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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why Ranma 1/2 Never Got a Remake:

Dragon Ball got a remake, Sailor Moon is getting a remake starting this summer, Hunter x Hunter got a remake, Legend of Galactic Heroes is getting a remake, and many other popular old shows have received remakes.  Why is it, then, that Ranma 1/2 hasn't been given the same treatment?

I think the answer lies in the manga chapters that weren't adapted in the original anime.  What, exactly, are we missing, by leaving these chapters out?  The answer is not much.

The original anime covered the first 22 volumes of the manga.  There were 38 volumes of manga in all, so around 40% of the manga is missing from the anime.  Some of the best parts of the later half of the manga were covered in OAV's, however, so this 40% number is a little misleading.

Starting with volume 23, let's just look at some of the plot synopsis of this missing 40%:

Volume 23:  Pantyhose Taro returns but is defeated again.  Ranma's mother returns but still doesn't find out Ranma's true identity.  Gosunkugi returns but still can't beat Ranma in a fight.  As you can see, a bunch of rehashed, reused material that's all been seen and done before.  Even if the anime did include this material, we wouldn't be any better off because it adds nothing to the overall depth of the series.  The same is true when Pretty Cure makes it ten millionth episode about Cinderella or some other fairy tale it's already covered in a previous season.

Volumes 24-25:  Ranma, Ryoga and Mousse vs. Herb, Lime and Mint, plus another disciple of Happosai named Hinako vs. Ranma.  The Hinako vs. Ranma part is animated in the OAV's, and is in fact a great scene.  I wish the Herb, Lime and Mint portion had also been animated, because it was a pretty exciting fight from start to finish and very novel for Ranma's main males to all be working together for a change.  So chock at least one volume up as a genuine missed opportunity.

Volume 26:  Akane meets a mysterious boy, Shinnosuke, who saved her life as a child.  They go on various adventures together, which strains Akane's relationship with Ranma.  However, eventually Akane and Ranma get back together and go home.  This is an excellent portion of the Ranma manga because there's just about everything here -- drama, romance, relationship progression and great fight/action sequences.  The only problem is this is covered by the Ranma oav's so nothing to see here.

Volume 27:  Ranma falls prey to various cursed swimsuits, cursed glasses, and Hinako's return.  In addition, there's an awesome adventure to the cave of lost love, where Ukyo and Ryoga work together to try and break up Ranma and Akane, but end up growing closer together themselves instead.  The one off gags are boring and pointless, contributing nothing to character development.  The cave of lost love is one of the best scenes in Ranma 1/2, but what do you know, it's covered by the oav's.

Volume 28:  Ranma fights Ryu, a branch school of the anything goes martial arts, in order to save his mother from Ryu's nefarious deceptions.  This is actually a decent plotline combining fighting, relationships and humor.  I wish it had been animated, so chock up another volume to the missing tally.

Volume 29:  Kuno ends up with a phoenix on his head, Kasumi gets possessed by a demon, and other nonsensical events.  It's hilarious that this volume, for all of its pointlessly comic nature, was almost entirely covered by the anime oav's, so no point lingering here.

Volume 30:  Ryoga meets the first girl to actually love him, Akari, but he remains loyal to Akane.  In addition, a bunch of nonsensical one-off events occur, like a demonic tree, Ranma trying to meet his mother again, Hinako's return, etc.  The Ryoga meeting Akari part is definitely new and worthwhile, but all the rest is entirely forgettable, since it's just retreaded content or gag chapters that leave no permanent impression on any future plot line.

Volume 31:  Hijinks involving Happosai and Principal Kuno ensue.  Ryoga is put in a pinch when he meets both Akane and Akari.  Hinako returns (again).  More stupid cursed items like an umbrella of love and a noodle of strength.  Akane gets possessed by a cursed doll.  Some good parts of this volume are covered by the anime oav's.  Again, I regret the anime didn't take advantage of its new character in Akari and Ryoga's new more complicated love life.  The rest is forgettable junk.

Volume 32:  Kodachi is annoying again.  More cursed clothes.  And Taro and Ranma team up to take down a super powered demon/spirit named Rouge.  The fight with Rouge may be fun, because Taro and Ranma have never teamed up before (Taro is impressively strong and a good rival for Ranma.)  The rest is more of the same, one off jokes that are never referred to or cared about again.

