Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B-
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: C
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Viz Media
- MSRP: 119.98
- Running time: 375
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Ranma 1/2
Ranma 1/2 OVA Box Set
By Joshua Carvalho
February 18, 2002
Release Date: May 09, 2000
Ranma 1/2: Quite simply one of the biggest names in anime, and the most popular series of wonder woman Rumiko Takahashi. So far, we've been treated to the first two movies on DVD. That was quite some time ago, the first movie coming out back in the days when Pioneer still used jewel cases (blegh!). Finally, more Ranma material has reached DVD, in the form of the OVAs (although technically it's eleven OVAs plus the third movie in the spot of the "ninth" OVA episode). So how does it stack up?
See Jim Lazar's review. That's all I have to say. I can't possibly hope to cover it better then he did. Some people are complaining about the reversed channels problem, while others seemingly haven't run into it. I don't see a reason to flunk them on audio because of it, but it definitely destroys any chance of the set receiving an A rating for audio.
Outside of the reversed channel problem, though, the audio is done very well and I can't complain there. It isn't going to be anything that will impress you, or something that you're going to want to show off to others as a prime example of how good your speaker system can be, but it easily beats out the old VHS copies and it does sound really nice. And there are quite a few cool sound effects with the surround sound, such as in episode nine with the shop owner as Kuno punts him into the air (thanks to Erich Owens for pointing this out as an example).
It's crisp, it's clear, it's bright, and it's beautiful. It puts the old tapes to shame in every way imaginable. While obviously not as beautiful as Ghost in the Shell's anamorphic transfer, it looks really nice and very clean.
There is however a problem. The ops and ends look horrible. You can tell Viz/Pioneer must've just dumped the old VHS copies onto the disc. That being the only complaint, the video on the set was done exceptionally well.
They're not bad. They're just not that great either. There is, of course, the looping problem. The music has no fadeout near the end, where it should start to fade before looping back to the start and playing again. They are functional, though rather simple. They're not the most beautiful menus I've ever seen, but they're not ugly either. They're a bit too cramped, although that's not a major problem. Also, the menu for the extras on the third disc was done rather poorly. You have to basically select a small bubble located by the side of each extra category, which is a bit more of a pain then it should've been. Overall, they're neither a real boost nor a real hindrance to the set. They're just... there.
Anyone who knows me knows what I think about anime discs and extras. Compared to the rest of the market, anime discs trail behind so far in the extra department that it's hard to give a real rating on extras and have some sort of a scale system working. Since this is a box set, the buyer should also expect a lot more as far as extras go then normal discs too.
To put it plainly, the extras here beat out the FY sets disappointing array by a mile. A major step up from the last Pioneer set. They're still not quite as much as I would've liked to have seen, but they're enough to put this set ahead of most anime discs in the extra department. Easily, the biggest extra is the original ops and ends for all the episodes. The only complaint here is that they're only available in Japanese without any subtitles. I know some people don't see a problem there, but I personally would've liked to have seen the lyrics. I'm not too saddened over the absence of dubbed songs here, though, as only one of the dubbed Ranma songs that I have heard is even decent. The other extras are okay, except for a number of quibbles.
For the Tendo residence tour, it was rather half-a**. It's just a set of fourteen pictures of the house, and certainly not as good as the tour of the Masaki household on the Tenchi OVA set (although, of course, that one wasn't entirely accurate). The character interview is nice, although, compared to the actual video interviews on the Perfect Blue disc, the small text interview from Animerica isn't as impressive. Lastly, the character information *really* belonged on the first disc. It's useless being stuck on the third, after most have already viewed the show. Now, I know that most of the extras had to be on the third disc for space reasons, but I see no reason why the simple text w/ picture character information section couldn't fit on the first disc.
Overall, the extras could've been better, but in comparison to the lackluster set of extras of most anime discs it is really well done and a big improvement over the last set Pioneer did. One extra that didn't appear here that could've been extremely helpful to newcomers was the relationship chart that is present on the second movie's disc. Something like that put on the first disc preferably, third disc if there was no room, could've helped newcomers quite a bit.
This is where you just ask yourself "why?!" No, I'm not going to rant about the "hubs o' death" here. Everyone has covered that, and everyone has their own opinions on them. Personally, I don't hate them quite as much as Jim, but I don't like them too much either.
Aesthetically, the packaging is gorgeous. I don't know why they chose to put Ranma's mother on the foldout instead of a more popular character, and I don't quite get why they have Ranma on the cover, the foldout, and the back, when they don't have Akane *anywhere* on the packaging, but it looks beautiful nonetheless, especially the actual hubs, which have pictures of Mousse in duck form, Shampoo in cat form, and Genma in panda form. The description on the back leaves something to be desired, but I guess Viz/Pioneer feels only hardcore fans will be picking up the set and didn't bother with more information. Despite minor quibbles, it's just gorgeous packaging.
So why does it get the C? One word... STICKERS!!!
Whoever decided to put stickers on the clear plastic slipcase needs to be shot. This has to be the stupidest packaging decision I have ever seen withy any DVD. You *never* put stickers on the actual packaging like this. Worse yet, they are very difficult to get off. It took me over an hour's work to get just one totally off, and it was more of a pain then it ever should've been for something that shouldn't have ever been there.
In the end, beautiful packaging is severely hurt by a very stupid decision, and whoever put the time and effort into the designing this lovely packaging should severely hurt the idiots who put the stickers on the slipcase.
The meat and potatoes of the set, this is the heart of the review. Ranma has a severe problem: it gets *very* repetitious. Everyone reaches their breaking point with the series at some point and decides, "That's quite enough for me, thank you." The manga supposedly avoids this problem, but then again this isn't the manga we're reviewing. The TV series is where the repetition sets in the most and where most people reach their breaking point. This isn't the TV series we're reviewing either.
