But for now, we're still on Ranma 1/2 and I am starting to feel that my concerns about this entire series wrapping up in one volume are justified. Four volumes from the end and we're still not anywhere close to solving Ranma's dilemma. We are, however, somewhat closer to an understanding between Ranma and Akane, and towards some of the other suitors being taken care of. Maybe.
Volume 31 sees a couple of really strong if completely pointless stories. Aside from the few one-offs, there's an extended storyline where both Ryoga (I know! a Ryoga story I liked!) and Ranma end up with five-year-old bodies due to eating some mushrooms; then one about a rampaging, deluded demon at a temple, and my personal favourite, an octopus-heavy storyline involving a masked avenger out to get Ukyo. I love the way Takahashi treats octopi. There wasn't quite enough octopi for me in this octopus-heavy storyline, in fact.
Volume 32 I enjoyed for the principal story; I don't know what it is about his character that I like so much, but I really really do. Although this one is a little heavier on Hinako, Ranma and Akane's teacher, than I would usually enjoy, the added fun provided by the principal seems to outweigh that.
There's also an extended story involving Ranma's mother, and this story I didn't enjoy quite as much. Partially because the translation idiotically refers to breasts as "tatas" the entire time, which is so stupid it makes my eyes cross, and an annoyingly poor choice by the translators; but also because though I usually enjoy the interaction between characters surrounding Ranma's mother, in this particular storyline everything felt like the characters were going through the motions. It's all been done. Also, Ranma's mother has a schtick and she doesn't vary from it, and by now it feels a little old.
Volume 33 seems, in a number of ways, to bring us a little closer to closure on some fronts. I think this volume was my favourite of the three here; the first storyline, involving a mirror image Ranma-girl, is really quite funny and yet also introduces our characters to real peril. Once again, when she's in trouble, Akane turns out to be rather effective, although still unable to completely rescue herself. In this case, Ranma's pretty ineffective and also unable to rescue her, although he does make an attempt. Overall, lots of fun to be had here. Unfortunately, the second lengthy storyline, involving a tribe of female ninjas, turns out to be pretty flat, stupid, confusing and not even really that funny. But perhaps we have a suitable suitor for Ukyo out of it, so we'll see. The final storyline is sweet, and makes the volume for me; and it becomes even more clear that Ranma is actually in the weakest position when it comes to his and Akane's relationship. Akane holds the power, and Ranma's pretty helpless. And it's at this point where I really start to hope that Akane doesn't remain as clueless as she often seems to be...
The last three volumes of Ranma 1/2 next... I am excited! And sad.