Reviewby Theron Martin,
Blu-Ray - Set 5 [Special Edition]
The Tendo and Saotome families, along with all of their associates, engage in 23 more episodes of random fun and adventures. Ranma regularly finds new types of martial arts to master, whether they be related to tea ceremonies or gourmet dining, while Genma continues to dodge responsibility, Nabiki continues to milk everyone around her for every cent that they are worth, and Akane continues to get frustrated with the way Ranma bounces back and forth between showing signs of affection towards her and being insulting. Highlights include the revelation of who Kuno and Kodachi's father actually is, Ranma suddenly actively becoming a lady-killer, the efforts of the cast to help Akane learn to swim, most of the Tendo and Saotome being caught in Happosai's dream, and a new student who is into the occult and is quick to take offense to accidental slights by Ranma.
Set 5 covers episodes 93-115 under the Viz Media numbering system (75-97 of the original Ranma ½ Nettohen numbering), which includes most of what was originally released as Season 5 of the series and the first three episodes of Season 6. It spans the time period in the series from the introduction of the Martial Arts Tea Ceremony through to the introduction of the Martial Arts Calligraphy School.
The franchise does not have much of an ongoing story, but even so, this set of episodes does feature one significant development with potential long-term consequences: the revelation that Furinkan High's fruitcake principal is actually the long-absent father of Kuno and Kodachi. Exactly how long he has been absent from their lives is a matter of some dispute; three years is stated in some places but Sasuke implies that it has been much longer than that. Either way it's an interesting plot twist which, by the end of this volume, has already shown to have some quite amusing consequences and should provide good fodder for the rest of the series.
Otherwise this run of episodes mostly just maintains the series' status quo. In addition to the aforementioned, it introduces martial arts into the realms of Shogi, classic toys, and gourmet dining, the latter in a two episode arc which starts out as one of the stupidest of all of the routines (and that's saying something for this series!) but actually ends up being somewhat funny. It turns a contest between okonomiyaki specialist Ukyo and a crepe maker into a veritable martial arts battle, too, and a contest for a hot springs trip suffers a similar fate. A new avenue for martial arts gymnastics also opens up when a rival school sends a team of male gymnasts at Kodachi. The series once again aims for an occasional dose of spookiness, such as in one episode where Ranma's shadow develops a will and life force of its own or another which features (supposed) horror at a hot springs, and adds in a mystery episode concerning who in the Saotome household is responsible for some missing takoyaki. There's another Jusenkyo victim, too.
By this point the series has such a sizable functional cast that it seems to be concentrating more on spreading the love around to established characters rather than introducing new recurring characters. In fact, only one character introduced in this span – Daimonji, the young man involved in the Martial Arts Tea Ceremony – appears again after his/her initial episode/arc. Hikaru Gosunkugi, whose role from the manga version was mostly absorbed by Sasuske in the anime version, also finally makes an appearance. Some established characters barely appear at all; Cologne, for instance, only pops up in a couple of episodes, and only in minor capacities, and Shampoo's appearances are almost as limited. Ryoga has one feature episode and a couple of other substantial appearances but otherwise disappears for long stretches, and the same (thankfully) can be said for Happosai and the principal. Kodachi is prominent in two episodes but almost entirely absent in the others, but Kuno and Sasuke both pop up on a regular basis, as does Ukyo. With such a packed roster, it's a little surprising that Nabiki actually gets a bit more screen time here, and she is as fun as ever with her mercenary ways.
Remarkably, for all that the series mostly continues to rely on established shtick, it can still be quite funny. Oh, to be sure, it has its deadweight episodes for humor content, but its slapstick approach can still sometimes generate laugh-out-loud jokes even when you least expect them to work. The tack that the humor takes is not always entirely predictable, either. The series is still also plenty willing to be outright weird, such as the episode which puts Ryoga in a Japanese-styled version of the American Wild West.
The artistry through this stretch is more erratic, and there are places where it is just outright bad: off-model characters, unusually rough backgrounds, coloring inconsistencies, that sort of thing. Fortunately those patches are rarely more than a couple of minutes long at a time, but they do seem to be coming more frequently than earlier in the series. The soundtrack, contrarily, remains very steady and adapts well to new themes or situations. The series' fifth opener, the reggae-flavored “Chukyu Orchestra,” is used for the entirety of this span, as is seventh closer “Hinageshi.” Neither is especially remarkable.
As the English dub goes, sharp-eared viewers may notice a change in Nabiki's voice towards the end of this run (effective episode 113, actually). That's because the role was temporarily taken over by the sister of original voice actress Angela Costain during Season 6, as Angela was apparently unavailable due to attending flight school at that time. The difference is not a big one, however, and is easy to overlook. Other established roles continue apace (for better or worse), while roles for bit parts and new characters are hit-or-miss; a couple sound awkward and stiff or get wrapped up in weak attempts to do accents (Kirby Morrow's French accent for Picolet Chardin will not impress), but others, such as the calligraphy expert, work much better. The English script is very liberal though this run, with characters sometimes saying entirely different things between the English dub and subtitles.
Viz Media splits the 23 episodes across three disks, with the third one containing one less episode but also the on-disk Extras: clean opener and closer, episode previews, and part 5 of the “We Love Ranma” interview pieces. This time around the latter focuses on Ranma ½-related collectibles by avid fans and some industry personnel. The box includes a glossy Ukyo card and the standard booklet, which opens with a summary of key events from volume 4 and then proceeds with the regular episode features. As normal, English staff and cast credits can be found at the end.
Although some of the comedy antics and the lack of any real progress in the Akane-Ranma relationship can get tiresome at times, the silliness and humor still proves entertaining enough often enough through these episodes to keep fans coming back.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : B
+ Can still be quite funny, minimizes the presence of some of the most annoying characters
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