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Ranma ½ (Japanese: らんま Hepburn: Ranma Nibun-no-Ichi?, pronounced Ranma One-Half) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi. It was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Sunday from September 1987 to March 1996, with the chapters collected into 38 tankōbon volumes by Shogakukan. The story revolves around a teenage boy named Ranma Saotome who has trained in martial arts since early childhood. As a result of an accident during a training journey, he is cursed to become a girl when splashed with cold water, while hot water changes him back into a boy. Throughout the series Ranma seeks out a way to rid himself of his curse, while his friends, enemies and many fiancées constantly hinder and interfere.

Ranma ½ has a comedic formula and a sex-changing main character, who often willfully transforms into a girl to advance his goals. The series also contains many other characters, whose intricate relationships with each other, unusual characteristics, and eccentric personalities drive most of the stories. Although the characters and their relationships are complicated, they rarely change once they are firmly introduced and settled into the series.

The manga has been adapted into two anime series created by Studio Deen: Ranma ½ and Ranma ½ Nettōhen (らんま 熱闘編), which together were broadcast on Fuji Television from 1989 to 1992. In addition, they developed 12 original video animations and three films. In 2011, a live-action television special was produced and aired on Nippon Television. The manga and anime series were licensed by Viz Media for English-language releases in North America. Madman Entertainment released the manga, part of the anime series and the first two movies in Australasia, while MVM Films released the first two movies in the United Kingdom. The Ranma ½ manga has over 53 million copies in print in Japan. Both the manga and anime are cited as some of the first of their mediums to have become popular in the United States.

Plot

On a training journey in the Bayankala Mountain Range in the Qinghai Province of China, Ranma Saotome and his father Genma fall into the cursed springs at Jusenkyo (呪泉郷). When someone falls into a cursed spring, they take the physical form of whatever drowned there hundreds or thousands of years ago whenever they come into contact with cold water. The curse will revert when exposed to hot water until their next cold water exposure. Genma falls into the spring of a drowned panda while Ranma falls into the spring of a drowned girl.

Upon returning to Japan, the pair settle in Nerima, Tokyo at the dojo of Genma's old friend Soun Tendo, a fellow practitioner of Musabetsu Kakutō Ryū (無差別格闘流) or "Anything-Goes School" of martial arts which Genma passed on to Ranma. Genma and Soun agreed years ago that their children would marry and carry on the Tendo Dojo. Soun has three teenaged daughters: the polite and easygoing Kasumi, the greedy and indifferent Nabiki and the rather spiteful, martial arts practicing Akane. Akane, who is Ranma's age, is appointed for bridal duty by her sisters with the reasoning that Akane dislikes men and since Ranma is only a man half of the time, they are perfect together. Both Ranma and Akane refuse the engagement initially, having not been consulted on the decision, but they are generally treated as betrothed and end up helping or saving each other on some occasions. They are frequently found in each other's company and are constantly arguing in their trademark awkward love-hate manner that is a franchise focus.

Ranma goes to school with Akane at Furinkan High School (風林館高校 Fūrinkan Kōkō), where he meets his recurring opponent Tatewaki Kuno, the conceited kendo team captain who aggressively pursues Akane, but also falls in love with Ranma's female form without ever discovering his curse (despite most other characters knowing it). Nerima serves as a backdrop for more martial arts mayhem with the introduction of Ranma's regular rivals, such as the eternally lost Ryoga Hibiki who traveled half way across Japan getting from the front of his house to the back, where Ranma spent three days waiting for him. Ryoga, seeking revenge on Ranma, followed him to Jusenkyo where he ultimately falls into the Spring of Drown Piglet. Now when splashed with cold water he takes the form of a little black pig. Not knowing this, Akane takes the piglet as a pet and names it P-chan, but Ranma knows and hates him for keeping this secret and taking advantage of the situation. Another rival is the nearsighted Mousse, who also falls into the magic pool and becomes a duck when he gets wet, and finally, there is Ranma's impish grandmaster, Happosai, who spends his time stealing the underwear of schoolgirls.

