This romcom series by multi-award-winning manga author Rumiko Takahashi is one of the great senpai of all romcom manga/anime.
By: Nicole S. Castro on May 26, 2022 at 12:01 PHT
With Rumiko Takahashi's romcom manga Urusei Yatsura getting an anime remake this October, we're sure your nostalgia feels for her award-winning works are going strong!
And what better way to take a trip down memory lane than with another one of her timeless romcoms (that we hope will be revived somehow too), Ranma 1/2!
Ranma 1⁄2 (Japanese: らんま 1/2, pronounced Ranma One-Half) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi. It was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Sunday from August 1987 to March 1996, with the chapters collected into 38 tankōbon volumes by Shogakukan.
The TV anime adaptation by Studio Deen totaled 161 episodes, with 18 episodes for season 1 (which aired from April 15, 1989 to Sept. 16, 1989) and 143 episodes for a collection of episodes that expand on the main storyline called Ranma 1/2 Nettohen. Nettohen aired from Oct. 20, 1989 to Sept. 25, 1992. The series was also expanded to several original video animations (OVAs) and anime films as well as a live-action film in December 2011.
Plot and Throwback (anime)
With this anime spanning 161 episodes, we just want to say first that this series has great music, not just the opening and ending themes, but even the background music.
Here is the very first opening song Jaja Uma ni Sasenai de (Japanese: じゃじゃ馬にさせないで) by Etsuko Nishio to warm you up for your nostalgia.
Okay, on to the plot. We're pretty sure no one has ever completely forgotten this well-loved anime, but let's have a quick refresher.
Ranma 1/2 is a romantic comedy whose humor centers on the fact that 16-year-old martial artist Ranma and the cast fall into various kinds of cursed springs (Jusenkyo 呪泉郷) that transform them into different things when splashed with cold water. The only way to turn them back is to splash them with hot water, leading to all sorts of hilarious accidents.
In the very first episode, Soun Tendo (CV: Ryusuke Obayashi), the head of the Tendo family, is waiting for father and son Genma (CV: Kenichi Ogata) and Ranma Saotome (CV: Kappei Yamaguchi) to arrive at his house. Ranma, who is mastering the Anything Goes Martial Arts under his father, is expected to marry one of Soun's three daughters Kasumi (CV: Kikuko Inoue), Nabiki (CV: Minami Takayama), or Akane (CV: Noriko Hidaka) so that the Tendo Dojo can stay in business.
But, the Tendo family is shocked to discover that Ranma arrives at their house as a girl. Genma explains that this is a result of an accident while they were training at the Jusenkyo in China. Both father and son fell into the cursed springs, transforming them into a panda and a teenage girl respectively. Ranma's female form is voiced by Megumi Hayashibara.
Despite this crazy weird setback, Soun and Genma agree to continue Ranma's engagement while Genma looks for a way to undo the curse of the Jusenkyo. They agree to engage Ranma to Akane as they are the same age and Akane is the most passionate about martial arts among the sisters. However, Akane is severely against it because she has a huge dislike for boys. Also, she and Ranma are off to a bad start after they run into each other naked in the bathroom (in Ranma's multiple forms) numerous times.
The rest of the series proceeds with Akane and Ranma living their day-to-day lives as students of Furinkan High School where they meet classmates, rivals, and many more who constantly challenge Ranma to martial arts fights for the strangest of reasons.
One of Ranma's most prominent rivals is Ryoga Hibiki (CV: Koichi Yamadera), who fell into the Jusenkyo that turns him into a black piglet when doused in cold water. Akane, who finds Ryoga in this form without knowing his true identity, adopts him as a pet and names him P-chan. Ranma makes it his goal to expose Ryoga's secret to Akane, but they also end up working together often to protect her.
As Akane and Ranma gradually grow closer, Akane finds herself with many rivals for Ranma's hand, with one of them being Shampoo (CV: Rei Sakuma), a warrior from the Chinese Amazon village who has a dual vow to marry male Ranma and kill female Ranma after being defeated by both versions.
Shampoo, who also fell into the Jusenkyo, is cursed to transform into a cat. This is terrifying for Ranma, who developed severe ailurophobia after Genma trained him to master the Cat Fu (猫拳, Neko Ken) technique. When Ranma's sanity reaches his limit, he begins to act like a cat and utilize the Cat Fu technique without his conscious awareness. In this state, only Akane can calm him down, much to Shampoo's dismay.
