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Ranma ½

is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi with an anime adaptation. The story revolves around a 16-year old boy named Ranma Saotome who was trained from early childhood in martial arts. As a result of an accident during a training journey, he is cursed to become a girl when splashed with cold water, but hot water will change him back into a boy.

In Japan, the manga was serialized in Shogakukan's Shōnen Sunday where it ran from 1987–1996. Takahashi has stated in interviews that she wanted to produce a story that would be popular with children. Ranma's main audience was boys from elementary to junior high school age.

Ranma ½ was extremely popular among American anime fans in the 1990s and popularized many of anime's most common visual gags. The infamous 'cursed springs' plot device has even come up in anime-themed custom role playing games as a quick transgender device.

Features

Ranma ½ is best known for its novel comedic formula but is perhaps even better known for its gender-swapping main character, who often willfully changes into a girl to advance his goals. Ranma ½ also contains many other equally unusual characters, whose intricate relationships with each other, unusual characteristics and eccentric personalities drive most of the stories. Although the characters and their relationships are complicated, they rarely change once the characters are firmly introduced and settled into the series.

Setting

On a training journey in the Bayankala Mountain Range in the Qinghai Province of China, Ranma Saotome and his father Genma fall into the cursed springs at Jusenkyo. When someone falls into a cursed spring, they take the physical form of whatever drowned there hundreds or thousands of years ago whenever they come into contact with cold water. The curse will revert when exposed to hot water until their next cold water exposure. Genma fell into the Spring of the Drowned Panda while Ranma fell into the Spring of the Drowned Girl.

Upon returning to Japan, the pair settle in the dojo of Genma's old friend Soun Tendo, a fellow practitioner of Musabetsu Kakutō Ryū or "Anything-Goes" martial arts which Genma passed on to Ranma. Genma and Soun agreed years ago that their children would marry and carry on the Tendo Dojo. Soun has three teenaged daughters: Kasumi, Nabiki and the hot-tempered, but helpful, martial arts practicing Akane. As Akane is Ranma's age she is appointed for bridal duty by her sisters. Although both initially refuse the engagement having not been consulted on the decision, they are generally treated as betrothed and end up helping or saving each other on numerous occasions. They are frequently found in each other's company and are constantly arguing in their trademark awkward love-hate manner that is a franchise focus.

Ranma goes to school with Akane at Furinkan High, where he meets his recurring opponent Tatewaki Kuno, the kendo team captain who is aggressively pursuing Akane, but who also falls in love with Ranma's female form without discovering his curse. Furinkan serves as a backdrop for more martial arts mayhem with the introduction of Ranma's regular rivals, the eternally lost Ryoga Hibiki, the nearsighted Mousse, and Ranma's perverted grandmaster Happosai. His prospective paramours include the martial arts rhythmic gymnastics champion Kodachi Kuno, the okonomiyaki vendor and his second fiancée and childhood friend Ukyo Kuonji, along with the Chinese Amazon Shampoo, supported by her great-grandmother Cologne. As the series progresses, the school becomes more eccentric with the return of the Hawaii-obsessed Principal Kuno and the placement of the power-leeching alternating child/adult Hinako Ninomiya as Ranma's English teacher.

TV Series Deviations

The TV series stays true to the above description but does diverge from the rest of the series by keeping Ranma's gender transformation a secret to the high school students at least throughout most of its length (in both versions, the Kuno family act as if there were two Ranmas). The TV series also fails to introduce geeky, voodoo-practicing Hikaru Gosunkugi until very late in the series. Gosunkugi is an important rival for Akane's affections in the early manga. Instead, the TV series introduces a major recurrent character: Sasuke Sarugakure, diminutive ninja retainer of the Kuno family. Sasuke fills a number of Gosunkugi's roles in early storylines but is a major character in his own right.

The TV series also alters the placement of many story arcs; one of the earliest, Martial Arts Tea Ceremony, appears in the fifth volume (in English) of the manga but does not appear until the TV series' fifth season.

Manga

Origins

Takahashi drew inspiration for Ranma ½ from a variety of real-world objects. Some of the places frequently seen in Furinkan are modeled after actual locations in Nerima, Tokyo, Japan (both the home of Takahashi and the setting of Ranma ½). In addition, links have been shown between the manga and people, paintings, and even films.

Japanese publication

Ranma ½ began publication in September 1987, appearing in Shōnen Sunday, following the ending of Takahashi's previous major work Urusei Yatsura. From September 1987 until March 1996, Ranma ½ was published on a near weekly basis with the occasional colorized page to spruce up the usually black and white manga stories. After nearly a decade of storylines, Ranma ½'s final chapter was published in Shōnen Sunday 1996, Volume 12.

