Ranma½
Author:
Rumiko Takahashi
Genre:
Romantic Comedy
Grade
A+

First published in 1987, Ranma½ was one of the first (and best) pioneers of the romantic comedy genre in new Manga and Anime titles you see today. Rumiko Takahashi's mix of action, romance and absurdity is what makes this such a brilliant series.

To start off, the story revolves around Saotome Ranma - a martial artist who just returned from rigorous training in China with his dad, Genma. In Japan, they met with Soun of the Tendo family, an old friend of Ranma's dad. Apparently, he was betrothed to one of Soun's three daughters, that being of Akane Tendo, the most tomboyish and "uncute" girl Ranma had ever laid his eyes on. Of course, the arranged marriage was a backstep for both Akane and Ranma. But, their fathers are persistent for it to go through so that Ranma will be able to take over the family's tradition: The Anything Goes Style Martial Arts. And so begins the zaniest, most ridiculous adventure you will probably ever see. That doesn't mean it's bad, by all means.

The main factor of Ranma½ is that both Ranma and his dad were cursed. After falling into the Jusenkyo springs during their training in China, Ranma will turn into a girl when coming in contact with water. Even worse, his dad would transform into a panda! Only hot water can change them back to normal, and this unique concept brings out a lot of hilarious moments you'll find on the Manga. This also marks their partial quest of finding a cure for the curses put on them.

Throughout the story, Ranma encounters other love interests. With the exception of Akane, all the girls are absolutely crazy over him, which brings out the annoyance of Akane and Ranma himself:

  • The first being Shampoo, the girl from a Chinese tribe Ranma encountered in Jusenkyo. After being beaten by his girl form, it was a necessity for Shampoo to kill Ranma as not to tarnish the tribe's name. But after finding out that he's also a guy, Shampoo now wants to marry him. She also sets up noodles restaurant in Japan with Cologne, her elder from the Chinese tribe.

  • Then there's Kodaichi Kuno, a champion gymnast who uses dirty tricks to help her win tournaments. After being beaten by Ranma's girl form (in gymnastics), she became her lifelong rival. But during a particular incident at the Tendos, guy Ranma saved her from falling to the ground. Of course, she fell in love with him.

  • Next up is Ukyo Kounji, another girl who was betrothed to Ranma from childhood. Ranma's dad Genma once promised Ukyo's dad to marry the two; in exchange, Genma gets the family's okonomiyaki (a type of Japanese pancakes) stall. But the dishonest Genma and son ran away with the stall, leaving Ukyo behind. She first wanted revenge for abandoning her, but Ukyo ended up forgiving Ranma and wants to proceed with the marriage.

Of course, it wouldn't be complete without Ranma's archrivals, all vowing to defeat him and to snatch his aforementioned love interests. Most of the time he's just too strong for any of them though:

  • The first is Hibiki Ryoga, a guy with absolutely no sense of direction. At first he wanted to settle his childhood rivalry with Ranma, but latter found out that it was also Ranma who caused him to fall into one of the cursed Jusenkyo springs; the one that turns him into a little black pig. He was going for revenge, but he had a crush on Akane, all the more reason to defeat Ranma. He somehow ended up being Akane's pet (in the form of P-Chan, the cute little pig - apparently she never realized who the pig really was), and the two rivals had to live under the same roof.

  • Then comes Tatewaki Kuno, a kendo champion from Furinkan, the same high school as Ranma and Akane's. This guy has a crush on both Akane and girl Ranma, complemented by his hilarious stupidity and sheer desperation. He decided to go with both girls, and becomes the subject of much beating from the two. Being Kodaichi's brother, the two siblings had opposite rivals and love interests. And Kuno always fails to realize Ranma's ability to change; he's just too stupid.

  • After that is Mousse, who this time around wants to be with Shampoo. After finding out about Ranma, he swore to defeat him to prove his worth. Aside from the fact that he can't see without his fly glasses, Mousse uses lots of tools and tricks under his sleeve when fighting Ranma. And he's another victim of the Jusenkyo springs; his other form is that of a duck.

Aside from these characters, the story is also sometimes focused on the exploits of Happosai, a martial arts master who used to teach Genma and Soun. But this guy's a total pervert; he steals underwear and likes to grab girl Ranma's breasts. He's also practically invincible, so his two apprentices had to let him stay with the Tendo family. Happosai is a total troublemaker, and given the fact that he's stronger than Ranma, it's very hard to subdue this pervert. And these are all the regular characters throughout the story, aside from Dr. Tofu, a doctor and martial experts, and the two other Tendo daughters, the greedy Nabiki and the polite eldest sister Kasumi.

Now, each volume usually consists of a story or two about Ranma and his obstacles; that being from the characters above or from a one-off enemy. As the story progresses, it gets more and more ridiculous, which makes it totally hilarious. And what's so great about the Manga is that it never fails to be funny, unlike the inconsistent Anime version, when certain seasons range from mediocre to horrendous regarding the humor factor. Also, Takahashi's style of drawing is absolutely great, done with such charming simplicity. Even with the fact that it's been more than a decade after the Manga was first published, it's too damn good and funny to miss.

Now you may think that this is totally old/boring stuff, but believe me, Ranma½ is a total gem. Being Takahashi's most popular work next to Inuyasha, it's really not too hard to find the Manga version, even in the States. I will always prefer this over the Anime, but the cost for all its tankoubon volumes might set you back by a margin or two. But for me, it's a pricey yet excellent, worthy bit of investment. Don't miss out.

- - FREEQZ

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