Thursday, March 13, 2014

Manga Review: RANMA 1/2 2-in-1, Volume 1

RANMA 1/2 2IN1, VOL. 1

CARTOONIST: Rumiko Takahashi
ENGLISH ADAPTATION: Gerard Jones, Matt Thorn
LETTERING: Deron Bennett
EDITOR: Hope Donovan
ISBN: 978-1-4215-6594-1; paperback (March 2014); Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
368pp, B&W, $14.99 U.S., $16.99 CAN, £9.99 UK

Ranma 1/2 or Ranma ½ is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi.  It was originally serialized in Shogakukan’s manga magazine, Weekly Shonen Sunday, from September 1987 to March 1996, and later collected into 38 tankōbon (graphic novel) volumes.  Ranma 1/2 spawned anime series and films and recently a live-action special.

VIZ Media is the North American publisher of Ranma 1/2 and recently began publishing the series again in its “2-in-1 editions,” which collects two tankōbon (graphic novels) in one paperback edition.  Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 Edition, Vol. 1 collects Ranma 1/2 Volume1 and Ranma 1/2 Volume 2.

Ranma 1/2 introduces a 16-year-old boy named Ranma Saotome who was trained from early childhood in martial arts.  While on a training mission in China, Ranma and his father, Genma, dive into some cursed springs at a legendary training ground.  As a result, whenever he is splashed with cold water, Ranma turns into a girl, while hot water changes him back into a boy.  His father transforms into a panda.  What happens to the life of a half-boy, half-girl?

The story really starts years ago when Genma Satome promised his old friend, Soun Tendo, that Ranma would marry one of Soun’s three daughters:  19-year-old Kasumi, 17-year-old Nabiki, and 16-year-old Akane.  The girl picked to be Ranma’s bride doesn’t seem to like him, and she also seems to have a lot of suitors – many of them being quite combative.  Plus, an old rival of Ranma’s returns looking for revenge.

A truism about the work of mangaka (manga creator) Rumiko Takahashi is that her work mostly defies easy classification.  Her manga, for the most part, don’t really belong to one genre.  If I were forced to pick one, I would say fantasy, because of the various fantastical elements that permeate Rumiko’s work.  In addition to elements of fantasy, Rumiko’s manga incorporate comedy, romance, and martial arts.  There is a bit of an edge and a small undercurrent of darkness in her manga, just enough to let the reader know that all is not fun and games.

Ranma 1/2 is a delightful concoction of martial arts comedy and comic teen romance.  It is light-hearted and free-spirited, as exemplified in the way the characters so easily leap and levitate through martial arts battles.  I found myself in flight with these characters.  Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 Edition, Volume 1 allows readers to experience this unique and classic manga in big chunks, and it still might not be enough, once you get hooked.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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