RANMA ½ was an anime I was more… peripherally aware of in middle school. One of my friends, who’d also lived in Asia, was a big fan of the show, and I caught the odd episode on a few occasions when I hung out at his place. Never got the chance to dive in fully, and thus, it’s remained a series I’ve only just known the general gist of. So, when the publicity stills of the live-action movie made the rounds a year or two, I knew who the characters were. And when there was that little tempest-in-a-teapot controversy about SHE-ZOW earlier this year, I could see the rather innocuous parallels to RANMA.
In short: the show’s revival, return or repressing - - or whatever the appropriate term is - - is coming at the right time for me.
What strikes me about this pilot, right away, is that it’s legitimately funny. And that’s actually almost frustrating, because it really shows chibi has escalated over the years into the nuisance it’s become. When Ranma, Akane or even our big ol’ panda go super-deformed, they actually only semi-deformed, and their ‘transformations’ are finished as soon as they’ve made their point. Y'know, they’re brief - - as good timing in comedy generally dictates.
I can only imagine how the show’s best joke - - Akane shrieking over Ranma’s naughty bits after politely keeping quiet about it for some tense beats - - would play today. She probably would’ve screamed right away, and turned into a little troll, and the whole gag would’ve been far less funny…. but I digress.
This pilot episode also demonstrates a rule that most successful shonen series know to abide by - - it sets the situation up swiftly. I was just marveling at how adroitly the show was able to introduce the whole cast and explain the body switching predicament by dolling the information out in careful steps that were funny and surprising, but also sharp about how they'd keep you watching.
I guess this is a little more... academic breakdown for RANMA, but it the pilot's just so well-constructed. I'm definitely mulling over using this space to finally watch the rest of the series.
Watch this episode, “The Strange Stranger from China" here and decide for yourself.