Ranma 1/2 Movie 1: Big Trouble in Nekonron, China

Funny little story about the first time I watched this one.

This wasn’t the first Ranma anime I watched (Or maybe it was, according to the OVA post I wrote a few years ago. My origin story changes like the Joker. Or I just forget stuff.). I’m pretty sure I rented a couple of the OVAs before getting around to this one. So it wasn’t the first, but it was early enough for me to not be all that familiar with the series’ characters. I knew Ranma, Akane, Shampoo, Ryouga, and all the big name fighter types– basically anyone who was playable in that SNES fighting game that somehow got released here in the States at that time– but I still didn’t really know the non-fighting types. People like Kasumi, Nabiki, and Soun hadn’t figured into the OVAs I’d seen, so this was my first time really seeing them.

So when I saw the three of them sitting at the breakfast table with Genma, I thought they were, like, married couples. I figured Kasumi was married to Genma, since they were sitting next to each other, rather than across from each other, and then assumed Nabiki was Soun’s wife. Since the movie didn’t really give Kasumi or Nabiki anything to do other than react to the chaos of the introductory scene, my assumption lasted for a bit.

I felt really dumb when I finally saw the first season shortly after that. Not that I ever told anyone what I was thinking, but I still embarrassed myself  thinking that Soun’s daughters had been married off like that. The incest was bad enough, but poor Kasumi with Genma? That was just cruel. I didn’t know what my brain was doing. I’m still ashamed of it, so I’m admitting to it here so you can mock me to your heart’s content.

That opening is probably the best thing about the entire movie. It encapsulates the spirit of the series, since it basically boils down to Happosai is a pervert, so things escalate to the point where almost every major, minor, and bit player to appear in the series is trying to kill him in a big chaotic chase scene. All of the series’ conflict comes about through one of two reasons:

  1. A Three’s Company style of sitcom misunderstanding taken to the extreme (usually Ranma’s fault)
  2. One of the adults doing something screwy either now or in the past that comes back to haunt everyone (usually Genma or Happosai’s fault)

The big chase manages to tackle both of these mishaps in the span of a few minutes. Happosai is doing his pervert thing by stealing women’s panties, and Akane mistakes Ranma for being in on the act when Ranma does something really, really dumb. And with those two strokes of idiocy and the chaos they create, you learn just about everything you need to know about Ranma 1/2. It’d be the perfect introduction, assuming you aren’t a dumbass like me and start making assumptions about the supporting cast.

The rest of the movie is pretty much what you’d expect from a theatrical movie based on a long-running anime/manga. You get some villains created exclusively for this story. You get some new heroes who team up with the established characters. You get fights. Most of the major players get their moment to shine, but the focus is on Ranma and Akane. You get a few heartstring-tugging moments where Ranma and Akane do that “do they really love each other” routine without actually following through and creating any sort of permanent relationship.

All of that is pretty standard and fine, especially now that I’m 25 years removed from my initial viewing. I wasn’t aware of these established patterns when I first saw this, but now that I’ve seen who knows how many similar movies from different franchises it’s hard to ignore. That said, the movie’s original strengths still work pretty well. Lychee and Jasmine, the young heroine looking for her “prince” and her pet elephant, are still pretty cool. The way Lychee bounces back and forth between woe is me romantic folly and shouting with a bullhorn when people ignore her sob story is still funny. And Jasmine’s still totally rad. That sequence towards the beginning where she does a trunk-based piledriver on Happosai, among other wrestling moves, is still brilliant. They were cool enough to have been regularly occurring characters had they chosen to go in that direction.

The same can’t really be said about the Lucky God villains. Yeah, the whole “we can only eat pickled vegetables” bit is kinda funny, but they’re also very one not in that regard. They make for a few gags, especially during the sequence where Ranma and Lychee have to battle their way to the top of the mountain to stop Akane’s forced wedding to their leader, but that sequence also proves that these guys were created especially to be the butts of some jokes. They’re sort of worse than the usual Martial Artist of the Week you got in the TV series. At least sometimes they ended up having enough personality to make you want to see them again. These guys are just a bunch of pickle fetishists.

Eh. Not everyone can be Jasmine.

And that end theme brought back some bittersweet memories. I heard that thing who knows how many times on the previews you got at the beginning of the various Viz VHS releases. It was cool hearing it again after so long, but it also made me think of those VHS days and how, outside of watching anime with my buddies, those days pretty much sucked. Late high school/early college was not pleasant outside of my nerdy pursuits, so there you go.

“Don’t you know, know, know it’s love.”

Nah, man, I didn’t know know know it’s love.

Yeah, this is still a good one. It might only be good for hitting me at the right time and the right place, so it’s that pesky nostalgia rearing its ugly head, but I’m cool with that. It might not be great Ranma, but it’s great for me.

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