Following publication in Shōnen Sunday, were then published in book form until 1996 the pages were published in normal black and white. Ranma ½ was eventually serialized into 38 of these volumes. In 2002, Shogakukan opted to republish these under a new format, the shinsōban. These were essentially the same as the tankōban save for a different cover and the inclusion of the original colored pages in Shōnen Sunday.

In addition to the regular storylines, Ranma ½ has had several special releases. First, The Ranma ½ Memorial Book was published just as the manga ended in 1996. Acting as an end-cap to the series, it collects various illustrations from the series, features an interview with Rumiko Takahashi, and includes tidbits about Ranma: summaries of his battles, his daily schedule, trivia, and a few exclusive illustrations. Second, a Movie + OVA Visual Comic was released to illustrate the OVA episodes "The One to Carry On" (both parts) and the theatrical movie "Team Ranma vs. the Legendary Phoenix." It also included information on the seiyū, character designs, and a layout of the Tendo dojo. Finally, guidebooks were released for three of the Ranma ½ games; these included not only strategies, but also interviews.

United States publication

VIZ Media, a company owned by Shogakukan and Shueisha, published the English version of the Ranma ½ manga. Viz started publishing the Ranma ½ in 1993 in a monthly comic book format. Because of the time needed to accumulate material, subsequent volumes became relatively slow to come. Each graphic novel covers roughly the same amount of material as a tankouban, but Viz incorporated minor differences in grouping so that the English language version spans 36 volumes rather than the Japanese number of 38. Volume 36, the final volume, was released in stores on 14 November 2006, thus making it Viz's longest running manga, spanning over 13 years.

On 18 March 2004, Viz announced that it would reprint a number of their graphic novels. The content remained the same, but the novels moved to a smaller format with different covers. In the case of Ranma ½, the covers shifted from a variegated style to a more uniform cover. In addition, the price dropped to $9.95. However, the title would still retain its "flopped", left-to-right format, like the first edition.

The popularity of Ranma ½ among early otaku was such that several scanlations and manga summaries in various forms had existed for years before the completion of the official release.

Anime

Video Games

Characters

Ranma ½ features a large and diverse cast of characters, the largest cast of any Rumiko Takahashi series created so far. The following table lists the major characters present in both the manga and anime series with images taken from the manga. Japanese names are in the Western order (given name, then family name).

Saotome family

Male voice by: Kappei Yamaguchi (Japanese), Sarah Strange/Richard Cox (English). Female voice by: Megumi Hayashibara (Japanese), Brigitta Dau/Venus Terzo (English)
While training with his father at the Jusenkyo training grounds in China, Ranma was thrown into the Spring of Drowned Girl. According with the spring's curse, he emerged as a young girl. When splashed with hot water, he changes back into a boy. However, when splashed with cold water, he turns into a busty red-headed girl again. Martial arts is the 16-year-old's hero/heroine's life. Whenever his pride is damaged, Ranma will go to great lengths to rectify the situation. He can come across as petty, overconfident, insensitive and arrogant, as he is prone to cheat or give insults, often acts out of unthinking selfishness, and is a frequent braggart. However, much of the above is caused by awkward immaturity. Ranma has an extreme fear of cats resulting from when his father trained him in the dangerous 'Cat Fu' technique. If Ranma is isolated with a cat in a very small space, or when he can no longer cope with his fear of cats, he begins behaving like a cat himself and becomes a master of the 'Cat Fu'.
Genma is Ranma's insensitive, selfish and greedy father. He originally took Ranma to Jusenkyo because he'd heard about it in a Chinese brochure even though he can't read a word of Chinese. He also got cursed, turning into a panda. Unlike Ranma, he doesn't have much trouble with it, especially because he can get away from his problems in his panda form. While Genma frequently preaches duty and honor as a martial artist, he seems to be a poor example to set those standards by. He usually tries to flee from any problems he has caused or is entangled in, alternately foist the matter unto Ranma. While he's usually either too lazy or scared to show it, he is an incredibly powerful martial artist who possesses a towering battle-aura and has invented two schools of techniques based upon thievery.
Nodoka is Ranma's loving mother. She hasn't seen him and Genma in over a decade though, when they left on their training trip. Stating that a doting mother would hinder Ranma's training, Genma made a contract with her to raise Ranma as a "man amongst men", and if he failed, he and Ranma were to commit seppuku, a ritual suicide. However, because Ranma's curse makes him a woman half the time, they spent most of Nodoka's appearances hiding from her as Ranko Tendo and her pet, Mr. Panda. Nodoka's heart was constantly broken by knowing that she wanted nothing more than to see her son again. Eventually in the manga, she did meet Ranma and Genma and discovers their curses. However, she was more accepting than they expected. Mostly because she eventually began to suspect that Ranma and Ranko were, in fact, the same person.

