Anime in the western world has a peculiar trait attached to it, at least for those of us who aren’t Bennett the Sage and actually did discover anime during the golden years where it was still niche.
That peculiarity is this: Sometimes we older fans tend to prefer–or be emotionally attached to–a certain adaptation rather than the uncut original.
An obvious case of this would be Samurai Pizza Cats, but for me it can sometimes be more subtle.
For example, I absolutely could not get used to “Robotech: Remastered.” It just… from the moment I watched it, everything about it was just wrong–mostly though the fact that conspicuous CGI credits and title cards had been inserted into a show obviously made in the 1980s. So I wound up sticking with the first run of ADV DVDs, which sure had crap video quality but also resembled the TV broadcasts a little more.
So, about Ranma.
I’ve before said that as far as I’m concerned, Ranma 1/2 is the best anime (and especially manga) ever made and pretty much the only thing resembling “harem show” that even needs to exist. Some of that is undoubtably nostalgia as Ranma was what got me into anime, but its also stuck with me in a way other things from the time have not. In fact I’m trying to remember what all I used to rent from Hastings back in the day and I’m mostly drawing a blank. What exactly was Metal Fighter Miku about? or Genesis Survivor Gaiarth? Or Big Wars? There was an anime called Big Wars, right?
There’s a reason Ranma still holds up when other anime have come and gone. But first to lay out what it is.
Ranma 1/2 is a manga-turned-anime originally by Rumiko Takahashi, who you might know more for Inu-Yasha (which I have mixed-but-mostly-okay feelings about), and is a case of a premise that easily could have (and in fact, has in some executions) been completely retarded, but if Rumiko has anything going for her its that she finds ways to make this stuff work.
Ranma Saotome is a martial artist. Oh, so its a fighting manga, right? Ummm… kinda. Okay, so: There’s this guy named Soun Tendo who is worried about who will inherit his training hall, as he has three daughters but no son. His friend Genma Saotome made a deal with him long ago that Genma’s son will marry one of Soun’s daughters and will inherit the training hall to secure the legacy.
Only, when Ranma gets there… he’s a girl.
Except no, it turns out Ranma and Genma went to China and trained in something called the Training Ground of Cursed Springs, Jusenkyo. Someone or something drowned in each of the springs, and if you fall in the spring you get cursed… well, its more like gaining a shapeshifting ability: immersion in cold water turns you into whatever drowned in that spring, while hot water restores your normal form.
Ranma is betrothed to Soun’s youngest daughter, Akane, who… has issues with men (largely due to that a LOT of men want to date her and she seems to only attract insane people), but its not long before Ranma himself (in both male and female forms) is attracting suitors, or people who have a grudge, or getting caught up in schemes involving marriage or attempts to buy out the Tendo Dojo or even just challenges from people with weird styles…. that’s just the episodes where Ranma and/or Akane is the lead, which isn’t always the case.
Simply put… this is a show where pretty much anything can happen.
But here’s the thing: Ranma actually has a logic to it, in its own twisted way.
This is important because most anime are completely vacuous and that winds up being a major issue (as far as I’m concerned). Take fighting anime: How often do you see an anime where the bad guy has “bullshit anime invincibility” (where they just No Sell every single attack) and the hero only wins because of some nebulous concept of his “fighting spirit” being stronger?
In Ranma 1/2, the antagonist (nobody is ever truly evil in this show) might be hard to hit because, say… he’s exceptionally good at blocking with chopsticks. How does Ranma (or whoever the focus character of the day is) beat that guy? They might break the chopsticks, or hit him with something he can’t block… like air, or water. Characters who have “BS Anime Invincibility” are rare–there’s always some trick. Ironically this makes the logistics more like western superhero comics than what you normally see in anime.
Now, I said earlier Ranma has some high-school harem aspects, and there’s a lot that entails. Thing is, here they actually kinda make sense.
