Sunday, July 6, 2008

Ranma 1/2 (らんま½) Japanese Manga

OK, it seams as if I'm on a Japanese bender here. But I've known about Ranma 1/2 for some time, but just recently bought the first volume of the manga. I had always worried about what people would think if I were to bring the comic book up to the cash register. I worry no more as I am becoming more open about my own proclivities.

Ranma 1/2 is a Japanese manga about a young boy who when dowsed with cold water turns into a girl. His father when dowsed with cold water turns into a panda. The father character is more for comic relief than anything else. However, the main premise is a brilliant way to explore what it means to be a man or a women, and thereby examine what it means to be macho or feminine.

This story could have been setup rather easily with Ranma Saotome (the 16 year old boy) showing up at the dojo and then turn into a girl. But instead, he shows up as a girl with his father as a panda. The dojo's owner, Soun Tendo has three daughters Kasumi, Nabiki and Akane. Akane is a tomboy, she is the youngest and matches the age of Ranma. The two fathers have promised their offspring in an arranged marriage so that the dojo can continue. The changeling Ranma is betrothed to Akane the tomboy. It is no surprise that the style of karate taught at the dojo's name is translated as the "School of Indiscriminate Grappling", more commonly known in the West as "Anything Goes Martial Arts".

Akane is not only a tomboy but she hates boys. Thinks they are overrated and since she's a martial arts practitioner herself, she is able to take on all the boys at school. Ranma is immature and full of himself/herself. A cute scene at the very beginning is when Akane doesn't know that Ranma is a boy and asks Ranma for a match. Akane loses, but is so relieved that she at least, "Didn't lose to a boy!"

There are some key scenes that really reflect the conflict between transgendered people and society, between male to female transgenered and genetic females.

For example, Ranma says it's OK for him to see a women naked because he has seen himself naked. He adds, that he is "Better Built" as a female than genetic females. He gets flattened by a tea table by Akane when he says this and his father observes, "Now that he had coming". If you want to get a genetic girl's ire up, just say how feminine you are over her. You will wish those words never left your lips. Since he's immature there are times he doesn't even realize he's switched genders.
You can tell from this first volume that Ranma is trying to find where he/she fits in. He is approached by a suitor while a girl and yet doesn't know how to handle the situation. In fact the same suitor that likes him/her is also smitten with Akane. Akane is sweet on her doctor, but the doctor loves Akane's sister Kasumi. It can only get more messy and fun as the stories unfold.

This series of stories was and is one of the most popular series in Japan, it ran from 1987 to 1996 and sold over 22 million copies. They were authored by the female artist Rumiko Takahashi and all her works combined have sold over 100 million copies!

I hope you get a chance to check these stories out. As one who is within the transgendered spectrum, I find the story lines delightful.

This has been my question for a long time:


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

awesome. luv the manga/anime series.