Tendo family

Akane is Soun's youngest daughter at age 16. She is a very insecure, awkward and sensitive girl with a hot temper and a big heart. After first encountering Ranma's male form as a naked stranger in the bathroom and becoming further upset by his insults, their engagement was not off to a good start. With time, both Akane and the relationship mellow out, and she helps or risks her life for Ranma on several occasions. Akane regularly feels inferior to Kasumi in beauty and feminine pursuits, to Ranma and his other fiancées in cooking, martial arts ability or gymnastics, and to other students in swimming. She is trying hard to excel in everything, but is either clumsy or completely inept at all except for schoolwork and certain sports activities, like volleyball. When someone, frequently Ranma, belittles her lack of success, or calls her uncute, ugly, over-muscled, unfeminine and tomboyish she often feels upset. She is shown as very friendly towards people who are polite and do not insult her and has consistently risked herself to help or save Ranma.
Soun is the head of the Tendo household and one of the two families to practice Anything Goes Martial Arts. He is also a widower, left to single-handedly take care of his three daughters. He has a large house that is occasionally in need of repairs due to the fights that take place there. While he owns his own dojo, students have not been explicitly shown. Oddly he may not have a recurrent source of income and, in the anime, spends most of his time playing Shogi (Japanese chess) with his old training partner Genma. Community representatives frequently approach him when they have problems with unusual phenomena, so this may provide some of it. However he is shown to be quite careful with the expenses and gets upset when Nabiki spends his savings on expensive gifts, or when Ranma throws the dinner on the floor. Soun is anxious for his daughter to say she loves Ranma, or the other way around, to continue the legacy of his school. He'll start announcing wedding plans if Ranma and Akane seem romantically involved. Soun is able to manifest himself as a ghostly, floating oni head, whenever he is upset. He generally assumes most incidents are Ranma's fault. He's shown as extremely protective of his children, especially Kasumi, and becomes sad if their affection is in doubt. Miss Hinako is attracted to him, but he is very loyal to his dead wife and visits her grave in memorial.
Nabiki is the middle daughter of Soun. She loves money above all else and is willing to sacrifice anyone to gain more of it, even ruin her family to win a bet. In most stories that she plays a vital role, she either attempts to extort money from someone, or sets up dangerous situations for her own amusement, or both in combination. In different translations, she has been outright stated to have 'no maidenly feelings' or be 'completely heartless', but she isn't above using her classy and highly attractive appearance as a lure for potential suitors/victims. She has a sarcastic, materialistic, egoistic, manipulative, sadistic and completely amoral attitude that is a sharp contrast to her older sister. Nabiki has been stated to invest at least some of her earnings in personal stocks, but is extremely unwilling to spend her own money. She would rather steal Akane's wardrobe, get spoiled by an admirer, or empty Soun's savings by buying expensive gifts for herself. She was briefly engaged to Ranma after Akane got frustrated but also played a role in bringing the two back together, when Ranma seemed to turn into more work than her profits warranted.
Kasumi is the eldest of the Tendo girls, and the most traditional in the Japanese sense. She has graduated high school and spends most of her day looking after the Tendo household, acting as the family's substitute "matriarch" ever since her mother's untimely death by cooking, cleaning and helping her family. Sweet, innocent, caring and seemingly unaffected by the lunacy that is surrounding her, Kasumi is one of the few characters who never gets hurt at any point in the series, if you don't count her temporary possession by a mischievous oni. She's occasionally shown as wiser and more perceptive than readily apparent, and can see through Nabiki's schemes. Beyond taking care of the household, she's been shown to go out to meet friends and has borrowed a pressure point book from her good friend Dr. Tofu, who is in love with her.

