Monday, April 6, 2009

An Introduction to Ranma 1/2

Eventually, I think I'm going to write a Ranma fanfic. The story will be called Identity, and it will be similar in size and scope to Echoes, but obviously the Rockman EXE anime and Ranma are very different creatures; what matters to the characters is simply...well, different. Rockman is a very narrow fandom, I know, and it also has several canons to choose from (game or anime or manga, classic or EXE or X or Zero or Legends...I mean, on and on and on). Ranma, however, is very popular, even now, and there's really just one source to it. I like to think that a Ranma novel would be accessible to a broad section of people, and as such, I think it fitting to write, essentially, an introduction to Ranma, so people who are not necessarily versed in the canon can still read what I (hope to) do with a basic understanding of it.

An Introduction to Ranma 1/2

: Saotome Ranma is a 16-year-old boy living in the Nerima ward of Tokyo. Ranma is a martial artist, heir apparent to the tradition of "Anything Goes Martial Arts." Ranma's conflict hinges on the future of the Art and its two schools--the Saotome school, which his father, Genma, leads--and the Tendou school, led by Genma's good friend Tendou Soun. Soun runs a dojo in Nerima, a ward of Tokyo, but he has only three daughters to continue the tradition. Upon hearing of this, Genma promises to marry ranma to one of Soun's daughters, ensuring the survival of the two schools.

There is, however, but one catch. While training in China, Genma takes Ranma to the legendary training ground of Jusenkyou, a vast field of cursed springs. The pools transform anyone who falls into them according to their particular curse. Genma, appropriately, falls in the "Spring of Drowned Panda," and thus he becomes a giant yet completely sentient panda. Ranma, however, falls in a different pool: known, in Japanese, as "Nyannichuan," the Spring of Drowned Girl. Ranma emerges from the spring as a fully developed 16-year-old girl, breasts and all. Fortunately, the curse is temporarily thwarted with hot water, allowing both Genma and Ranma an outwardly normal existence...until cold water triggers their curses the next time.

Thus, Ranma and his father arrive in Tokyo, where Ranma first learns of his engagement to the youngest Tendou daughter, the fiesty Akane. Both children are resistant to this affair, and to make matters worse, a whole host of other suitors vie for their hands in marriage, whether they be the hoards of love-struck boys who hound Akane, Ranma's multiple fiancees, or the odd love interest who takes a liking to Ranma's female form, unaware (or even in spite of) his true masculinity.

That, in a nutshell, is Ranma 1/2. Now let's talk about characters.

Ranma and Akane

Saotome Ranma: Ranma, 16, is at once a martial artist and a teenage boy. His skills give him great confidence, but he can be harshly insensitive, even when he tries not to be. That said, he's a very private person who resists attempts for people to get close to him, keeps to himself as a rule and doesn't go around picking fights or insulting people unless he feels slighted or threatened. Ranma has an instinct to meet any challenge, even when it might be smarter not to, and he can't stand to be defeated in any way, shape, or form. He picks up new fighting skills quickly, perhaps even with prodigious speed, and while that intellect doesn't necessarily carry to all fields, he's not dumb as a doorknob, either.

A large amount of Ranma's character can be seen through his curse. At times, Ranma's vigorously pursued a cure, laying siege to the girls' locker room when he believed there was a cure beneath it. At others, he's used it to his advantage or to avoid social norms. He uses his female form to get free food, to play tricks on his rival Ryouga in particular. Ranma has largely incorporated the curse into his identity, even though, at the end of the manga, he still desires to be rid of it, at least on some level.

Socially, Ranma can be awkward. He doesn't have a well-developed sense of what he wants, and much of how he deals with people is based on reflex. It feeds his ego to have several women chasing after him, so much so that even when one he doesn't particularly like loses interest, he goes to great lengths to understand this and get her back. Throughout the manga, he's shown little drive to change his complicated situation, what with two women engaged to him in at least some capacity, a third who is bound by tribal law to marry him, and a fourth who is outright obsessed. Yet, at the same time, the end of the manga shows him coming to terms with his feelings. When Akane is lifeless in his arms after the confrontation as Jusendou, he cries over her body and screams (either in his mind or aloud; the source is not clear), "I wanted to tell you I love you!" This, despite their rocky relationship, when neither could admit their attraction even remotely. Later, when pressed, he denies having said it (which may be true) but doesn't necessarily deny the truth to it. My personal interpretation is that Ranma is a coward, at least enough of one to let the status quo be because he doesn't have a clear vision of what he wants it to be. He's too far in the moment in that way, and not enough of a long-range thinker to get mired in that way. The end of the manga could change that, however.

