Ranma 1/2: Digital Dojo Season 1 Box Set (Mania.com)

By:Bryan McAvoy
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 20, 2001



The Review!
Well, color me surprised, Ranma is a funny, well animated and very entertaining show. With the VHS tapes costing 30 bucks a shot, I never really considered it. In a way I'm happy about this, as I've saved a ton of money, but I'm also a little disappointed that I've missed out on such a fun show for so many years.

Audio:

Ranma aired in mono, and that is what you get with the Japanese track. The English dub is in 2-channel stereo. The background music and sound effects definitely have a late 80's Japan feel to them, particularly anything involving girl-type Ranma's, erm, chest. However, most of the music is well orchestrated and sets the mood for the scenes very well.

Video:

For a show 12 years old, Viz has done a pretty good job with this title. The softness that you see in a lot of titles is not to be found here. The lines are crisp and sharp. There is only a little bit of shimmering, mostly on the last disc. Discs 1 and 3 are DVD-9's. With "only" 5 episodes on these two discs, this shows that Viz made sure there was sufficient room for each episode. And it shows as most of the time there are minimal compression artifacts on the disc. There are a few exceptions. When Ryoga crashes through Furinkan High, these very busy frames suffer badly from compression artifacts. And there are a few other scenes. I don't know anything about encoding mpeg video, but you would think they could have bumped the bit rate higher on these few scenes to make them look better. But, I only noticed this about 4 times in 18 episodes. Freeze frames never look "perfect" but good enough to be sure.

There is one very obvious glitch. A couple times in episode 15, the one where Shampoo is introduced, a horizontal interference line appears for a few seconds. This is a little distracting, and actually appears several times over the course of episodes 15 and 16, but is really only noticeable two times in the first few times of episode 15.

Menu:

Weird. The menu consists of an image of a DVD which sort of floats in from the middle distance. From here you can play, change your settings or go to specific chapters. Not really bad looking, and it is fairly fast which is all I really want from a menu. Once you make a selection, however, the image of the DVD begins to rotate, tilts at 45 degrees and then shoots out of the TV, right toward the viewer! Viz decapitates their audience! Symbolic perhaps?

Packaging:

Again, sort of bland. Each DVD cover has a picture of a primary character on the front. The box set package itself is kind of flimsy. Considering how often I'm going to be watching these DVD's, I can see wear and tear quickly becoming an issue.

Extras:

Bah. I really can't complain about extras as I'm in it for the show. Still, all we get are a textless version of the opening and all three endings, and the cast list. Would it be too much to ask for some liner notes? It is interesting that I have to read the extras to find out that Megumi Hayashibara voices girl-type Ranma.

Content: (spoilers of various intensity)

What a great premise. Of course, all anime fans already know it. After a "training accident" in China, whenever Ranma and his father are doused with cold water, they turn into a girl and a giant Panda respectively. It is so much fun to see where the next splash of water will come from and the scene that will result from it. There are numerous laugh-out-loud moments over the course of the 18 episodes, something I don't do all that often when watching anime.

The show is at its best when the supporting characters: Kuno the head of the Kendo club, Ryoga, the person with the worst sense of direction in the world, Shampoo the Chinese Amazon (?!), are tying to either kill or marry (or both) Ranma. All of these characters have unique personalities, but without being too stereotypical. Watching Kuno and Nibiki interact was a particular joy in the first 4 or 5 episodes. I also like the character designs. They have fairly soft lines and features that are not too exaggerated. Even the clothes were neat. I guess I just like Rumiko Takahashi's sense of style.

Things took a bit of a southward turn when the "martial arts rhythmic gymnastic competition" started. This was basically a two episode fight. It certainly had some very funny moments. The scene with Ryoga, as P-chan, and the doppler effect as he was swung at Ranma's opponent literally had me on the floor. Overall it was somewhat silly and boring compared to the rest of the show.

Episode 18 was a recap episode, which was a little disappointing.

The animation was fluid throughout. In fact, I was surprised at how infrequently scenes were recycled and at how much character movement there was. The colors looked a little washed out, but I think that was simply how the show was designed, as there are certain scenes with very bright colors, such as the yellow of Akane's PJ's in many scenes.

All told, I found this to be an enjoyable experience, and I can't wait for the second season and the new characters it will bring.



Review Equipment
Sony DVP-S530D connected via SVHS cables to a Sony Trinitron 27" TV. Audio: Run from DVD player through a Sony STR-390 Receiver to Bose Interaudio 2000 speakers. Only 2 channels for now.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: C-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 99.98
Running time: 450
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ranma 1/2