Ranma ½: The Movie – Big Trouble in Nekonron, China (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, July 28, 2005
Release Date: Monday, July 04, 2005
What They Say
All is well at the Tendo residence when from out of nowhere, a Chinese girl named Lychee appears, seeking revenge on Happosai for a broken promise made since her birth. Things get worse when Kirin and the Seven Lucky Gods appear and abduct Akane to take as his wife. Ranma and the gang must travel to Nekonron, China, and save Akane from getting married to Kirin.
The bi-gender Ranma finally hits UK shores, but will this film make any sense to those unfamiliar with the Ranma universe?
Since discovering Ranma I’ve always listened to the original Japanese soundtrack and for the movie I did the same. The soundtrack for the first Ranma movie is perfectly functional and comes across surprisingly well. Dialogue is clear and the music is well represented and does not drown out any of the dialogue. Sound effects are a big part of Ranma and, as with the dialogue, come across well. I spot checked the English dub and also noticed no problems.
While the audio is problem free the same unfortunately can’t be said for the picture quality. There are noticeable amounts of print damage in the form of nicks and scratches throughout and on a couple of occasions I even noticed what looked like change over dots. The picture also seems to be a little soft and the colours also seem a little washed out with some of the darker scenes lacking contrast so it’s quite hard to identify what’s actually happening. However on the flip side the movie is quite old now and some of these problems also seem to be inherent in other titles of around the same age.
For the length of the movie the picture is in 4:3, apart from the closing credits that seem to be in widescreen, or possibly even scope. I’m not sure if the feature has been cropped to fit 4:3 but it certainly looked correctly framed to me. The quality of the picture also takes a firm dive throughout the closing credits with the print damage becoming more prevalent and the picture becoming much softer.
The subtitles are nice and clear in the usual yellow font. I noticed a couple of grammar mistakes but nothing too major. My main complaint with the subtitles was that when signs were translated subsequent subtitles overwrite the sign translation. Luckily the signs were generally translated first before anyone speaks so there is usually enough time to see what the sign says before the translation gets obscured. The subtitle track for the signs is hard coded so you’ll always get the sign translations whichever audio track you listen to.
No packaging was available as only a review disk was supplied
The bold colourful menu is pretty bog standard with a picture of boy-type Ranma on the right with the menu options below him. On the bottom left of the screen there is a picture of Shampoo holding a steamer basket that contains a flying dumpling. Music from the film overlays the menu and is quite catchy. For the main menu options it’s quite easy to see what’s been selected, but the same does not apply to the setup menu options. Each option has a radio button next to it for the language and subtitle options, but it’s initially difficult to see which options have been selected as the radio button changes colour depending on which option is selected.
The extras start with character profiles these give a brief overview of the main characters in the movie. If you are unfamiliar with the Ranma universe I’d certainly recommend reading these before watching the movie as the brief information they contain will definitely come in useful. The only downside to these profiles is that not all of them have pictures of the characters they cover; this is a bit of an oversight, as many of the characters are not actually referred to by name during the course of the movie. The original Japanese ending is next up and this is followed by 4 conceptual drawings. MVM previews rounds out the extras with previews for Chobits, Trigun and Haibane Renmei.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Ranma has always been about zany fun, where even the most mundane daily happenings can take an unusual twist, usually resulting in numerous fights and gender changes. Big Trouble in Nekonron, China takes the basic Ranma formula and turns it into a 75-minute movie.
The movie starts with a breakneck introduction to the main recurring characters in the Ranma universe. Happosai has been having an enjoyable day stealing various female undergarments that have been hung out to dry across the city (yes, Happosai is a veritable panty thief and all round letch). Happosai steps too far when he attempts to steal Akane’s panties and Ranma decides to teach him a lesson that ends up as an all out chase through the streets of Furinkan, involving many of the usual Ranma characters.
The chase has one unexpected participant though, an evil looking swirling black cloud that follows Ranma and Happosai back to the Anything Goes Martial Arts School that forms part of the Tendo household. Here the black cloud is revealed to be an elephant that seems to have taken an immense dislike to Happosai (and not because he stole some panties). The owner of the elephant soon turns up, Lychee a young Chinese girl, who tells the story of a magical scroll that Happosai tricked her great-grandmother into accepting in lieu of cash for a restaurant bill. Happosai said that the scroll was meant to bring immense good luck and a handsome prince to the bearer, something that has not been forthcoming. Obviously Lychee is angry about Happosai’s trick and has travelled to Japan to seek revenge.
In frustration she throws her scroll away (or more accurately her half of the scroll as it has been split neatly in two), and of course Akane catches it. Just then Prince Kirin, the bearer of the other half of the scroll, turns up at the Tendo household in an airship. As she holds the second half of the scroll Akane is kidnapped by Kirin and is told that she is to become his wife as per the ancient prophesy. Ranma is non too pleased that his supposed fiancée has been kidnapped, so along with several other Ranma regulars he travels to Nekonron, China in order to rescue Akane. However his mission is not totally straightforward, as he’ll have to defeat the Seven Lucky Gods of Martial Arts on their home turf before he can rescue Akane from Kirin’s clutches.
Before watching Big Trouble in Nekonron, China it had been a long time since I’d watched any Ranma, and I was afraid that the characters would have been changed to suit the movie. Thankfully this wasn’t the case, the characters are depicted just as they are in the series with the same traits and foibles. My main gripe with the movie is that too many of the recurring characters are included. Ranma is a long running TV series, and as such lots of people will have different favourite characters, but too many of them were included in the movie. This isn’t detrimental to the overall story (although many people get sidelined in the grand scheme of things – Kuno and Mousse being the obvious examples), but gives newcomers a lot to digest in a relatively short space of time.
One other shortcoming of the movie is that it really does require some previous knowledge of the Ranma universe. No explanation is given as to why Ranma turns into a girl, what causes it to happen and how he changes back. The uninitiated may also be a bit perplexed as to why various other characters turn into different animals, and will be totally unaware of the relationships that have already been established specifically those involving Ryoga, Kuno, Mousse and Shampoo. The character profiles included in the extras do help this situation to a certain extent, but an overall introduction would also have been useful.
It must be said that some of the biggest laughs for me resulted in the use of long standing plot devices, such as Akane’s attempts to cook Prince Kirin a different meal than his usual fare of rice and pickles. What is a shame though is how Ranma’s fighting ability in the movie seems weaker than it is in the TV series; there are also fewer fights than there are usually in one episode of the TV series. This is a bit of a shame as part of the fun of Ranma is seeing what strangely named fighting techniques he utilises to defeat his opponent. Kirin in this instance seems to show more originality, although how he manages to fight with a bowl of rice constantly in his hand is beyond me.
Finally, it’s worth sitting through the end credits as there is an epilogue right at the end of the movie that ties everything up rather neatly.
Ranma is generally always enjoyable and this movie is no exception. While the movie is probably not up to the comedy standards of the first couple of series, it certainly made me chuckle at times. Big Trouble in Nekonron, China is probably not the best introduction to the Ranma universe, but it’s certainly an enjoyable movie in it’s own right. Younger viewers will probably get more out of the movie and will probably accept the transformations that various characters go through with very few questions, although the movie is recommended for all Ranma fans old and young alike.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Original Japanese Ending,Character Profiles,Conceptual Drawings
Panasonic 42” Plasma, Arcam 88+ Prog Scan DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ranma 1/2