Tendou Akane: Akane is Ranma's first fiancee and love interest, but their relationship doesn't begin well. The first time Akane sees Ranma as a boy (and not a girl) is when she walks in on him in the bath. He's naked. She's only got a towel over what you can't show non-porn magazines, and...well, she backs out, closed the door, puts on a bathrobe...

...and screams bloody murder. She lifts a table by two hands and prepares to slug him with it when things are explained. She still bashes him with the table, however, after Ranma notes that his bust is bigger than hers.

This epitomizes their relationship. At least the rocky parts, anyway. Or, in the words of her sister, Kasumi, "She's really a sweet girl. She's just a violent maniac."

In all fairness to Akane, she is a sweet girl. She's basically the go-to girl when one of Furinkan High's athletic endeavors needs an edge, and while she may doubt her abilities in a particular field, she usually rises to the challenge for school pride and personal honor. Indeed, before Ranma's arrival, she's essentially the best martial artist in town, but Ranma easily outclasses her, and so do his other suitors, a point that Akane must begrudgingly accept.

Ranma and Akane have no small set of insults for each other. She often calls him a jerk and a pervert, while he calls her an uncute, violent tomboy with no figure, but while her insults to him usually prompt genuine anger and idignation that he's taking a rap that (in his mind) he doesn't deserve, Akane may well take his insults to heart. As a fiancee, she has little to offer in the traditional ways: she can't cook (or, at best, can cook passably if the dish is exceedingly simple, but Ranma has developed no inconsequential fear of her cooking), can't sew. In her mind, she isn't as pretty as the others. Why should he want her at all?

Put together, this fuels Akane's paranoia. When other women are around, her jealousy comes out (though Ranma is wont to do the same when men are after Akane). When she even suspects Ranma of improper behavior, she eagerly bonks him on the head for it (taken to the usual comedic lengths, with hyperspace mallets and all), and more often than not, she doesn't even give him a chance to explain himself. She misinterprets his unwillingness to push people away as attraction, and she funnels her jealousy into hatred for Ranma as much for her competition.

But, there are moments when she cannot sustain her anger and is instead resigned to her fate and highly vulnerable, and it's these moments that resonate with Ranma, for when she puts down her guard, so can he.

Rivals and Suitors

It's the large cast of competing love interests that lends to the chaos of Ranma 1/2. While Ranma and Akane have no insignificant number of men and women interested in them, these are the main faces.

Shampoo: a member of a lost Chinese tribe (described as the "Chinese Amazons"), Shampoo first met Ranma when he and his father crashed a combat tournament and began to eat the prize out of hunger and desperation. Shampoo challenged Ranma, then in his girl form, but Ranma defeated her. This prompted Shampoo to issue the "Kiss of Death": by law, a woman defeated by an outsider woman must track the offender to the ends of the earth and kill her. This is what leads Shampoo to Nerima, only to have male Ranma defeat her again. That's the twist: the same law demands that a defeated woman marry a male victor. Thus, Shampoo sees herself as engaged to Ranma, and with the help of her great-grandmother, the wizened and formidable Cologne, she plots to win Ranma by any means necessary.

Shampoo is characterized by her broken speech, explained in that she never takes the time to learn proper Japanese, but don't let her simplistic words fool you: she is devious and determined, equally capable of deadly force and seduction, often at the same time. She is quick to pick up on any charm or trinket that might win Ranma for her, even at the cost of a "genuine" relationship, and it's only through Cologne's strict observance that she doesn't try something that will overtly color his heart. Shampoo and Cologne make home at the Nekohanten, the "Cat Cafe," with the help of Mousse, an old childhood friend who is head-over-heels in love with Shampoo...but also blind as a bat and unable to see without his glasses.

