“Ranma 1/2”: Even better than “Inuyasha”?!

Ranma 1/2For a long time I’ve been an avid reader of Rumiko Takahashi’s “Inuyasha.” I originally was reading it in Japanese, but there was just a bit too much that I had to “bleep” over; since it mostly takes place in 16th century Japan, the old language threw me off. So I’ve been reading Viz’s English version in trade paperback form. But until now I hadn’t read any of Takahashi’s older stuff.

For reading during my vacation I picked up the first book of her “Ranma 1/2” (and also the “Evangelion” I reviewed earlier). Ranma, which ran in Japan (in Shonen Sunday) from 1987 to 1996, focuses on the relationship between the titular boy character and Akane. Their fathers have decided that the two teenagers should be married, but neither particularly likes the other.

The twist is that Ranma, during martial arts training in China, fell into a pool which was cursed after a young girl drowned in it. When Ranma is hit with cold water, he becomes a girl; hot water changes him back to a boy.

Obviously, he gets hit with cold water at all kinds of inopportune times. Some writers would play this predictably for “Three’s Company”-style “misunderstanding” yawner plotlines, but Takahashi does more interesting things with the device.

While there is some sexual titillation to this, including some exposed breasts, the main point of the series seems to be exploring gender roles and expectations. While Ranma physically becomes a girl, Akane has sometimes been chided for acting too much like a boy. At the same time, she’s jealous that female-form Ranma has a bigger bustline than she does.

I laughed out loud a number of times at the first volume. This is more of a comedy than the tense adventures of Inuyasha. While I still enjoy Inuyasha, I’m definitely going to be picking up more Ranma!

Review: “Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days”

Just read the first book in the Neon Genesis Evangelion series by Funino Hayashi (English version published by ADV). I found it a little creepy, probably intentionally so.

It’s an interesting mix of a standard teenage soap-opera and science fiction. I suspect there’s more SF to come in subsequent volumes; this one is mainly teen soap, except for the suggestion that the class the main characters all find themselves in is not a coincidental mix: they’re all being groomed for some purpose and are all being called into a lab for exams.

I found this creepy because it suggested they were going to be experimented on, although the attraction page for Volume 2 revealed that it’s not quite that creepy after all. Seems as though they’re all going to be controlling giant robots or something. Whatever the story is on an SF level, the dynamics set up among the characters in the first volume promise to keep the teen-soap element in play.

The main characters are Shinji and his female friend Asuka, who insists she has no romantic interest in Shinji — but then flashes hot with jealousy when a transfer student, Rei, reveals that she’s falling for Shinji. Other subplots are in a similar vein.

It’s fairly standard manga material, but it kept my interest enough that I’m planning on picking up the second volume.

#141 “Dr. Slump” and “Cromartie High School”

Dr. SlumpGag manga! Tim talks to manga translator Kumar about two hilarious Japanese comics series, “Dr. Slump” by Akira Toriyama, and “Cromartie High School” by Eiji Nonaka.

8/18/08 “Dr. Slump” and “Cromartie High School”

#116 “Death by Chocolate: Redux”

His name has been mentioned repeatedly on the podcast since the beginning: Mulele’s friend and collaborator Kumar! He joins Tim to review David Yurkovich’s Death By Chocolate: Redux, and to discuss manga translation.

#089 Your “Adult Swim” is my “Kids Station”

New Lone Wolf and CubWe wrap up our discussion of Japanese comics with New Lone Wolf and Cub, Tezuka’s Future Man Chaos, and Inuyasha, plus we get sidetracked on the 25th anniversary edition of Blade Runner!