For all of its wacky antics, nonsensical characters, and dozens of romantic rivalries, anime and manga may have not popularized if not for the highly influential Ranma ½. Created by manga industry legend Rumiko Takahashi, Ranma ½ is a romantic comedy martial arts series that ran in Weekly Shonen Sunday from 1987 - 1996.
Ranma ½ follows teenage martial artist Ranma Saotome. After falling into a cursed spring during a training journey with his father Genma, he now turns into a girl when splashed with cold water and back to a boy when splashed with hot water. Ranma returns to Japan to take over the Everything Goes Style of Martial Arts Dojo by marrying the daughter of the dojo head, Akane Tendo. Unfortunately, the short-tempered tomboy wants nothing to do with Ranma and vice versa, but the two learn to rely on each other when faced with the many eccentric martial artists who populate their small town.
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The gender-swapping series is best known for its outrageous characters and absurd love triangles. Besides Ranma and Akane, there's the Chinese amazon, Shampoo, who wants to marry Ranma after being defeated by him. Ranma's oldest rival, Ryoga, also has feelings for Akane. The high school kendo practitioner Tatewaki Kuno is in love with Akane as much as he is with Ranma's female form.
While still overshadowed by Takahashi's next work, Inuyasha, Ranma ½ was incredibly influential in the West. As one of the first anime to be officially licensed and dubbed, it was responsible for introducing anime to Western audiences in the 1990s. It would also influence the works of countless creatives such as Bryan Lee O'Malley (Scott Pilgrim) and Matt Bozon (Shantae).
Where To Read & Watch Ranma ½
Ranma ½'s manga serialization lasted from 1987 - 1996, ending with 38 total volumes. Unfortunately, there is no official way to read the manga digitally as it doesn't seem available on either Comixology or Kindle. The original single volumes have also fallen out of print. However, Viz Media has done a reprint of the series as 2-in-1 editions, with 19 volumes in total. These are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and go for about $14.99.
The series' anime adaptation was handled by Studio Deen -- who also adapted Takahashi's previous works, Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku -- in 1989. Ranma ½ was poorly received at the time and canceled in the year of its release, only to get reshuffled as Ranma ½ Nettohen. The series went on for another 143 episodes and ended in 1992. Despite not following the original work beat for beat, the anime still carries a lot of the charm and spirit of the manga and was well received by fans.
The full series is available to stream on both Funimation and Hulu with dub and sub options. You can also purchase Ranma ½ digitally on the Microsoft Store, Amazon Prime, and iTunes with seasons going for $29.99 and individual episodes for $2.99.
The first series set is available on Blu-Ray at Best Buy for $42.99, while the DVD edition is $22.99 on Amazon. Seven total sets exist with 23 episodes each, along with the OVA and movie collection that compiles all three of the Ranma films as well as 11 Ranma ½ OVAs.