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Perversion potential: Over 9000!

In preparing for the trip to Disney World, I brought along a lot of things with which to entertain myself. From numerous past experiences, I knew that almost anything I laboriously packed and then even more laboriously hauled from place to place would end up being a complete waste of forethought and effort. It's just the way things go. If you bring a bunch of books to read, then fate will conspire so that you never so much as open a single one of them. Of course, if you decide not to bring any with you then you'll go through the entire trip with such an uncontrollable book-lust that you'll end up trying to read the bible you find in the bedside night-table. You know it's true because it's happened to you before and it'll happen again and again.

This time around I brought with me my Nintendo DS, with entire stash of games, even going so far as to open 2 sealed ones just in case I needed something new to whet my gaming appetite. I also brought with me my netbook and prepared a 500 GB external hard drive loaded with anime series I haven't gotten around to watching yet and mangas I hadn't read. In addition to all of this brought with me, there was also cable tv available and after not having turned on a tv at home in almost 2 years, there was some appeal there as well. With all of these entertainment options, it's almost ironic what I eventually spent my downtime in Orlando doing.

One of the first anime series I watched when I became interested in anime a decade ago was Ranma ½. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Ranma, and its author Rumiko Takahashi were bigger than sliced bread at the time. I didn't pay much attention to the cultural or meta-aspects of anime back then, mostly just stumbling across random shows and watching a little of this and a little of that. The best comparison for Rumiko Takahashi in the 90's might just be J K Rowling from a few years ago. Everything she touched turned to gold and she's still one of the richest women in Japan from her manga works (much like her UK counterpart).

I never got around to watching all of the anime back then because it was still being fansubbed, having not made it over to the US in any official format. I happened across the translated manga during one of my numerous trawls through BakaBT and grabbed a copy out of nostalgia. I ended up spending almost all of my free time reading the manga while down in Disney World, only just finishing all 38 volumes earlier today. At around 200 pages a volume, it was a monstrous sort of effort, and I'm still feeling a bit ambivalent about it. But first, I guess I should summarize the plot a bit.



Ranma ½ is the story of a martial artist father and son who have an unfortunate 'training accident' involving a set of cursed springs. The net result is that both are cursed to change form whenever they are splashed by cool/cold water and only return to normal when doused with warm/hot water. Ranma thus becomes a girl half of the time while his father, Genma, changes into a panda. This would be trouble enough but it turns out Genma has agreed to an arranged marriage between Ranma and the daughter of one of his friends so they can inherit and continue the Anything Goes school of Martial Arts. To suggest that the family gets more than it bargained for is an understatement.

In the end, Ranma is paired off with Akane, the tomboy'ish and youngest daughter of the family, who generally has a problem with men in general. The other sisters basically foist the genderbending Ranma off on her with the reasoning that since she hates men, and Ranma is only a man half the time, it should be a perfect match. Thus spawns the classic love-HATE relationship which spans the entire 38 volumes. Toss in a ridiculous number of friends/enemies/fiances/stalkers/lovelorn/nutjobs, many of whom have also fallen into cursed springs of their own, and you basically have a circus. The manga chapters and anime episodes are almost completely episodic, with little to tie one to the next barring the introduction of new characters. You'll also be amazed to discover that there exists martial arts Gymnastics, Food Delivery, Tea Ceremonies, Cheerleading, and all sorts of other seemingly mundane activities for which there are special attacks. Half the episodes feature some new antagonist of the week showing up to challenge one or more of the characters to Martial Arts Horseshoe Tossing or something of the sort, with Ranma and company winning by the end through grit and determination.

I really liked Ranma ½ when I watched the anime a decade ago but both it and the manga are showing their age. It was almost painful to slog through the chapters one after another when, in all effect, nothing really happens. It's like reading/watching one giant series of reruns where only the setting changes. I guess I can't really knock this since Rumiko basically made a fortune off this idea of the never resolving relationship. Think of it as an anime version of Moonlighting for those who remember the show. Maybe I've just been spoiled with having seen some animes with good plot setups and resolutions, including romantic comedies, that it's just hard to swallow the episodic merry-go-round. All of this isn't to say that I hated the manga. It had its highs and its lows, with some of the storylines being worth reading. I just wish you didn't have to dig through so much crap sometimes to find the good stuff.

It is sort of interesting watching/reading Ranma ½ from a meta-perspective. Imagine that you just got put into a situation where you change into a member of the opposite sex. Now, after that initial freak out, what is probably the first thing that you do? For all that, the manga never really addresses that, most likely because it's geared towards, if not kids then at least non-adults. Ranma ends up using his curse in a lot of ways, usually involving flashing people or cross-dressing in order to score free food or some sort of combat advantage but never do any of the characters ever cross any real taboo lines. I'm only speculating, since it's so long past its prime, but I'll bet there was a ridiculous amount of Ranma-related pr0n out there at the time. A storyline like this is practically just begging for people to get their kink on.

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