Ranma and longevity

I am about a third of the way through Ranma’s sixth season now and I think I’ve identified what keeps me interested in the series even though others find it repetitive. That is, that the fundamentals of the character relationships are why we watch, so changing them would by definition ruin it. Steven pointed out a while back that Ranma is enmeshed in a web of obligations, from which there is no escape, so ultimately Ranma simply avoids resolution and proceeds on his own path, which is to continue to master and innovate in martial arts. The entirety of the character evolution is not what the characters do, or changes in their lives, but in how they feel, and on that basis you can differentiate the characters:

Primary characters: Ranma, Akane. The emotions towards each other do grow each season, though there is ultimately a plateau. There will never be public reciprocation of emotion from Ranma towards Akane as long as Ranma remains bound by his web of obligation, and Akane will never act on her (often transparent) feelings for Ranma due to her own sense of insecurity. Ultimately, they are both forced to wait. However we do see that they have evolved over time. I think by season 6 both are as far as they can go, which is fine because there’s still plenty for both to deal with.

Major characters: Ryoga, Nabiki, Kasumi. All have had episodes where they are the focus, and they have to act out of type and be challenged in a way that they didn’t expect. They do return to their usual behavior afterwards, but those episdoes do demonstrate that they have depth when required.

Minor characters: Genma, Tendo, Mousse, Happosai. All are one-note strings thus far, but it only takes one focus episode to graduate them to the Major status. Happosai did actually get a bit of treatment in season 5, but he is needed to play the eternal joker, so I don’t think he will ever escape. We have also had tantalizing hints of more from Moose, but thus far he hasn’t had his own breakout.

What keeps the series going is that they have a large ensemble cast to gradually graduate from minor to major, and balance that out with incremental evolution of the primary characters. The continuity between seasons (slow rate of change) is probably why the series retained its longevity without ever jumping the shark – there’s a formula, and the show sticks to it, with the innovation not from the basic structure, but rather the details. One example of how the series keeps things new is in the varied forms of martial arts tha Ranma encounters: french cooking, calligraphy, chess, race kart driving, etc. Some of these warrant more episodes than others to explore (in particular the Pate Fois Gras arc, which was brilliantly demented).

It’s interesting to see that the manga industry is worried about what happens when its audience in the US grows up. I think Ranma avoids this conundrum by simply staying the same, so that every new generation gets attracted to it for the same reasons. Whether or not you outgrow Ranma is immaterial; if you like it, you will probably keep on liking it.

9 thoughts on “Ranma and longevity”

  1. ahem, it’s “Mousse”… It’s an example of theme-naming. The other people from China are named “Shampoo”, “Cologne”, etc.

    Theme-naming is quite common in anime. (Toriyama is notorious for it in DragonBall.)

  2. I never would have figured this for your kind of show. I thought you didn’t like fan service, for one thing.

    (hmmm, I wonder if I can convince him to watch Divergence Eve?)

  3. I don’t, but it’s pretty tame in Ranma. There arent any panty shots or whatnot. We just get a lot of Ranma topless, but in a wierd way as you get to know Ranma over the course of the series , his girl-half seems less and less female. Right now in season 6 you actually don’t even see Ranma-chan that often, and when you do, its because Ranma is trying to use his “female charms” (ie, grossly overacting). The result is far from attractive, by design.

    I note too that Akane has become sort of deified in a sense. We got a bit of Akane overexposure in the first season (heck, the first few episodes). Since then she’s been treated reverentially however, with her modesty being preserved at all costs. Even Happosai can’t get near her. The only character whose modesty is more preserved is Kasumi, and thats because you never see her wearing less than her full home attire. The one time they all went for a hot bath vacation, Kasumi was strictly neck above the water only, and Nabiki and Akane were collarbone exposed. Ranma, of course, ran about topless. But yo almost don’t even notice anymore.

    I also note that Shampoo and Ukyo are not treated alike either. Having seen the OVA, its taken to an extreme, with no modesty for poor Shampoo whatsoever, whereas Ukyo remains pretty chaste. I wonder if some prejudice against the Chinese is at work there?

  4. as for Divergence Eve, probably not. But you will be happy to note that I’m adding Banner of the Stars to my netflix queue after Escaflowne πŸ™‚

    I am perfectly willing to engage in a Must Watch Trade with you though. You pick one series for me, I pick one for you. The idea being not to force something unpalatable down each others’ throats, but rather to help us get past our own filters. After all, Id never have watched Ranma without prodding.

  5. I think I’ll pass on the trade. And I don’t expect you’ll probably ever want to watch Divergence Eve, which is a pity.

    I’m a bit surprised you never got around to Petite Princess Yucie, however. That one definitely is right down your alley, not to mention your daughter’s.

  6. actually, Yucie is on my list – because of your reviews. Just havent mentioned it yet. My backlog is so long that i tend to add new titles to the front rather than the end.

  7. I was going to push The Cat Returns on you. If you’d already seen it, then I was going to suggest The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. I’m a sucker for smart girl protagonists, as you might imagine.

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