Ranma 1/2 vol 1 (of 38)

US Distributor:  VIZ Media

Author:  Rumiko Takahashi

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  $16.95 (approx. £12)

Number of Pages:  306

ISBN:  0-9292-7993-X

Reviewed:  24th September 2006

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


Note:  This book has been re-released in the smaller, cheaper 'tankouban' format (see Glossary) - click here to view the re-release on Amazon.

Ranma 1/2 was only the second manga series I started collecting (the first was 3x3 Eyes) and even now, more than five years later, it has yet to finish.  5 years is a long time to keep buying something, so the fact that the series remains popular is a good sign of its quality.

The story starts with the martial artist Soun Tendo receiving a letter from his old training partner and friend Genma Saotome.  After a long period of training in China, Genma and his teenage son Ranma are returning to Japan where a prior arrangement will see Ranma become the fiancée of one of Soun's daughters.  However the arrival of a girl and large panda is hardly what they were expecting!  Unfortunately Genma and Ranma had an accident in China - they fell into cursed springs that cause Genma to become a panda and Ranma to become a girl when doused with cold water.  Warm water changes them back, but Soun's daughters - homely Kasumi, mercenary Nabiki and tomboy Akane - are less than thrilled at their potential husband and the two older sisters nominate the 16 year old Akane for marriage duty.  Neither are that happy with the situation - Akane resolutely hates boys, and the obnoxious Ranma is just searching for ways to lift his curse!  However, news that Ranma has become Akane's fiancee has reached school and inflamed the anger of 'Upperclassman' Kuno, the uptight samurai wannabe who wants Akane for himself.  If Ranma thought having him for an enemy was bad, it gets even worse when Kuno falls in love with Ranma's girl form!  Unable to believe that they are the same person, Kuno tries both to woo Ranma and attack him, and he is just the first of many...

Rumiko Takahashi gained a reputation for quickfire anarchic romantic comedy with her previous series Urusei Yatsura and with Ranma 1/2 she cemented it.  On one hand an 'opposites attract' romance, on another a light hearted parody of kung-fu films, Ranma 1/2 is an infectiously fun and very funny comedy series that keeps you entertained from the first page.  Takahashi's artwork is both detailed and clear, with great character design and a good eye for visual comedy.  The way she visualises thoughts and feelings is hilarious, especially Kuno's, but it's the sheer imagination and silliness that really gets the laughs.

Gender swap comedies are not exactly new but Ranma 1/2 does it so well, and the sheer amounts of gags keeps it fresh and interesting.  Visual gags, bad jokes, misunderstandings and just pure martial arts silliness pepper a fun story, but it's the characters that make it great.  Ranma and Akane make for a decent (if slightly annoying) central pairing but the support cast is awesome.  Kuno is a great parody of a highly strung samurai type but it's Ryoga Hibiki that really cracked me up.  A powerful martial artist, the tenacious Ryoga has a grudge against Ranma but his atrociously bad sense of direction has prevented him from ever making it to the fight venue on time.  Now after trekking around Japan he has finally made it to Ranma's new school and his arrival sets up another great fight scene.

One of Ranma 1/2's big pluses is that as well as being a great comedy, as well as having some sweet romantic elements and as well as having great characters it also has some great action.  The fight scenes may have some extremely silly stuff happening in them but they are very well drawn and very well paced, think of a Stephen Chow film in manga form and you won't be far off!  There are some weaker bits, the chiropractor Dr Tofu is a little bit superfluous (although he does lead to some great slapstick comedy) for example, but as a whole it really is hard to fault Ranma 1/2.

Despite owning this book for so long that the version I have is out of print, and reading it so often that the spine is near enough bent double, Ranma 1/2 volume 1 remains one of my favourite manga.  It's fun, action packed and extremely funny.  The art is great, the characters are great and the comedy is superb, I have never grown tired of reading it even after five years, and that is a feat in itself.  The series as a whole may go on for quite a long time (at the time of writing 35 volumes have been released in America) but it is easily one of the most enjoyable manga series available.  If you want to see what Rumiko Takahashi's work is all about then this is a perfect place to start, pick up volume 1 as soon as possible - trust me, you'll be hooked.


 My version of this book dates from a time when you didn't get a lot of extra material in a manga so the only extras are a biography of the author, a couple of adverts, some critical comments and a mail order list.  The re-release probably has more.


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