readers to devalue her intelligence (which varies from story to story, but generally she’s more with it than one would expect).

By the way, the design of Cologne is striking – Cherry was short and wizened in UY, but still looked vaguely human. Cologne’s wizened form in Ranma resembles a bird more than an old woman, something not helped by the way she pogoes around on her walking stick. In the next volume of Ranma 1/2, we’ll meet her male counterpart – one of the most loathed characters in the entire series, both in universe and out. Duck, everyone, Happosai is coming soon to a bookstore near you.

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  1. Pata-Hikari says

    In all honesty volume 5 is a big turning point in the series and when the story shift gears.

    Volumes 1-4 are a fairly different story then the remaining set.

    The first four are a Romantic-Comedy with a martial arts bent, a story pretty much exclusively about the developing relationship between Ranma and Akane. You can see the beginning chapters flow into each other, and there’s a stronger sense of continuity.

    When Volume 5 hits the series shifts to a more episodic format, and a rigid status quo is established. The story shifts to an Action-Comedy with a romantic subplot, and while Ranma and Akane do still get some relationship development, they end up stuck at around this level by and large.

    Somtimes I wonder what the series would be like if this shift in direction hadn’t happened.

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