Anime Spotlight: Ranma 1/2

Ranma 1/2 is an anime based off of a manga created by Rumiko Takahashi, and it’s a shonen series that features martial arts and romantic comedy. In Japan, the series ran for 161 episodes. There were also three films released, as well as 12 Original Video Animation (OVA) episodes. There were also some Ranma 1/2 specials that were produced.

Ranma 1/2 was extremely popular among American anime fans in the 1990s, and also helped to popularize what are considered to be many of anime’s most common visual gags. In 2006, the New York Comic Con hosted the first-ever American Anime Awards, and they gave anime fans the chance to nominate their favorites for various categories; the top five vote-getters for each category would be the nominees. Anime fans ended up nominating Ranma 1/2 for the Best Comedy Anime category, while the Ranma 1/2 OVA series was nominated for the Best Short Series category.

Ranma 1/2 features Ranma Saotome and his father, Genma. As part of their “Anything-Goes” martial arts training, they went to the Bayankala Mountain Range in the Qinghaii Province of China, specifically to the cursed springs at Jusenkyo.

In the process of their training, they each fall into one of the cursed springs; Genma fell into the Spring of the Drowned Panda, while Ranma fell into the Spring of Drowned Girl. When this happened, they took on the physical form of whatever drowned in that spring hundreds or thousands of years ago, and they take on this form whenever they come into contact with cold water. The curse reverses when they are exposed to hot water.

When Ranma and Genma return to Japan, they settle into the dojo of Genma’s old friend, Soun Tendo. They reside there with Soun’s three teenage daughters: Kasumi, Nabiki, and Akane. Years earlier, Genma and Soun had agreed that their children would marry and carry on the Tendo dojo; since Akane is Ranma’s age, her sisters decide to appoint her to be the one to be betrothed to Ranma.

However, hot-tempered Akane doesn’t like this idea, because she doesn’t like boys. At the beginning, both Akane and Ranma refuse the engagement; however, their families tend to treat them as betrothed. Ranma and Akane also find themselves saving each other on a number of occasions. They can often be found in each other’s company and they argue in an awkward love-hate manner.

Ranma and Akane both attend Furinkan High, where Ranma meets Tatewaki Kuno (the captain of the kendo team who is aggressively pursuing Akane). Ranma and Kuno become recurring opponents. However, Kuno also falls in love with Ranma’s female form, without discovering anything about Ranma’s curse.

As the series continues, other characters are introduced as potential love interests for both Ranma and Akane. Ranma’s other love interests include: the Chinese Amazon named Shampoo, Kodachi Kuno (the sister of Tatewaki Kuno), and the okonomiyaki chef Ukyo Kuonji. Akane’s other potential love interests are: Tatewaki Kuno, the eternal lost boy Ryoga Hibiki, and unpopular student Hikaru Gosunkugi.

When I first started watching the Ranma 1/2 anime series, I found it to be genuinely funny. While the humor is still decent as the series progresses, some of the humor does wear kind of thin near the end due to relying on some jokes too heavily.

However, many of the characters are rather endearing, so this helps to even out the decline in humor near the end of the series. As a viewer, I always found myself rooting for Akane and Ranma getting together, and was a little frustrated that there was no real conclusion to the Ranma 1/2 anime series. I ended up reading the manga series after finishing the anime, and found that even the manga didn’t have a definitive ending.

I ultimately have to look at Ranma 1/2 as being an animated sitcom. While the characters may go through events and some changes over time, there really isn’t an overarching story. In other words, don’t go into this series expecting to see any lasting dramatic changes to the characters or to their situations. But even with its weaknesses, I still do enjoy watching the Ranma 1/2 anime series.

Admittedly, the animation in Ranma 1/2 looks rather dated, but the characters and story are able to rise above the dated look of the series. After watching some of the Ranma 1/2 anime series, I could understand why it was as highly regarded as it was back in the 1990s.

I would recommend that any anime fan who wants to better understand anime made in Japan in the late 1980s and early 1990s really needs to watch at least a little bit of Ranma 1/2 in order to better understand the anime of that time period and to see what may have helped to inspire some of the anime that is made today.

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