Volume 33:  Nodoka, Ranma's mother, returns again.  Ukyo faces a business rival.  Cursed statues.  Etc.  The highlight of this volume is Ryoga and Ranma turned into kids via magic mushrooms and acting like childish idiots as a result.  Akane gets to play the role of Mother, which is a new side to her character, and Ranma and Ryoga get to act more silly and obnoxious, which is a new side to them.  The mushroom chapters would make a great addition to the anime.  The rest? Not so much.

Volume 34:  Cursed plants, Nodoka returns.  Hinako returns.  Etc.  Nothing we haven't seen before, and nothing that is remembered or cared about in any future portion of the story.  A complete waste of space.

Volume 35:  Cursed fortunes, cursed mirrors, and Ukyo is troubled by a Tsubasa-clone, this time named Konatsu.  Another series of random and pointless adventures that adds nothing to the story, all of the ideas are just the same story as last time but with a slight twist.  This time it's a cursed mirror instead of a cursed statue.  Whoopdeedoo.

Volume 36:  Magic swimsuits, more Konatsu mischief, etc.  However, there is a significant portion to this volume, as Ranma finally, finally reveals his secret to Nodoka, his mom, about being able to change into a girl.  Therefore progression of the plot can finally, finally occur in that Nodoka accepts him and he can stop lying to her.  In addition, Ryoga drifts further away from Akane and closer to Akari, which is important character development for him.  I'd be fine with this volume getting animated.

Volume 37-38:  In a dramatic finale, a new group of evildoers plan to destroy Jusenkyo, which would leave all the cursed people in the cast cursed for life.  The group travels to China to face off with them.  After a lot of fighting, with both Akane and Shampoo needing rescuing, the heroes prevail.  Ranma confesses his love to Akane, but their marriage is postponed, as is the cure to Ranma's curse, by the antics of the rest of the cast.  Nevertheless, one can assume they live happily ever after.  Being the ending of Ranma, it's worth animating just to bring closure to the story.  However, it's a pretty weak ending, as it relies entirely on free magic items to propel the fight scenes.  Free powerups are an absolute monstrosity in any fighting series, as it makes all the effort and training they've put in their whole life to be a moot point and arbitrary chance (who has the best magic item) the new determinant of a character's fate.  Or in other words, a story is about decisions, and free powerups are outside the decision/consequence matrix, which renders the entire purpose of a story moot.  As a finale, it's pretty weak in terms of a last boss and in terms of romance, since the characters don't even get to marry after all, nor is the curse ever lifted.  It should be animated, but even if it is don't expect much from it as a result.

Add up all the portions of manga we'd really be missing, that the anime could have really benefited from, and you get around 60 decent chapters of manga.  Presuming the anime can cover 4 chapters an episode if it pushes itself, that's 15 episodes.  Let's push things a bit further and shrink it down to 13 episodes, ie, one cour (one season of anime which corresponds to the actual seasons, fall, spring, summer or winter, rather than the other definition of a 'season' of anime which is just however long it continuously runs without interruption).  Alternatively, we could lower the anime's speed to less than three chapters an episode and push the episode count up to 20+, or two cours.  As a result, even though we're missing 40% of the manga from the Ranma 1/2 tv series, we're only missing one season of anime from a fulfilling ending, with it being up to the editor's discretion whether the season would be 1 or 2 cour.

Therefore, rather than a remake of Ranma 1/2, a short sequel series is all it needs to tie up loose ends.  But even if you restrict yourself to a short sequel series, the gains are pretty dreary.  The ending is completely loose and there's no definite closure for anyone.  There are plenty of decent fights, but none so epic as the early duels between Ranma and Ryoga.  And even if the anime is popular, it won't drive up sales in Ranma 1/2 merchandise, manga volumes, or video games, because the series is over 20 years old and everyone has already moved on.  Anime producers try to capitalize on fads and expand them, there's no point flogging a dead horse when all the other revenue sources for a franchise have already dried up.  Sailor Moon's manga sales are still huge, and Dragonball still makes lots from new video games.  Ranma 1/2 is so forgotten that not even its blu-ray re-release generated any sales.  Since a lot of the profit that comes from making an anime is due to non-anime revenue streams, like merchandise or source material sales, there's just no benefit to continuing this story.

It would certainly be nice if some sort of charitable billionaire offered to fund a new, final season of Ranma 1/2 just to tie up loose ends.  But even this charitable giver would be better served funding a new season of Haruhi Suzumiya, Full Metal Panic!, PapaKiki, Sekai no Senki, Maria-sama ga Miteru, Hayate no Gotoku, The World God Only Knows, Bleach, Rurouni Kenshin, Flame of Recca,  Baka to Test, Claymore, Outbreak Company, Berserk, Guyver, 12 Kingdoms or H2.  There's plenty of series waiting in line for a sequel that they deserved but never received.  Getting a conclusion to Ranma 1/2, that isn't even really a conclusion because all the initial problems are still left unresolved, doesn't seem to be as pressing a claim as any of these others shows.

