You can never go back

I’ve been all aboard for Viz’s recent Ranma 1/2 revival; they’re both reprinting the manga in double-length editions read in the proper right-to-left orientation and releasing the anime on restored Blu-ray. I have no idea what prompted this initiative, but Ranma was a moderate obsession for me in college. The ludicrous web of relationships and ribald sense of humor really worked – and it helped that, being Japanese in origins, it could provide takes on the subject of a gender-flipping martial artist that would never pass muster in American humor comics.

That was literally a lifetime ago, though. Now that I’m twice as old, I’m finding the series a somewhat harder sell. And it boils down to one thing, basically:


Naked 15-year-olds everywhere.

When I first read Ranma, I was a teenager, so I just kind of shrugged and said, “Yeah, OK, cool. Girls.” Now that – god forbid – I’m old enough to have a teenage child, though, the nudity makes me a little uncomfortable.

Not in a prudish way. I don’t mind the presence of nudity in the series, not at all. Rumiko Takahashi doesn’t strip her characters to be sexy or salacious; any time the clothes come off, it’s to set up a punchline or, later down the road, a dramatic plot point. As it turns out, the character who appears in the buff most frequently is Ranma him/herself, in both gender forms, and generally to drive home a sense of humiliation for his curse and the situations it leads to. (The role of gender in this series is a whole separate topic, though I’m willing to give it a pretty broad pass given its nature as a product of a culture with very, very defined roles for men and women.) Ranma‘s nudity is never presented as sexual, and compared to the presentation of similar material in contemporary manga, it’s totally chaste and innocent.

But… none of that changes the fact that it’s a bunch of 15-year-old kids running around with their fine details on display for the world to see. Comedic or otherwise, it still leaves me feeling a little uncomfortable. I’ve always wondered if there really is a point at which you outgrow comics, and apparently that point is, “When you get old enough to see a female character in a state of undress and think, ‘If that were my daughter, I would not be pleased.'”

It’s still a hilarious manga, though.

14 thoughts on “You can never go back

  1. I wonder how uncomfortable it makes high school teachers who have to constantly be on their best behavior around hundreds of teenagers.

  2. I can understand your reluctance when you put it that way. However, the nudity doesn’t bother me that much… I’ve always been under the impression that the Japanese have a different attitude about the naked body than we do, particularly in bathhouses like the one shown here.

    Rumik’s greatest sin, in my opinion, was Inu Yasha. She’s got a huge body of work, so I suppose a single mistake like Inu Yasha is forgivable, but it was her most popular franchise in the 2000s, her most *visible* franchise in the United States, and starred her most obnoxious characters. From hot-headed, aloof Inu Yasha to bossy, self-centered Kagome to arrogant, why-won’t-he-fucking-die-already Naraku, there’s someone in the cast for everyone to hate.

    It’s also my opinion that Urusei Yatsura deserved more recognition in the US than it got. It’s a wacky, fast-paced cartoon sitcom that brings to mind shows like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. It seems like it would have been successful on Adult Swim at the very least.

  3. I vividly remember buying the first few collected editions from my local Oxford Books, back when that was still a thing, and they were printed left-to-right, even. I do recall being intrigued by bewbs, but I was about, what, seven years old? I try not to look to badly on myself for that. One thing Takahashi doesn’t get enough credit for, I think, is being a really great fight-scene artist. The series admittedly would delve into some pretty silly stuff as far as that goes, but the battles between Ranma and Ryoga especially were always beautifully done.

  4. Jeremy, do you have to stop reading all comics because of this? Can’t you just be more picky?

  5. “Hoisted by my own petard” That line alone made Ramna one of my favorite anime from that era. It would be nice to see a little article about all the Ramna games made.

  6. Devil Hunter Yoko, Cutey Honey, Project A-ko, Gunsmith Cats. . .there was quite a bit of salaciousness in all those as well.

  7. The manga, anime, and the Japanese video game industries are rife with a lot of unsettling things like the underage nudity you mentioned. I, personally, am tolerant of it because I grew up surrounded by anime and manga as a child but I would like to see creators try to lean off all the nudity and salaciousness just because it so trite and childish. Regardless, I will still enjoy such Ranma 1/2 derivatives like Tenchi Muyo and To Love Ru (I actually shamefully own all the Japanese manga volumes of this series). I guess that makes me some sort of progressive hypocritical otaku? I am quite confused!

    I so happy that U.S manga publishers are embracing publishing omnibuses and box sets. I always found single manga volumes to be overly expensive here in the states. It is so much easier to spend 14 dollars-ish on three manga volumes rather than 10 dollars for just one. Thank you for reminding me of the Ranma 1/2 omnibuses and blu-rays, I never watch or read the series so I will eventually pick up both.

  8. Yeah, I’m not about to argue with anyone’s individual discomfort, but I’ll certainly take a bit of teenage nudity played strictly for comedy over the all-to-common 12-year-old panties intended to titillate (*twitch*). Nudity aside, Takahashi does a pretty good job of keeping the sexiness/romance level appropriate to the age of her characters, which is something to appreciate.

  9. On a slightly related note… Did you ever read a manga called oishinbo? I friend recommended it to me, I ordered the first volume (released in English by viz) and I’m really excited! It’s basically about Japanese food, cooking, eating, texture, flavor… And it’s brilliant, how great all of this is conveyed by the author and the artist. I’m starting to see why its around for more than 30 years now. Since the us release is a sort of best of collection, it’s pretty much a collection of short stories, with some time-jumps, but I don’t think it’s a problem so far. Give it a try, you might really like it!

  10. If anyone is curious behind the purpose of Viz’s Ranma 1/2 revival: I’m assuming supposedly, it had something to do with their license expiring to the Ranma series not too long ago. This lead to a brief period in time where Ranma 1/2 DVDs skyrocketed to astronomical prices: we’re talkin’ 150.00 to 350.00 dollars for just one set of season 1 dvds, used.

    So this “revival” is just them renewing the licenses, I think.

    Man…350.00 dollars…

  11. If the nudity in something as relatively innocent/nonsexual as Ranma 1/2 gets under your skin nowadays, stay far far away from modern shows like Kill la Kill.

    Or, go look it up so we can get an entertaining rant/blog post about it! :-)

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