Episode 158 visits the cursed pools of Jusenkyo to discuss Ranma 1/2
Very bad if you fall in!
We flirt with the dark netherrealm of non video game media again this week, by request of our special guest: Midwest Gaming Classic Regular Caitlin Oliver, who has previously dropped by to talk about colorful Famicom cartridges and, of course, her quest to crush all who dare to challenge her Splatterhouse world-record scores. This year at MGC, Caitlin wanted to talk about something that happens to be near and dear to all of our hearts here at Retronauts: Rumiko Takahashi's manga and anime megahit Ranma 1/2.
We also talk about Ranma games, though none of those are particularly near or dear to any of us.
For the first half of episode, we lay down the groundwork by explaining the premise of Ranma 1/2 and its proper historic context. It's a series with a lot of meaning for a very specific segment of Americans who got into anime in the mid ’90s the way we all did. I have to imagine that for anyone who doesn't fall into that demographic, hearing people like us talk about Ranma 1/2 is a little like me listening to Millennials who really got into Neopets — you know it was a big deal for certain people, but the whole thing seems weird and foreign from the outside. The difference, I guess, is that people were really into Neopets for the game aspect; I'm not sure that's really true for Ranma games, which we detail (somewhat agonizingly) in the episode's second half.
Speaking of "foreign," that's also something that weighs heavy on this episode. Ranma 1/2 today is what you might call a "problematic fave," since it deals with gender transitions and social roles... and it does so in a way that doesn't quite line up with current thinking and expectations. We tried to walk a tricky tightrope here, as we definitely realize where many people could take issue with Ranma 1/2's depictions of its subject matter (a boy cursed to turn into a girl when splashed with cold water). But we didn't want to be overbearing in our criticism, especially since the series was created specifically decades ago for an audience of a very different culture by a creator who (if you read between the lines) doesn't seem entirely unsympathetic to the dysphoric and uncertain. So... consider yourself warned of what you're about to leap into with this episode. It's kind of a social-commentary minefield, and we did our best not to explode ourselves.
Episode description: Travel back in time to Midwest Gaming Classic, when Jeremy, Bob, and guest Caitlin Oliver (@sacaitlin) traveled even further back in time to the ’90s and the wild world of gender-bending anime Ranma 1/2... and all the games based on the series.