After her first failure in marrying or killing Ranma, Shampoo returns to China with Cologne and becomes cursed at Jusenkyo: cursed to become a cat. Ranma is deathly afraid of cats due to Genma's training of him in the "Neko-ken," the "Cat Fist." This further strains her efforts to win him, as he makes every effort to flee when she's in her cat form.

Kuonji Ukyou: In exchange for an okonomiyaki cart (see wiki), Genma agreed to marry Ranma to Ukyou, the daughter of a traveling chef. In truth, Genma had already promised the boy to Akane and, as such, he weaseled his way out of taking Ukyou with them on their travels. This rejection haunted Ukyou, who gave up her femininity from the humiliation and chose to pursue the culinary arts. She dressed herself as a man and attended boys' schools, and after ten long years, she found Ranma in Nerima and challenged him.

Poor Ranma, oblivious to the history and the ordeal, didn't even know she was a least until his strike ripped her shirt and revealed her breasts. And again, an oblivious Ranma, having heard her tale, nonchalantly noted that it was a shame someone so "cute" would give up her womanhood. Only this declaration stopped Ukyou's plot for revenge, and instead she chose to rekindle their childhood friendship...and engagement. Ukyou becomes a full-time resident of Nerima, opening an okonomiyaki shop called "Ucchan's," after Ranma's childhood nickname for her. She attends Furinkan High with Ranma and Akane and affectionately calls him "Ranchan," even though she still wears a boy's uniform.

Some writers interpret Ukyou as...not entirely in touch with reality. While she is generally kind to people, anyone who gets in the way of her and Ranma is a fair enemy, and losing 10 years of life to a cold plot of revenge...well, that takes a certain kind of person. When Ukyou tries to give up her cooking to be Ranma's wife, the drive to prepare okonomiyaki causes her to nearly cook Ranma on a grill. While Ukyou can be charitable, hosting the Tendous when they lose their house to a gambling con man, she still doggedly desires Ranma's affections and isn't shy about it, either.

But Ukyou has suitors of her own: Kurenai Tsubasa and the ninja Konatsu. Tsubasa pursued her from their old boys' school, but he dresses like a woman. So too does Konatsu, whose identity as a man is hidden until the end of the story arc. Taking pity on Konatsu's poor background, Ukyou employs him at Ucchan's at rock bottom wages, but he's far too smitten with her and grateful to complain.

Hibiki Ryouga: an old rival of Ranma's, he followed Ranma to Nerima to settle an old duel they never fought. Ryouga's characteristic trait is his terrible sense of direction and magical ability to traverse oceans without realizing it. He overshoots Tokyo by hundreds of miles in both directions and famously misses his challenges because he arrives days late to the battlefield.

As a person, Ryouga is intense, and nothing is more intense than his infatuation with Akane. He takes a special liking to her after she takes in his cursed form, a tiny black piglet she dubs "P-chan." Ranma, of course, takes exception to a man-turned-piglet sleeping in Akane's bed with her, but Akane is blissfully ignorant of P-chan's real identity, and despite many hints about it, Ranma and Ryouga never tell her the truth. Even as a human, Ryouga madly loves Akane, so much so that a half-hearted "I hate you" from her lips can fuel a raging depression, the likes of which is the raw material for his signature attack: the Shishi Houkoudan, a direct blast of ki that, when perfected, blasts from the sky yet leaves him unharmed.

Ryouga often interferes in Ranma and Akane's relationship, defending the latter from the former's insensitives and indiscretions, yet while Akane is fond of Ryouga, she's also somewhat oblivious to his true feelings. Conversely, Ryouga enjoys a fierce rivalry with Ranma, yet while it started with revenge, he's since mellowed to a more honorable, if solitary, frame of mind. The interests of Akari, the heiress to pig sumo and a fervent lover of pigs, have also distracted him from Akane.

Kunou Kodachi: When Ranma saves her from a lethal fall, Kodachi takes a romantic interest in him. Kodachi is a "Martial Arts Gymnast," specializing in gymnastics-styled weapons like juggling clubs, artistic ribbons, and more. She doggedly pursues her "Ranma-sama," going so far as to alter a photo of him and her together to make it look like they kissed and blackmail him with it, just to enjoy his company. Kodachi is largely viewed as underhanded and insane, even though she feels like her code of honor is merely different from others.

