Monday, August 17, 2009

Ranma ½ Volume 10

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded. This time, a review of Ranma ½ volume 10 (Viz, 2004)

After its first four or five books, there's not a great deal that's different about any given volume of Rumiko Takahashi's Ranma ½. In each edition, you get two or three serialized stories in which either Ranma or Akane is beset by a clueless suitor, and you get some martial arts mayhem, and somebody's going to get kicked through a building. It's a low-expectation gag strip, and if you weren't enjoying the present serial when it was running in Shonen Sunday in the late 1980s, then a better one would be starting within a few weeks.

By the tenth collection, Takahashi had started her third year on the strip, and wasn't showing any signs of boredom yet. This compiles two stories, one in which the lovable amazon Shampoo - well, I like her, anyway - concoct a noodle soup which gives people super strength, and one in which Furinkan High School's long-lost principal shows up after an extended vacation in Hawaii, and he has a cunning plan to force all his students to get new haircuts, unless they can find a special coconut that he's hidden somewhere.

Honestly, it's really fun the way Takahashi keeps a story going which doesn't make any sense by outsider standards, but maintains a strong internal logic. The new revelations about the lunkheaded upperclassman Kuno come from somewhere on the other side of the blue, but they still make sense by the rules of the plot. It's all done with great charm and lots of wit and a style that can be equally lighthearted and mean-spirited. Even if this isn't a series which demands I pay full price for the next edition as soon as I finish one, it's something that the kids and I enjoy reading, and I don't mind picking up five or six volumes a year. Hardly essential, but fun enough to be recommended.

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