I’d like to say that my great love affair with Japanese anime and manga began when I was a kid. That would make sense. You’re supposed to like them then because of cartoons. Maybe I just decided to do things backwards. I started with soap operas as a child. Maybe it makes sense that I would wait until I was by definition a grown up, to find anime.
Okay, okay, minor confession here. My husband, Sam, did try to convert me to them when we dated in college but my instant and complete hatred for Minmei in Robotech had me hold the genre at arms-length. To this day, I don’t get the point of her singing.
The tipping point occurred several weeks before my wedding to Sam when a friend left us a book of manga. It was the first volume of Ranma ½.
I was understandably stressed out, a state in which I spend a majority of my life. I was getting married. I had to plan all of the little bits and pieces of that. I had just gotten my first real librarian job. In West Virginia. So we had to move from what was in my opinion, the best apartment ever. So, yeah, lots and lots of stress.
Ranma ½, volume one just sat there on my coffee table, so one day I picked it up and began to read.
It took me a little bit to get used to its brand of storytelling but once I did, I fell absolutely in love.
It’s story is simple. Ranma Saotome is a young martial artist who fell into a cursed spring so that when he gets hit with cold water, her turns into a girl. Hot water returns him to his previous form. The story is touted as a romantic comedy focused around Ranma and his reluctant fiancé, Akane Tendo. There are various obstacles to their union, in the form of romantic rivals, meddling parents and of course stubborn feelings.
Its creator, Rumiko Takahashi is a master of unrequited love. That point in any serialized romance where the boy and the girl get together is the point where we as an audience lose interest. Takahashi has found a way to keep us forever interested in the relationship between Ranma and Akane.
Each story she tells brings us to the edge of a declaration of love and then stops. She showed me that the most delicious part of romance is the anticipation. Strangely enough another thing she showed me was that to be a reliable storyteller you have to be predictable.
Predictability is comforting. I always know that no matter where the story is going to go, it will end up where it’s supposed to be. Ranma and Akane will always love each other. They will never say it but one will always be there for the other. No matter what. That’s what you need when your own world is in chaos and it’s just what I needed at that point in time.
When you find something that you need at just the point when you need it, it makes an impression on you. That’s what Ranma ½ did for me then and it opened my mind for other anime.
While Ranma ½ brought me predictability and the perfect unrequited love, other stories have brought strong themes not expressed as well in Western styled stories, unique characters, overcoming inner demons and the strength of familial bonds.
As I continue to discuss the effect of anime of the next few weeks, I’ll show more stories that have gotten to me just as much as Ranma ½.