Ranma 1/2, Vols. 37-38

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.

And so at last we come to the end of the great Ranma 1/2 reissue. Inu Yasha may have had a broader reach, Urusei Yatsura may have had a bigger impact on Japan itself, and Maison Ikkoku may have had more maturity and resolution, but Ranma will still be THE anime gateway for many fans, along with Sailor Moon and Bubblegum Crisis. Having read the series again, I am able to see why it was so wildly popular, as well as why revisiting it can be frustrating. Ranma does not have depth – in fact, it actively leaps out of the way of depth – which makes it perfect for creative fans who want to give it that depth. It’s no coincidence that more than AMVs or fanart, it was fanfiction that was the biggest part of the mid-90s Ranma boom. Still, this does not mean that Takahashi’s manga is not good. It’s very good indeed.

Please do not be fooled by the cover – yes, there is a wedding at the end of the book, but we don’t even get to the ceremony before everything is completely destroyed and we return to the status quo. Well, status quo except that it seems that if there had not been chaos, Ranma and Akane might have gone through with the wedding. But there is always chaos in Ranma, it’s practically the main cast member. This manga ends much the same way that many of the classic UY anime episodes ended – with more and more of the cast showing up, each trying to beat up somebody else, until everything finally turns into a giant pile of destruction. Ranma 1/2 is not a romantic comedy, or a harem manga, or even a martial arts comedy. It’s pure slapstick.

The martial arts gets a good workout in the main part of this volume, though, as we return to China to battle another major villain. You get the sense that Takahashi is trying to figure out a way to top Herb, and she doesn’t manage it, really, but A for effort. The whole main cast is there (poor Ukyou, guess you were supporting after all), and there’s lots of cool fights and dramatic kicks and Akane and Shampoo in distress a lot of the time. That said, even when captured or dehydrated down to the size of a doll, Akane is still thinking hard and trying to get herself out of her predicament. Shampoo, alas, is merely mind-controlled most of the time. (I will note that Akane not noticing Ryouga transforming several times in this beggars belief, but hey.)

And so Ranma ends with our main couple waving goodbye to the readers as they head off to school again. It’s never quite confirmed that they do have mutual feelings for each other, mostly as I think Takahashi hoped people could read between the lines and see that she’d had them show their love without saying their love several times. (UY did this too – Ataru in particular was the poster child for “show, don’t tell”.) It didn’t quite work, and fans who disliked Akane were always quick to point out the open-endedness of the ending meant that they didn’t end up together. Takahashi later did one of those “character relationship charts”, filled with one-sided arrows, except for two – Ranma and Akane, and Ryouga and Akari. So she knew they loved each other.

But we don’t read Ranma for resolution of romantic tension. We read it for genderswapping and bizarre martial arts contests and so many fights and “Ranma no baka!” and in order to flesh out our 800,000 word epic fanfic with smatterings of actual canon. And we read it because we love the characters, flat as they are. Of course, we may not always love the SAME characters, but any Ranma fan is obsessed with at least one of them (except Happosai). Ranma 1/2 was a roadmap to modern anime fandom, and the road may be less traveled these days but it’s worth walking back over.

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!

Ranma 1/2, Vols. 33-34

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.

When Viz first started its omnibus re-release of Ranma 1/2, I told myself I was going to give every volume a full review, despite the fact that with one or two exceptions there is no plot or characterization development from around Vol. 10 to Vol. 36. And for the most part it’s been a good decision. I’ve been surprised at how much there is to talk about here, and how much more I’m getting out of the series twenty years on. That said, we’re definitely near the end of the series, and it’s starting to show. None of the chapters in this omnibus are horrible, but they are starting to feel tired, and you can sense Takahashi is ready to wrap this up. We’ll begin to see that wrapup with the next omnibus, but for now we have this mediocre book.


There are a few stories that are fairly well remembered by the Ranma fandom, but they ended up being more plotless runaround types than I expected. Ryouga eats a mushroom that turns him into a little kid, and Ranma rapidly follows. While the kids are adorable brats, the emphasis is on the brat part, of course, and so there’s mostly a lot of yelling and fighting. There’s also a lot of Mousse in this book, and readers familiar with my reviews will know that I simply dislike him. Probably the most famous story in the book is the one where the entire family become convinced, after deciding to eat out rather than going home and then returning to find various broken things, that Kasumi has finally snapped and actually gotten angry. It made me wonder if Takahashi was actually following the Western fandom, as a lot of the jokes (and resolution) here could be taken straight from it – except if it were the Western fandom, Kasumi really WOULD have been angry.

There are also some good bits here, as you’d expect for a series of such varying quality as Ranma 1/2. The Valentine Chocolate chapter was genuinely sweet towards the end, and shows off a bit of the ‘yes, they are in love’ that we enjoy so much from Ranma and Akane. And the chapters involving Hinako and Principal Kuno are a Takahashi runaround done right, with great comedy that works, including the revelation of “The Evil Tree… sorry, Three” which had me laugh out loud, and may be the best use of Nabiki ever. And while I felt the whole “Akane’s breasts are growing” arc with Nodoka was drawn out far too long, both that and the previous Nodoka story earlier in the book show this really isn’t going to last much longer – sooner or later, Ranma IS going to meet his mother.

Anyone picking up a 17th omnibus of Ranma is in it for the long haul, of course, and as usual it’s worth getting for the improved reproduction of the art and unflipped state. But we’ve only got two omnibuses to go after this, and I must admit I’m rather relieved.