Ranma ½, by Rumiko Takahashi

I have spent the past few days wondering how to describe Rumiko Takahashi's Ranma ½ without making it sound like a 36-volume-long fever dream, and I've finally decided it's an impossible task. Just... bear with me, okay?

Ranma ½ is the story of teenage martial artist Ranma Saotome and his (allegedly) unwanted fiancee, Akane Tendo. As a small child, Ranma's father Genma took him on a decade-long training trip, promising his wife that Ranma would return as a “man among men”. Unfortunately, the training trip included a visit to the cursed springs of Jusenkyo, where Ranma picked up a magical curse: every time he's splashed with cold water he transforms into a girl. Hot water changes him back, but Ranma is horrified by his girl form. Before he can look for a cure, however, Genma drags him back to Japan, where he introduces his son to hot-tempered tomboy Akane Tendo. Ranma and Akane have been unknowingly engaged since birth, but any hope of a smooth courtship is immediately lost: Akane hates boys, Ranma has a raging case of foot-in-mouth disease, and both teens have more than their fair share of overzealous admirers.

While some of the cultural attitudes featured in Ranma ½ are dated, I will forever love Ranma and Akane's stormy romance. The pair squabble constantly (and in Takahashi's over-the-top world “squabbling” means wild insults and kicks into the stratosphere), but they're also unshakably loyal and fiercely protective of one another. Their relationship anchors the craziness that surrounds them—an unending parade of unwanted suitors, martial art challengers, and meddling family members. Not all of Takahashi's jokes have held up in the twenty-odd years since the series was published (and some elements never translated well to begin with), but Ranma ½ is a classic for good reason: it's insanely funny, delightfully weird, and it features one of the most endearing bickering-romance pairings of all time.
Posted by: Julianka


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