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Ranma 1/2 Set 7 Special Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

16 min read

Ranma Set 7 CoverIt’s the end of an era that goes out with a lot of familiarity.

What They Say:
Ranma is challenged by Ryoga to fight yet again, but this time he is completely defeated by Ryoga’s new technique, the ‘Lion’s-Roar Blast.” It is said that the more miserable the user, the stronger the technique becomes – does Ranma have a chance against the tragic Ryoga?! Then, Ranma must master martial arts cheerleading, but in order to win, he is going to have to cheer for Upperclassman Kuno!

Finally, Ranma’s mother at last comes to the Tendo Dojo, but why is Genma doing everything he can to stop Ranma from meeting her? Akane feels sorry for Ranma, who barely remembers his own mother, and forms a plan to bring them together.

Contains episodes 139-161.

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally airing in the early 1990’s, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The final 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.

Packaging:
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 great shade of off-white that that gives it some additional elegance when combined with the gold circle and embossing around the character artwork itself. It just has a really strong design aesthetic overall that has carried through well over the course of the run while still being its own individual set. The back cover, under the shrinkwrapped sell sheet with all the details, is done up in a great shade of 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 the core cast together in various poses that has a manga style illustration feeling to it. 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 what’s in this set as well as some production credits, both for the show itself and the Blu-ray release itself. We also get a separate heavy cardstock card that’s the same size as the book which provides the logo on one side while the other has a really wonderful image of Ranma in boy-form leaning up against his father in panda-form as he eats some bamboo. It’s just so evocative of the early episodes.

Menu:
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 purple 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 are a breeze, as is the extras navigation.

Extras:
Viz Media continues to bring something new to the table with this release in addition to the standards we expect. We get the welcome usual suspects here with the clean opening and closing sequences and the separate next episode previews where appropriate. We also get the eighth and final installment of the We Love Ranma bit which clocks in at just over seven minutes. This one has an array of cosplayers, superfans, and industry professionals giving their thanks to creator Rumiko Takahashi for her creations and the positive things that it’s brought to so many lives.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the seventh installment of the series, we get to the final batch of twenty-three episodes that makes up Ranma ½. The show ran for 161 episodes and just a bit over three years and certainly powered through a lot of mediocre material like a champ, eking out humor where it could yet never quite reaching the same kind of charms that it had in that first season. The draw was always the characters and there’s a stronger refocus in the sixth and seventh seasons towards the core characters, something that has definitely helped it even as some of the material felt like it was going through the motions. Additions of new characters dropped off, fewer guest stars from the mid-range appearing, and a slowing down of the pace to some degree as well all brings the show to an odd point that’s kind of zen in its own way. Hell, even the girl-type Ranma is used less and less overall, or at least it feels that way.

With the opening episodes of the set, we do get some good fun that includes our last appearance by the guide from Jusenkyo. He’s come to Tokyo in order to connect a pool there with the one back home, which will certainly be a boon to the gang. Particularly since it’s the pool in their own back yard. Suffice to say there’s a lot of jealousies in play as some of the others that have fallen to the curses get involved and jockey for position, but you know it’s a non-starter overall so it’s just a matter of how silly they get in trying to outwit each other. And considering none of them are terribly smart in general, well, it simply doesn’t work out. But the fun is there in watching them get all cozy with the guide as he’s on his own sort of vacation and then work to ensure that he’s on their side to help them first and foremost. You really do feel for the gang overall at this point, but the reality is that it’s not a situation that’s going to get fixed.

Ryouga fares a bit better with his last main outing, though he gets a little additional time later, as there’s a two-part story that has him finally defeating Ranma through a form that he learns which requires some real despair to use. Considering his life, it’s no surprise that he’s able to master it. Nor that Ranma tries to learn it himself in order to reassert his position over Ryouga as he’s got plenty of despair to go around as well. it’s a cute enough story overall, but like a lot of the two-part stories it suffers from its length. Ranma ½ works best when it’s more compact and standalone.

Another callback to the past has one episode that focuses on Happosai who gets messed up a bit by having six incarnations of himself running around. Using this as his last big outing in the series, it certainly adds a lot of panties and bras to the episode as he goes all out while everyone else either tries to contain him or gets caught up in his wake. With Ranma and Akane selling stuff at a local fair (with Ranma amusingly trying to sell his father, it’s a setup that just invites danger. The stall is actually being run by Kuno, who was getting rid of stuff that was just taking up space in one of their vast wings of their mansion. He and Ranma naturally get into things and start fighting, but get interrupted when Kasumi wants to take home a deck of cards with a pentagram on it. Being the charmer he is, Kasumi gets it for nothing, which leads to Kasumi playing with the cards at home later on, trying to determine just what use they may have been.

