More gender bending slapstick humor.
Not long ago I reviewed DVD Verdict's first anime (Japanese animation) disc, Ranma 1/2: Big Trouble in Nekronon China. At the time I was aware of a sequel already released by Pioneer, and promised to deliver the goods on the second Ranma movie. Here it is, and except for a shorter running time is superior to the first movie, which was pretty darn good. In fact the only real complaints I read from the otaku (anime fanatic) crowd on this one was the women were too skimpily dressed and there were too many breast shots. Well gee. Let me think. This is a minus? Maybe if you're buying it for your kids, but most anime is decidedly not fare for the kiddies. A superb picture, excellent English dubbing, and a funny little romp of a story make this one to buy or rent if you like Japanese animation.
Ranma 1/2, as you know if you read my review for the first movie, is both a comic book (called manga in Japan) and a popular television series in Japan. It is the story of a boy named Ranma, a powerful martial artist who was cursed by falling into a cursed pool while training in China. Now whenever he is doused with cold water he turns into a busty, redheaded girl, and hot water turns him back to male. He has been betrothed by arranged marriage to Akane Tendo, a tomboyish girl with a fierce temper. Though you can tell the two care about each other, they fight like DVD reviewers arguing over who the finest director of all time is. Or like cats and dogs if that analogy didn't give you the right picture. A great number of other characters enter into the mix, several of whom have also fallen into the cursed pool in China and turn into various animals when doused with cold water. To make the romance angle truly muddled, several characters are in love with Akane and with one of the two versions of Ranma. Others are in love with the ones in love with Ranma or Akane. So there are always several rivalries going on. The other main thrust of the series, besides many romantic angles, is martial arts. Ranma is the heir apparent to taking over the Tendo Anything-Goes School of Martial Arts, now ran by his and Akane's father Soun. Genma, Ranma's dad, and Soun are disciples of the martial arts of Happosai, who seems more intent on stealing bras and panties and ogling women than fighting anything these days.
These characters, including all the suitors for our would-be couple, and the two sisters of Akane are all trapped on a deserted island at the beginning of this picture. Seems they just went out on a three hour tour and…well you get the drift. Fortunately since this was an outing to get some sun all the girls brought skimpy bathing suits. Well, Ranma didn't, but his boys clothes prove pretty revealing when the cold water hits too. In fact we see more of Ranma than I ever had before, since Happosai made off with his shirt while he was in girl form. At any rate, it's been at least a week since Akane has been kidnapped by someone wanting her to be his bride, so she's due. But this time all the girls get kidnapped, except Ranma who had hot water handy in the nick of time. This time it's Prince Toma, the master of illusion who lives on a nearby island hidden by illusion. He has kidnapped all the girls, as well as several dozen others from nearby islands, for the purpose of choosing his bride from among them. Now Ranma and the rest of the guys must rescue the girls, but there is an added incentive. It seems somewhere on that island is a spring that has a curse to turn anyone (or anything) that gets doused by it into a man, permanently. This is the answer to our guy's prayers, at least the ones who get turned into girls, panda bears, and little black pigs. In the end Ranma must choose between his love/hate of Akane and the cure that will end his curse.
Again I liked the hijinks of these characters as they stomp each other, belittle each other, and vie for the various hands of the men and women. It's not exactly cerebral stuff, but if you like slapstick humor then this will satisfy. I also liked the character study of the dynamic (and often explosive) relationship between Ranma and Akane. Are the two getting closer to resolving their relationship? Watch and see. Perhaps the part of the story I liked most though was Ranma using his female form to try to infiltrate the Prince's palace, with all the mishaps a guy trying to act like a girl entails. Funny stuff.
I was pretty happy with the technical qualities of the DVD version of the first movie. The few flaws I saw in that disc aren't there with this one. Gone are the motion artifacts that were the worst flaw in the first movie's transfer; this one has perfect video with no artifacts, well-saturated colors and a clear, detailed look all around. The animation is equally gorgeous, though again I must say that anime is rather stylized and the movement of characters isn't state of the art. What makes anime look so good is the detailed drawings and lovely human forms. Likewise, the source print was nearly perfect, without grain or nicks or other film defects. In this respect it is better than the first movie too.
The sound wasn't anything to be upset at, but was only stereo. For an actual film I prefer surround, but this track was more than adequate. The dubbed English dialogue was always easily heard and understood, and while the music was a little thin it was suitable enough. Again thanks to the animation dubbed English doesn't suffer from a problem with the words not matching the actor's mouths. I know if I were a real otaku I'd prefer subtitles or maybe even Japanese without subtitles (a language I and many otaku do not speak) but call me a casual fan and I'll say I love the English dubs in this series. The voice acting suits the action and the characters perfectly. Still the disc offers both Japanese and English stereo tracks, along with English subtitles you can switch on or off, so everyone should be happy.
The extra content is very similar to the first movie's disc. Again a little biography of all the characters are included, which is essential to those who aren't familiar with the series. It tells who everyone is, who is in love with who, and what he or she turns into (if anything) when doused with cold water. To make things even easier, there is a "Love Battles" diagram that shows the relationship by icons and arrows between the prospective suitors. So you know right away who loves who, who is a rival to whom, and so forth. Ranma and Akane have both love and hate icons between them. Nice touch. The English language trailer for the original video is also included, along with 15 pages of conceptual drawings of the characters. Crew credits complete the package. There is also a section where you can find out more about purchasing various anime products and manga comics. Nice package overall.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My biggest complaint with this movie is the running length. It only lasts 60 minutes, making it more of a feature rather than a movie. Still I'm not truly disappointed. Certainly the story is simplistic and childish, but that is part of the charm of the series and often anime in general. You either like it or you don't.
If you like anime, then this is a fine disc. I give both the movie and the disc high marks. If you don't know if this is your cup of tea yet, give it a rental. As for me, I'll gladly add it to my collection.
All involved are acquitted and Pioneer is commended for providing us with a quality DVD of a foreign product that we otherwise would be stuck viewing in VHS. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
• Love Relationship Diagram
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