The real question is why did Ranma 1/2 air for as long as it actually did?  There are good arcs near the end of Ranma's tv run, including the Hiryushotenha and the Shishihokudan fights.  The introduction of Pantyhose Taro, the Martial Arts Eating contest, and a few charming romantic comedy scenes involving Shampoo, Ukyo and Akane are also strong moments in the series.  But usually it's just "Kuno is being stupid."  "Kuno's dad is being stupid."  "Happosai is being stupid."  Or worst of all, "A cure to their curse is found, but in the end it doesn't work," the biggest waste of time and trolling by an author possible, which is a trick resorted to over and over as the series progresses.  After volume ten of the manga (around the beginning of season 3), there are more bad episodes than good ones, when previously virtually every episode was worthwhile.  The amount of good content in volumes 11-22 are about the same, maybe slightly more than the amount of good content in volume 23-38 that the anime leaves out.  If they were going to give up on the series as a whole, it should have been after Ukyo was introduced, not when Ranma first met his mother.  By then the series had degraded so far in quality no one was even interested in the series anymore.  If they had cancelled the tv series and instead switched to high artistic quality oav's covering the best portions of volumes 11-22, like they did for volumes 23-31, I bet they could have maintained the excitement level for the series that would have allowed them to keep converting material to the very end.  But viewers can only take so much 'martial arts cheerleading' and other dumb jokes before they just want the whole thing to end, one way or another.

What makes the first ten volumes so much better than all the rest?  For one thing, the characters introduced at the beginning of the series had more depth to them, and were less comic relief shallow stupid gags.  For another, it felt like the curses were more relevant, as people actually interacted differently with one side of the cursed form vs. the other, like how Ranma reacted to Cat-Shampoo vs. Girl-Shampoo, or Shampoo towards Ranma-boy vs. Shampoo towards Ranma-girl, or Akane towards Ryoga vs. Akane towards P-chan.  The humor of a bunch of boys chasing around Ranma-girl type, not knowing what they were actually doing, was hilarious.  Shampoo trying to kill and marry the same person, because she was unaware they were the same, made for both great irony and great drama when she realized her predicament.  Ryoga being essentially on par with Ranma as a martial artist added a lot of tension and variety to the story, which disappeared once Ranma gained a decisive edge over him.

In addition, Akane and Ranma's relationship developed and quickened into love really well during the beginning, when they started to learn more of each other's strong points and charm points.  This romantic development essentially ends once Shampoo enters the picture.  Akane's jealousy takes over at this point and she spends more time mad at Ranma than happy with him.  Her continuous anger and violence is grating not just for Ranma but for the audience as well, as the romance no longer becomes nearly as appealing after this point.  Volume 10 had one last hope at romance when Ranma promises to marry Akane when he thinks she's been turned into a duck.  However, Akane rejects his proposal, revealing she wasn't turned into a duck after all.  It's all downhill from there.

When the fights are less interesting because Ranma's too strong, and the romance is less interesting because Akane is too cold, and all of the curses become irrelevant because everyone knows everyone else's true nature, there's only bare pickings left to even continue the story with.  The central pillars of the story -- romance, curses, and fights have all been negated, dragged down to an almost invisible level, just 1/4 of the way into the story as a whole.  Even if the production value of the anime had been maintained in the second season onwards, it wouldn't have made much difference, because by then the plot was already falling behind.  Inuyasha had a similar problem where, after introducing all of its main cast, it just sort of thrashed round randomly going nowhere for the longest time.  However, a strong ending where everyone worked together to defeat Naraku saved Inuyasha from its fate of being unfinished and forgotten.  Ranma's weak ending didn't allow the same miracle to happen twice.  So while we got Inuyasha Kanketsu-hen, Ranma Kanketsu-hen never happened, because it would just be a waste of everyone's time.

