Over curry and beer with the Joffstar a couple of weeks ago, we fell into talk of good comics. He kindly leant me the first volume of Ranma ½ which I devoured on the Victoria line home.
Mr Tendo owns a "school of indiscriminate grappling" and three daughters. He's keen to have his daughters marry, so send word to an old pal with an eligible son. The son, Ranma, is soon engaged to the youngest daughter Akane. But she's still at school, fancies the local doctor and anyway she says she hates boys.
But there's another wee problem. Ranma and his dad are both cursed, having fallen into some Chinese ponds when out training. Now whenever Ranma's dad gets hit with cold water he turns into an enormous panda.
Ranma's curse is all the more terrible - cold water turns him into a girl.
It's a weirdly compelling story, with a love triangle and school bullies and unrequited crushes. With it’s martial arts and teen-loves and curses-from-the-dawn-of-time, it’d be a bit obvious to say it’s like Buffy. Well, yes, but imagine Buffy getting her tits out all the time. If you hadn’t already.
As Joffstar said, for all the plot, ahem, requires accidental disrobings and people wandering in on showering, bosomy teenagers, it’s endearingly innocent. Though I am amused that the noise for prodding someone’s boobs to check that they are real is “Poit! Poit!”
It's also giddily silly, with the panda using hand-held signs to communicate his despair because he's unable to speak. (There's a nice moment where he answers the phone and then just looks exasperated at the reader).
By the end of this first book, we’ve set up the regulars and all the tangled love-geometry of triangles within triangles, and things are getting complicated by visiting cast – such as an old schoolmate of Ranma’s hellbent on revenge. The schoolmate is, as is everyone, a martial arts whizzkid, but his terrible sense of direction is the source of many jokes.
Joffstar tells me it continues in this vein, with other people turning up with their own strange curses. He’s moving house, though, so he can’t find volumes two and three. Gah.