After the huge success of Urusei Yatsura (I made a review about it as well), mangaka Rumiko Takahashi decided to make an equally queer series, with more focus on action and characters. And the result was Ranma!
ART SECTION: 5/10, SOUND SECTION: 8/10
- Very old style but will stay adorable no matter how many years pass. This series has memorable character figures, distinguishable voices and behaviors, a huge heart-warming variety in backgrounds and humor that still gets to you without needing realism, CG graphics or unbelievable visual effects.
- Most episodes make several image and sound references to very known movies, traditions and myths (of the 80’s and before, that is) making most episodes a parody of every renowned title you can think of. The rest are funny, every day situations, with the characters experiencing new pleasures or taking part in weird games and contests. So, this department has no significance over the real value of the series.
- Production values are rather bad and become much worse as the show goes on but rejecting the series because of the old graphics and sound is NOT an excuse. Jerky movements and more crude graphics make the series less interesting later on but if you got all the way up to the turning point, it means you liked the series and this is not a major problem anymore.
STORY SECTION: 5/10 (6/10 in the manga)
A common trademark of all of Rumiko Takahashi’s works is the stale and unfinished scenarios (although Maison Ikkoku and Inu Yasha are exceptions). The series begins with a story, spends a few episodes introducing the characters and then has really thin continuity. All episodes are divided into stand-alone small story arks and only those introducing recurring characters or another attempt at a given situation can be called to have an on-going scenario. Beyond that, no matter what happens in the end of an ark will have little effect in the beginning of the next. Although there is an evolving story, the series is focusing on humor rather in scenario continuity. Especially, after the third season, the continuity becomes very scarce.
By the way, the manga takes the story far beyond the ending of the series and it is a must if you want to know more.
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
A major plus of the series. Almost all characters are hilarious albeit two are the most memorable.
Ranma: A cult figure, Ranma is a young male martial artist. He and his father fell in a cursed pond and now every time they are showered with cold water, he turns into a girl and his father into a panda! He has to hide this fact from everyone and find a cure. If that is not enough, he has been arranged to marry Akane, who doesn’t like men in general. Also, everyday he faces challenging martial artists, other cursed-pond creatures and weird people who are either in love with his male or his female side. He can be seen as the ridicule of the perfect Japanese manly stereotype, as he is supposed to act like a man, even when hiding in a dress.
Akane: A young female martial artist. She can be seen as the ridicule of the perfect Japanese girly stereotype, as she is good in beating people and completely useless at every task any typical housewife can do. She hates men and yet she is arranged to marry the queer Ranma. She is constantly chased by men who want to date her while defending her father’s dojo from challengers, as there are no male descendants to do the job.
The one theme, which stays constant in the series, is the true love between Ranma and Akane, despite their flawed nature. In many episodes they have opportunities to part ways, but always the two come back to each other. Some of the best dramatic moments in the series are in these episodes.
There are half a dozen other beautiful women that circle Ranma from time to time, giving the series a hint of harem anime. The main two are a Chinese noodle martial artist and a cross-dresser girl raised as a boy, who is also aimed to marry him. There are a hundred more secondary characters that spice up the story even more, from the pathetic fathers of the two main heroes, to their hentai martial arts master, to Akane’s day and night different sisters, to Ranma’s animal-based cursed rivals.
To sum it up, most characters are essentially reverse stereotypes of the ideal images of Japanese people. You must be well aware of Japan’s traditions if you want to “get the joke” but even if you are not, they are still very funny most of the time.
The main characters in Ranma are not totally stale as many of them change (not mature; CHANGE) as they interact with several secondary characters that are introduced later in the story. They also learn more fighting techniques and in theory become stronger. Still, they are not as memorable as those in Urusei Yatsura .
VALUE SECTION: 9/10
A must-series for all retro fans who seek quality. It still is amongst the longest and better comedies of the 80’s, even if its production values betray it half way. In fact, every martial arts comedy anime in the last 20 years owes something to this series. It has a pretty high rewatch value, since you can start at any episode and you are almost guaranteed a good laugh without spoiling any story continuity (because there is almost none). Its humor is a parody of the Japanese culture and its stereotypes, becoming a sort of self-criticizing essay on Japan’s history and thus offering some food for thought as well.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10
1/4th of the episodes are not funny at all. Especially after the 3rd season, the characters become more stupid and less interesting. But the rest made me laugh hard and that is all that matters. A great series, in spite of its flaws.