Speaking of manga endings though, it really feels like Naruto, Bleach, Kenichi and Claymore are heating up to their climactic finales.   The situation in Naruto is getting more and more ridiculous, with Naruto and Sasuke receiving free powerups that make them practically Gods amongst men, invalidating all of the effort and sacrifice every other ninja has ever put into their own lives honing their own strength, which is pretty much the exact opposite message of the entire theme of this story in the first place.  Kenichi is sort of blase, it feels like just one more fight among many.  I could even see the series continuing with yet more random fights after this one.  Bleach is having a lot of fun with its combination of silly villains with silly abilities, and is finally showing off the full power of its various hero cast members like a giant fireworks show.  I'm currently enjoying the Bleach manga quite a lot, as it's delivering a nice finishing touch to a long series by delivering on a bunch of promised content right before the curtains close.  However, Claymore really takes the cake.  Not only is it delivering on its promises, with the Claire vs. Priscilla grudge match, but it's throwing in huge plot twists I never saw coming as well, but still completely make sense when you think about it.  That's got to be the best sort of ending of all.  Fulfilling all of its promises, while still taking you for a breathtaking swirl of creativity and shocks the entire roller coaster long.  If I were going to point to a manga ending done right, I'd point at Claymore.  (If I were to point to a manga ending done wrong, it would be Negima.  Negima's ending was just awful)

With how good the current Bleach material has been, I really hope the higher-ups decide to renew the anime adaption.  They are missing out on a rollicking good time.  Meanwhile, Naruto's anime managing to stay alive all the way until the manga's ending isn't as great a blessing as it should be, because the manga's ending is almost embarrassingly bad compared to its beginning.  If the manga continues to be this bad, I'm going to have to rejudge just how good the anime can be, given that it's doomed to be heading off a cliff at this rate.  This reminds me of Ojamajo Doremi, whose ending butchered the entire series, or Madoka Magica, whose 3rd movie made a mockery of everything that came before it.  Bad endings hurt worse than no ending at all.  If Naruto is going to come to a Bad End, I won't be able to support its top ten ranking like I have been doing all this time.  Somewhere in the 20's or 30's would be more reasonable.  Meanwhile, if Bleach were to get a satisfactory anime all the way to the ending, I wouldn't mind bumping it up to the 30's either.  I never thought I'd see the day these two series converge with each other in quality, given that I once thought Naruto was the greatest series ever, but so it goes.


Edward W. said...

I agree completely. Ranma 1/2 had so much wasted potential. Considering how original its premise was, it's a shame the author was unable to properly flesh out the story with interesting character development and interactions. Or perhaps she just didn't care. Either way, Ranma 1/2 will always remain the story that left a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

Anonymous said...

Ranma 1/2 will always have a big place in my heart. It was my first real anime obsession. I used to drive 30 min to buy a $25 VHS tape with two episodes on it monthly. I read the manga and I agree the ending sucked. It felt like the author didn't have a plan and didn't know how to write romance and action so she focused on one and ignored the other. Thank god she didn't repeat this mistake with Maison Ikkoku....though that series has a spinning wheels problem as well at least there is an ending.

Belairofprincefresh said...

TBH im a new bloomer who is just on episode 75. This whole 'thing' that you wrote is really useful. I never even read any part of the manga so this blog can help me finish this series when I am done with the show. Also there is not much spoilers in this so thank you.

amana said...

Continue ranma 1/2! this show shall not be abondoned nor be wasted. please let's help one another!

Evelyn said...

Yeah I really agree with you but Ranma 1/2 was the very first anime that I watched till the end and I completed the entire manga series as would have been very nice if the anime series had a proper ending atleast covered all the volumes of the manga series.

Jahiro said...

Please please continue ranma 1/2 or at least a re make please im begging. It was my first anime and i miss it .

Eugen Reber said...

Still, a HD remake would be great like we had it with sailor moon.
In the meanwhile tho we have Rinne in it's third season so that's at least a bit living nostalgic

Xiao-Fury said...

I agree. I was becoming annoyed at how Ranma 1/2 just piled on characters, and seemed to have forgotten that there was an actual story taking place. It was becoming repetitive...and more frustrating is that after all that pile on, we get a disappointing ending.

Mayjairah said...

Still hoping and praying for Ranma 1/2 to have sequel. I really love this Anime. Still looking forward for the sequel with HD remake. If this happens, I will be one of the happiest person living in the world. :)

The ending really shows that Ranma 1/2 is supposed to have a sequel! I just can't get over it! :(

Nephlim Counter said...

i agree

Anonymous said...

Your comments are spot on, the beginning is far better than what came later. I did buy the whole series on blu-ray though. I’m still working my way through it, but I did read all of the manga. I enjoy the latter parts almost like a mediocre sitcom, it may not be great, but it makes me laugh sometimes. Maybe it would be better if it got a remake that doesn’t follow the manga religiously.