Take, for example, the timeless tired cliche of “always mistaking the guy for a pervert.” Yes, Akane Tendo does that. A lot. So what makes her different from Jane Schoolgirl From Some Other Anime? That Akane actually has a reason for this–its established right off the bat that she’s suffered a lifetime of what is basically sexual harassment due to boys liking her (and like I said, she seems to attract insane people–just watch the second episode, you’ll see). So on top of that, she’s suddenly forced into a marriage with someone she literally just met… though, its made clear very soon that she’s started to cool down, and her violent reactions are due to insecurity and because she’s picked up on the fact that Ranma actually kinda enjoys it. That Ranma is a martial artist, sometimes too arrogant for his own good, and sometimes legitimately deserves a beating makes his punishment easier to swallow.
Compare other anime where a male getting constantly accused of being a perv and slapped hard happens a lot. I’m remembering Love Hina (wow, does anyone but me remember that?) where Joe Highschooler got it a lot from Jane Highschooler (I don’t remember their names) and in that case, it actually came off as outright abuse. Sometimes when I read high school manga I think the writers just outright hate girls. I wonder if Ranma being written by an actual female had anything to do with it being different.
Speaking of which, I’m honestly a little glad there’s no “everyman” character in Ranma 1/2. Ranma comes closest only because his various psychoses are less pronounced than Ryoga Hibiki (no sense of direction but is also honest and naive to a fault) or Tatewaki Kuno (not sure I can sum him up without doing a full essay), but even Ranma is a little nuts–his fear of cats, for example, or how he’ll sometimes be ashamed of his female form and want to be cured of it but other times become upset or jealous if someone doesn’t think said female form is attractive.
Anyway, there’s no way to summarize Ranma 1/2. If you haven’t seen it yet, see it. One of its strengths is you can usually just jump into any episode and understand what’s going on. Ironically this yet again makes it more like western animation–most anime have a single continuous story, Ranma is usually “here is the thing that is happening today” (this is true even of the manga, by the by).
But the thing I wanted to talk about today was the blu-ray release and the nature of nostalgia.
See, Ranma is in a situation similar to Robotech, except kinda weirder.
Okay… for awhile, Viz Video would put out Ranma in basically a localized format. NOT censored, nor was it an extremely cut-up job comparable to say 4Kids (remember them?) or anything like that. Their version was pretty faithful to the original, all things considered.
There were some differences though.
One was, their version used digitally-inserted english credits.
Also, for Season 2, they made it so the second opening segment was at the beginning of every episode–originally only five episodes began with it, while a bunch of others just started with this short “Meet Ranma” bit briefly explaining the whole forced-marriage and changing-into-a-girl thing.
The seasons thing is another dealie… because they originally released the show two eps at a time (remember this started on VHS) and also to have even-numbered seasons, sometimes they would rearrange episodes and change which opening and ending they have. This is something that threw me for a loop when I watched the blu-ray version of episode that introduced Ukyo (which in the Hastings days, always began with “So Many Memories” and ended with “Lambada Ranma”) and suddenly it began with this sequence I had never seen before of various character jumping out of a manga page, and ended with “Lai-lai Boy!”
See, Viz’s blu-rays use the original Japanese master copies, I think the exact same ones used for Japan’s blurays.
THIS IS A GOOD THING.
But it can be a bit of a problem if you’re watching Ranma to indulge in nostalgia, because it’ll bother you that some stuff just doesn’t match up.
Those who are new to Ranma, I suggest getting the blu-rays and getting used to how they do things. People like me aren’t screwed, however.
See, the older season set DVDs from the early 2000s are exactly the same as the VHS tapes, using Viz’s minimal digital alterations and everything. Watch those and it’ll be the version you grew up with.
Even better… thanks to the blu-ray release, the early versions have plummetted in price on the secondhand.
So, like, Ranma’s actually in a better position than a lot of anime. There are some where if you want an earlier dub or something, you have to look for a VHS release, if there even is one.
Us Ranma fans, we are lucky.
Anyway, I’m gonna go practice my Martial Arts Secret Technique of Indescriminate Posting, so I’ll see you later.