The Chinese

Shampoo came to Japan to kill the female Ranma after he defeated her in an annual martial contest so he and Genma could eat the prize, a fully stocked banquet table. She gave Ranma's female form the "Kiss of Death", a promise to track her down and eventually kill her. Later, after being defeated by Ranma in male form, she gave him the "Kiss of Marriage." Due to Amazon law, she is then bound to either kill or marry him. She returns home to be retrained at Jusenkyo by her great-grandmother Cologne, but she became cursed and turns into a cat — the one thing Ranma fears most. Having returned to Nerima, Tokyo, Japan, Shampoo waits tables at the Cat Cafe (Neko Hanten), her great-grandmother's restaurant, and delivers ramen by bicycle, occasionally running down people—particularly Ranma—on the streets and rooftops. She has stated variations on 'obstacle is for killing' as a personal motto, which even included Akane when the latter was captured and tied up by Pantyhose Taro.
Cologne is Shampoo’s great-grandmother and the leader of the Chinese Amazon tribe. She came to Nerima to see what this “future son-in-law” was made of, but she ended up staying so that she could aid Shampoo in winning Ranma's heart. Though an extremely old woman (300 years old, according to the anime), she remains an immensely dangerous martial artist who has taught Ranma the Kachū Tenshin Amaguriken and Hiryū Shōten Ha. Unlike the rest of the cast, Cologne seems to prefer to sit in the background and watch the madness unfold. If she has a motive, whether it is to help Shampoo in her efforts or to aid Ranma in his battles, only then will she step into the fray. She also runs a Chinese restaurant called the Cat Cafe, where Shampoo and Mousse both work.
Mousse is a long-time friend of Shampoo, though she might not view it that way. He has been in love with her for most of his life, but she finds him annoying at best. He can't see very well without his glasses, often mistaking someone for something else. He comes to Nerima in search of this "new fiancé" that Shampoo has, and he stays to attempt to woo his sweetheart. Shampoo rebuked his advances when they were children and this still holds true by Amazon law, even if he manages to defeat Ranma in combat, but he remains persistent. Now a waiter at the Cat Café, he turns into a duck thanks to his own Jusenkyo curse. When in human form, his clothes contain weapons of drastic proportions, including needles, chains, swords, bombs, household appliances, and just about anything else imaginable. In duck form, Mousse can hide knives in his feathers.

Jusenkyo Guide Voiced by: Kōichi Yamadera (Japanese), Ian Corlett (English)

The Jusenkyo Guide turns up at odd points during the series. Though he speaks in somewhat broken Japanese (like Shampoo's accent), he is very knowledgeable about subjects concerning all things Chinese, especially the Jusenkyo Springs. Although he seems to genuinely care about the well-being of the people he guides, most of them end up falling into a spring and getting to hear him recite a very tragic story. For this reason, he keeps a list that contains the names of everyone who has been cursed. He also has a daughter named Plum and remains uncursed despite the long period of time he has been there and the number of people he has watched get cursed.

Kuno family

Tatewaki Kuno is an upperclassman at Furinkan High and was the big man on campus – at least until Ranma came along. Hailing from a very wealthy family, he is also captain of the kendo club and wields both his fortune and sword with equal ease. Given to spouting off Confucian philosophy (Shakespearesque poetry in the English version), he is madly in love with Akane. He also falls for Ranma’s female half and never realizes that she is really his mortal enemy in girl form. He once hears her called by Ranma's name, and attempts to write it down for future reference. Despite this, Kuno never makes a connection and continues to refer to her as his "goddess in pigtails" for the entire series.
(Sylvia Zaradic (Season 5-7))
Kodachi Kuno is the sister of Tatewaki and attends classes at St. Hebereke, an all-girls school. A champion of Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics, she is defeated by female Ranma, whom she believes is in love with the male Ranma, and thus earns her hatred. Kodachi fell in love with the male Ranma after he saved her from a fall before the match. Over the course of the series, she shows up with various plots to make him love her, usually through some sort of deviousness: paralysis gas in roses, sleeping pills in cookies, that sort of thing. But like her older brother, she does not realize that Ranma and the "pigtailed girl" are the same person. This fact is often a source of conflict for her and Tatewaki.
Principal Kuno is the long-absent principal of Furinkan High. Apparently off in Hawaii for quite some time, he returns rather suddenly and proceeds to make as much trouble as possible for the students. He is forever trying to discipline Ranma, especially in regards to his braided ponytail. Given to affecting Hawaiian speech and culture, he is also the long-lost father of the Kunos. His son is not particularly happy to see him, though.

