A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 347 – Ranma 1/2 The Movie: Big Trouble in Nekonron, China

Ranma 1/2 The Movie: Big Trouble in Nekonron, China – February 10th, 2011

It has been years since I’ve watched this movie, or any Ranma, for that matter. Andy and I went through as much of the series as we could back when I was in college and we had unlimited free rentals and a hefty anime section to use them on. Sadly, we were missing a few tapes here and there, so every so often we’d grab one only to be faced with a character we should have known, but who had been introduced in an episode we’d missed. Going back now to watch this movie, I feel like that. Like I’ve missed something I should know. It’s bizarre. But then, the movie is pretty bizarre, so that works out okay.

Let’s get something straight right up front: Kidnapping and holding someone against their will is not romantic. No way, no how. It’s creepy. And it’s the central plot of this movie. To some extent, it’s clear that the movie knows this is uncool. The female lead, Akane, clearly doesn’t want to be there. She doesn’t want to marry this jerkwad prince. And her friends and family spend most of the movie trying to rescue her. But then, awww, she has feelings for the prince, and makes him dinner, and takes care of him! That there is some fast-acting Stockholm syndrome. But I’ll come back to the prince and his portrayal and why I find it problematic.

First let’s talk about Ranma in general. This movie would be a little incomprehensible to the uninitiated. I don’t rightly know that it was ever intended for anyone who hadn’t seen at least a couple of episodes of the show. Sure, it introduces the whole gimmick of the show, which is that various characters change into something if they’re doused with cold water and change back to themselves when doused with warm water. And we see plenty of that during the opening scene, where pretty much every character who can turn into something does. The thing is, no one’s really introduced. Sure, you see them all start chasing each other through the streets and get a little indication of their interest in each other, but only a couple get names mentioned and no motivations or anything get explained. It is as brief and cursory as you can imagine. We find out that Ranma turns into a girl and amongst the others there’s a cat, a pig, a duck, a panda… Yeah. But who are these people? Eh, who cares. All we care about is that they’re involved with each other in a variety of ways and they’re martial artists.

At the end of the opening scene, which is a chase scene that picks up character after character, we meet someone new. Her name is Lychee and she has an elephant with her and she’s on a quest to find a prince who has the other half of a special scroll. Akane accidentally ends up with the scroll just as the prince shows up and decides that she has to be his bride, despite her protests that she doesn’t want to go with him and doesn’t want to marry him. Ranma, who has a thing for Akane (even though he denies it if asked and the same goes for Akane in return – they bicker constantly through the show and the movie whenever they’re together) heads off in pursuit of her along with her father, his father and all their various friends, rivals and suitors. Most of the movie involves people arguing and hitting each other and turning into animals and yelling and breaking things. At least, the scenes with all the regular characters go that way.

The bits with Akane and the prince are a little different. Akane doesn’t want to be there, that much is clear. Despite her sympathy for the prince and attempts at cooking and all, she still doesn’t want to marry him, and I appreciate that the movie doesn’t waver on that point. I mean, the prince? Is depicted as this suave and collected dude who has been raised from birth to lead this group of magical martial artists and live in this magical tower surrounded by magical geysers that’s only reachable by magic dirigible. And okay, that can lead to a severely limited and privileged world view. Of course he assumes Akane will want to marry him. Why wouldn’t he? But he kidnapped Akane and held her against her will, intending to marry her, also against her will. He’s got this weird vibe going, where he’s doing these dickish things, like holding Akane prisoner and sending his crew of badasses out to fend off Akane’s friends and family, but he’s also clearly supposed to be somewhat sympathetic. And well, I take issue with that. He’s a bad guy who isn’t presented as a bad guy even though he’s totally doing bad guy stuff.

All that being said, I do have to hand it to the movie that while Akane does spend the majority of the movie as a prisoner, she does fight back. And among her erstwhile rescuers are a couple of young women as well as young (and old) men and they all kick a good deal of ass. And that’s nice. I like getting to see a wide variety of characters being awesome. Aside from the prince’s utter failure to not break Wheaton’s Law, it really is a fun movie. But you kind of do have to know some of the series in order to get a lot of the characters. I suppose you could watch it without knowing them and the plot would still hang together, but you’d miss stuff. And even knowing it but being about a decade removed from it, I felt the lack of information. But I guess that’s just par for the course. It’s still fun. It’s just crowded fun.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

February 10, 2011

Ranma ½ The Movie: Big Trouble in Nekonron, China

Man does this bring back memories. Back in the late nineties when Amanda and I worked at TLA video we began to explore the large anime collection the store offered. By far the largest series we had available to us was Ranma – a never ending series based on the works of Rumiko Takahashi (the same woman behind the never ending Inu Yasha.) I have to admit that I love the Ranma series. It’s so charming and ludicrous.

The Ranma series centers around a young martial arts expert who has a unique problem. While training in China at a set of cursed hot springs they fall in. After that incident Ranma’s father Genma turns into a panda any time he is soaked in cold water and can only become human again if doused with warm water. Ranma himself stays human in cold water but turns from a black haired boy into a red headed girl. The series starts with the two of them arriving at the Anything Goes School of Martial arts run by Genma’s old friend Soun Tendo. Ranma has long been betrothed to the youngest of Tendo’s three daughters, Akane. Of course Akane and Ranma profess to hate each other, and the central theme of the series is their ever so so gradual coming together as a couple. Along the way there is an enormous cast of other characters, most of whom are either in love with Ranma or Akane (or both.) Some, such as Ryoga and Shampoo, are also cursed by the same springs. Others are just blinded by their obsessive love. As the series wears on it gets a little repetative, but even so it continues to be fun to see Akane and Ranma denying their love for one another while more and more suitors keep coming out of the wood works.

This OVA takes place well after the series has gotten under way. It starts with the lecherous and tiny martial arts master Happosai causing a ruckous when he frames Ranma for the theft of some of Akane’s underwear (it makes sense if you know him from the series.) We get a very quick introduction to just about every major character from the series as one after another they join into a mad chase after Happosai and Ranma. It’s a fun way to become re-aquainted with the characters if, as with us this evening, it has been several years since you last watched an episode. At the conclusion of the chase a mysterious girl astride an elephant shows up and attacks Happosai. In the process she hands a magical scroll to Akane, which causes further chaos when a ship descends from the clouds bearing a prince with magic chopsticks and his six legendary protectors. He sees Akane with the scroll, declares her to be his betrothed, and abducts her, floating away in his majestic airship. (This is a fairly average day, really, in the lives of the Tenmas and Saotomes.) So everybody hies off to China in pursuit of Monlon, the seven lucky gods, and Akane.

For me it’s fun just to see all these familiar characters on another adventure. The animation isn’t brilliant, and the plot is nothing particularly new, but we do get to see many references to familiar tropes from the series. Akane demonstrates her astonishingly bad cooking. Ranma risks all in a martial arts showdown to save her and yet continues to profess his disdain for her as a tomboy. (Early on in the series she cuts her hair short, and I’ve never understood why she didn’t let it grow back out, unless maybe she enjoys his barbs.) Everybody who has been cursed by the springs transforms multiple times. All in all it’s just a slightly longer episode of the series, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

There’s not much else I can think to add tonight. This is one of the shortest movies in our collection (and tomorrow’s movie is even shorter) but it’s slightly too long to consider a TV episode. And yet it has imprinted itself upon our lexicon. Once in a while Amanda or I will exclaim “PICKLES!!!” when discussing pickled cucumbers – and you’d have to watch this movie to understand why.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment