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Goodbye, Ranma

by Harley Acres

November 23, 2006

-The Discovery-

I can remember very vividly the first encounter I had with Ranma ½. I was flipping through an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly and they had a few brief reviews of games coming out in Japan for the Mega CD (that’s the TurboGrafx-16 in America). The review was only about two or three sentences, but mentioned that Ranma fell into a magical spring and transformed into a girl when he got wet. Needless to say, I thought this was the most bizarre concept for a video game I had ever heard. If I remember correctly they also mentioned there was basically no chance of the game finding its way to the US. The game never made it, but both the manga and anime eventually did. I was introduced to Ranma ½ through the “Hard Battle” video game that came out at Christmastime 1993. My brother and I had a choice; we could ask for Ranma ½ Hard Battle or Clayfighters. Thankfully, we made the right choice. EGM did a two page article this time in preparation for the release of the Super Nintendo game and I knew I had to have it. The characters sounded so bizarre, that I knew I had to try it out. It was the best gift I got that Christmas, and the dialog cut-scenes between the fights were genuinely funny. I was twelve at the time and couldn’t get enough of the game.

The summer before I bought the game I had started noticing that there was also a Ranma ½ manga series (comic book series to me at the time, the Japanese buzzwords weren’t part of the lexicon back then). The first issue I ever saw on the shelf at my local comic book store was Ranma ½ Part 2 Number 3. Originally Ranma ½ was released in a monthly comic book format with two chapters per issues; this is why it has taken sixteen years for the manga series to finish when it only took nine in Japan. I didn’t purchase the manga until that winter, when Part 3 Number 1 came out. I can remember the overcast day I got that first issue on and that we ate at Shoneys. I remember I looked through it so many times before I actually read it that by the time I truly sat down and read it cover to cover, I had already piecemealed the entire story. I was blown away. The first story I read was Gosunkugi’s debut, and I thought it was so unusual for there to be an actual funny comic book. At the time I was a huge X-Men fan, and superhero books were beginning to lose their interest to me. Boy was this something new and fresh!

The black and white artwork didn’t turn me off since I was reading Usagi Yojimbo, a manga-esque comic book. There was one big shock… nudity. Now, for a twelve year old boy, this was rather exciting to me- boobs in a comic book! Once my brother saw this, he immediately began busting my chops and taunting me, saying he knew “the real reason I was buying it”, and whenever I would look at my only issue at the time, he would inevitably say “I know what part you’re looking at!” Not only this, but when my mother found out she was paying for her child to read a comic about a transsexual she wasn’t pleased. The two of them both recommending I stop getting Ranma ½. Surprisingly, I did.

Ranma ½ Part 3 Number 3 was the last issue I bought, thanks to my mother and brother. A month passed and I saw the next issue on display, and had to let it go. I was depressed about it, but I was tired of their ridicule. The next month, enough was enough. I saw the new issue on the wall and I promptly had it put back on my reserve list and picked up the single issue I had missed plus the new one that came out that week. I vaguely remember telling my mother that I would pay for my own issues if they didn’t like it. So that was that, I continued to buy the manga from then on.

Most fans discovered Ranma ½ through the anime, which debuted here in America in mid to late 1993. This coincided with my discovering the manga series, and by January 1994 I had my first VHS tape of Ranma ½. My brother, Dylan, encouraged my Mom to order “Desperately Seeking Shampoo” which was how Viz marketed the two OVAs, “Shampoo's Sudden Switch! The Curse of the Contrary Jewel” and “Tendo Family Christmas Scramble”. The amazing fight sequence between Ranma and Shampoo blew me away. As did Shampoo’s shower scene (that was also another factor that lead to me having to temporarily stop purchasing the manga). I didn’t buy another Ranma ½ tape for a year due to how ridiculously expensive they used to be- the OVAs were $35.00 each. The next year my best friend bought the “Like Water For Ranma” OVA tape, and after seeing that I bought my second tape on December 26, 1994. It was “Akane and Her Sisters” and from that point on I continued to beg for the $25.00 - $35.00 each month to buy the new tapes. Viz would bring the tapes out in an odd order, with the OVAs coming out right at the beginning, so that some of the characters were introduced years before they showed up in the manga or television series. I remember I used to wonder what was in the bag Happosai always carried with him. Eventually I found out.

So that’s how I was introduced to the big three… the video games, manga, and anime- the trifecta. I was now hooked.

-Growing Up with Ranma ½-

One of the hardest things to believe is that I fell in love with the series when I was twelve years old in 7th grade, and now I’m saying goodbye to it as a 25 year old who is a semester shy of getting his master’s in art history. I’ve come a long way and Ranma ½ has been there every step of the way. I still remember doodling Akane on my notebook paper when I didn’t have anything to do in high school, or collaging a sequence of close-ups of Pantyhose Taro’s eye into a drawing I did for my college drawing class. It has even become something of a yearly Christmas Eve tradition to watch the “Tendo Family Christmas Scramble” OVA each year. Of course I can’t neglect to mention Ranma ½ Perfect Edition, which I built my junior year of high school, way back in 1998. Through it I’ve met so many good people, and made a dear friend, Mason, who helped us build Rumic World.

