Friday, May 14, 2010

The End: Ranma 1/2 Volumes 34, 35, and 36 by Rumiko Takahashi

Oh, Ranma. Parting is such sweet sorrow. You have been part of my life now for over a year, and now I am finished with this series. I think I was ready to be done, but it's still a weird thing to think that there will be no new Ranma, ever again. I got used to having that reading option; whenever I didn't want to dive into a novel, I could dip into Ranma 1/2 and be thoroughly and completely entertained.

That said, I think that I have been missing emotional depth; the Ranma stories I liked best were, in the end, the ones were there was something at stake, where there was some little bit of depth to balance out the rampant craziness. I did learn to let go and enjoy the ride, rather than looking for plot movement; this is a good, good thing because I would have been fairly frustrated if I hadn't. So while I loved this whole experience, whatever manga I pick up next is going to have to have a little more emotional investment.

Let's talk about the individual volumes, then. Volume 34 sees some significant movement, aside from several throwaway stories. The first is an Akane swimming story, and the second is Ryoga's last laugh. (Hooray!) It was actually kind of cute, although mind-numbingly stupid. Then there's an extended storyline in which things are finally resolved surrounding Ranma's mother, which felt like a huge anticlimax, I must say. Although not surprising. Then there's a ridiculous but sweet storyline involving a gift from Ranma's mother to Akane, and finally an Ukyo denouement which I really couldn't get behind. I really haven't enjoyed the last two Ukyo stories, because Konatsu is involved, and I don't find anything surrounding that relationship or character engaging at all. I can't even find the energy to be irritated by Konatsu like I can by Ryoga or Shampoo; that said, this is one character out of 36 volumes that I couldn't care less about, so that's a pretty good record.

And then... I did get my wish! Multi-volume ending storyline! With things at stake! And ... some sort of conclusion! Volumes 35 and 36 see the Jusenkyo storyline crop back up, finally. Someone has attacked the Jusenkyo guide, and they're also attacking his small daughter when Ranma rescues her. They're strange creatures with wings, strong and vicious. But when it starts to rain, they turn into regular young men, just as Ranma turns into a girl -- and he gives them a taste of their own medicine before they vanish. It turns out they're after the girl because she has the map to the source of the Jusenkyo springs, and they want it. They have a hot spring at the top of Ho'o mountain, fed from the same source, but it has dried up -- and to get it going again, they will stop at nothing, including drying up Jusenkyo. Of course, if Jusenkyo dries up, that means Ranma can never turn back into a guy full-time, so the stakes are high. And the stakes just keep getting higher as the story moves along.

We have a truly annoying arch-villain, but one I never really got behind as anything other than annoying; it would have been easier if he was creepy or even felt particularly dangerous to me, I think. The villain who I did find creepy and dangerous didn't get that much face time as the story got rolling. And then several things happen that feel like a repeat of something that happened in an earlier volume, except more -- the elements are all there, just bigger and more dangerous. So... that was a little bit disappointing. That's not to say that the story wasn't good, or entertaining, or a fitting end. It would be hard for one closing story to live up to all my expectations for it. I think, overall, it ended quite well. I even liked Ryoga. A lot, actually. Then there's a final little ending chapter that's really quite perfect; the way it fits in with the entire series is excellent, and I think that ties it up in exactly the right way.

I recommend this series, if you can get the whole thing handy. One of the problems with these longer series is storage space, and cost, but it's worth it, I think. I'm planning to eventually own this whole series myself, I enjoyed it that much. And as I was going over my previous entries about Ranma 1/2, I got the hankering to read it again. As stated way back, don't pick up this series unless you're prepared to not take any of it seriously. It's terribly silly. Though there is an overarching plot, don't ever expect a lot of movement on it. Enjoy things at face value, and keep an eye out for surprisingly subtle little jokes in the art every once in a while. This series is a good intro to manga, with its easy-to-follow art and its reasonable Japanese-to-English translation.

Up next in manga series reading: inspired by Darla, I've decided on a combination of Tsubasa and xxxHolic by the mangaka group CLAMP, two series that crossover every once in a while. I actually own the first 9 volumes of xxxHolic and I intend to keep purchasing that series, because I love it. Tsubasa my library has in full (or, as full as it is, because I don't believe either series is finished yet) and so this should be a good series with engaging stories, beautiful art, action, humour, and the emotional depth I'm looking for.

Also, I'm still trying to figure out how to actually view the entire Ranma anime legally, without having to purchase it at exorbitant prices myself. This is sadly not as easy as I wish it was, what with our local anime videostore/rental place closing a couple years ago. But when I do get around to it, I'll let you know what I think!

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