Ranma's prospective paramours include the martial arts rhythmic gymnastics champion Kodachi Kuno, and his second fiancée and childhood friend Ukyo Kuonji the okonomiyaki vendor, along with the Chinese Amazon Shampoo, supported by her great-grandmother Cologne. As the series progresses, the school becomes more eccentric with the return of the demented, Hawaii-obsessed Principal Kuno and the placement of the power-leeching alternating child/adult Hinako Ninomiya as Ranma's English teacher. Ranma's indecision to choose his true love causes chaos in his romantic and school life.

Production

Rumiko Takahashi stated that Ranma ½ was conceived to be a martial arts manga that connects all aspects of everyday life to martial arts.[1] Because her previous series had female protagonists, the author decided that she wanted a male this time. However, she was worried about writing a male main character, therefore decided to make him half female.[2] Before deciding on water for initiating his changes, she considered Ranma changing every time he was punched. It was after deciding this that she felt Jusenkyo had to be set in China, as it is the only place that could have such mysterious springs.[3] She drew inspiration for Ranma ½ from a variety of real-world objects. Some of the places frequently seen in the series are modeled after actual locations in Nerima, Tokyo (both the home of Takahashi and the setting of Ranma ½).[4]

In a 1990 interview with Amazing Heroes, Takahashi stated that she had four assistants that draw the backgrounds, panel lines and tone, while she creates the story and layout, and pencils and inks the characters.[5] All her assistants are female, as Takahashi refuses to have males so that the girls will not be distracted. In 1992, she explained her process as beginning with laying out the chapter in the evening so as to finish it by dawn, and resting for a day before calling her assistants. They finish it in two or three nights, usually utilizing five days for a chapter.[2]

Takahashi purposefully aimed the series to be popular with women and children. In 1993, an Animerica interviewer talking with Takahashi asked her if she intended the sex-changing theme "as an effort to enlighten a male-dominated society." Takahashi said that she does not think in terms of societal agendas and that she created the Ranma ½ concept from simply wanting "a simple, fun idea." She added that she, as a woman and while recalling what manga she liked to read as a child, felt that "humans turning into animals might also be fun and märchenhaft...you know, like a fairy tale."[6] In 2013, she revealed that at the start of Ranma her editor told her to make it more dramatic, but she felt that was something she could not do. However, she admitted that drama did start to appear at the end. She also sat in on the voice actor auditions for the anime, where she insisted that male and female Ranma be voiced by different actors whose gender corresponded to that of the part.[7]

Media

Manga

Main article: List of Ranma ½ chapters

Written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi, Ranma ½ began publication in Weekly Shōnen Sunday issue #36 of 1987, following the ending of her series Urusei Yatsura. From September 1987 until March 1996, the manga was published on a near weekly basis with the occasional colored page to spruce up the usually black and white stories. After nearly a decade of storylines, the final chapter was published in Weekly Shōnen Sunday issue #12 of 1996. The 407 chapters were periodically collected and published by Shogakukan into a total of 38 black and white tankōbon volumes from 1988 to 1996. They were reassembled into 38 shinsōban from April 2002 to October 2003.[8][9] North American publisher Viz Media originally released Ranma ½ in a monthly comic book format that contained two chapters each from 1992 to 2003, and had the images "flipped" to read left-to-right, causing the art to be mirrored. These were periodically collected into graphic novels. On March 18, 2004, after releasing 21 volumes, Viz announced that it would reprint a number of its graphic novels. The content remained the same, but the novels moved to a smaller format with different covers and a price drop.[10] Each volume covers roughly the same amount of material as the Japanese volumes, but retained its left-to-right format and had minor differences in grouping so that it spans 36 volumes rather than the original 38. The final volume was released in stores on November 14, 2006,[11] thus making it Viz's longest running manga, spanning over 13 years. At Anime Expo on July 7, 2013, Viz Media announced they would began re-releasing the manga in a format that combines two individual volumes into a single large one. With the first volume published on March 11, 2014, it marks the first time the series has been released in North America in its original right-to-left format.[12] Madman Entertainment publishes the two-in-one version in Australasia.

