Ranma ½ volume 1
by Rumiko Takahashi
Translated by Gerald Jones and Matt Thorn
BW, 312 pgs
$9.95 US / Higher in Canada
Both martial artist Ranma Saotome and his father are cursed. They were training and honing their skills in China at a legendary place where they were surrounded by magical pools, sparring on the tops of bamboo sticks. Ranma’s father fell into the “spring of drowned panda” and who ever falls into that pool takes on the body of a big ole panda bear. Ranma, shocked by the transformation of his father and surprised by what happened, couldn’t fight off his panda dad and so he was tossed into a neighbouring pool, the “spring of drowned girl.” And if you hazard a guess at what happened next you’re most likely right. Ranma surfaces with a girl’s body, breasts and all. Boy was he surprised.
Rumiko Takahashi began chronicling her outrageously crazy series Ranma ½ in 1987 after she finished wrapping up her first two popular manga series Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku. Takahashi started her career studying under Lone Wolf and Cub author Kazuo Koike while she attended women’s college in Tokyo, Japan. In 1978, Shonen Sunday began serializing her first comic, which garnered much success and a huge fan following. Today, she is one of Japan’s most premiere creators with over 100 million copies of her compiled works in print. Takahashi continues to work on her newest series InuYasha that began publication in 1996.
Takahashi’s storytelling is, well, silly and ridiculous. But it is all in a good way. The way Ranma’s curse works is he changes into a girl when he is splashed with cold water and only warm water changes him back to his regular boy body. It’s amazing how Takahashi can write in extensive scenes of flying buckets of water and swimming pools at the most inconvenient times for Ranma. With all the follies and missteps of Ranma, it’s a good thing his classmates are so stupid since they can’t seem to figure out that Ranma is this mysterious girl who pops up everywhere out of the blue.
Ranma’s father made a deal with a man back in Japan that Ranma would marry one of his three daughters and take over the family Martial Arts School. Ranma and the chosen girl, Akane, are not very happy about the situation. Sixteen-year-old Akane Tendo is in love with another man and Ranma won’t be forced into anything he doesn’t want. Plus there is the fact that Ranma turns into a girl when he gets wet… not a very good choice for a fiance.
Every morning before class all the local boys challenge Akane to a fight. They are all in love with her and they think if they defeat her, she will go out with the winner. The toughest swordsman in the school is a verbose bully named Kuno. He wants Akane’s love so bad he tries to kill Ranma when he hears that the two are to be married. Along the way, Ranma turns into a girl and Kuno falls in love with him because of her (umm…his) great fighting skills. Strange triangles of infatuation develop between the weirdest people and puppy love spreads like wildfire.
Ranma ½ delivers a great story, twisted and perverse as it is. Male and female alike, young adult and older can enjoy the story. Ranma ½ has been on the shelves for years now, with 35 volumes available at the moment. I have to catch up on the dozens of books in the series and enjoy the ongoing adventures of Ranma, Akane and the rest of the gang. (Dana Tillusz)