Kunou Tatewaki: The self-styled "Blue Thunder" of Furinkan, Kunou is a master kendoist, but that's about where his skills end. He loves both Akane and Ranma (in his female form, the "pig-tailed girl" or "goddess" or other such epithet), but his pursuits of both seldom get anywhere. While he enjoys the status of "sempai" among Akane and her peers, the term is often used sarcastically, especially from Ranma, to emphasize his stupidity. That Kunou hasn't realized Ranma is the pig-tailed girl, despite it being common knowledge, doesn't detract from that point. Kunou sees himself a samurai in the modern era; this may not be the only one of his misconceptions.

Miscellaneous Characters

The cast of Ranma is large indeed. Here's a quick rundown on the other players.

Saotome Genma: Ranma's father. He becomes a panda when splashed with cold water and holds up signs with messages he cannot speak in panda form, often to comedic effect. Genma will defend his son to the last, but at the same time, he is far from the image of ideal father, having engaged his son to several suitors, exposed him to dangerous fighting techniques, and, to top it all off, having promised to have them both commit seppuku (ritual suicide) if Ranma should fail to be a "man among men" when they return to his mother. This is a major plot point, but it's best saved for discussion with Nodoka. At any rate, Genma can be lazy, cowardly, and stubborn, but he's also the head of the Saotome School. He may act wimpy, but he's no wimp.

Tendou Soun: Akane's father. He and Genma often plot to get Ranma and Akane married (even trying to stage two weddings near the end of the manga), when they're not playing shogi in the main room, anyway. Soun is fond of punctuating his desperations with ample tears, but he's also quite fit and able-bodied.

Tendou Nabiki: the middle Tendou sister, Nabiki makes routine habit of collecting secrets and images of scantily-clad Akane and female Ranma to sell. She prides herself as a cheapskate, having racked up bills of millions of yen simply to avoid being the first to spend ten yen of her own. She is manipulative and savvy, but she focuses these efforts on how to bleed people of more and more money, and punctuates her conquests with sarcastic wit.

Tendou Kasumi: the eldest daughter, Kasumi has been a stand-in for her mother since she died. Generally portrayed as unfazeable and incapable of anger.

Saotome Nodoka: Ranma's mother. She last saw her son when he was but five or six, when Genma took the boy on their epic training trip to be a martial artist, but not before making their oath of honor, the seppuku contract. Ever since she lost contact with them at Jusenkyou, Nodoka's been searching, with her contract in one hand and a katana in the other, ready to decapitate them both if honor requires, just as a "good wife" should. Nevertheless, she is not a fighter and can barely handle the blade properly; all she really wants is her son.

When Nodoka visits the Tendous, having heard that Ranma and Genma were there, Genma quickly dunks himself and his son in the pond, for fear that knowledge of the curse will doom them to certain suicide by oath. Thus, Ranma masquerades as "Ranko," a cousin of the Tendous, as he gets to know his long-lost mother. The escapades of this secret build over many chapters, including having Ranma peep on Akane simply to prove his manliness, until at last, after an epic chase, Ranma dives over a cliff and catches his falling mother, bouncing on the edge of her katana after sticking it in the cliffside. The sword shatters, however, and they fall, and Nodoka sees Ranma in his female form...but declares him a man anyway, touched by his bravery. After the fiancee brigade destroy her home (looking for an engagement ring), she stays with the Tendous and her son.

Happosai: the master of Anything Goes, his skill in the Art is surpassed only by his perversion. Happosai makes a hobby of collecting lingerie, and Ranma and Akane often find themselves trying to thwart him. He stays with the Tendous, mostly because both his pupils, Genma and Soun, fear his power.

Ninomiya Hinako: once a sickly girl in a hospital, Happosai showed her the techniques to drain "battle auras" from others, thus allowing her to get well and to disable the nurses that tried to stop the panty-stealing bandit. Hinako is now a teacher at Furinkan, and she still uses the techniques (the Happo Five/Fifty-Yen Satsus and the Happo No Yen Coin Return) to drain students and blast them with collected energy. When out of energy, she reverts to a child-like state, in both mind and appearance, and only after draining can she transform into a full adult. Ranma once contemplated disabling her, but after learning it would take a month solid of manipulating her pressure points (some around her breasts), he gave up.

