Reviews: Ranma One Half
The Arrested Development of Martial Arts Comedy
...Well, you're probably here because the title got your attention, so let's be clear about this from the get-go: I don't mean Ranma 1/2 was unjustly strangled in the crib. It ran forever, and in many ways, it reveals problems that would've beset Arrested Development anyway if it weren't. But, we're getting ahead of ourselves. The individual components of Ranma 1/2 are of uniformly high quality. The art is clean, crisp, shows exactly where everyone is in fight scenes, and does a great job of setting up the jokes and comedy. The characters are just well-drawn enough to feel like people rather than caricatures, but just silly enough that you laugh at them instead of feeling sorry for them most of the time. The humor and action are generally top-notch and creative, inventing new situations rather than just repeating the same ol' tired gags over and over again. And the series defies common logic to remain mostly a comedy to the very end. But... that end is a long time coming. And here's the rub: like Arrested Development, this is ultimately a series about people who don't grow, develop, or change. They aren't quite as evil or unsympathetic as that show's protagonists, true, but they're still static. They're not all flat or devoid of complexity, per se, but they are set in stone. The few exceptions are, of course, some of the highlights of the series: Ryoga in particular goes from Ranma's bitter enemy in love and war to a healthier relationship as his rival, with his own girlfriend and life. In a way, though, that makes it worse: by showing that growing as people and undergoing self-improvement is possible, it serves to underscore just how sad it really is that everyone else refuses to. By the end, the series is still funny, but I didn't make it for years. I had to take breaks eventually. It's still good most of the way through, but, again, the simple fact that no one grows or changes serves to make it feel samey, even as I acknowledge that the situations the characters are in are quite different. It gets exhausting and a little frustrating. It's not bad. But most of it is just more of the same.
Strangled by (Short-term) Storyline and Seriousness
ANIME When I first picked up Ranma 1/2, I was rolling on the floor laughing. The fight scenes were... just plain cool. You could actually see what was going on and appreciate the skill and fancy moves. The plot went somewhere, yet was simplistic enough to not get in the way, and not need too much time-consuming exposition. Every character, even Kuno, was a semi-credible threat and made a cool battle scene, character arcs often going on for episodes at a time. Fights (and drenchings) broke out at the slightest provocation in classic cartoon inaneness; everything, even murderous amazons - and especially Jusenkyo curses - was Played For Laughs. And the Contrived Coincidences leading to Ranma getting wet were perfectly covered by the Rule Of Funny; the show never let you forget his curse. Three seasons later, it's all different; I think it's because the show makes the critical mistake of trying to take itself (more) seriously. Status Quo Is God means you don't care about the plot of any given episode, yet the Monster Of The Week storylines become more and more integral to the structure of the show. Nobody is a credible threat to Ranma anymore, but that doesn't matter, because no recurring characters even fight each other (properly) anymore anyway - even bitter rivals. No more convenient water, or battles at the drop of a hat. If it's absolutely necessary to hit someone, Hit Flash and Megaton Punch conclude the situation quickly, instead of having a fun little five-minute Fight Scene. A single episode spends 10 minutes building up the plot and raising the tension of the Monster Of The Week's (informed) power; as opposed to the face-value, clasically simplistic, ongoing scenarios of the first two seasons which seamlessly overlapped with the gags and humourous and cool (onscreen!) fighting. The final payoffs of these new over-complex plots are typically 3-minute semi-serious Monster Of The Week fight scenes that often end in Lowered Monster Difficulty and Attack Its Weak Point. Where does the other 7 minutes go? I'm not honestly sure. Probably on excessive dialogue, backstory and exposition. And that's if it was even a fighting-focussed episode. Every other episode is a BLAM Episode with no (funny) gags or fighting. And of course, the most notable shot of Girl Ranma in any given episode is on the title screen. His curse is only used for storyline purposes now.
