Ranma 1/2, Vols. 17-18

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

A word of warning here: I love Nabiki Tendo. Love love love her. I don’t deny that if I were ever to meet her in real life I’d run away, but she’s fictional, so I am free to openly admire a confident confidence trickster who decides to mess with Ranma and Akane purely because it amuses her… and also to get some of Ranma’s cash, of course. This volume is the first one where she’s really had an arc focusing on her, and she’ll only have one more after this (about 7 omnibuses from now). So most of what folks consider ‘canon’ comes from the 6-chapter story in this volume, where, after a huge fight – again – Akane decides that Nabiki can be Ranma’s fiancee instead.

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Of course, like every other story in the series, Nabiki’s presence here is to help show how Ranma and Akane are perfect for each other, while also demonstrating why it’s taking forever to get them to admit that. Akane’s hair-trigger temper is seen here several times, topped only by Ranma’s amazing tendency to say exactly the wrong thing and not understand why anyone would get angry. If you combine this with their mutual innocence and gullibility, it’s no wonder that Nabiki can play them both like fiddles. It helps that Nabiki is one of the few women in the series not attracted to Ranma – at one point she decides to wrap things up, thinking “wouldn’t want him to get TOO attached to me.” I also like that she’s not perfect – her plan to sell Ranma to the highest bidder is done in by Shampoo, Kodachi and Ukyou deciding that killing Nabiki would achieve the same end (yes, Ukyou is also there, just slightly less murderous), and she misreads Ranma as genuinely trying to hit her towards the end. She should know better. She also shows a bit of concern that her plan might genuinely break Ranma and Akane up, which is sweet.

Of course, there’s a lot more in this omnibus than Nabiki, but it’s not quite as interesting. Picolette Charin’s story is wrapped up in a fairly weak way, though the force-feeding was pretty clever. The entire second half of the volume, though, is taken up with a new minor villain, who has the unfortunate name of Pantyhose Taro. In fact, his name drives the plot – he got the name from Happosai, who happened to be at the springs where the young baby had drowned and christened him as if it was a baptism – and his tribe forbids name changes unless it’s the one who gave the name. So Pantyhose Taro has a grudge, and is also possessed of possibly the most ridiculous Jusenkyou curse of all, a yeti riding an ox carrying an eel and a crane spring. This translates to a hideous huge monster, but Pantyhose Taro is fine with that – it’s the name he hates.

Most of this volume is taken up, unfortunately, with a lot of fights and with Akane getting kidnapped and used as bait – again. Luckily, there’s also some sharp humor as well, mostly at Taro’s expense. Pantyhose Taro ends up being the inverse of the usual manga villains – usually they never appear again in the manga, but the anime has them return. Here it’s the anime that didn’t bother to bring Pantyhose Taro back, but we’ll see him again soon. We’re halfway through Ranma 1/2 now, and next time we’ll get a few more amusing one-shots, as well as the development of two new devastating attacks for Ranma and Ryouga.

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