Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 28th 2014
Blu-Ray - Set 2 [Special Edition]
Ranma Saotome's merry misadventures as the boy cursed to change into a girl continue as established characters persist in their relationships hijinks and new faces get added to the mix. The revelation that Shampoo does, indeed, turn into a cat thanks to the Jusenkyo springs complicates her efforts to win over Ranma, but so does the appearance of Mousse, yet another Jusenkyo curse-afflicted individual who seeks to woo Shampoo but was resolutely rejected in the past. Assisting her is Cologne, her Amazon great-grandmother, who is quite the puissant martial artist herself. The Saotome and Tendo families also have to contend with Happosai, the 300-year-old founder of the Anything-Goes School of Martial Arts and former master to both Genma and Soun – much to the terror of the two fathers, for Happosai is an utterly unrepentant pervert and undergarment thief who isn't above foisting the blame for his perversities off on them or Ranma. Further complications show up in a pair of cross-dressers, one of whom is yet another of Ranma's promised fiancées and the other of whom has much more fickle romantic focuses. Meanwhile Ryoga continues to try find both where he is and how to beat Ranma in a fight so that he can win over Akane, while Ranma and Akane continue to dance around their love/hate relationship.
The second Blu-Ray set for Ranma ½ covers what Viz Media numbers as episodes 24-46, which equates to episodes 3-6 and 10-28 of Ranma ½: Nettō-hen, which essentially means most of the second season and the first quarter of the third season. Presumably Viz Media has opted to ignore the season breaks partly because the seasons are defined entirely by time frames rather than story arcs but mostly because dividing the TV series into seven sets comes out at exactly 23 episodes per set. The only significant effect this actually has on the viewing experience is that viewers get to see the change to the third season's new opener and closer and hear a Next Episode preview referring to the series getting picked up for a new season following episode 40.
The content continues to follow the standard formula for series based on long-running Rumiko Takahashi works: engage in all kinds of fun misadventures with the established cast, with supporting cast members occasionally disappearing for several episodes at a time before reappearing again, while gradually introducing a steady flow of eccentric new characters. For the most part this works just fine. Familiar faces like Ryoga, Shampoo, Tatewaki, and Kodachi occasionally pop up to renew rivalries and make additional plays for their respective love interests, but except for one episode involving Ranma's efforts to infiltrate the Kuno family residence in search of an artifact, the latter two become comparative bit players, while Ryoga and Shampoo alternate between being among the lead antagonists and entirely absent. The focus instead falls more on the newcomers: the feisty old crab Cologne, the horribly near-sighted Mousse (who has his own unfortunate animal form), the okonomiyaki chef Ukyo (one of the aforementioned cross-dressers) and master of disguise Tsubasa (the other one). All of them fit into the crazy mix pretty well, as they play off of established characters and each other with zest, although Ukyo's okonomiyaki gag does get old really fast.
Then there's the other major character introduced in this span, the wizened old fart Happosai, who easily stands amongst the most irredeemably obnoxious characters ever to appear in an anime series. And yes, that is saying a lot, but Happosai takes being a dirty old man to a whole new level of irritation. Every once in a while his panty-and-bra-thieving antics and childish attitudes actually are funny, but those scenes are more than balanced out by his insufferable behavior elsewhere. All too often the most satisfying scene in an episode heavily involving Happosai is one where he has somehow fallen a little vulnerable and Genma and Soun (and sometimes Ranma and others, too) mercilessly stomp, beat, and/or imprison him.
Beyond the Happosai content the humor is still hit-or-miss, although the hits are more frequent, with most episodes containing at least a handful of successful jokes. Some running gags, such as Genma's use of signs in panda form, the ridiculous stories concerning Jusenkyo, or the even more ridiculous naming conventions for special attacks (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire is a classic) never seem to get old, nor does any of Ryoga's shtick as P-chan, while Akane's ongoing “discipline” of Ranma has well worn out its welcome by this set's end. (That not lasting as long could be a matter of that gimmick being so frequently used over the ensuing two decades, however.) By the end of episode 46 the romance has not progressed much, either, with Ranma and Akane still firmly anchored in the territory of clearly caring about each other even though they do not want to admit it and continually get frustrated with each other. A couple of multi-episode story arcs running through this period do keep the material from being entirely episodic, but nothing should be expected in the sense of long-term plot.
Technical merits through this stretch show some drop-off, with the animation seeming to gradually get more limited as the set progresses despite some respectable animation in certain action scenes. Improvements to picture and color quality by the remastering efforts are also less evident. Newly-introduced characters conform to the established character aesthetic, with Cologne and Happosai's midget forms giving the impression of beak-like mouths. Perhaps the most interesting visual detail is that, for as utterly bland as the school uniforms are, Akane's wardrobe at home continues to be stylish and varied, with her typically not wearing the same outfit two episodes in a row unless they take place on the same day. (To fully appreciate how rare this is, consider how many other anime series actually conspicuously do this even when circumstances allow for it.) Occasional nudity is mostly limited to Ranma's female form, with bath house and locker room scenes also providing some less revealing views of background characters in states of undress.
The musical score remains constant with the previous volume, with both silly and action scenes depending on the same core set of themes with only occasional new additions. Up though episode 40 the series mostly uses the narrated introduction with only a couple of appearances by musical opener “Little Date,” both of which are replaced in Episode 42 by the even blander “Omoide ga Ippai.” The closer “Don't Mind lay-lay Boy” also continues through episode 41 before being replaced, although its replacement “LambadaRanma” is a more amusing effort.
By this point in the series English voice actors for recurring roles have settled in satisfyingly well, with Ted Cole as Tatewaki continuing to be one of the brightest spots. New roles are reasonably well-cast, with Paul Dobson's rendition of Happosai being every bit as annoying as the character is supposed to be. The English script makes substantial wording changes in places, especially concerning insults – references to Ranma being a “dog” become “butt ugly,” for instance – and some American slang references, inferences, and allusions are filtered in. (Ranma says “oh my stars and garters” at one point in English, for example.) However, nowhere did the essential meaning seem to be changed.
Viz Media's release of the second set comes in a blue-fronted artbox this time, which includes an art card featuring female Ranma with P-chan and a glossy booklet which contains episode summaries and English production credits. The actual Blu-Ray case has cover art which looks like it was probably done by Takahashi herself. The third of the three Blu-Rays has the set's on-disk Extras: clean openers and closers, Next Episode previews, and the second part of the “We Love Ranma” feature from the first set, which was apparently recorded at New York Comic Con 2013. It features various industry figures and cosplayers commenting on their favorite scenes from the series. Fair warning: some of the scenes that they show clips of go beyond the scope of the sets released on Blu-Ray so far.
Despite one bad character and a few failed jokes, the second 23 episodes of Ranma ½ are still largely entertaining fare. The antics involved get repetitive enough in places that marathoning the series through this stretch is not recommended, but at no more than 2-3 episodes at a time the series makes for a fine diversion.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Some amusing new cast additions, good maintenance of running jokes.
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