By Rumiko Takahashi. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz.
There’s a lot I could discuss with this omnibus of Ranma 1/2, which is a strong one. There’s Nabiki’s 2nd and final focus story, where she meets her match in a man dedicated to making others spend money on him. It’s nice to see Nabiki actually tricked once or twice during this arc, and Ranma and Akane watching the debt rack up are hilarious. There’s also the story with Pink and Link, where Shampoo once again doesn’t seem to realize that the whole thing could be solved by her not being a violent jerk (to be fair to her, this applies to most of the cast as well). There’s also an amusing story that quickly turns bittersweet, as Ranma tries to turn a cold that temporarily stops his curse into an excuse to finally meet his mother at last. It’s a strong book.
But a lot of these reviews have been about my own experience with Ranma back in the 1990s (this is why I still use the old-fashioned romanization), and therefore it would feel wrong if I didn’t talk the rest of this review about Akari Unryuu. I was never a big watcher of the Ranma 1/2 anime, preferring the manga and fanfiction. And in any case, the Ranma anime had ground to a halt right about Vol. 26’s material, meaning that the last 12 or so volumes weren’t animated. And I never really got the popularity of the Ryouga/Ukyou pairing in fandom either, because I hadn’t seen the anime do a much bigger job of putting them together. And, given I liked Ryouga and wanted him to be happy, I always hoped something would come along.
Now it has, as we meet a young girl and her farm of sumo wrestling pigs. Make no mistake about it, Akari’s introductory story is as ridiculous as all the other Ranma stories, and I admit if she’d never showed up again it wouldn’t be all that different from, say, the story earlier in the book with Pink and Link (who indeed never show up again). Akari is looking for a husband strong enough to defeat her champion sumo pig, and has been massacring the males of Nerima as a result. Ryouga, naturally, flips the pig into the air with his umbrella. It’s love at first sight… if only Akari wasn’t so devoted to pigs. Every time she mentions them Ryouga twitches, to Akane’s confusion (a reminder that she never, ever does figure out Ryouga is P-chan) and Ranma’s frustration.
Ranma asks here, and the fandom asked constantly, whether Akari would simply fall in love with anyone who beat her pig. But Akari really does seem to have fallen for Ryouga himself, to the point where, when she mistakenly thinks he hates pigs, she has her sump pig beat her up till she can hate them herself and solve the problem. (This does not solve the problem. But then, if you’ve been reading Ranma 1/2, you’d have guessed this.) And tellingly, at the end of this short arc Ranma decides to solve the problem by exposing Akari to Ryouga’s curse – something that, as I’ve said above, never happens with Akane. So now Akari has the best of both worlds – she loves Ryouga, AND he turns into a pig.
I won’t deny, 20 years on, that Akari as a love interest is a bit flat. but then again, most Ranma characters are more two-dimensional than Fandom makes them out to be. She’s also introduced towards the end of the series, clearly as a love interest – go see ‘Pair the Spares’ on TV Tropes to see how this upsets people. But I still don’t really care, and Takahashi clearly didn’t either. Akari was popular enough that she gets a cameo at the end of this book, writing Ryouga a letter (which promptly gets destroyed, because that’s the kind of series this is, but hey). And she’ll show up again next time. In any case, this volume of Ranma 1/2 is excellent, and even if you don’t like Akari as much as I do (few do), you should still pick it up.