What They Say:
From the legendary oeuvre of master creator Rumiko Takahashi, the mixed-up, madcap, martial arts romantic comedy RANMA 1/2 returns! After taking a surprise dip in a cursed spring while on a training journey in China, martial artist Ranma Saotome and his father, Genma, aren’t quite themselves anymore. Now Ranma turns into a girl whenever he’s splashed with cold water, and Genma turns into a panda!
Their new forms cause nothing but confusion at the Tendo dojo, where Soun Tendo is waiting to introduce one of his three daughters to Ranma – as his fiancee! Turns out Genma and Soun arranged the match long ago, but the girl, Akane, and the boy, Ranma, aren’t exactly crazy about the idea, or each other! Or are they? Watch the gender switching, jealous rages, and martial arts battles unfold all over again
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the previously created English language mix, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The serie is one that does a good job of balancing what it has for a forward soundstage presentation where it has a full and large feeling to it that keeps you engaged and a part of it. There are some of the quieter moments where there’s a bit of directionality with who is talking, but because it’s a full frame show it doesn’t quite go wide or deep with the material. There’s a good warmth to the whole show though and the characters voices come across very well in both languages, making for a fun and easy to hear series. The music plays well and adds a bit more to it but it avoids dominating or becoming problematic with scratchy sounds or other issues, instead giving us a clean and clear presentation.
Originally airing in 1989, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-three episodes of this collection are spread across three discs in an eight/eight/seven format with a good bit of space available to each of them, which is well used when looking at the average bitrates.High action scenes easily spend their time in the mid to high 30’s while a lot of it is in the low 20’s. Because of the film origin of the series, there’s some good and natural grain here and considering this is using the same remastered materials as the highly regarded Japanese release, there’s nothing to really find fault with here overall. It’s a very good looking show that while it does show its age and some of the minor flaws of film such as a few nicks and bits of dirt here and there, it is in the end the best that Ranma ½ has ever looked and that’s what counts.
Though the packaging for this release isn’t oversized or filled with goodies, it’s exactly what the release needed to be and is fantastic. The set comes with a standard sized Blu-ray case inside a heavy chipboard box that’s just a bit bigger than it, making it compact and properly snug but also having a good bit of heft to it. What really helps is that the front of it is done in this beautiful Chinese red color that makes it striking as we get girl-type Ranma in the center circle with a lot of gold embossed foil work around her with the framing. It’s simple, elegant and perfect for a title that has earned its classic status. The back cover, under the shrinkwrapped sell sheet with all the details, is done up in blue (which ties to the spine) and that gives us Genma in panda form in the middle with the same overall structure as the front of the box but without the series logo. It’s just a perfect looking box in every way.
Inside the box we get the aforementioned case which holds the three discs of the series. The front cover gives us a look at Ranma in boy form with a lot of the supporting “villains” of the first set arrayed around him while doing the background with a very light version of a few panels of the manga, tying it back to its origins in a great way. The back cover extends the background while providing a good premise for the series, a couple of shots from the show and a good breakdown of the technical specs and what the box holds as well as all the extras. The included book is really nicely done with a slick and glossy form to it as it provides an episode by episode breakdown for the first half as well as some production credits, both for the show itself and the Blu-ray release itself. The second half of it, which you have to read from the other end, offers the first thirty-four pages of the new omnibus edition of the manga. It’s really interesting to see it on such slick paper as it gives it a very different feeling.
The menu design for this release is definitely what it needed to be as we get something that’s simple but classy and very in-theme. Using the same red approach as the box cover, we get that and the gold mix that dominates it while the logo is along the upper left. THe right provides for three circles, again similar to the cover, where different clips play throughout it. This provides continuity across the volumes but also changes it up nicely. The navigation is along the lower left with the basics there that shift upward when selected and while the text is a touch small, it’s all readable and has a very good flow to it while being easy to use. Submenus load quickly and episode number and title breakdown is a breeze, as is the extras navigation.
Viz Media has gone the distance here with this release to make sure that there are some solid original extras. While we get the welcome usual suspects here with the clean opening and closing sequences and the separate next episode previews where appropriate, the rest is all original and very much worth looking at. The first is a thirty minute or so panel from the 2013 NYCC where the Viz team from the anime and manga side did a bit of a history on Ranma, went into the high definition release and talked about a lot of Takahashi related aspects. We also get another extended sequence that has the omnibus editor, Hope Donovan, talking about that release and what it was like to return to the series that has been complete for some time and finding a way to freshen it up for a new release. The other brief extra we get is a bit of a highlight reel from the NYCC which shows some interactions with fans, cosplay and general Ranma silliness.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Rumiko Takahashi that ran for thirty-eight volumes, Ranma ½ is a one hundred and sixty one episode TV series that ran for a few years starting in 1989. This set brings us the first twenty-three episodes of the series (in their proper order) and is what I would easily call the Perfect Season of the series. The show is one that made a big impact on me early on as I remember seeing bootleg copies of it at a comic book convention back in 1990 and being enamored by what the opening episode presented, huddled around with other people who had minimal to no exposure to anime in its “pure” form before. Since then, I’ve ended up with a hefty collection of VHS tapes, then the DVDs, a lot of the manga and even the SNES game that came out at a crazy time in that consoles history. With the kind of hugely popular works that Rumiko Takahashi has done, Ranma ½ manages to be the most accessible of them all.
