ranmaI’m continuing my review of the Dublin Library’s anime and manga collection this week with Ranma 1/2, a classic comedy anime series by the creator of Inuyasha.Ranma 1/2 skillfully combines appealing characters, fantasy, slapstick adventure and romantic comedy.

The series revolves around Ranma Saotome, a teen-aged boy and lifelong martial arts student. While on a training mission with his father, Genma, in China, Ranma and Genma fall into a set of cursed springs. As a result, Ranma turns into an attractive girl whenever cold water touches him, and Genma turns into a giant panda.ranma5

As the series opens, Ranma and Genma show up as surprise houseguests at a martial arts dojo owned by Genma’s old friend, Mr. Tendo. Mr. Tendo’s youngest daughter, Akane, is a tomboy and skilled martial artist. Poor Ranma and Akane both get the shock of their lives when their fathers announce that the two teenagers are betrothed.

Not at all ready to settle down, but also unwilling to defy their fathers, Akane and Ranma reluctantly agree to try being engaged. Thus paired off, the two of them begin to spend time together, a rough road considering that Ranma is frequently rude and arrogant, and Akane has a hair-trigger temper.Their relationship is both strengthened and made more difficult by the challenges of enrolling Ranma at Akane’s high school.

With a childhood spent following his father from place to place in search of martial arts training, Ranma is anything but a well-behaved student, and he quickly becomes notorious at school for pulling pranks and getting into brawls.Although he’s initially horrified by his tendancy to turn into a girl whenever he gets wet, the cunning Ranma quickly learns to use his gender-switching powers to play tricks and manipulate the other boys at the school. Akane is usually mortified by her fiance’s antics, but she soon comes to realize that life with Ranma, while noisy and frequently aggravating, is also a lot of fun.Slowly, they become friends and then even more slowly, they begin to develop deeper feelings for one another.

ranma3In addition to Ranma, Akane, and their family members, the series has a well-rounded cast of secondary characters: the panty-stealing, old scoundrel of a martial arts master Happosai; the rich, handsome, and extremely pompous high school athlete Tatewaki Kuno (who falls in love with Ranma’s female alter-ego, leading to many comic complications); the Chinese Amazon warrior Shampoo, who swore to wed Ranma after he beat her in a martial arts contest; and Ryoga Hibiki, Ranma’s rival in both martial arts and romance.

ranma4Ryoga also fell into one of the cursed springs, and is cursed to turn into a cute little piglet when wet. Directionally-challenged, tongue-tied around girls, and head-over-heels in love with Akane, Ryoga is humiliated at first by having such an unmanly alter ego. But, like Ranma, Ryoga soon finds ways of turning his situation to his advantage. To Ranma’s displeasure (and jealousy), Ryoga’s piglet form is adopted as a pet by an unwitting Akane and named P-chan. This situation of course leads to more hilarious complications as Ryoga tries to keep Akane from discovering his secret, and Ranma tries to keep P-chan out of Akane’s room and bed.

ranma6All in all, Ranma 1/2 is a light-hearted romp with some hysterically funny scenes (including a martial arts figure skating competition that left me howling with laughter). Unlike many anime series, including Inuyasha, Ranma 1/2 is episodic, with continuing characters and situations, but no real season-long story arcs.

So, is Ranma 1/2 appropriate for your child? The series was originally intended for pre-teens and teens, and it’s got bloodless slapstick violence, some tastefully-done nudity in non-sexual contexts, occasional references to sex, and panty raids.