Plot: What’s it about?
Im not sure how many of you out there are familiar with anime (or Japanese-style animation), but if you are there’s a very good chance you have seen or heard about this series. Its called Ranma 1/2 (Pronounced Ranma one half) and it is based on the popular Japanese comics by Rumiko Takahashi. The show is a quirky, teen-aged, martial arts, romantic style comedy, I know its quite a mix! The series enjoyed instant popularity and success before making its way to the states, and already has a countless number of episodes, theatrical releases and straight to video specials. Viz video, the studio responsible for bringing us the series is also greatly responsible for the shows exposure and popularity. Viz is a San Francisco based company which deals in many different anime titles, but the Ranma 1/2 series is clearly their bread and butter. The feature that im reviewing is not one episode in particular but a 3 disc, 12 episode box set put together by the folks at Viz. Now rather than try to break down every episode and give you line after line of review, im choosing to give you an overview of the series and the characters.
Ranma 1/2 has continued to enjoy success all over the world for many reasons, but the main reason is its originality. The story is based on main character Ranma Saotome, a young, attractive martial artist and not to lacking in the ego department either. Ranma and his father Genma are on a ten year long training expedition when one fine day the two find themselves at the cursed training grounds know as the Jusenkyo Springs. The springs at Jusenkyo are many, and the curses that each one holds are unique, if someone were to fall into one of the cursed springs while training, he or she would become whoever or whatever drowned in that spring. Kinda cool huh? But the transformation is not permanent, the victim to fall into the spring would from now on have to be dowsed in cold water to activate the transformation and warm water reverses the effect, turning the victim back to normal. Well, it just so happens that Ranma and his pop both fall into springs, and are now having to live with there “alter ego’s.” So who drowned in the spring that Ranma fell into? A young beautiful red haired girl, and in Genmas pool, a great panda! So Ranma and his father now find themselves knocking on the door of the Tendo training hall, where Genmas best friend and his three daughters now reside. Well, early on in the series it was arranged for Ranma and Mr. Tendos youngest daughter, Akane, to be married, now this does pose a problem. Ranma thinks he’s gods gift to women and Akane is a sassy, strong minded “tomboy” type. This makes for some real interesting scenarios and when you throw in a cast of dozens of colorful characters (most of who also fell into springs at Jusenkyo), you’ve got a great, original series done with lots of taste and even more laughs.
Viz has offered dozens of ways to aquire episodes and movies in the Ranma 1/2 series on VHS but the choices on DVD have been few so far with only 2 movies available. Until now, what better a way to get familiar with the cast of characters than with this 3 disc boxed set which includes 12 original video episodes in a very attractive 3-fold box. The Ranma 1/2 series is a very unique type of anime, it gives a good blend of laughs, action and romance. And what really makes this so worth watching? Its like the 90210 of anime only better, after watching a few episodes, you start to know the characters and you actually get hooked because you’ll always want to know what’s going to happen next. A great series with an original plot and lots of surprises.*N ote: While Ranma 1/2 is aimed at a younger audience, some of the episodes do contain scenes of brief female frontal nudity. The series carries the American equivalent of a PG-13 rating.
Video: How does it look?
Judging the video quality of animation is much different from that of motion pictures, but the fullscreen presentation of these discs are simply great looking. All the colors are bright and clean, there’s no bleeding at all and even the few still pictures are good looking. The picture is not perfect (few things are on video) but when you remember the fact that this is pen and ink and not film on a camera, I think the overall quality of the picture is above average. A few spots and printing specs, but that’s all.
Audio: How does it sound?
2.0 Dolby digital track on all the episodes and the sound here is also very good. the hi-lo mix seemed perfect and there were no parts that were overdriven by loud noises or some of the female characters high-pitched voices. Nice sounding all around.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Well normally I don’t count languages or subtitles as extras but its a completely different story with anime. There are two kinds of anime fans, the ones that like Subtitles and the ones who like dub jobs. Now most people (like myself) like subtitles because it allows them to hear the original Japanese voice talent, but when I originally starting watching Ranma 1/2 it was on VHS and subtitled versions of the tapes were not yet available, but the American voices they got for the characters are quite good! and now I don’t even watch them in Japanese because ive come to like the dubbed voices more. Well, anyway, you get your choice of original Japanese dialog (With English subtitles) or dubbed. And there’s more! A bunch of music videos from the opening and closing credits of the shows different series, a trailer for Ranma 1/2 straight to video specials, a 13 page printed interview with the series creator Rumiko Takahashi, Original sketches of all the different rooms in the Tendo training hall and…..Full descriptions of almost all of the characters in the Ranma 1/2 world and cast and crew info on the series creators and artists. Very nice additions to a great box set.