The End of the Manga

The end of the Ranma 1/2 manga was ultimately inconclusive: while Akane had thought Ranma confessed his feelings, Ranma denied this. All the same, the pair attempted to go through with a wedding, one that their fathers engineered, but chaos over a cask of Nannichuuan, water from the Spring of Drowned Man, which was thought to be a cure for Ranma's curse, disrupted the proceedings. To make matters worse, Ukyou and Shampoo arrived with explosive foodstuffs, intent on breaking up the affair. Thus was the "failed wedding," and Soun decided it wouldn't be fit to have one until lingering relationships were settled.

All the same, the failed wedding and the Jusendou arc marked a turning point in Ranma and Akane's relationship. Believing her to be dead forced him to admit, at least to himself, his feelings, and one can only wonder whether Akane still believes she heard him or that he does indeed love her. Either way, they're still 16. They still have a lot of life ahead of them, and we see on the last page that they approach it all smiles.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a not-so-brief background on Ranma, probably more than one would need to know should I write my story, but I feel it good to have done it, too, for it focuses my interpretations of characters, and that's always a good thing.


Anonymous said...

Personally I never found Ranma to be a coward. Just a teenager that is not ready for marriage. If he makes any move in any direction it will lead to marriage. My take is that he is bidding his time until he is sure about what he wants and the girl he wants wants him (Akane has not stated she loved him). He had made moves on Akane when she seemed to be willing for example when she dragged him into a room and turned out the lights he assumed that she wanted to make-out so he hugged her.

Though I got to say you have a nice description for the characters, even though strictly speaking some of it is not actually canon. For example, it is often assumed that Kasumi has been a stand in for her mother but the manga does not actually state that. Nabiki doesn't collect secrets, not even once in the manga is she shown to do that (Ranma though is since he searches various peoples rooms). Also Nodoka going by the manga hasn't seen Ranma since he was baby, we are shown that he left her before he had the ability to talk or walk. Actually Ranma did not try to go through the wedding he woke up dressed in a Tuxedo and then went to Akane to try and figure out what the hell was going on. He then tried to start a fight with her; after that he heard that there was boy water around and went to try and get that. Ranma did not at all attempt to go through with the wedding.

Also Akane rarely uses hyperspace hammers, in fact Ranma has used them more often she did (just go through the manga and count the usages of them and you will find this to be true).

Ranma's age is not given in the manga at all until the mushrooms of aging storyline so it is entirely possible that Ranma was 15 when he was knocked into the spring (after all Ranma states he will lose a year if he eats the 17cm mushroom not a few months implying that he only just turned 16 shortly before).

Muphrid said...

Fair point. It's definitely a much better thing to say he's someone who sees himself not ready for marriage, and I don't see any fear of that prospect on his part as being unnatural or unhealthy. I think it's something he doesn't see any strong advantage to, only a huge mess if he were to go there, so he avoids it because it only makes sense. He's nowhere near the point of thinking he wants to be with a girl--any girl--in matrimony.

In retrospect, my description of Kasumi is woefully incomplete. I do think it's apt to say she's been thrust in the motherly role, but I agree it's not outright stated. We just get so little insight into how her mind works. There's a page on tvtropes that states that Kasumi tries to pull off, more or less, both parts of a straight man and wise guy routine on occasion (see this), but I can't for the life of me think of a time where she actually does this. If I found that substantiated, though, I'd say it characterizes her as, well, perhaps a bit odd in the head. Perhaps isolated enough in her own mind that this seems normal to her. But it's hard to say. I think Nabiki and Akane and Soun all approach Kasumi as being the eldest daughter. She does some motherly chores, but maybe you could say that despite those chores, she doesn't act like a mother?

Perhaps I should admit I simply don't have a good handle on her.

Anonymous said...

