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.
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.
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.