Ranma ½ – Series Two

September 18, 2007 on 1:40 pm | In Ranma ½ | Comments Off on Ranma ½ – Series Two

Ah, you step away from consistently watching anime for a long time, you come out, and then all of a sudden you’re confronted by how blatantly sexist everything is. A woman needs a husband! To serve and protect! Girls are incapable of making any decisions for themselves!

In Ranma ½, we’re presented with two strong and independent leads … and a bunch of people around them who propagate a whole lot of senseless “women’s role” malarkey. All of the people who talk this way are generally presented as laughable idiots, but it does seem to be the party line of the series. I hadn’t watched any Ranma ½ since October of last year, but it all came back to me … and the second series is funnier than the first despite some continuity I couldn’t quite place and Viz’s blatant and nonsensical rearrangement of the first twelve episodes.

The story of the series remains as before: Ranma and his father, Genma, have fallen into springs and are cursed to become a girl and a panda every time they are splashed with cold water. Since the series has begun, several other characters have gone to China and fallen in – turning into black boars, cats, and ducks.
With the addition of new characters such as Shampoo’s suitor Mousse, her great grandmother Cologne, and the true master of the Anything-Goes school of Martial Arts, Happousai, Ranma ½ turns a new corner.

Ranma ½ is episodic, but it is divided into story arcs of several episodes each. With a cast that travels between Japan and China with some frequency, it’s handy to know where a character is. With the rearrangement of these first twelve episodes of the series, a good deal doesn’t make perfect sense: Ryouga/P-Chan features in the first two episodes, but then a few episodes later he’s only just back from a long journey. Ranma, in the fourth episode of this incarnation (which would have been the first of the legit series), says “I swore I’d never become a girl again!” when he’s faced with a racing dilemma … despite having been generally resigned to his aquatranssexuality in the previous three episodes.
The shuffling of the episodes doesn’t make a lot of sense – perhaps it made more sense in the glory days of VHS – but it’s an annoyance and a flow disrupter.

This is a pity, because this series flows pretty damn smooth otherwise. The only thing that confused me was that Shampoo knew that Ranma was cursed, because I remember the first series’ gag being that Shampoo loved boy type and desperately wanted to kill girl type – and never managed to reconcile that the two were the same. This is pretty moot, because you get used to it. The highlight of this series is the introduction of the new characters, because they make the pre-existing cast shine more brightly.

With Mousse and Cologne, Shampoo has foils and cannot simply do whatever she wants. With an actual establishment in Japan, Shampoo also has to both cooperate and compete with Akane … and her treatment of Mousse is ridiculous. Cologne, for her own (albeit presently unnamed) sake, is an excellent martial artist and trainer, and a member of the greatest race of standbys: tiny ancient people.

Cologne, of course, is no match for Happousai, who succeeds in making Genma and Soun into hilarious characters. As my notes say, “murder is hilarious”. The two disciples are constantly trying to kill their master in a sort of nonchalant whistling fashion, and the laughs never fail to arise from this situation. Happousai is of course a tiny ancient pervert, and so panty theft and general lechery have entered the equation at this point in the series – as well as his ideas of wrath, which really have to be seen.

While the hilarity is definitely kicked up a notch, and a lot of the multi-part stories are great, not every episode can be good. There’s an episode about cookies which sucks because Akane has to go totally out of character for it to work – she should not care that Ranma won’t eat her cookies (and take that, gender roles! A girl who can’t cook!). Her jealousy, which should be subconscious, is completely out in the open and the episode doesn’t work as a consequence, although I will give it this: the idea of date raping Ranma is pretty funny.
Date rape is actually a pretty recurring joke in the series, but mainly in regards to Ranma. It can’t always work, and a lot of the time it’s just a disturbing display of male dominancee, but it doesn’t detract from the series as a whole.

Then we end the series on an episode that girl type Ranma spends mostly naked. I mean, I don’t really care, but what is one supposed to make of girl Ranma fan service? I suppose one should just take Happousai’s stance: boobs is boobs.

They don’t make shows like this anymore, so breathe deep and cry for what could have been: yep, Ranma ½ is the ultimate in nostalgia for a digital age. (Warning: it is not advised to cry every time you see a cel animated show)

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