Ranma 1/2, Vols. 25-26

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

It’s not an ironclad rule, but in general, the longer the story arc in Ranma the better it ends up being. And this is good news for this volume, which wraps up the Herb arc from the previous omnibus, introduces a new character who brings a lot of silliness to the table, and has what may be the strongest arc in the entire series, where Takahashi learns that even though her series desperately need to be static and unchanging, sometimes you have to have the occasional character development. (Admittedly, we haven’t seen her learn that lesson with Rin-Ne just yet, but hey.) The Shinnosuke arc also manages to be strong simply by reversing the usual plotline of many a Ranma story, as this time it’s Akane who meets the stranger with a mysterious connection to her past.


Indeed, Akane is comparatively calm and peaceful compared to previous situations, possibly as, instead of dealing with a supposed errant fiancee for Ranma, she now has her own love troubles to deal with. Shinnosuke saved her when she was a child, at great cost to his own self, and has grown up to be a handsome young man who looks a bit like Ryouga. (Too much, IMO – especially when the actual Ryouga shows up, it can be difficult to tell them apart.) The trouble is that Akane loves Ranma, and even though she’ll never say it or think it she knows it as well. Thus on her end she feels an obligation to stay and help because of a life debt. Ranma, who is playing the Akane role this time around, can only see her getting cozy with this new guy. He goes through various stages of jealousy, and as ever with Ranma, the worst argument, where you know things are really bad, comes from when Ranma and Akane STOP hitting each other.

There is another half to this volume, of course. We wrap up Herb in a quick but satisfying way, and Ranma once again proves unable to sacrifice even one of his worst villains. We also meet Hinako, who is another character who transforms from one form to another, though for once it’s not due to a cursed spring but rather due to a failed attempt at a good deed by Happosai, of all people. The Hinako storyline is not going to give you the depth and romance that you see in the Shinnosuke arc. Instead we get pure comedy, as Ranma, in order to defeat the teacher, has to essentially grope her pressure points – which are exactly where you’d think they are. Oh yes, and Hinako’s transformation from bratty immature kid to statuesque stunner makes no sense except as comedy. But that’s Ranma for ya.

In short, Ranma has now turned the corner and is entering its twilight years, but can still turn out some classics, and this volume is overall excellent, provided you don’t mind some fanservice. There’s even actual romantic progress at the very end, which I won’t spoil except to again say that the real tsundere in this series is Ranma, not Akane.

Ranma 1/2, Vols. 23-24

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

Ranma fandom these days is a different beast from where it was in the halcyon days of 1996-1997. Then it was striding the anime world like a colossus, at least in North America, and not even Sailor Moon seemed to have quite as many people discussing or writing fanfics about it. Nowadays it’s a small fish in a big pond, somewhat forgotten but retaining a nostalgic glow. This has, however, allowed some newer aspects of fandom to infiltrate, notably the BL fandom. Back in the day there was BL, but it seemed to get drowned out by all the male fans arguing about which girl Ranma should end up with. The idea that the best man for Ranma might be Ryouga is something that is dealt with in this volume, albeit not in a serious way.


Ryouga comes across yet another magical item that will help him to win Akane, this time a fishing rod whose mark on a body leaves it with ever-increasing feelings of love. To be fair to Ryouga, he does seem to have moral qualms about using such a device to win Akane over. To be unfair to Ryouga, he tries it regardless. And when it hits Ranma, Ranma starts feeling very friendly indeed towards Ryouga. It starts off as washing his clothes and cooking for him, But as the mark expands, things get more serious, to the point where Takahashi feels obliges to urn Ranma female for the rest of the story. Akane, of course, becomes convinced that Ryouga is using the rod on Ranma because he can’t confess to him. Not exactly progressive, but honestly, this is exactly the sort of plot hook that many a BL story could work with. It’s also the best story of the first half of the book, which otherwise deals with annoyances such as Pantyhose Taro’s return (boring), Akane’s cooking (very boring), and Gosunkugi winning an enchanted suit of armor (really super boring and bad).