Together with Spriggan, it was the first manga published in Portugal, by Texto Editora in 1995.[13]

Anime

Main article: List of Ranma ½ episodes

An anime television series was created by Studio Deen and aired weekly between April 15, 1989 and September 16, 1989 on Fuji TV for 18 episodes, before being canceled due to low ratings. The series was then reworked by most of the same staff, retitled Ranma ½ Nettōhen (らんま 熱闘編) and launched in a different time slot, running for 143 episodes from October 20, 1989 to September 25, 1992. The anime stays true to the original manga but does differ by keeping Ranma's sex transformation a secret from the high school students, at least throughout most of its length. It also does not introduce Hikaru Gosunkugi until very late in the series, instead, Sasuke Sarugakure, the diminutive ninja retainer of the Kuno family fills a number of Gosunkugi's roles in early storylines but is a major character in his own right. The anime also alters the placement of many story arcs and contains numerous original episodes and characters not adapted from the manga. Viz Media licensed both anime series in 1993, making Ranma ½ one of the very first anime titles licensed by Viz. The English dub produced for the series was recorded by The Ocean Group in Vancouver, British Columbia. They released the series on VHS from their own Viz Video label, and on DVD a few years later in association with Pioneer Home Entertainment. Their releases collected both anime series as one, separated episodes into what they call "seasons", and changed the ordering of many of the episodes. Viz themselves re-released it on DVD in 2007 using their own DVD production company.[14] At Otakon 2013, Viz announced that they re-acquired the TV series for Blu-ray and DVD release in 2014. The show is streamed on their anime channel service Neon Alley since Autumn 2013.[15] Madman Entertainment licensed some of the series for release in Australasia, although their rights expired after releasing only the first four "seasons" as one series.[16][17]

Films and original video animations

Main article: List of Ranma ½ episodes § Films

Studio Deen also created three theatrical films; The Battle of Nekonron, China! A Battle to Defy the Rules! on November 2, 1991; Battle at Togenkyo! Get Back the Brides on August 1, 1992; and Super Indiscriminate Decisive Battle! Team Ranma vs. the Legendary Phoenix on August 20, 1994. The first two movies are feature length, but the third was originally aired in theaters with two other movies: Ghost Sweeper Mikami and Heisei Dog Stories: Bow. Following the ending of the TV series, 11 original video animations were released directly to home video, the earliest on December 7, 1993 and the eleventh on June 4, 1996.[18] All but one are based on stories originally in the manga. Twelve years later, a Ranma animation was created for the "It's a Rumic World" exhibition of Rumiko Takahashi's artwork. Based on the "Nightmare! Incense of Deep Sleep" manga story from volume 34, it was shown on odd numbered days at the exhibition in Tokyo from July 30 to August 11, 2008.[19] But it was not released until January 29, 2010, when it was put in a DVD box set with the Urusei Yatsura and InuYasha specials that premiered at the same exhibit.[20] It was then released on DVD and Blu-ray by itself on October 20, 2010.[21] Viz Media also licensed all three movies, and the original 11 OVAs for distribution in North America (however they released the third movie as an OVA).[22][23] MVM Films has released the first two movies in the United Kingdom,[24][25] while Madman Entertainment released them in Australasia.

Video games

Main article: List of Ranma ½ video games

There have been fifteen video games based on the Ranma ½ franchise. While most are fighting games, there have been several RPGs and puzzle games.[26] Only two have been released in Western countries. Ranma ½: Chōnai Gekitōhen was released in the US as Street Combat; the characters were Americanized, having their appearances completely changed, and the music was changed as well.[27] However, Ranma ½: Hard Battle was released in both North America and Europe unaltered.[27]

Live action special

A live action television adaption of Ranma ½ aired on NTV, in a two-hour time-slot, on December 9, 2011.[28][29] Although it was initially reported that the special would contain an original story, the movie does take its main plot from one of the manga's early stories with several other early scenes mixed in. The special stars Yui Aragaki as Akane, with Kento Kaku and Natsuna Watanabe playing male and female Ranma respectively.[30] Ryōsei Tayama is cast as the antagonist, the new original character Okamada.[31] The all-girl pop group 9nine contribute "Chikutaku☆2Nite" as the theme song.[32] It was released on both DVD and Blu-ray on March 21, 2012.[33][34]

Other media

The Ranma ½ Memorial Book was published just as the manga ended in 1996. Acting as an end-cap to the series, it collects various illustrations from the series, features an interview with Takahashi,[35] and includes tidbits about Ranma: summaries of his battles, his daily schedule, trivia, and a few exclusive illustrations. A Movie + OVA Visual Comic was released to illustrate the theatrical movie Super Indiscriminate Decisive Battle! Team Ranma vs. the Legendary Phoenix and the OVA episodes "The One to Carry On" (both parts). It also included information on the voice actors, character designs, and a layout of the Tendo dojo.

