What They Say:
Ranma Saotome, the boy who turns into a girl with a splash of water, always has his hands full fending off crazed admirers. One of the most fanatical is Shampoo, a girl from a tribe of Chinese Amazons who tried to kill girl Ranma, was defeated by boy Ranma, and then proposes marriage to him due to her clan’s rule. Things get a little crazier when Shampoo falls into a cursed spring and turns into a cat! And even crazier when Mousse, who is in love with Shampoo, challenges Ranma to a battle over… Ranma’s fiancee, Akane…?
Back at the Tendo dojo, Ranma’s dad, Genma, and Akane’s dad, Soun, receive a visit from their former master, Happosai. Around the same time, some of the neighborhood ladies find their undies are disappearing… is Happosai responsible, or is it just a coincidence?
Contains episodes 24-46.
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 and 1990, 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 shade of blue that makes it striking as we get male-type Ranma in the center circle with a lot of gold embossed foil work around him 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 pink (which ties to the spine) and that gives us Gemma 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 serious look to him as he readies for combat while providing a great manga style illustration lightly in the background that ties into the Chinese dragons. 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. Unlike the first book though, we don’t get any manga here. What we do get separately is a nice card that’s the same size as the book which provides the logo on one side while the other has a cute picture of Ranma as a girl holding P-chan by the ears.
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 blue 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. 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 other brief extra we get is a bit of a highlight reel from the NYCC which shows some interactions with fans about the series, mostly in costume, having fun with it all.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Revisiting Ranma ½ in Blu-ray form after over a decade since last seeing it has been a lot of fun. The first set obviously had a lot of love poured into it from pretty much every point and it’d be hard to imagine such a release coming from Viz Media a decade ago as the company has really transformed itself these last few years, especially when it comes to the anime side of the business. The series has such a good vibe and fun about it that coming back into the characters lives after so long, and after seeing it originally in the early 90’s, is a real treat that manages to hold up better than I expected. But I also remember that the first set largely had some of the best material, which made me wary with the sets going forward because any series like this that has Rumiko Takahashi involved has a certain element to it that can be problematic with its episodic nature and inability to really progress anywhere. But it is, in the end, a product of its time.
Part of that apprehension comes from what dominates the first disc in this set as it revolves around Shampoo. While she is a fan favorite for many, she’s a character that always grated on me a bit with the mannerisms and the approach to how she pursued Ranma. This set eases some of that a bit as she does do a few things to go after him, but the interactions are focused more elsewhere, namely on her seemingly hundreds of years old grandmother, Cologne. With Shampoo being rebuffed as much as she is here by Ranma – and Akane at times – Cologne ends up stepping in with her ancient martial arts skills and puts some real challenges ahead of him. In context, it works out well because she ends up getting to test him and his abilities to make sure he’s actually qualified to marry her granddaughter. But she also uses it as a way to cause problems that will send Ranma from where he’s basically set up camp now. Naturally, that pushes him and Akane apart at times but it also inadvertently pushes them closer together as well.
Most everything is a one-off kind of episode of course as they go at it and there are cute moments, especially when Ryouga is brought in and viewed as a useful tool to achieve Cologne’s goals. But there’s also a fun sequence that goes on for a bit where Cologne stops Ranma’s ability to transform his firms and that has him trying to stay in his male form as long as possible since transforming when hit by water would get him stuck in the other. This thankfully brings in the good doctor again a bit, a character that is sadly minimized as the show goes on, but it’s fun watching the struggle Ranma has with all of this while having to meet some high hurdles that Cologne has set. I have a distant memory of not being very fond of Cologne but she proves to be a lot of fun and full of energy in this set as the wave of challenges go forth, aided by the marathoning of it all.
The downside to this arc is Mousse, a young man who is in love with Shampoo and realizes that Ranma is stealing her away, so he has to do something. Which is made worse by the fact he fell into a pool as well and turns into a duck. On top of the fact that he’s pretty much blind. So contrivance on top of contrivance makes him a throwaway character that’s near impossible to like and I suspect has few true fans. So the less said about him the better.
Another new character that makes his way into the series with this set is a little different, one that can be problematic but is also one that I stupidly like. The entrance of Happosai is one that is similar to Cologne in a way as he’s a tiny, wizened old man that has great martial arts skills. His twist is that he was actually both Gendo and Genma’s master when they were training, so he has an actual relationship with them. One that ended years earlier when they managed to trick him into a cave, sealed him up and ran away because they couldn’t handle his personality. Namely, that he’s a pretty cruel pervert that’s interested in burrowing his face in young women’s bosoms, stealing bras and panties and generally being lewd. He has a lot going on across his episodes as he tries to get some revenge on his students while also seeing some potential in taking on Ranma since his skills – and body swapping – makes him ideal for a lot of shenanigans. Happosai gets into plenty of trouble and really does come across as a petulant child for a lot of it, but there’s that kind of personality that has it so that only an old tiny man like him could attempt to get away with it. He causes all sorts of problems, and brings in Ranma and Akane’s father’s in a fun way as they get a bit more focus again, which is what the series is all about. Stupidly silly situations that Ranma usually doesn’t get into himself but instead gets caught up in. Which thankfully does regularly lead to laughs.
While Shampoo leaves me a bit cool overall, I’m still ambivalent about the other fiancee that he has. No, no, not Akane. The other one gets introduced here as Ukyo arrives, a tomboy of a girl who ended up being set up with him as a child through a shady deal between fathers that kind of fell through. Because of how she was treated, with Ranma sorta kinda not realizing it, she went all boy-ish at the time and has spent her years practicing her ookinomiya cooking while combined with martial arts that’s reminiscent of the skills that Ryouga has. In fact, the two make a cute pair when they do meet on screen. For Ranma, it’s another wedge with Akane, even though she knows it’s his father that really caused the problem, and she gets stuck in it as well since Ukyo wants to get her out of the way in order to get Ranma. Complications upon complications with a small helping of past characters coming into play – and others like Tsubasa who gets a single episode appearance here as she tries to win over Ukyo herself.
The second set of the Ranma ½ series brings us twenty-three more episodes of silly fun and it does largely work well. In fact, as much as I enjoyed it while watching it, writing about it and thinking about it reinforces how much I liked it and that’s always a positive sign. The show is very simple in its nature. There’s no denying it and what it is that it wants to do. It’s kind of action/comedy/romance that has driven Takahashi’s work for a good part of her career and it’s a staple of the period in which it was created, spawning many imitators. This works well. Surprisingly well. Perhaps it’s a touch of nostalgia, but there have been elements that I have no liked which I think do manage to hold up well even so. This set takes everything that the first set did right and mirrors it here, just with a new set of episodes. It’s good fun, well executed, and beautifully packaged all around. If you were a fan of the first, you’ll like the second, especially as it grows the variety and size of the cast a little more slowly here than it will in later sets.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, “We Love Ranma” Part 2 – Favorite Scenes, Next Episode Previews, Clean Openings & Endings.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: June 24th, 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.