No, this is the OVA series, which is considered by the majority of whom I know as the best animated Ranma available. And I certainly believe that as well. The OVAs avoid the repetition that hurts the TV series, and also avoids the "Ranma worship" too. What I mean is that, a lot of the time Ranma is turned into this god-like know everything, can beat anyone, can do anything guy who, quite frankly, makes me want to puke. In the OVA though, they avoid that. The only episode that even remotely approaches Ranma worship is episode four with Miss Hinako.
Still, the episodes still fall victim to some of the normal faults of the series. If there's character development in one episode, you won't see it carry over to the next. The characters are constantly reset, and just keep going "nowhere." I once told a friend that with Ranma you can't think, as the instant you start thinking about it you start to hate it. It holds true here too.
The first disc is possibly the strongest of the three discs. Episode one is what would happen if I made an episode of Ranma. It's one of the funniest episodes, and anyone who wants to see Ranma get what he deserves should see it. It also is the episode featuring more of Mousse, my personal favorite Ranma character, than any other in the set. The second episode involves the Tendo family Christmas party, which has a great mix of comedy, especially involving my second favorite Ranma character, Nabiki, along with a few touching moments. The third episode is the strongest character-wise on the entire set, and it's unfortunate that they never bring up some of the things in this episode afterwards. This was definitely above the standard fare of go-nowhere episodes that plagues the series often. The fourth episode, however, is rather weak. It features the introduction of Miss Hinako, Ranma's pint-sized teacher who hides a nasty array of martial arts attacks. It's rather dull, quite frankly, in comparison to the rest of the series, and probably comes the closest to reverting to the overdone "Ranma beats up villain x" episodes.
The second disc is easily the weakest of the set. It features two two-part episodes. The first one involves a pair of girls who claim they are Soun's daughters. Ryoga lovers will be in heaven in these episodes, as he is portrayed as the much better man than Ranma that most people know him to be. It's not too bad, and I liked how Ranma isn't able to save the day by himself, as he often does. The second two-part episode, however, is easily the worst material in the set. It's really dull in comparison to the rest of the stuff. Neither funny enough nor dealing with enough character material to be too interesting, these two episodes probably won't get too many viewings from a lot of people. Also there's the rather ugly image of Ranma (boy-type) in a sailor fuku :/.
The third disc picks up the pace and is right up there with the first disc in terms of quality. The first episode on the disc is actually the original third movie. It's presented in widescreen instead of full-screen like the rest of the set, and it serves as the majority of the Kuno material for the set. While there are better Kuno episodes out there, this one definitely will have you laughing out loud at numerous points. Episode ten features the antics of Ukyo and Ryoga as they try to break up Akane and Ranma on a vacation trip. Another episode for Ryoga lovers, he came within mere inches of scoring Akane in this episode. This also is one of the few episodes to bring up the rather popular pairing of Ukyo and Ryoga. Episode eleven is easily the funniest episode on the entire set, and oh god, what a riot it is. This is one of those ideas that you just know is going to be funny, like when Slayers brought a good Lina Inverse into an OVA episode. However, unlike that rather disappointing Slayers episode, this lives up to it's potential with an *evil* Kasumi!!! The final episode for the set is basically a Ranma/Akane episode. It deals with the relationship rather well, and has a good mix of comedy and character development.
Overall, the set has a lot of good material and will definitely entertain you for hours. If you're going to see any Ranma, this is the stuff to see. I would've liked some more material with a few of the characters, like Mousse and Kuno here, but it's just a minor complaint.
Final Thoughts and Notes:
There are a few more notes I have to make before I wrap this up. First, I have to wonder what the heck Viz/Pioneer were doing when they put together the ops/ends for this set. Some episodes have hard subbed ops, soft-subbed ops, and no subbed ops varying on the disc. One of the ends lacked subs of any kind. Similar situation for whether or not English/Japanese songs were available on the ops/ends. Someone should have fun someday and make a chart of how it was all done.
Also, as noted before, the original titles are back and have replaced the Viz titles that were put on the VHS. Most will of course like that decision, although it causes some confusion when talking to others about the episodes. I have to keep talking to a friend who only has the VHS by referring to episodes as "the episode formerly known as Desperately Seeking Shampoo," for example. Not really a complaint at all, just a bit of confusion that arises from the situation.
If you haven't seen any Ranma before, can you understand this? That depends. I think if you pick up the second movie you'll be able to quickly understand most of the relationships and characters in Ranma, thanks to the fact that the movie serves as a sixty- minute summary of Ranma practically along with the excellent character relationship chart that is on the set. Some would recommend the entire first season. It's not necessary, although it would make it easier.
So it is worth it? Well I recommended the set, but the question is if it's worth getting. If you're a Ranma fan, the answer is "within a heartbeat." If you're looking to try out the series, the answer is a solid "no." Rental is advisable before buying. The set can be considered a bargain in comparison to the VHS copies, but in comparison to most DVD sets it doesn't deliver the content per price ratio that most sets do. The Tenchi OVA set, at the same price, delivers about an hour more of material then this does. Given the price, I would've liked some more work in the extras department. Again, the extras were good, but more extras could've justified the price. Is it worth it to upgrade your VHS copies? Well it's definitely better quality, but in terms of what you're picking up, it'll be 95% for the quality issue and not for the content. So that's up to individual.
And that wraps up this baby. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments on this review and I'll try to provide assistance.
Sony 17" monitor w/ five speakers and sub-woofer, 3d sound card for surround sound. 6x Sony DVD-ROM. Power DVD 2.5.5 software drivers.