- If you place yourself in most of the character's positions, the Ranma 1/2 series is a very dark place full of despair, problems with no possible happy ending for everyone, and false hopes. It's full of tragedy, abuse, loneliness, it is a place where an object can totally control your mind, body, or emotions, and just about everyone has lost their mother. There's a reason that there's a solid contingent of the fandom views many "comedic" elements to only be funny in the "you gotta laugh, or else you'll cry" sense.
- One early one that becomes Harsher in Hindsight is Ranma and Akane's first meeting. Initially, Akane takes it upon herself to try and befriend the shy new girl that's come to visit, only to be handily defeated by her in a sparring match. Then, in what turns out to be foreshadowing, Akane notes how glad she is that she only lost to another girl, which makes Ranma visibly uncomfortable. Once Akane finds out that Ranma is really a guy, she immediately holds his curse against him and calls him a freak and a pervert, which visibly hurts Ranma and inspires him to throw barbs right back, setting the tone for their early relationship.
- If you think about them from Ranma's perspective, the introduction of Ryoga and Ukyo are both prone to making you a little misty-eyed. Both times, Ranma is delighted to see somebody that he recognizes from his past and obviously considers a friend. And both times, they reject his friendship and declare him to be an enemy, forcing him to fight them for reasons that clearly make no sense to Ranma.
- Ryu Kumon's backstory, due mostly to Mood Whiplash: This is a series where no one dies and we don't even see death in the past, but he saw his father accidentally kill himself and destroy his own house when he was six. Of course, even this is Played for Laughs.
- The introduction of Nodoka Saotome, regardless of the medium, is one long heart-wrencher. Ranma finds out that, contrary to what he's believed for years, his mother is neither dead nor a run-out — in fact, she's finally come to see him. And then Ranma finds out that he actually can't be allowed to see her: Genma, in one of his brilliant ideas, forced her to agree to a pact in which she will see Genma and Ranma commit seppuku should she decide Ranma is not a "man amongst men". And she is dead serious about living up to her side of the bargain. As in, she carries the damn katana she'll use to behead them both around at all times, just in case she runs into them and has to use it on them. Because he turns into a girl, Ranma can't dare to meet her as himself, in case the curse is judged an automatic failure. The end of the first meeting is particularly poignant, with Nodoka going on her way believing she still has yet to meet her son, but happy about "meeting him in a dream" and finding him so manly and heroic in it. Akane tries to convince her it wasn't a dream, the Ranma Nodoka saw was really there, but Ranma stops her, and then speaks a single line that manages to sum up his whole life: caught between his sense of honour, his curse, and Genma's jerkassery.Ranma: It's okay. It's better this way.
- Speaking of Nodoka's introduction, the part where she has a nightmare and starts swinging the sword around, crying out in despair over Ranma's failure to live up to Genma's vow, is kind of tear-jerking itself. Whether it's because you feel sad for her being so haunted by the vow and so torn up with the conflict between duty and love, or it's because you feel sad for Ranma given that his mom is clearly no better a parental figure than Genma is, it doesn't matter; it's still a scene to make you choke.
- The climax and denouement of the Yamasenken arc provide a twofer for Ryu and Nodoka, and is likely the most emotionally complex, dead-serious sequence in the entire manga: on the eve of Ryu's duel with Ranma, he stays up training so late that Nodoka goes out to fetch him; no words are said, but Ryu's demeanor is softened to the point it's obvious this is the first time someone has shown genuine affection and concern for him since the death of his father —further still, he might never had met his mother at all. When he tries to leave in secret the next morning, Nodoka pulls him aside, sword in hand, to say she had "sensed" he was going to leave her soon, but she won't stop him because she knows there's honor at stake in his upcoming fight. Ryu is hit so hard he completely submits to her, bowing with his forehead to the ground. And, mind, this happened while the reader was under the impression she was still caught in Ryu's deception: she later confesses she had already figured out he wasn't Ranma but played along because she enjoyed thinking he was. So when Ryu leaves for good, she's heartbroken because she only got a few days of happiness before being abandoned all over again... but she still smiles and thanks Ryu for those few days, never blaming him for anything.
- Akane's getting her Close-Call Haircut might be a little hard to see this way for some, given that it was her own temper-tantrums that played a role in it happening, but it's obvious that it was absolutely devastating. That Rapunzel Hair was the best symbol she had of her truest desire, the work of years and her only sign of hope that one day, her First Love Dr. Tofu might return her feelings. In the blink of an eye it's all reduced to ashes, her heart totally crushed. Even in-universe, everyone treats this as absolutely devastating for her.
