Ranma ½ is a rather simple anime series with very little investment required from the viewer to understand its world and the wacky characters that inhabit it. Unlike other series which tend to favour an overarching plot or progression towards some sort of end goal, Ranma ½ seems content with its status quo and is in many ways an animated sitcom. Whether this is a positive or negative will depend largely on the audience’s viewing preferences.
Almost immediately, the first episode of the Ranma ½ anime introduces the premise of a boy who has been cursed to transform into a girl when doused in water and must court a girl from a traditional Japanese martial arts family. The boy, Ranma, doesn’t seem intent on finding a cure and almost all of the supporting cast of characters become aware of his dual gender identity within minutes of the concept being introduced. While a gender-bending curse like this would usually drive the plot in other series, here it’s treated more as an afterthought and is used more for the occasional punch line than anything substantial.
The main focus in Ranma ½ is the relationships between the characters and their day-to-day adventures of going to school and competing in sporting competitions. It’s not nearly as mundane as it sounds but with over 140 episodes (23 of which are included in this first volume) patience is required for any significant plot development and character evolution.
Longtime fans of the Ranma ½ anime series will be pleased to know that the English language dub included with this release is the original one that was used when the series first aired in the early 90s. With far too many anime series re-releases coming out with completely new dubs, this is fantastic to see and it’s good to know that companies haven’t completely abandoned the productions that made the industry as popular as it is today.
Ranma ½ Set 1 Blu-ray and Special Features
Ranma ½ Set 1 has been released in three different formats with slightly different extra features and bonuses in each one. The first edition (Limited Edition) Blu-ray release comes with a cardboard slipcase, the regular Blu-ray release, a full colour character card, and a booklet.
The slipcase is of very high quality and boasts a magnificent design with gold foil details. It does make the release physically wider than a regular Blu-ray but it’s only just slightly larger than a DVD case so it won’t fill up too much shelf space unlike some other Limited Edition releases available right now. The bonus card is nice for collectors but doesn’t add too much value for the average viewer and most will find themselves leaving it in the Blu-ray case and forgetting about it.
Likewise, the booklet feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Its inclusion sounds like it adds more value to the Limited Edition set but it really is just a basic episode guide with some promotional pages for the Ranma ½ manga series in the back. Each episode is given one image and a brief one paragraph description and no insight is given on it or the series as a whole. The listing of voice actors in the back is a nice touch though as often finding that sort of data can be difficult, especially in regards to looking for voices of minor characters.
The regular Blu-ray release of Ranma ½ Set One contains the first 23 episodes of the Ranma ½ anime series. Both the original Japanese version and English language dub are provided as are English subtitles which can be turned on and off. The visuals and audio (for the Japanese version) have been taken from the recent digitally remastered 1080p Japanese Blu-ray release and as a result, the series looks and sounds amazing for a series of its age with good colour balance and sharp clear lines. All of the episodes are in the original 4×3 aspect ratio (i.e. pan and scan), which is how the series was produced and first aired on television. This may please purists but there’s no denying that it would have been interesting to see the series reformatted for modern widescreen TV sets especially after the brilliant work done with the new remastered Dragon Ball Z Blu-rays. The 4×3 aspect ratio isn’t a distraction however and the format’s popularity will simply depend on individual preferences when watching.
The Blu-ray contains the expected clean opening and closing credits as well as the episode previews. There’s also a Highlight Reel of cosplayers at New York Comic Con 2013, a full recording of Viz Media’s New York Comic Con 2013 Ranma ½ panel, and a short feature about the re-release of the Ranma ½ manga. All three features provide a surprisingly well-rounded look at the Ranma ½ series and fandom in North America with the look at the manga adaption really being recommended viewing, especially for fans of Japanese comic books and translation.
The DVD release of Ranma ½ Set 1 comes in a thin cardboard slipcase and contains only the New York Comic Con 2013 Highlight Reel bonus feature and trailers. It’s a good option for those on a budget but most will want to invest in the Blu-ray releases for the more comprehensive special features and, if available, the Limited Edition box.
Did You Know?
Despite looking like an obvious champion of gender identity issues to Western manga readers and anime viewers, Ranma ½ creator, Rumiko Takahashi, has stated several times that she had no political agenda behind the creation of the gender-bending protagonist, Ranma, and that she simply thought the sex change (and animal transformation) curses would be fun.
“It’s just that I came up with something that might be a simple, fun idea,” she said in an interview with Animerica in 2009. “I’m not the type who thinks in terms of societal agendas. But being a woman and recalling what kind of manga I wanted to read as a child, I just thought humans turning into animals might also be fun. Like a fairy tale.”
Who Should Watch Ranma ½ Set 1?
Ranma ½ is very much a product of its time. Made in the late 80s, the series features some brilliantly animated sequences and painted backgrounds that will appeal to viewers who are now in their late 20s onwards but may bore younger anime fans who are used to the more vibrant digital colouring of newer series. The same can be said for the background music which works wonderfully for the series but again, is noticeably less dynamic than newer soundtracks made today.
There is also the rather serious issue of the portrayal of Chinese characters in Ranma ½ which would be very controversial if the series was released today. Both the original Japanese and English dubs are guilty of voicing the Chinese characters with accents that are unquestionably racist by today’s standards and this becomes more of an issue as the series progresses and a Chinese character (I’m looking at you, Shampoo) becomes a regular cast member towards the second half of the first 23 episodes in this set.
An historical context is important when watching Ranma ½ as an adult fan and while the show was originally targeted towards all age groups, parents may want to keep this series away from younger viewers due to the possibility of them mimicking some of the culturally insensitive dialogue. Plus, there’s also a rather high level of female nudity in Ranma ½. Boobs. Boobs everywhere.
Ranma ½ is required viewing for all adult anime fans with an interest in anime history and pop culture. This new release of the series on Blu-ray is the best the series has ever looked and the extra features offer some genuine insight into the Ranma ½ phenomena. Highly recommended. Get the Limited Edition Blu-ray sets if possible.
Zone B Blu-ray Available From: na
Standard Edition Set
Zone B Blu-ray Available From: na
Region 4 DVD Available From: na
Disclosure: The Blu-rays and DVDs featured in this review are the Zone A Blu-ray and Region 1 DVD releases by Viz Media. Alternate releases are available in other regions. A review copy was provided by Viz Media.