As luck would have it, Ranma is chasing Happosai to extract revenge from a previous incident, and Happosai goes flying across the room and lands squarely on the table, scattering the cards. They naturally land in a pentagram pattern and come alive. Within seconds, Happosai is sent to the heavens in a burst of light. As it turns out, we’re not rid of him, but rather the evil spirits in the cards have taken on his form and are causing havoc across the city, with things like a little vampire version of him, or a fallen angel, an evil knight and so forth. Happosai’s nature comes out really well here with this warping of the situation.

Another stand out among this set is the one that also serves as a kind of end point for Shampoo. The opening take deals with Shampoo getting stuck in a residence where she was delivering an order for the restaurant. The residence is “owned” by Mao Mo Lin, the giant “ghost cat” that showed up earlier in the series. He’s tricked Shampoo into the area to be his bride and placed a cat hex on her, making it so that she cannot leave the area. But Shampoo is crafty and cunning, so she makes a deal with Mao about her prince coming to rescue her and kiss her, with the kiss being able to break the spell. The prince, of course, turns out to be Ranma, and this is her way of getting herself kissed. To complicate things, if Ranma doesn’t kiss her by a certain time, Shampoo will turn completely into a cat and the marriage will commence with Mao. There’s a lot of fun with this episode since the cast is kept small and I tend to enjoy the ones that deal with Ranma’s cat phobia. Having a ten-foot tall cat with a massive tongue give Ranma a face lick just cracks me up.

One of the more entertaining relationship based episodes so far isa mid-set episode here, where Soun takes everyone on a little adventure/vacation to a temple that specializes in mushrooms. There’s all kinds of mushrooms to be eaten there, but they must be picked by an expert picker as there are also a lot of poisonous ones mixed into them. So with the master arriving there, everyone digs into a really scrumptious dinner of mushrooms. And then everyone promptly keels over from poisoning just about. While the master is immune, and Ranma and Akane seem to be immune as well, everyone else is on the out and out. So the master sends them off to a temple far up the trail that will have a sacred antidote that will cure everyone. And when they go, the master picker awakens and realizes what happened, and pulls out his sacred antidote and starts curing everyone. This leads to some confusion about Ranma and Akane, to which the master picker realizes that they ate the Love Mushrooms. If the two of them don’t take the antidote by sunset, they’ll be forever in love with each other. The reactions are mixed, with the parents being ecstatic to Ryouga and Kuno being outraged and plenty inbetween with everyone else. While you know how it’s going to turn out, it was rather fun to see Ranma and Akane espousing feelings of love for each other, holding hands and risking their lives.

“Madame St. Paul’s Cryifor Help” brings us back to the characters of Saint Paul and Picolet, characters who were minor in season five and really aren’t worth remembering. Ranma and Akane head off to the large castle at the request of Madame Saint Paul to see why her ward of Picolet is hiding in his tower and not coming out during the day all while women fall pray to attacks. The instant guess is that he’s a vampire, and with his mastery of the Martial Arts School of Dining, well, you know he’s going to be powerful. This episode plays a bit more as a mystery with some action thrown in and actually gives Akane a few moments to shine in both the action aspect and in the fan service way. But with not knowing who Picolet and Saint Paul are yet, it just didn’t do much.

Another episode here that didn’t work well for me was “Meet You in the Milky Way”, which was a real eye-roller. Going into the mystical side of things, we get a tale from the past updated to present day again as the Weaver Princess and the Cowherd make an appearance. The tale is one where she ends up being more powerful than him, so he wanders off to train. She still wants to marry him but has been given a deadline to return home with him otherwise she goes to another. So the princess ends up meeting up with Akane and the two are quite alike, whereas Ranma ends up coming across the Cowherd and ends up getting seriously thrashed. He’s gained some serious strength since he left and is now challenging every dojo in town until he’s powerful enough to win over the Princess’ heart.

Akane gets a rather fun episode after she’s given the recipe to a cherry blossom rice cake that will tell you if someone is your intended mate or not. When you prepare the meal yourself and give it to someone, if they’re you’re intended, their face will have small sakura blossoms on it. If they’re not intended, well, it’s giant black X mark. Akane’s attempts at this are rather amusing since people are automatically afraid of her culinary skills, and she does manage to screw up the food. The cakes still work, though, as we’re quickly treated to some X’s, such as Happosai being force fed a cake. Her goal of getting Ranma to eat one though tends to be foiled by his stubbornness of not wanting to eat her food as well as not wanting to know the future. Add in a pleasant dash of Ryoga and him getting the sakura blossoms on his face and it’s a good romantic triangle episode once again.