Ranma has more than one canon. There is the manga, then there is the anime (which does differ sometimes significantly from the manga - I really dislike Sasuke), then there is an assortment of games (14 of them if you don't count cameos in other games such as Nintendo DS game Sunday x Magazaine: Nettou Dream Nine). The games do differ from both the anime and the manga for example there are new characters (like Arisa Nanjo). I personally enjoy the PC Engine games the most since they follow the manga storyline somewhat and are still interactive. The games really aren't bad it's too bad that they are all for systems no longer in use and haven't been translated (that's not entirely true the SNES RPG game was fan translated and two of the gameboy games were released in English but those are not the best games some of the other games not released were much better). Netsuretsu Kakutouhen was sort of like Shenmue, the PlayStation game was similar to Tekken, at least one of the games was similar to Tetris, and Byakuran Aika was an interactive comic.

Thus, Ranma and his father arrive in Tokyo, where Ranma first learns of his engagement to the youngest Tendou daughter, the fiesty Akane.

Besides feisty being spelled wrong Ranma is technically engaged to any Tendo. While the eldest daughters push it upon Akane, Ranma is the one who is given the choice so he could if her really wanted to switch it. If he and she ever did decide to not be engaged the engagement would be pushed to Kasumi or Nabiki (or if going by the fan translation of the manga found commonly online Soun - mentioned when Ranma was locked in female form, the actual Japanese if I remember correctly could be interpreted that way but I think it meant that Soun would help find a person for Ranma to marry).

Anonymous said...

It feeds his ego to have several women chasing after him, so much so that even when one he doesn't particularly like loses interest, he goes to great lengths to understand this and get her back.

While his ego definitely has something to do with it; I find it to be more complicated than that. It isn't so much that she left him that bothered him, IMO since he has even tried to get her to go out with Mousse and told Mousse something to that effect before, its the fact that she hated him that really bothered him (and at first her strange abrupt change in personality). Ranma may not view Shampoo as a suitor but he still views her as a friend and did not want her to hate him. If she left him for someone else and still was his friend I believe he'd be happy. He does not want her to hate or insult him though (and he did view her statements as insults).

"I wanted to tell you I love you!" This, despite their rocky relationship, when neither could admit their attraction even remotely

A funny thing is Ranma has accidentally told her he loved her a few times in the manga, for example the time when Nabiki was his fiancee as part of a ploy of his when he thought it was Nabiki and during the martial arts cheerleading match when he didn't know it was her in the Kendo garb. When reading those arcs I wanted to yell at Akane "tell him you love him back, you idiot". That is a peeve of mine though, that everyone expects him to say it first, afterall why can't Akane say it?

She still bashes him with the table, however, after Ranma notes that his bust is bigger than hers.

Ranma was purposely and entirely justifiably insulting her at that time since she and her sisters had just insulted him repeatedly.

and while she may doubt her abilities in a particular field

When has Akane ever been shown to doubt her abilities in anything? Her physical appearance I can recall but her abilities I can not even recall one instance of her doubting (she always assumes she can cook, swim, sew, etc. never doubting she can't).

while her insults to him usually prompt genuine anger and idignation that he's taking a rap that (in his mind) he doesn't deserve, Akane may well take his insults to heart.

While Ranma takes the insults better than Akane, it is my belief that Ranma does take some of Akane's insults to heart. In particular I'm recalling those times in which she calls him a freak (she has said things like your body was sick and twisted) which because of his curse is probably something he actually thinks of himself on occasion (i.e. that it makes him that), the times she has used or belittled his fear of cats (since he views it as a major weakness he will take that type of insult very personally) or the times she had implied that he'd be a rapist (that she lacks trusts in him and thinks that he'd be capable of doing something like that is something I think he'd take to heart). That she insults him in those ways is a large part of why he doesn't know if she loves him or not (she sends very conflicting signals daring him to kiss her at one time then hitting him or insulting him the next).

Anonymous said...

When other women are around, her jealousy comes out (though Ranma is wont to do the same when men are after Akane). When she even suspects Ranma of improper behavior, she eagerly bonks him on the head for it (taken to the usual comedic lengths, with hyperspace mallets and all), and more often than not, she doesn't even give him a chance to explain himself.