Luckily, the second half of the volume, is fantastic, and consists of one long story – indeed, there’s a cliffhanger, so it will carry over to the next volume. Herb is a villain who gives Ranma a challenge that he hasn’t really had to face in a long time, and his goofy yet deadly sidekicks Lime and Mint are just as dangerous – Ryouga is even brought to the point of death, though thankfully is able to triumph due to his super-depression. It allows Ranma to be clever and analytic again, one of my favorite sides of him, as he’s unable to see how Herb’s martial arts works – and how it’s actually LESS powerful than expected – without knowing the secret – like Ranma, Herb changes to female in cold water. This is the first time we’ve seen someone with the same exact curse as Ranma, and it helps to showcase their different styles – Herb has modesty, for one, something Ranma does not care about a bit. We also briefly see Ryouga and Mousse work together with Ranma, even if they have murderous motivation at the start. They make a good team.

Ranma sometimes seems a bit hoary and sexist (and homophobic as well) compared to some of the more popular works today, but Takahashi’s creativity usually shines through, and fans of the series will find most of this omnibus highly rewarding.

Ranma 1/2, Vols. 21-22

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

I discussed in my last review that the reader of Ranma 1/2 has to hit that sweet spot of caring enough about the characters to want to read more, while also not caring enough about them to take them too seriously. Nowhere is that more evident in Ranma than with how Takahashi deals with parents. She’s always had issues with parents, especially fathers, being mined for comedy, and even today in Rin-Ne we have one of the worst fathers she’s ever introduced, which is impressive in a career that’s give us Mr. Fujinami and Genma Saotome. So when we have the opening story here, where we’re meant to wonder if Genma really does have deeper emotions and feelings, it doesn’t quite ring true for us, as we’ve seen 20 volumes of him being a gigantic uncaring ass.

ranma 21

And of course that’s exactly what she wants us to think. She’s going for humor, and having the characters believe that Genma might care about his son while having the reader know better is why we’re here. What we’re left with is a fairly standard Ranma comedy arc of about three chapters, but you are reminded that Ranma lived almost his entire life on the road with only Genma to teach him, which explains much. It sets up the best story in this collection, which is the introduction of Ranma’s mother, Nodoka Saotome, who has come to the Tendos in search of her long-lost husband and son. Naturally, they are still long-lost because (say it with me) Genma is an ass, and Ranma is getting dragged into it with him.

Nodoka is a new character, and gets a more serious introduction than what we’ve seen before (witness the introduction of Mariko in the cheerleading arc, which is pure 100% silliness from moment one). There are signs she could be used for comedy, mostly based around her somewhat disturbing tendency to carry around a sword in case she has to decapitate her husband and son for being dishonorable. But for the most part Nodoka herself is treated seriously, and the comedy comes from Genma’s increasing efforts to hide Ranma’s male identity from her. Indeed, Ranma reflects on the fact that he never even knew he had a mother, and Nabiki, of all people, reminds him that the Tendos will never have the ability to see their mother again, so he should reach out more. (Takahashi immediately undercuts this with Nabiki charging him for hiding his identity, but we’re used to that from this author.)

Sadly, this wonderful arc is followed by one of my least favorite. It’s not that it’s poorly written – on the contrary, Ranma is painfully in character. Everything about the ‘reversal jewel’ arc plays into Ranma’s biggest weakness, his pride and his ego, and thus he cannot stop trying to get Shampoo to fall in love with him again, even when everyone else realizes “you idiot, this solves your problem!”. It also has a lot of Mousse, which I also tend to dislike, but at least he’s been dialed back to desperate here, as opposed to madman, and we’ll see more of that in the next volume.

But this is life with reading Takahashi, and Ranma in particular. Every arc you like that shows off the sweet, heartwarming sides of our characters is followed by showing off their petty, vengeful sides. Never grow, never learn. We’ll see if that keeps up with the next omnibus, which features one of the most beloved arcs (by the old 90s Ranma fandom, at least) of the entire series.