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A Boy that turns into a girl, his tomboy of a fiancee, and his father that changes into a Panda!? Martial Arts may never be the same again...

Ranma (luan ma, Chinese for "wild horse") Saotome and his father, martial artist Genma, fall into magical pools while training in a region of China. Henceforth, Ranma will change into a girl whenever doused in cold water and back to a boy when doused in hot. Genma fares even worse-he becomes a giant panda. The pair leave exotic, dangerous China and return home to safe, familiar Japan, where years ago Saotome senior agreed with his old friend Tendo that Ranma would marry one of the Tendo daughters and take over the family dojo. The Tendo girls are underwhelmed by their prospective bridegroom. Youngest sister Akane, who draws the short straw, is a feisty young lady with formidable fighting skills and considerable contempt for the teenage boys who attempt to defeat and date her. She and boy-Ranma (Ranma-kun) strike antagonistic sparks off each other right away. Ranma tries to keep his inadvertent sex changes secret at school by posing as his/her own sibling, resulting in Akane and girl-Ranma (Ranma-chan) becoming rivals for supremacy among their classmates. Ranma-chan attracts unwelcome attention from the guys in class, while Ranma-kun is a babe magnet. The stories revolve around the familiar world of teenage home and school life, with the magical element providing injections of fantasy and romance. Just about every stranger who wanders into town has fallen into some kind of magical pool, and the resulting transformations turn school and dojo into a veritable zoo. Meanwhile Ranma and Akane grow to love each other but can't admit it, their various friends and rivals start to pair off, often unwittingly, and the quest to find a cure for the curse goes on.

Based on a 1988 manga in Shonen Sunday from Urusei Yatsura-creator Rumiko Takahashi, Ranma 1/2 duplicated her earlier success, but this time with a lead character that is both boy and girl and a strangeness that comes not from extraterrestrial origins but from magic. The story was soon picked up for TV, where it lasted for several years despite Shonen Sunday's sales sinking to their lowest-ever ebb while the manga was running in it. Chunks of the TV series are available in the U.S. under the titles Ranma 1/2, R: Anything Goes Martial Arts, R: Hard Battle, and R: Outta Control. However, real success has come abroad, particularly in Asia, where the kung fu and comedy, dubbed into local languages, make it the most China-friendly anime series. It is even shown in the censorious People's Republic, where its repetitive, lighthearted obsessions with romance, food, fighting, and sibling rivalries are not regarded as much of a threat to Communism.

The first movie, directed by Iuchi, was not based on incidents from the manga but had a specially created story based on Chinese legend. In Ranma 1/2 The Movie: Big Trouble In Nekonron, China (1991), Akane is kidnapped by prince Kirin, who wants to marry her, Ranma and the gang rescue her (in a battle scene that pays open homage to Saint Seiya, reflecting the involvement of Arai in both movies), and everything ends as usual with the leads refusing to admit their love for each other. The second, Nihao My Concubine (1992), directed by Suzuki, has the girls shipwrecked in the South Seas with a crazed young illusionist who forces them to compete in various skill tests to select his bride. To save Akane and the others from this fate worse than death, Ranma-chan has to compete in wacky activities such as survival flower arranging and obstacle-course cooking.

Several video releases also kept the series in the public eye throughout the 1990s, many of which have also been released in English. Dead Heat Music Match (1990) started a new career for the three Tendo girls, Ranma-chan, and Chinese interloper Shampoo: they formed the band DoCo and their voice actresses went on to release numerous Ranma 1/2 music CDs and videos. It was followed in rapid succession by more videos, many of which have been released in English with desperately labored titles punning on famous Western films. Thus it was that the R Special video series (1993) was released in America as Desperately Seeking Shampoo, Like Water for Ranma 1/2, and Akane and Her Sisters. A second video series, R Super (1995), was similarly altered into An Akane to Remember, One Flew Over the Kuno's Nest (paired with a 30-minute "movie" Ranma 1/2 Team vs. The Legendary Phoenix), and Faster, Kasumi! Kill! Kill!. Nishimura directed most of the videos.

With animation that has not aged as badly as UY's and a seamless dub in the U.S., Ranma 1/2 has attracted fanatical Western devotees, but Takahashi had already covered the territory thoroughly, and a huge amount of plot and character recycling goes on. She cleverly exploits the factors that made UY such a success but with less inventiveness and humor, eventually dumbing down to sheer predictability. Taka-hashi's talent is far greater than Ranma 1/2 reveals; but her commercial success comes from giving her audiences exactly what they want, as often as they want it, and the Ranma 1/2 franchise delivers honestly on that basis. This makes it popular with a young teenage audience, which doubtless appreciates a series so interchangeable that the episodes do not need to be numbered, making little difference whether one is watching a TV episode or a video special. Likely to gain a new lease on life as the Pokémon generation reaches its teens and discovers new obsessions, but for a better measure of Takahashi's work, see Maison Ikkoku and One-Pound Gospel.

Original US Poster Art

General Information Edit
Name Ranma ½
Name: らんま½
Romaji: Ranma Nibunnoichi
Publisher Viz Media
Start Year 1989
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Aliases Ranma 1/2
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