The premise is simple in that we’re introduced to sixteen year old Ranma Saotome, a young man who with his father Genma, have returned to Japan after training in martial arts in China. This has been Genma’s quest for most of his life and his son has taken it up with him, surpassing him in many ways along the way. Their return to Japan has an additional aspect to it as Genma is taking Ranma to meet with an old martial arts friend of his from his youth, Tendo. And a good part of that is because Genma promised Ranma to marry one of Tendo’s daughters and take on the dojo that Tendo operates. Suffice to say, Ranma isn’t keen on this but is kind of accepting of it in some way. It’s a fairly straightforward kind of story idea to set the foundations with, but it wants to mix it up a bit with a quirk in that when hit with cold water, Ranma turns into a girl and Genma turns into a panda. The two ended up falling into cursed springs at a hidden training location in the mysterious parts of China and are now stuck combating this problem. Luckily, when they’re hit with warm water, they turn back, but that just means we’ve got a lot of setup for wacky comedy.
Tendo has three daughters, nineteen year old Kasumi who fits the classic demure Japanese woman, the middle daughter Nabiki at seventeen who fits the conniving and money making personality, and sixteen year old Akane, a young woman who is the heir apparent to the dojo that excels at the form and has a distaste for boys that’s born out of trouble at her school. Not surprisingly, none of them are all the excited at the prospect of an arranged marriage and all the more when they discover the weirdness that is Ranma and his father. It also doesn’t help that mis-introductions sets the stage for problems between Ranma and Akane that makes for a contentious arrangement that neither wants but both play at to some degree while the Saotome’s adjust to living under Tendo’s roof. Tendo’s a bit put off by it all as well, but he also understands the pursuits of martial arts and that it can take you in unexpected places.
The series revolves around this kind of tension in a fun way as we see how both Ranma and Akane end up becoming friends, but almost never able to say it because of the wide range of comedic elements that are thrown in to mess them up and add chaos to it all. For Akane, she’s in love with the twenty-something local doctor, a martial artist named Dr. Tofu, who himself only has eyes for Kasumi, who in turn doesn’t realize it. Akane herself is pursued by all the boys in the school who are trying to defeat her in order to win her heart, a challenge issued by the old school Tatewaki Kuno, since he intends to best all of them and be the one to win her over. She has no interest in any of them, but it gets more complicated when Kuno falls for girl-type Ranma as well and wants to possess them both, not realizing that Ranma is also a boy. Which is useful since Kuno wants to kill Ranma for being Akane’s fiancee and living under the same roof.
Ranma, as we’ll see, is actually engaged to a lot of people as his father used that as a way to get through life in a lof of ways. We see a little of it later in this set, but mostly we get introduced to some of the other foundational characters. Ryoga, the wandering and eternally lost young man with a grudge against Ranma, has some of the best material because his search for Ranma lead him to the spring as well and now he transforms into a pint sized pig. A pig that Akane ends up sort of adopting and sleeping with a lot after naming him P-Chan. Akane’s obliviousness is comical to be sure, but see how flustered Ranma gets with it is priceless. Even Genma gets in on things in a way as he ends up working at Tofu’s office and getting involved in a number of situations since he spends most of his time there as a panda. Add in Kuno’s sister, the black rose Kodachi, some ice skaters that Ranma and Akane encounter and then a mysterious girl from China named Shampoo of all things and it moves through a lot of different characters and material here.
What really surprised me, having not visited this show in well over a decade, is just how languid of a pace it takes at times, especially compared to more recent shows of this nature that feel like they’re constantly on and moving. With Ranma ½, it has a very laid back pace for a lot of it and it actually works in smaller arcs that cover a few episodes in this set to achieve its goals. The early focus is on introducing the Saotome’s and the Tendo’s, with a greater focus on Ranma and Akane that results in some real change for her in appearance, something that Takahashi realized she needed to fix after a few chapters of the manga. This decompressed approach in storytelling allows each of those involved to be explored, to grow and for the comedy to come across as more natural and relaxed rather than forced and frenetic. With each of the villains, they get their time to shine, often without others involved, though they may pop in as the cast continues to grow. You can also see towards the end of this set how it starts to dip a bit more into the episodic side and you can sense the change in the flow of it to something a little more traditional.
Which is why I’ll definitely view this as the Perfect Season of the series. There are a lot of great things to come with the show as the seasons go on, as the cast grows and the weirdness takes on a big role, but there’s something that’s just a lot more natural and organic in its growth here. Mirroring the manga well, we get something that feels like Takahashi had some good setup ideas and took the time to explore the connections and the kinds of gags that can work based on those relationships, but then realized that like Urusei Yatsura, more is funnier and we get a slew of other characters coming in. That just makes it a lot busier in general, and some of those characters are great, but I like the focus on the core cast and the first round of expansion that we get here. Kuno is timeless with how he operates here and Ryoga makes me grin every time I see him, in both forms, as he does his lost schtick or snuggles up with an unknowing Akane. I even felt Shampoo worked better for me this time as she was always a character that just didn’t grab me much, especially considering most fans seem to like her a lot. But really, the series works very well with what it does here and laid down the template that many have used since, albeit with more compressed storytelling.
Ranma ½ was a series that I didn’t expect to see get a Blu-ray release, even after the big Japanese remaster was done and it was given the necessary treatment. What we get here is pretty much a fantastic set at a surprising price that delivers in just about every way. What helps is that it has a great story, solid setup and quirky but thoroughly likable characters that makes it easy to connect with and enjoy. This is a series that really needed to get a TV broadcast so it can grow beyond the fans that know it and into something more since it works just as well today as it did in 1989. With several more sets ahead, there’s a lot of comedy and fun to be had, and hopes that some of Takahashi’s other series can get a similar treatment. Very highly recommended.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Ranma 1/2 Panel at New York Comic Con, Highlight Reel of New York Comic Con Viz Media Events, “We Love Ranma” Part 1 Manga Remastering Interview with Hope Donovan, Clean Openings and Endings
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: March 25th, 2014
Running Time: 450 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.