The series has influenced my life in incredible ways- I learned Japanese because of Ranma ½, I went to Japan because of Ranma ½, I went to see a Takarazuka play while I was there (which Takahashi had written a short story about), and when I got back to the States I wrote a paper about gender issues in Takarazuka (the cast is all female and they play men). Eventually I got to present this paper at a gender issues conference at Harvard University. All these interests, these aspects of my life, I can trace back to Ranma ½.

Its funny that I associate many of the important steps in my life with some Ranma ½ connections: one birthday when I got a response to a fan letter I wrote Cathy Weseluck with a photo she signed “Shampoo”. How about the time in junior high when I was on my way to my grandparent’s house and I spent $50 on the first two movies? Or the time I got the Pantyhose Taro DVD which was also the first day my brother and I lived alone. I bought the last two volumes of the original Japanese manga I needed out of a bin in front of a bookstore in Hirakata City, Japan, and I bought Viz volume 33 in Boston when I was presenting my paper at Harvard, the list goes on... there are countless tapes or comics I got whenever a Friday would roll around and I would go out to dinner with my parents or friends. Summer vacations with tapes turned into winter vacations with DVDs. My junior high and high school memories of getting the comic books fade into buying the graphic novels in college and graduate school. Difficult memories have their associations too, like my parents divorce last year… I was reading the “Three Year Smile of Death” chapter around that time. Even when I finally set down to read the final book on November 19th life intruded. I read the entire book save for the last chapter, went off to a Pizza Hut dinner with my mother and brother as a nice treat over the Thanksgiving holiday, and came home to find our 18 year old cat Ducky had passed away. As if that wasn't sad enough, then I had to read the ending.

- Ranma ½ Perfect Edition-

The website is obviously the most tangible aspect of how much the series has meant to me. As I sit here writing this I think back to all of the emails I’ve gotten over the last eight years about Ranma ½. Mostly “why didn’t they finish the anime?” which I still get on a regular basis, but there have been odd ones too, like “what kind of camera does Gosunkugi use?” With the manga now ending, I feel like I’m losing my website as well. I’ll write those last summaries, and maybe polish a character profile or two, but that will be pretty much it. The site will be finished and I feel like I’m losing a big part of my identity. I’ll still work on Rumic World, but I know no other series will ever mean as much to me as Ranma ½ has. I can remember writing anime summaries years ahead of what Viz had released, and that was one of the first things that made me feel my site was special. Then a great guy a met on the message board gave me copies of the Ranma ½ Specials, some of which I wasn’t even aware existed at the time. That was another proud moment.

Many of you probably weren’t around back then, but there used to be hundreds and hundreds of Ranma ½ sites. Initially I was intimidated to even try to make one, because I didn’t think it would stand out in the sea of others. But Perfect Edition stood the test of time and continued to be updated. Some of the old sites still stand unfinished, like a time capsule from days passed. Most sites just disappeared as Geocities cleared out forgotten corners of the internet. Not here though, rest assured I’ll bear the torch.

-Saying Goodbye-

Years ago a site scanned in all of the stories Viz had yet to do and translated them. Suddenly everyone had read Ranma over the course of a weekend. This was my first introduction to scanslations, and I wasn’t quite sure how to react to it. To me getting a monthly fix of Ranma’s adventures was something I never wanted to spoil. So many fans decried Viz’s slow release of the series, but I relished it, I never wanted it to end. That's why I never peeked at the scans.

Eventually I realized that if everyone else had read them, then they were going to expect my site to cover these future releases as well. This was quite a dilemma for me, and it prompted me to start importing the Japanese books for scans of characters. When I would have to scan from these books that had yet to be translated here I did so carefully, squinting my eyes as I peeked through for images to use so as not to spoil things too much. Since I’m being candid here, I’ll admit one thing I never told anyone. I didn’t know how it ended until now. I’ve owned a Japanese copy of the final Ranma ½ book for years and I never even cracked it open, not even a peek. Some people downloaded it and read it in a weekend; I read it every month for 13 years. I can’t express all the feelings it brings up to finish it after that length of time. I was moved to tears by the ending, the status quo seemed to be changing so much over the final three volumes. I was surprised at the magnitude of it all over the last few months and then the last few days... the ring, Ryoga's wallet, Shampoo's betrayal and Ranma's epic final fight. I knew a lot of casual fans disliked the ending, but I found it immensly satisfying. Especially touching was watching as Ranma's other fiancees, at least on some level, accepted the direction things were heading at the end only to give one last disruption for old time's sake. Reading the last page a dozen years down the road I feel like I’ve accomplished something amazing on one hand, but I feel very empty and sad on the other. It’s as if I’ve lost some connection to a younger me or an easier time in my life when I had no responsibilities. I remember when I was younger than Ranma, and then when I turned 16 and I thought, "I’m his age now." Now I’m 25 and older than anyone in the main cast. I grew up and they never did, and it’s bittersweet.

So choosing a Ranma ½ game one Christmas instead of Clayfighters single-handedly changed the entire direction my future took. Its funny when you can trace the path your life takes back to one decision, isn’t it?

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