- What makes the scene powerful, beyond any reasoning or lack thereof behind it, is the absolutely perfect pacing. Akane slaps Ranma and tearfully says she won't try helping him anymore and then turns away from him (as a sad violin tune is heard in the background, if you're watching the anime), Ranma realizes that she means what she said this time and tries to make amends, Ryoga believes he's running away attacks with his bandanna and Ranma kicks it aside before trying to talk to Akane for the second time. Akane then turns while repeating that she's not gonna give him a hand ever again — and SWISH', the haircut comes. Then Akane's cut hair falls to the ground...
- Ryoga. Nuff' said. He has no family, he has no friends, he has no social life. Why? Because he has No Sense of Direction and so he can never be around people long enough to really get to know them. As much as he's betraying Akane's trust by doing it, the P-chan charade, where he pretends to be an ordinary miniature pig so Akane will treat him like a beloved pet because it's the closest thing he has to a loving family life, is still something one can understand. It's a miracle he's still alive.
- Then there's his daydream sequence in the anime-exclusive episode where he and Mousse meet up for the first time and decide to team up on Ranma. After Mousse asks if he can really be happy being Akane's family pet after she marries Ranma, and then asks what'll happen when the two have children, Ryoga envisions himself collapsing from exhaustion after being ridden by their bratty baby son, after which they coldly blame him for making their baby cry and Ranma stuffs him in a trash-bag before leaving him out in the rain. The last shot of the dream sequence is a watery-eyed, weeping P-chan poking his head miserably out of the trash-bag as rain pours all over him. Yeah, it's kind of blackly funny in how completely out of nowhere it comes, but it's also a real tear-jerker. Which doesn't stop it being any less funny when Ryoga furiously confronts Ranma over the behavior of his daydream counterpart, to Ranma's completely bafflement.
- Another primarily in-universe tear-jerker is Mousse's dramatic speech in his return story about how he has loved Shampoo all his life and tried over and over to make her accept his feelings, eternally being rejected. The entire audience bursts into tears over this and even Ranma, who Mousse was just trying to kill (and who almost had his fiancee turned into a duck by Mousse), notes that this story makes him feel sorry for Mousse.
- At the conclusion of the Shinnosuke arc, Ranma takes the forgetful boy aside to thank him for his help, and for saving Akane's life when she was a little girl. Shinnosuke, of the sieve-like memory, claims to not know what he's talking about and that he's never met any "Akane". But then she immediately comes up to say goodbye, and Shinnosuke's inner thoughts lament that he can't be with her even though he loves her, while Akane's say that she's sorry she can't reciprocate. Meanwhile, Ranma, who is usually every bit as jealous over Akane as she is over him, and who fought Shinnosuke when he thought the latter was stealing her away, recognizes what's going on and silently turns away to let the two of them have their final farewell.
- The moment when Ranma sees Akane die near the end of the manga. Ranma freezes right before shutting down, as if he can't comprehend what just happened. And when his life is threatened afterwards, it doesn't seem to matter. He's completely uncaring about whether he'll live or die. Even when Ranma's out of danger, he, unable to cope, does nothing but sit there and stare at her old clothing. It isn't until they take that away, that he reacts violently and breaks down. Even if you hate Akane Tendo's guts, Ranma's reaction to it all is just heartbreaking.
- To put that into perspective, that's the only instance of Heroic BSoD that is not Played for Laughs.
- Somewhat later, he sits with her in his arms and tells her what a stupid girl she is for interfering like that. Then he pauses and punches himself in the face, because that's what she'd have done at that point in the conversation. It's... well, tearjerking.
- Shampoo's character, surprisingly:
- When Ranma tells of their first encounter he explains she had just won a martial arts tournament, only to find that a mysterious girl and her pet panda (that is, Ranma and Genma) were eating the food that was her prize, and when called out the girl doesn't apologize but challenges her and defeats her to claim the prize herself, completely humiliating her before her family and peers.
- Following the village laws, Shampoo gives her the Kiss of Death, chases Ranma all the way to Japan and finds love... In boy!Ranma. Who, when he reveals he's the same as girl!Ranma, claims he was actually a girl the whole time and the boy was a disguise. You can understand why Shampoo was murderous at that... And why she was crying when she found she couldn't go through with it.
- After coming back home in disgrace, Shampoo is retrained as punishment, and falls into Jusenkyo. Good news, she realizes her love is actually a male. Bad news, Shampoo's own curse is a cat, Ranma's worst fear.
- Shampoo goes back to Japan to win Ranma's heart, trying her everything and being as nice as she can even with her rivals (notably, in spite of her "obstacles are for killing" attitude the only one she actually tries to kill is Nabiki, and even that it's half-heartedly at best considering Nabiki survived)... Except her different culture and moral values alienate Ranma, and she has no idea why Ranma has tried to get rid of her more than once.
- This one is made much worse by the fact Ranma greatly respects her martial arts skills and can't help but find her incredibly beautiful-if only she could tone down her pushy attitude, she'd have it in the bag.
Tear Jerker / Ranma ½