Quick Review Ranma ½
Full Overview: A manga capable of synthesizing harem, shonen, and shojo. Rumiko Takahashi's patented Takahashi Couple supplements thise. Jerk With A Heart Of Gold and Tsundere stuck in an Arranged Marriage, Their personalities stop them from admitting their feelings, leaving openings for Ranma haters to interfere. This review is based on volumes 1-12. Takahashi is either a genius or sadist. As a genius, Takahashi invented Martial Arts And Crafts, turnign anything into a fight: Martial arts Tea Ceremonies, Watermelon racing, etc. She masters the elements of any Harem/Reverse Harem anime involving a misunderstandings and people who don't listen. That second part's stupid, though. Akane's so anti-Ranma she won't listen to him tell the truth? Weak. The story's funny with ridiculous. Mainly revolves around Ranma and Akane Being a Stud/Studette and Studette. The Art is cute and very 80s. The Characters: Takahashi broke the mold with harem stereotypes by throwing in unique characters: arrogant samurai guy, a crazy ballet girl, an amazon with a commitment, a dude who was really a lady, and more! Negative: Killing. Everybody's trying to kill Ranma, seriously murder! These are teenagers literally trying to kill each other! Proof? Kuno's sword is real, his sister's hidden weapons like spiked clubs and poison. Ryouga's Super Strength (Say no more). Colonge using a shark as a weapon was overkill. Does Japan not have murder laws? Do the Japanese raise sociopaths? Ranma's situation. Takahashi is a sadist because the Japanese are big on honor. Dishonoring yourself or anybody huge. Read This: Pillars Of Moral Character Mostly because of his dad, Ranma has a lot on him. The west find it funny because it's just silly fun. Petty debts to us. Because of all of the honors Ranma carries, it's laugh or cry for the Japanese. Ranma's life isn't funny. He's the most honorable guys in the story so can't choose any one person without putting a huge dishonor on himself and others. Add that Ranma's rivals/fiancees exploit his honorability; the story gets sadder. Ssmmary: This an amazing manga classic that writes well. It's great until, learning about the honor stuff. Then the story is much deeper than a harem fighting anime. Depressing...
Anime or Manga better? You decide.
In A World where anime adaptations of popular manga are all too commonly-known amongst fans, Ranma One Half continues to stand out to me to this very day - less because of its engaging characters and vivid, energetic storylines, but more because of the unique relationship between the manga and anime. Generally, anime adaptations of manga (and vice-versa) can be split into two rough groups: faithful adaptations that by and by large serve as colored, talking, moving versions of the manga with the occasional Filler Arc (One Piece, Naruto, Bleach), or completely different series that utilize the manga's characters and general plot outlines, but go off on a completely different direction of their own (the second Mahou Sensei Negima anime, the first Fullmetal Alchemist one). Ranma One Half splits the difference. Now, Ranma never had that heavy of a storyline in the first place - it's a product of an age that came a little before most anime fans really discovered the delicious anti-drug, an age where disposable slapsticks were all the rage. By this logic, there wasn't much that the anime could mess up in the first place. But it seems, to me, at the very least, that some of the anime's writing staff might have not only read the manga that they were prepared to adapt, but had become fans of it. Or maybe they just decided it was a better way of luring in the viewers. The point is, the Ranma manga and anime might contain the same characters and stories, but they can credibly be called Different As Night And Day. The manga is a gag series through and through - a satire of martial arts manga that pushes tropes like Beat Them At Their Own Game and Pillars Of Moral Character to their limits. The likes of Shampoo, Kodachi, and yes, even Ukyo ultimately serve as more plot-enablers than actual characters. Heck, Rumiko Takahashi herself even admits that Ryoga was only given a happy ending because of his Ensemble Darkhorse status. But the anime, if it can't accurately be called Darker And Edgier, definitely takes things more seriously. More than once the romance is used for things more than just laughs. The more extreme acts of Comedic Sociopathy are often toned down. And I dunno about you, but this actually makes the anime better in my eyes. Avoid all the fan-hype about both mediums, and give both an honest shake.