Let me start off right away by saying; no, I haven't read the manga. Although I had heard about Ranma 1/2 before, it was only since very recently that I came in contact with it. And it just so happens that I prefer watching anime than reading manga.
Besides, everybody keeps saying that the manga is superior, so why would you need me to confirm it for you? And if it is true, than I must truly adore the manga should I ever read it. Though the manga may be better, I will remain ignorant of that for this review.
Story - 7/10
This is the deciding factor whether you are going to like Ranma 1/2 or not. Let me put it this way; if you were expecting your typical long-runner shounen anime with story arcs of 30 episodes (or more) each, with multiple, powerful bad-guys, then you are looking in the wrong spot. Ranma 1/2 is not like Naruto, One Piece, Dragon Ball or Bleach. It simply doesn't take itself serious enough for that. Basically, it's an 161 episode long, episodic romantic comedy with a good dose of action. There are no major villains, no battles to decide the fate of the world, no casualties and no story arcs. That being said, if you enjoy these collections of short, silly, light-hearted scenarios, then you'll probably enjoy Ranma 1/2. If not, I suggest you skip this one completely.
So storywise, there's not much going on here, but naturally there is a plot. It follows 16 year old Saotome Ranma, who, during a training journey through China with his father, Genma, falls into a cursed spring at Jusenkyo. It was in this spring that a young girl tragically drowned some 2000 years ago. Now, a curse rests on Ranma, and whenever he is splashed with cold water, he transforms into a red-headed girl! He transforms back when doused with warm water. I don't think I need to tell you what awkward situations this can bring. But he is not the only one. His father, Genma, fell into a spring where a panda drowned, thus causing him to turn into a panda. A little later, they both return to Japan, where Genma has made a promise with his old fellow trainee Soun Tendo that his son was to marry one of his daughters and inherit the Tendo Anything-Goes-Martial Arts Dojo. Ranma's fiancée turns out to be Akane Tendo, a tsundere prototype. And you guessed it! They don't get along at all, and constantly deny their engagement to one another.
More characters pop up as the show progresses, such as Ryoga Hibiki, the directionally challenged rival of Ranma, who transforms into a black piglett, dubbed by Akane as P-chan, and Shampoo, an Amazon sworn to kill girl-type Ranma (for a little while at least) and marry boy-type Ranma. She turns into a kitty when splashed with cold water.
For pretty much the rest of the anime, several boys fall in love with Akane, several girls fall in love with Ranma, and even girl-type Ranma (aka the pigtailed girl) gets some attention. Ranma strives to lift his curse, is challenged by a whole array of goofballs to some bizarre forms of martial arts (dining martial arts?) and struggles with his relationship with Akane. And that's pretty much all I can tell you. Really, there's not many risks for spoilers.
Animation - 7.5/10
Taking into account that this anime is relatively old (around 20 years), I really don't feel like I can complain about it. I haven't seen many anime of this age, so I can't compare it all that well. But to me, at least, the art and animation is satisfactory. I have noticed some small errors, such as Ranma's hair being colored black in certain shots while he was in girl form. These errors are fairly rare though. Lipsynching is a little sloppy most of the times, but that's not such a big bother. Animation does what it needs to do, albeit a bit on the simplistic side mostly. In short, if you like this kind of old-school style, you should appreciate it.
(Also, though it might not look like it, this anime contains nudity, so be warned)
Sound - 9/10
For an oldie, I found the sound quality to be really good compared to others like Dragon Ball. The casting and voice acting is spot on, nearly every character, period. Overacting is not an issue, since it's generally a comedy. The soundtrack consists of some very memorable, recognisable and fun tracks. Wether they're battle themes or play during the funny slapstick scenes, they will always stick to you. Then again, if you've watched 161 episodes, you are at least going to remember some music anyway.
Since this is a long-runner, there's multiple OP's and ED's. Some are very catchy, while others are rather forgettable. But no matter what, you will never in your life forget about the very first opening theme and the second season's ending. It's physically impossible!
Characters - 8/10
There is barely any character development. Yeah, since this anime is episodic, don't count on the characters' personalities changing. With the exception of Ranma and Akane growing towards eachother more, and perhaps Ranma's and Ryoga's relationship, what you see in the beginning is what you gotta deal with for the rest of the series. Akane is the perfect tsundere, and possesses all necesarry qualities, 'nuff said. Ranma's personality doesn't change when he turns into a girl, but he's not afraid to take advantage of his curse. He's just as stubborn, thick-headed and arrogant as his fiancée Akane, so they usually end up squabbling. In a way, Ranma is a tsundere too. Shampoo is a sneaky girl that wouldn't mind resorting to dirty tricks to win Ranma all for herself. Ryoga is quite resentful towards Ranma, mainly because he too has a crush on Akane. When facing Ranma, he's aggresive, but when with Akane, he turns into a major softy. Mousse is a short-sighted fighter who is in love with Shampoo, and has a few bones to pick with Ranma. Kuno has a crush on both Akane and girl-type Ranma. He's arrogant, and possibly the biggest imbecile of the show. Both Genma and Soun are birds of the same feather. They're cowards and appear to be completely useless in a real fight. And the last one I want to adress is Happosai, Soun and Genma's old master. He is the resident "ero-jiji", whose main hobby is stealing women's underwear. He's also a total jerk, and the most hated resident of the Tendo dojo.
Ranma 1/2 has a huge array of characters, and though they may be stereotypical and extreme, they are the driving force behind the anime. It's those over-the-top character traits that make the show fun to watch, and put our main hero in yet another sticky situation.
Conclusion - 8/10
I found Ranma 1/2 to be a fun ride, and I'll definitely check the OVA's and movies later. However, though it has good qualities, it will not appeal to everyone. Heck, I'm not even sure what demographic this anime tries to target, but I suppose it's largely a shounen. If you don't mind episodic, romance mixed with martial arts and overall silliness, give this one a whirl.