Both have noticed that the other get jealous. Ranma has commented that jealousy doesn't suit her and Akane purposely went on a date with Ryoga to make Ranma jealous. That double standard in their relationship really annoys me. Also Akane rarely uses mallets more often whatever is laying around.

a lost Chinese tribe
I don't really see them as being lost after all they can get mail delivered to and from them (village newspaper). I view them as being either purposely hidden or just remote.

it's only through Cologne's strict observance that she doesn't try something that will overtly color his heart. Shampoo and Cologne make home at the Nekohanten, the "Cat Cafe," with the help of Mousse, an old childhood friend

I don't really see Cologne preventing Shampoo via observance from doing something overt. It is IMO that Shampoo isn't stupid enough to do something really overt and she doesn't have access to some things like the love pills to force him. Also you forgot Shampoo's father he works at the Nekohanten as well (though only shown in a very few panels, he has a much bigger role in the games).

he weaseled his way out of taking Ukyou with them on their travels
Not really he outright stole the cart and left Ukyo. I wouldn't call that weaseling his way out of it.

Kodachi is largely viewed as underhanded and insane

I get the underhanded part I don't really get why she is viewed as insane by the fandom. In universe she isn't really thought of as insane (her dad is) and Ranma has called Akane insane on occasion (like when she woke him up during the ghost cat story arc accusing him).

Kunou sees himself a samurai in the modern era; this may not be the only one of his misconceptions.

Technically speaking both he and Ranma are likely descended from the Samurai class (martial arts was not done by the peasant class and Ranma's ancestors were stated to be martial artists).

Nabiki makes routine habit of collecting secrets

I can't recall even one time she did this in the manga.

Muphrid said...

Indeed, the engagement is more a simple agreement between families that Ranma marry one of the girls, but outside of the Nabiki as fiancee arc, the concept of Ranma marrying Kasumi or Nabiki isn't often considered.

I think it's fair to say Akane is sensitive about her ability to cook and swim. Her headstrong approaches to both, in my mind, convey doubt and insecurity that she's trying to cover up--especially when others, particularly Ranma, point out her flaws in those areas. Where she wants to be and where she is are so different that any reminder she's not there yet usually sets off her temper. I don't see that temper response as something that makes sense without thinking there's some insecurity beneath. I admit, you don't see Akane thinking to herself she's not good enough. This is, perhaps, largely my own interpretation, but to me, her angry reactions to a lot of triggers are themselves expressions of insecurity.

I guess you can look at it two ways. Akane often does assert she can do things to a level of proficiency well beyond herself. Is she just that overconfident and deluded? Or is she actively snowing herself and trying to cover up that sneaking suspicion that she isn't good enough? All I can point to is a pattern of behavior: when she gets powerups, like the battle suit or the soup in that badminton arc, when she thinks her cooking is actually good (like in the Ryugenzawa arc), she isn't smug. She's overjoyed. She's elated. It's like you took this huge angry, sore-spot and just lifted it off her shoulders.

(Admittedly, she comes off pretty smug in the closet when she accuses Ranma of being jealous of her and the suit, but thinking Ranma actually wants to be with her, she goes into this incredibly sweet mode. But it's a mode. It doesn't stick. Ranma himself is a sore spot for her.)

Does Akane explicitly doubt herself? No, I must concede she doesn't. But I think, on the inside, she's always out to prove herself. To prove she can swim, prove she can cook. And I must wonder, if she were really secure in her self-image, why would she need to prove that at all? She could just as easily see herself in a realistic light, someone who doesn't know how to swim, etc, but that's unacceptable to her. She has to go out and prove she can conquer these challenges and do these things. Why?

I mean, there's an all-too-simple answer there: to impress Ranma, to show herself as a worthy fiancee. And I think, by implication, she must on the inside worry that she isn't up to par. That's probably not the whole reason. I think she'd aspire to certain traits and feats regardless of whether Ranma's around.

Muphrid said...

But I've spent probably a little too much time on that topic. I definitely think Akane's insults can get to Ranma, especially in the ways that you mention. They can both be very defensive, especially because I think they both insult each other in ways that hit close to home. They're kids. They stare into the precipice of something they don't understand and run away from it screaming in terror. Though Ranma and Akane can show each other an astounding level of trust at times, in sharp contrast to their worst antics, the confidence to take things up a level isn't there. When it comes to their relationship, they don't trust. As fond of each other as they may be, that can be crippling.