One of my favorite pairings from early on in the series gets an episode together again as we get one where we have Tatewaki and Kodachi going at each other for offenses each has caused, which ends up getting Ranma involved while Nabiki is truly at the heart of it all. Starting with Tatewaki using Kodachi’s poster of her loved one Ranma as target practice, she responds by stealing his book of “wow! Shocking!” photo’s of girl-type Ranma. This spills over into the public arena and the school, where Ranma gets involved and tries to get the book himself. There’s lots of back and forth, short bursts of martial arts and the usual dealings of Nabiki. The best part is actually getting to see the photos that are in the album, showing just what kind of person Tatewaki is.

As the set moves towards the end it doesn’t go for anything major in regards to cleaning up any storylines or anything else. It wants to just ride off into the sunset, for the most part, with some simple storytelling with Ryouga for an episode and then an odd one with a typhoon hitting. The storm itself isn’t of issue, but it brings in from the outside a strange little man known as the Frog Hermit. He ends up taking residence in the Tendo’s house and is fairly well welcomed outside of Ranma. He manages to scare up people at times accidentally and just causes a little trouble but ends up clashing with Ranma. They clash frequently over a fish that Ranma found in the street that looks like a seahorse but is actually revealed to be a dragon whose flesh can extend life…. Uh huh. Considering you knew at that point that the show was ending, you’d think they’d try to go out on a higher note before the finale.

The two part finale brings Ranma’s mother to visit at long last, as she’s finally found out where Ranma and Genma have been staying all this time. When Genma finds out after receiving a postcard about it, he freaks out and insists they leave right away. Ranma and the others eventually coax it out of him as to who’s visiting and they’re all eager to meet her. But Genma keeps Ranma away when she arrives, a beautiful almost traditional Japanese woman. As she explains, she talks about how Genma left with Ranma when he was young for his training to become a man among men.

To agree, eventually, she made Genma and Ranma agree to a contract that if he didn’t become such a man, she would assist them in ritual suicide. With Ranma not exactly being all that manly at times, Genma’s convinced death awaits them. The show turns into a comedy of errors as Ranma and Genma play the girl-type and panda roles so that they can be close to her but not recognizable. It plays out pretty well and there’s some good moments as Ranma aka Ranko deals with his mother and learns about her a bit while she stays at the Tendo’s.

For the end of the series, it plays out pretty much like any other episode or two part section of the past seven seasons. Nothing here screams that it’s the end of it, letting things go out on a bit of a whimper instead of a bang. After all this time, this may be the most disappointing part about it all because it simply ends (well, goes on to OVAs and movies, but they don’t really resolve anything either) as opposed to just more and more coming out forever.

In Summary:
Though the series kind of peters out in the last couple of seasons, the sixth and seventh seasons do a decent job of trying to course correct some but end up with the usual problems of adapting a long running manga. I have no idea how closely it worked to it as it’s been years since I read the manga, but if there’s one thing Rumiko Takahashi does it’s to craft a series where the end is obvious and it’s just as obvious that they’ll rarely ever get there without a heaping load of spinning the wheels. Ranma ½ is one of the exceptions, especially in the TV series form, in that there’s no resolution to any of the issues. In fact, there’s no real growth to the characters. You could easily watch the first few episodes of the series and these last two and have a nice and complete little movie here and not really miss much. There are a lot of charms and a lot of characters I like, but the best comedies grow and adapt along the way. Here, it’s more of the same over and over, which can get to be a drag after awhile. Even if you do laugh and enjoy various episodes of it.

Viz Media did a solid job with this release overall and really crafted some love into the product and it shows, from top to bottom. While my enthusiasm slowed as it went on, much as it did when I bought all the singles years ago, the core of the property is still appealing. I keep hoping that we’ll get a revival of some sort someday for it, foolish as that may be. At the end of this set, I do hope that Viz Media is able to do the same with the OVAs and the movies, giving us matching sets for it. And I truly hope that they can find a way to do the same for some of her other works. Yes, I’m looking hard at you Maison Ikkoku and Urusei Yatsura. Make it so.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, “We Love Ranma” Part 8, 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: September 8th, 2015
MSRP: $54.97
Running Time: 530 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
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.

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