Ranma ½: The Digital Dojo (2001)
Review by Dindrane

Based on the manga by Rumiko Takahashi
Published by Viz Comics
Directed by Tomomitsu Mochizuki
Character Design by Atsuko Nakajima
Music by Eiji Mori
Cinematography by Mitsunobu Yoshida


Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

Anamorphic: N/A; Appears in its original 1.33:1 television aspect

My Advice: Own it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the classic Ranma ½, the story is as follows: Ranma Saotome and his father Genma are dedicated martial artists. On a training mission in China, they had a mishap in Jusenkyo, the cursed springs, where each spring has its own tragic story. Falling into one of these springs will cause you to take on the body of the spring's first victim when you are splashed with cold water; thus, when Ranma falls into the Spring of Drowned Girl and Genma falls into the Spring of Drowned Panda, they each take on these respective bodies. Here the merriment ensues. Genma's old friend, Soun Tendo, has three daughters. The youngest, Akane, is a tomboy and has been promised in marriage to Ranma; she is a master of the Angry Female Strike with the ability to pull mallets from HammerSpace. And it seems that Ranma and Genma are not the only ones who like to use Jusenkyo as a training ground...

As any otaku will tell you, Ranma ½ is one of the funniest (and at times silliest) Anime out there. While this does not at all mean that Ranma ½ is only good for children (it's very adult at times), it is a great title to enjoy after a hard day of dealing with the cold, cruel world. From the Shakespeare-spouting Kuno to the eternal Lost Boy, Ryoga, Ranma ½ will keep you laughing and relaxing after even the worst day in a world that frequently gives us little enough to smile about.

The Digital Dojo presents the entire first season of the Ranma ½ television program, a continual narrative roughly following the progress of the manga. Viewers are introduced to the major characters and events of the Ranmaverse, and follow the main characters as they learn more about each other and themselves. While Ranma ½ remains primarily a comedy, the very real character development and reluctant affection that grows slowly between Ranma and Akane gives rise to some of the most throat-constricting moments in Anime.

The presentation of the box set is quite nice. The slipcase box is sturdy and glossy (harder to soil!), with each of the four disks decorated with a different character portrait. The individual cases are also quite sturdy--not something you always find in a boxed set. The disks themselves have a nifty stylized image, and the cases also contain a list of the chapters on that disk.

Viz has done a very good job with both image transfer and sound quality. I detected little or no artifacting, and the colors are very crisp and clear. The voice acting is excellent as it always was, many characters convincingly going from irritated to contrite or even romantic in an eyeblink. The translations are as close as can be, pulling no punches, even when the usually mild Ranma ½ uses a few shadier expressions.

The list of extras is the only weak spot of The Digital Dojo. The features list is rather slim, perhaps due to the age of Ranma ½ - it may have been difficult to get a hold of people, like Takahashi, for a commentary track. It would, however, have been nice to have had a still gallery, some concept drawings, some images from the original manga, or even character bios. On the other hand, the price for the set as it stands is very reasonable and off-sets any disappointment about missing bells and whistles.

Ranma ½ has remained one of the most popular and beloved Anime titles for years and with good reason. Fans of adventure, martial arts, and comedy will all find something to love in Ranma ½. In what is almost a spoof of gender stereotypes, youšll be hooked from episode one. Buy it now - buy it today.

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