Why doesn't Akane respond to Ranma's confessions of love more overtly? Aside from the general expectation, rightly or wrongly, that the man should do it first, I think she's feels like she'll have given in first, that she'll be a fool for liking someone who doesn't like her back. Ranma probably has this same fear, too. I've often thought Ranma might fear that she'd give him a "oh, but I just want to be friends" speech (as opposed to something along the lines of "you're a moron to think I could like a freak like you"). I think that's something he'd fear because, unlike the case where she might respond so nastily, he can't really blame her for just wanting to be friends, if she were to say such a thing. Instead of focusing rightful anger on her, he'd have to look inward, and Ranma's not a person who likes looking inward. He's great at manipulating people, even when he doesn't bother to observe conventions and comes off as a jerk for it. But I don't think he has that much real understanding of himself. Looking inward would just be a frustrating exercise for him.

But I digress. As a writer, I'm tempted to extrapolate more than interpolate, which is probably the better way to say what is fact about canon instead of, say, figuring out how you can extend that canon to an interesting story. I do a little of both, so I admit, I probably get a little muddled between what's objectively true and what I think may extend canon in interesting ways.

antimatterenergy said...

All I can point to is a pattern of behavior: when she gets powerups, like the battle suit or the soup in that badminton arc, when she thinks her cooking is actually good (like in the Ryugenzawa arc), she isn't smug. She's overjoyed. She's elated. It's like you took this huge angry, sore-spot and just lifted it off her shoulders.

Actually I found Akane to pretty damn smug a few times. Somewhat in the Super Soba arc, when she wore that jelly fish swimsuit, even more during the time she wore the dogi (she belittled Ranma's skills even), and the time when she was at her absolute most smug in my opinion was the Weaver's Festival/Tanabata/Leaves of Destiny story arc.

Looking inward would just be a frustrating exercise for him.

I don't really agree with that. In the manga, and even in the anime, Ranma is shown to be somewhat introverted. He does get away from everyone to think things through occasionally and he is even shown to meditate a few times. Him being introspective about past battles replaying them in his mind looking for errors he or his opponent did, trying to figure out why a person did what they did, thinking about what he could have different, when bad stuff happens tends to go off by himself to think about it instead of talking about it, etc. very in character for him in my opinion. Though I do agree that there are things he doesn't want to look at too deeply/closely because it would force him to make decisions he isn't ready for and doesn't want to make. I do believe he has put more thought into his relationship with Akane than the vast majority of readers credit him for doing based on his actions and things he has stated and it is my opinion that he has put more thought into it than Akane has (it's mainly his comments like when he stated it would be easy to kiss her if he didn't care, telling his mom he needs more time, etc.).

Muphrid said...

It's interesting. In the soba storyline, it's always Ranma who comes back for more, well, punishment, up until Akane tells him straight up he'll have to beat her in badminton before she'll take any antidote. And even so, I look at the panels leading up to that, and while the words are smug, I think she's let the cumulative effects of insults and slights get to her. Does that excuse her actions? No, but I think it points to the notion that being smug isn't her first response to power but her first reaction to being challenged in that power.

It's interesting you mention Tanabata. That's not a situation where she receives a palpable powerup like the other arcs described, but I think I know what you mean. Again, though, that smugness is a provoked response, almost like a weapon she uses to assert control of the situation. I think it's an important distinction to show that any smugness or nastiness on her part is a response, not a first impulse. That doesn't make it any less disproportionate or wrong, but I think there's a kernel of truth to say that if people didn't rub her weaknesses in her face, she'd overall be a much more pleasant, enjoyable person. Again, that's not to excuse her reactions, but it can be taken further: left by herself, Akane's a fine person, but in the presence of others, she becomes very conscious of what people think of her.

I don't think Ranma's that way. Ranma has bared his girl body's breasts without much of a second thought for how people perceive it (not like it happens all the time, but still). Ranma progressively slighted Ryoga over bread and again, never really gave it much thought. In this way, maybe Ranma and Akane are opposites, with Akane the more outwardly focused and Ranma more concerned with whether what he does corresponds to his own self-image. Then again, maybe that's just an imbalance in the number of suitors they each have to compete with. Ukyo and Shampoo each can represent for Akane something she could improve with. Ranma's rivalry with Ryoga is on much more even footing. So, I don't know.

As far as the looking inward comment, I really did mean it more how you started taking it later: that there are questions he'd rather avoid for fear of the decisions they'd force him to make.