Ranma 1/2, Vols. 35-36

By Rumiko Takahashi. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz. Translated by Kaori Inoue, Adapted by Gerard Jones.

I was quite excited by this omnibus of Ranma 1/2 when I got it. Not only does it feature not one but TWO appearances by Akari, my favorite minor character, but is also resolves a plot point. That may not seem like much to those of you who are used to plot and characterization in your manga, but this is Ranma 1/2, the title where everything is done for the humor, and everything will always snap back with few if any lessons learned. Taking this manga and these characters seriously is, as we’ve learned, a mug’s game. But yes, we actually get forward progression here (you can see that she had decided to end Ranma soon). No, Ranma and Akane don’t confess. No, no curses are broken. But Ranma’s mother now knows the truth about her son. And he doesn’t have to kill himself.

The whole sequence leading up to Nodoka discovering the truth is without a doubt the highlight of the book. It also, out of necessity, shows Genma at his absolute worst, a desperate, petty ass who would happily destroy his marriage in exchange for a good meal. As for Ranma, he’s trying really hard to shrug off what his father has taught him to believe, and finally decides to give in and face whatever consequences come from his mother discovering he can turn into a girl. (In fact, his happy expression when he resolves to do this may be one of the best panels in Ranma, period.) There’s also a lot of action, as Ranma and Genma constantly fight back and forth to attempt to stop the other, and it all ends in a fall off a giant cliff into the sea. (I also liked Soun, Kasumi and Nabiki’s understated presence throughout – they’re on Ranma’s side, even if awkwardly.) It’s a really good arc.

The rest of the book is not quite as good. Leaving aside yet another arc devoted to Ranma and Akane mistaking “I am embarrassed by my feelings” for “I hate you”, we have the introduction of Konatsu, a ninja with a poor family situation who somehow ends up at Ucchan’s. Given that fandom has paired Akari and Konatsu together by the function they fill (late-period characters introduced to ‘resolve’ parts of the love septangle), you’d think I’d be more accepting of him, but I’m not really. First of all, unlike Ryouga and Akari, any love seen here is clearly one-sided – Ukyou is literally paying Kanatsu the equivalent of 5 cents to work for her, and barely seems to acknowledge him as a human being. More to the point, though, Konatsu is just a rehash of Tsubasa Kurenai from earlier volumes, and reminds the reader that Rumiko Takahashi is simply not very good at writing trans characters, even giving her a pass of “this is the 1990s”.

And so, despite one piece of forward progression, this volume ends as it begins. In fact, thanks to the destruction of the Saotome home, we now have Nodoka living at the Tendos in addition to Ranma and Genma. Is there anything that can possibly resolve this manga and give it a happy ending>? Well. yes there is, though it depends on how broadly you define “resolve” and “ending”. Stay tuned next time for the final gripping installment of Ranma 1/2!

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