Ranma ½ (Ranmani bun no ichi) is a long-running romantic comedy with a gender-bending twist, authored by Rumiko Takahashi (*1957) and serialized in a shōnen manga magazine Shōnen Sunday  (1987-1996). The series was also adapted into anime which run on Japanese TV channel Fuji TV from 1989 to 1992.

Sixteen year old Ranma Saotome is an aspiring martial artist and together with his trainer and father Genma embarks on a training trip to China. There he accidentally falls into a cursed spring and as a result changes into a girl whenever he comes into contact with cold water. The unfortunate transformation can be reversed by hot water, but the curse itself is irrevocable – unless Ranma finds another spring possessing the curse that could nullify the original one. However, before he can find such spring, Ranma is forced to return to Tokyo only to learn his father (who also falls into a cursed spring and as a result keeps changing into a giant panda) had secretly betrothed him to one of the daughters of SōunTendō – Genma’s best friend and an owner of the Anything Goes Martial Arts school. Ranma and his unwilling fiancée Akane – herself a budding martial artist – initially feel little sympathy towards each other, but gradually become friends and in the end even develop mutual romantic affection.However, their lives are constantly made difficult not only by Ranma’s persistent curse, but also by their nosy family members, Akane’s notorious suitor Tatewaki Kunō (who is also strongly attracted to Ranma’s female form), his sister Kodachi (who is in love with Ranma’s male form) and various friends and enemies – many of them also martial artists affected by the curse of the Chinese springs and thus prone to changing into various animals, such as a cat, duck or a small black piglet.

Ranma ½ is a typical example of a rabukome (romantic comedy) – a genre which became popular in both shōnen and seinen manga by the end of 1970s. Rumiko Takahashi, who studied under the legendary manga author Kazuo Koike (*1936), actively contributed to the genre by her first big hit series Lum (Uruseiyatsura, 1978-1987), a crazy sci-fi love comedy about a high-school student Ataru who is pursued by a sexy extraterrestrial girl Lum, and while the boy isn’t immune to the charms of the beautiful alien, he initially refuses her advances as he is already in love with a schoolmate Shinobu. Their relationship – made even more difficult and confusing due to actions of many side-characters  – was typical for Takahashi’s love comedy, and constantly fighting couple engaged in complicated love triangles and surrounded by a plentiful ensemble of wacky characters took central stage also in the next Takahashi’s hit, seinen manga series Maison Ikkoku (Mezōn Ikkoku, 1980-1987) serialized in the magazine Big Comics Spirit, and later also in another of her successful shōnen series Inuyasha (Sengoku otogizōshi Inuyasha, 1996-2008). While Ranma ½ isn’t Takahashi’s only internationally acclaimed manga, it was nevertheless one of the first Japanese comics and anime successfully published and aired in the North America.

— Anna Krivankova

See also: seinen manga, shōnen manga

Further Reading

  • Acres, Harley. “Profile: RumikoTakahashi – ThePrincessof Manga.” Profile: RumikoTakahashi – ThePrincessof Manga. October 29, 2014. Accessed May 17, 2015. http://www.furinkan.com/takahashi/.
  • Hill, Michael. “Ranma 1/2: Gender and GenreShifting in Manga.” The Comics Grid Blog Ranma 12 Gender and GenreShifting in Manga Comments. August 1, 2011. Accessed May 10, 2015.
  • Schodt, Frederik L. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. Berkeley, Calif.: Stone BridgePress, 1996.