Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ranma ½ - An Action-Romance-Fighting Manga that Plays with Gender

Ranma ½ was written by the famous manga artist Rumiko Takahashi.

Ranma is a teenage martial artist betrothed against his will to the feisty and powerful Akane, whose family runs a dojo in Tokyo. When training in China, Ranma fell into a well which “cursed” him with the power to become female when covered with cold water and male when covered with hot water. This manga explores many interesting aspects of gender. It often challenges the world’s strict man-woman binary but sometimes subtly reinforces conformity to certain stereotypes. Clearly, the entire concept boldly plays with the idea of gender and argues that being male or female is not a static condition. In addition, despite the fact that Akane is pressured to act traditionally feminine, to fight less and date more boys, she stubbornly refuses. She is a strong woman dedicated to living life as she chooses.

That said, there are bland homophobic comments made once in a while. For example, people assume that Ranma cannot be engaged to Akane when Ranma is a woman. However, a subtle romance builds between Ranma and Akane, and key moments in the growth of their relationship take place during times when Ranma is both a boy and a girl. In addition, Ranma often expresses how he prefers being male to being female, which might reinforce a culture that values masculinity over femininity. However, a more queer-positive perspective is that this aspect of Ranma’s character reveals the frustration that comes with living in a body that does not conform to one’s gender identity. Ultimately, whether male or female, Ranma is always Ranma - strong, bull-headed, confident, and protective of loved ones. All of the characters are deep, loveable and fully-realized people that transcend static gender roles, ultimately making this manga an empowering achievement.

The series is composed of thirty-eight volumes. There is no explicit sexual content, but there are plenty of nude shots exposing Ranma’s body in both male and female form. In addition, there is light sexual humor, such as lecherous men sneaking peeks at women’s underwear. (My feminist impulses are screaming in rage!). All things considered, I would have wanted to be fourteen or older when I first read this manga.

Here are a few more Ranma ½ covers:


Review by Aaron.  Add your review of any (or all) of the volumes in "Ranma ½" in comments!

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