The rest of the series is enriched by the introduction (and interference) of more characters who push and pull Ranma and Akane's engagement. There is Shampoo's great-grandmother Cologne (CV: Miyoko Aso) who teaches Ranma the Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire Fist technique. Cologne still insists that Ranma must marry Shampoo and calls him "son-in-law" throughout the series.
There's also Shampoo's childhood friend Mousse (CV: Toshihiko Seki), whose one-sided feelings for Shampoo motivate him to challenge Ranma constantly. Mousse has poor eyesight so he ends up walking into the cursed spring that turns him into a duck.
Meanwhile, there is upperclassman and kendo club captain Tatewaki Kuno (CV: Hirotaka Suzuoki) who is madly in love with Akane. But he also develops feelings for female Ranma after being defeated by her. Not knowing Ranma can turn female, Tatewaki calls her the "Pigtailed Girl" and fights for both her and Akane's affections.
And then there is Tatewaki's younger sister, Kodachi Kuno (CV: Saeko Shimazu), the gymnastics team captain of St. Bacchus' School for Girls. In the opposite situation as her older brother, Kodachi hates female Ranma, thinking she is a rival for male Ranma, whom Kodachi is in love with.
Ranma's childhood friend Ukyo Kuonji (CV: Hiromi Tsuru) also makes an appearance. Ukyo is an okonomiyaki chef whom Ranma and Genma met 10 years prior to the manga's storyline. Ukyo is initially thought to be a boy, but turns out to be a girl. After clarifying the misunderstanding on her and Ranma's haphazard engagement, she reconciles with Ranma and becomes one of Akane's friendliest but also strongest rivals for Ranma's affections.
So how does the anime end?
The finale of the 161-episode anime is devoted to a heartwarming mini arc introducing Nodoka Saotome (CV: Masako Ikeda), Genma's wife and Ranma's mother. When Ranma was a little boy, Genma made the decision to leave the house with him in order to train Ranma to master the Anything Goes Martial Arts style. Nodoka has not seen them in over a decade so she has no idea Ranma can now transform into a girl.
True to the series' comedic form, the mother-son reunion goes awry with Genma constantly interfering. This is because Genma swore he and Ranma would commit seppuku (a ritual suicide common among the samurai) if Ranma failed to become "a man among men." So instead, Nodoka spends her stay at the Tendo household hanging out with Ranma as the female "Ranko" and her panda.
Near the end of the manga series, Nodoka finally discovers Ranma's and Genma's dual identities. Since she already had her suspicions about Ranma and Ranko being one and the same, she takes the revelation with ease and doesn't force them to commit seppuku.
But what about Ranma and Akane?
Warning: Spoilers ahead for those who have not read the manga.
In the final arc, Ranma goes up against Saffron, the ruler of the Phoenix People, a type of human-bird hybrid who live near the Jusenkyo and have adopted the water's magical qualities. Ranma defeats Saffron in an epic battle in order to save Akane who had been kidnapped.
After saving Akane, the scene shifts to a wedding in Nerima. Chaos ensures as every crazy fiancée, rival etc. fights over the magical Nanniichuan water which the Chinese tour guide gave as a wedding gift to reverse the curse, but no one gets to use it because Happosai accidentally drinks it all after mistaking it for sake.
Ultimately, the wedding does not reach its conclusion and is postponed. Soun can be seen saying Akane and Ranma need to settle other personal issues first before finally getting married. The final scene shows Akane and Ranma walking side by side with the parting line 「行ってきまーす」 (English: We're off!), resulting in an open ending.
Japanese manga artist Rumiko Takahashi is one of the most successful people in her industry, both in Japan and all over the world. With mega titles like Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2, and Inuyasha under her belt, it's impossible not to recognize her name if you are into anime/manga.
Ranma 1/2 as a series is over 30 years at this point, but its unique plot, highly memorable characters, and non-stop-but-always-exciting gags continue to shine. Your anime-loving life is not complete if you never got to know Ranma 1/2. This is a 5/5 must-watch among the classic anime.
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NICOLE S. CASTRO
Nicole is based in the Philippines and works as a freelance Japanese Translator/Interpreter and copywriter (English). She is a JLPT N2 passer who watches anime to "study" for N1. She has a long career history on LinkedIn (with primary focus on media and translation), but her anime watchlist is much, much longer.