Notable Nerima residents

Ten years ago, on a training trip in the country, Genma stole Ukyo's father's okonomiyaki yatai (food cart), leaving her behind and breaking the arrangement he and her father made. However, before this Ranma and Ukyo were friends, though Ranma never knew she was a girl. Shamed and ridiculed by her peers, Ukyo decided she wouldn't like boys, dressed and lived as one, and devoted herself to okonomiyaki-style martial arts. After a heated battle, Ranma discovers her true gender. Meanwhile, she discovers that he does not get along with his "uncute" fiancée Akane. They reconcile, and she falls in love with him again. Ranma still treats her only as an old friend, and her plots to win him over have been almost consistently non-violent, unlike those of his other suitors. She has been willing to give up her house and restaurant, or rescind her craft for Ranma's sake, if it would mean that they could be together.
"Voodoo Spike" Gosunkugi is the least popular student in Furinkan and a student in Ranma's class. He's a painfully shy boy with few friends. Like many of the Furinkan students, he loves Akane and attempts to win her by doing away with Ranma through inefficient Voodoo magic or outrageous plots. He also enjoys taking photographs on the sly and teams up with several other characters, notably Kuno, in various plots. Most of his parts were given to Sasuke, the ninja servant of the Kunos, in the anime.
Dr. Tofu is the resident chiropractor and well-liked by the residents of Furinkan. He is also a martial artist, though never seen practicing, and is quite competent at tending Ranma and Akane in their various scrapes. He is also madly in love with Kasumi and becomes quite dangerous when she is around. In these instances, he becomes an incompetent fool, sometimes harming his patients. Sadly, she doesn't feel the same way. He always seems to know what to do—until Kasumi arrives. The anime gives him a larger role, though in both mediums, he becomes a very minor character after the first few stories.
Hinako is an English teacher hired by Principal Kuno for the purpose of reforming Furinkan High's many delinquents. Due to Happosai’s intervention when she was a small child, she has an unusual metabolism. By sucking out her enemy's battle aura through a circular opening, usually that of a five-yen coin, she transforms from an innocent child into a rather provocative woman. As a child, she is spastic and acts absurdly. In her adult form, she tends to be a bit cold and forward. Either way, however, she tries to take her job seriously, and has a crush on Soun. She's been shown to have bad housekeeping skills and a penchant for junk food.

Martial artists

Ryoga is a childhood rival of Ranma's and is infamous for losing his way thanks to a horrible sense of direction. After spending months looking for male Ranma for leaving before their planned duel, he finally finds him in China but gets pushed into a Jusenkyo spring by female Ranma and now changes into a small piglet. He seeks Ranma out with a large grudge, and discovers Akane who thinks that little “P-chan” is quite cute. Of course, she doesn’t know that it’s really Ryoga, but that doesn’t stop him from falling in love with her. When not upset he's usually shy, humble and polite, especially around women. His anger lessens with time, first into a fierce rivalry, then shifting back and forth between tense competition, uneasy allies or non-serious conflicts. Finally they became on friendly enough terms for Ryoga to repeatedly risk his life to help Ranma, but the competition between the two will likely persist forever. Ryoga spends his time wandering through the wilderness, training and amassing new techniques to exceed Ranma — if he can ever find his friend and nemesis.
The very definition of a dirty old man, Happosai is the grandmaster and founder of the Anything Goes Martial Arts school. Genma and Soun were his original disciples, but they got fed up having to steal lingerie for the old lecher and decided to try and finish him off. They were quite surprised when he showed up many years later to make them miserable and find a successor in the Art. Unfortunately for Ranma, he was the incorrigible old freak's choice. He is an immensely skilled and powerful martial artist, with but one weakness: bras , panties, and pantyhose. Happosai is so obscenely addicted to his perversion that he suffers from withdrawal if he goes without them for an extended period. It seems as though he always shows up at the most inconvenient moments. Happosai can go to great lengths to ruin the life of anyone that displeases him, but usually chooses silly methods. He nonetheless shows a soft spot for children.
Pantyhose Taro has possibly the most unusual curse in the series, having been baptised in the Spring of the Drowned Yeti Holding an Eel and Crane while Riding an Ox after his birth. Unfortunately, it was Happosai who performed the honor after helping his mother give birth while he was in one of his rare good moods. In Taro's society, the baptiser also receives the honor of naming the child, and he chose "Pantyhose," believing everybody would like it. Taro enjoys the power his cursed form possesses, even going back to Jusenkyo to get an octopus curse to add tentacles to his back. A cold, sadistic and thoroughly ruthless individual, he is driven entirely by his desire to capture Happosai and be renamed.

Awards

In November 2006, the New York Comic Con announced that it would host the first-ever American Anime Awards. Anime fans had the chance to vote for their favorites online during the month of January 2007. Only the five nominees receiving the most votes were announced February 5th for each category. Among the 12 different categories, Ranma ½ was voted into the "Best Comedy Anime" category, and the Ranma ½ OVA series was voted into the "Best Short Series" category.

References

External links

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