Ranma 1/2, Vols. 31-32

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.

The mid to late 1990s was a very strange time for anime fandom on the internet. Information was scarce and fleeting, and most fans relied on hearsay and textual spoilers. We’re a long ways before the era of scanlations and raws being available on all good pirate sites. As a result, Ranma fans who wanted more information (since the anime wasn’t adapting the final volumes, clearly) had synopses and that’s about it. this did not, of course, stop them from using said characters in fanfics, particularly if they helped pair up someone who didn’t really pair up easily before.


For example, we meet Rouge here, a Chinese girl (you can tell she’s Chinese as Takahashi names her after a beauty product, even though she’s not from Shampoo’s village) who ends up in a cursed spring thanks to Pantyhose Taro, and is now determined to have her revenge – most of which involves destroying the Tendo home. It’s an amusing story, relying on her falling in the spring of drowned ASURA, which is drawn with as much ridiculousness as it is possible to have. The denoument, where we see what she’s been fighting to retrieve all this time, is also funny in that Takahashi “so it was all completely pointless” way. Now, Rouge never shows up in the manga again, but several fanfic writers decided she made a good pair with Pantyhose (why they didn’t not write Pantyhose is beyond me, but hey) and thus she had a larger effect on the fandom than she did on the manga itself.

The same goes for Asuka the White Lily, who if she’d appeared ten years later would absolutely have been shipped with Kodachi – even leaving aside the Lily nickname, she’s a ojousama from a private school with a hate on for her childhood friend. But this is 1996, not 2006, and thus the battle between them over who has the best boyfriend (the joke being that because they’re both so horrible neither one has ever found a boyfriend) is taken by fandom somewhat at face value. Don’t worry, Asuka, someone will write a tortured yuri scene with you and Kodachi one day. Oh yes, and Akari shows up again, the only one of these girls who is making repeat appearances, as she visits Ryouga’s home (where, for once, he actually is) and gets caught up in a drawing room farce so broad I was expecting a plate of sardines.

For those who want ship tease with the regulars, well, there’s the hilarious Umbrella of Love story, which features the only known Kuno and Nabiki tease in the entire manga (even under the power of a mind-controlling umbrella, she’s still taking his money), but this is all about Ranma and Akane. As if knowing the end of the series is near, we get a truly incredible amount of moments between them. The umbrella is mostly played for laughs, but shows their feelings for what they are. The story with the Cursed Doll is almost horror, as Akane tries desperately to regain her body before Ranma is either dead or seduced. And most of all we have the arc where Akane gains a possessed armor with a mind of its own, one that makes her stronger than Ranma, and can only be removed if the wearer loses their heart to another. This should be the cue for more hijinks, but it’s played more seriously than I expected, with Ranma realizing how beautiful Akane really is, and trying to defend his true feelings even as she thinks he’s being like this to deceive her (as, to be fair, he has done over and over again).

Ranma never ends with any canon ships, though some are so close that you’d have to be a 1990s Ranma fan in order to deny them. Putting that aside, though, this is a particularly strong volume, one where even the Happosai story made me smile (not because I sympathized with him, it was simply ridiculous). Classic manga comedy at its finest.

Ranma 1/2, Vols. 29-30

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 sumo 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.

Ranma 1/2, Vols. 27-28

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

The difficulty with these omnibuses is that they can feel very unbalanced. This volume contains one of the strongest emotional and physical battles in the series… in its second half. To get there, you have to wade through Vol. 27 first, which features far more Mousse than is really recommended, Principal Kuno returning when no one wants him to, more possessed inanimate objects, and Hinako falling for Soun Tendo, a storyline that was a bit creepy when it was first released in the 1990s, but now reads as SUPER CREEPY today. Hinako may really be in her 20s, and have the body of a statuesque woman when she sucks out ki, but she looks (and acts) like an 8-year-old most of the time, and that fact makes the entire sequence a bit beyond the pale. Fortunately, Soun is totally oblivious to her, still being very much in love with his late wife.


However, the 2nd half of this omnibus is top-notch. Ryu Kumon’s backstory, once revealed, may be played up a bit for comedy purposes, but it does feature his only parent killing himself by accident, leaving him alone. As a result, even though he is trying to trick her, Ryu is drawn to Ranma’s mother, who mistakes him for her own son, and he realizes that he can bond with her in ways that Ranma, who is cursed to always be female around her, can’t. This leads Ranma to be more emotional than ever, as his desire to be a good son for his mother, fear of the promise to kill an “unmanly” child that she made, and rage at this upstart taking over his life all coalesce, leading him to be a bit more serious than usual in the ensuing fight.

It helps that Ryu is a top-notch martial artist. As ever, Ranma gets the floor wiped with him till he can figure out how Ryu is fighting and the way to counterattack. It helps that the actual “Martial arts _______” fight this time is one of Takahashi’s all-time cleverest, revolving around entering and leaving a house, and you’d be amazed at how much that can translate into fighting techniques. Of course, the trick is that it’s not a tool for fighting at all – which is why Ryu’s father, who thought it was, inadvertently killed himself trying to use it. As always, Genma and Soun are there to provide running backstory, and Genma seems to be at fault, but for once it’s only accidentally his fault. And the action sequences are really good, Takahashi has found her groove here.

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention the “Cursed Tunnel of Love” storyline. The anime softened this considerably in terms of Ukyou and Ryouga, the manga doesn’t bother. Ranma and Akane mistakenly think the two are a couple, but the idea is meant to be hilarious – the fights between them are nothing like the fights between Ranma and Akane, they’re just simply Ukyou’s frustration at Ryouga being Ryouga. That said, we’re coming near to wrapping up the series, and it would be nice if at least one of the harem candidates (on either side) got paired off. Oh Ryouga, if only there was a girl out there for you…