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.