Additionally, guidebooks were released for three of the Ranma ½ video games; these included not only strategies, but also interviews.[36] Two books including interviews with the cast of the live-action TV drama, and some select stories, were released in 2011.[37][38]

The music from the Ranma ½ TV series, films and OVAs have been released on various CDs. Four from the TV series, two from the first movie, one from the second, one from the third movie and OVAs, and three compiling the music by DoCo used in the OVAs.[39] DoCo is a pop group composed of the anime's main female characters' voice actresses. Several compilation albums were also released, some composed of the opening and closing theme songs and others of image songs.[40] Many of the image songs were first released as singles.

Reception

Rumiko Takahashi said that after Urusei Yatsura, which was popular with high school and college students, she purposefully aimed Ranma ½ to be popular among women and children. Both series' peak readership figures were with 15-year-olds, but the distribution of Ranma ½ readers was skewed towards younger females.[6] By November 2006, it was reported that the series had sold over 49 million manga volumes in Japan.[41] Shogakukan has printed 53 million copies as of November 2011.[42] The series's publication in North America proved highly successful as well, being many Americans' first introduction to manga and its anime adaptation one of the first Japanese animation shows to achieve popularity in the US.[43][44] Although Lum from Takahashi's first series Urusei Yatsura is often cited as the first tsundere character in anime and manga, Theron Martin of Anime News Network stated that Ranma ½ '​s Akane Tendo is closer to how they would later typically be portrayed in the 2000s. He also suggested that one could argue Ranma is an early example of a harem or reverse harem series, due to the main character attracting suitors in both genders.[45]

In an overview of the series, Jason Thompson called Ranma ½ "the direct ancestor of all comedy-action manga, like Sumomomo Momomo and History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi", although noted that it was not the first, but only spanned the period when manga and anime sales were at their height.[27] Relating it to Takahashi's other works, he summed the series up as "At the start, the fighting is minimal and it's almost a semi-serious relationship comedy, like Maison Ikkoku; then it turns completely ridiculous; and by the climax, when Ranma fights the evil bird-people of Phoenix Mountain in an excessively long and un-funny shonen fight scene, it's like a warmup for Inuyasha."[27] He states that "Eventually Takahashi adds too many characters, and the manga starts repeating itself. Because of the lack of a strong story arc, a lot of people stop reading Ranma ½ at some point in the middle".[27] Reviewing Viz Media's final English volume of the manga, Anime News Network remarked that "Every dimension of Rumiko Takahashi's storytelling skills come into play here: comedy, romance and introspection, and of course, high-flying fantasy martial-arts action."[46] However, they felt some of the action scenes were hard to follow and noted that the mirroring to left-to-right format caused errors with the art.[46]

The Ranma ½ anime was ranked number 17 on Anime Insider's 2001 list of the Top 50 Anime,[47] although the list was limited to series that were released in North America. It ranked 36th on TV Asahi's 2006 list of Japan's 100 favorite animated TV series, which is based on an online poll of the Japanese people,[48] up from the previous year's list where it ranked 45th.[49] In November 2006, the New York Comic Con announced that it would host the first-ever American Anime Awards. Fans had the chance to vote for their favorite anime online during the month of January 2007. Only the five nominees receiving the most votes for each category were announced on February 5. Among the 12 different categories, Ranma ½ was voted into the "Best Comedy Anime" category, and the Ranma ½ OVAs were voted into the "Best Short Series" category.[50] In their review of Viz Media's season five DVD box set, Anime News Network praised the Japanese cast's performance and the animation, but criticized the English version's slight script changes and minor voice actors while praising its main cast. They also remarked that while Ranma ½ is a classic, after a hundred episodes, the same jokes are just not funny anymore.[51] THEM Anime Reviews' Raphael See called the television series and the OVAs "one of the funniest things [he's] ever seen, anime or otherwise" and also praised the English dub as some of the best.[52] However, he was much more critical of the first two movies particularly for both using the same damsel in distress plot.[53][54]

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