Terminus est

Yes, it’s true: Ranma 1/2 has finished its run. Actually, it finished its run in Japan more than ten years ago — I’m referring to the English translations of the manga. I already know how it all ends, having read the fan-made digital translations that have been on the Internet for years, and since I was originally a fan of the animated version, which itself has been done for a while, the end of Viz Comics’ translations doesn’t impact me in any appreciable way. Still, I feel a twinge of nostalgia at the announcement of the series’ end (or rather, felt, since I’ve been meaning to blog about this since I first heard about it in November).

The history of Ranma 1/2 in North America is pretty much the early history of manga and anime in its first non-Asian environment. Apparently, Ranma 1/2 was one of the first manga hits in the US, although as I said, it was really the anime that first captured my attention. I’m willing to bet that other fans followed similar trajectories in their discovery of manga.

You see, I loved the anime. I loved it so much that I finally reached a point where I couldn’t bear to wait for more Ranma episodes to be translated and dubbed in English, so I found a place on the Internet where one could actually download the comic books which the anime was based on. These digital versions of the comic were translated by fans from the original Japanese comics, then the Japanese comics were scanned and the original Japanese dialogue digitally replaced with the English translations. Of course, the fan translators were aware of the copyright violations they were technically committing. They justified their actions by only translating issues of Ranma that Viz, the English-language publisher, still hadn’t gotten around to, and therefore these fan translations weren’t stealing money from Viz at all.

To my knowledge, this project was the first instance of what is now called scanlation, which is the production of fan-made digital translations of Japanese comics, although I’m seeing more Korean comics now and some Chinese ones, plus a handful of French bandes dessinees. Normally, scanlators only work on series that aren’t being published yet in English, and should a publisher pick up a scanlated series, the scanlators are expected to desist in their work. A publisher could charge scanlators with copyright violations, but they choose not to do so if the proper forms are observed by the scanlators. After all, a manga reader has no reason to spend money on a completely unknown series, and scanlations allow that reader to sample the wares before buying. Publishers are well-aware that turning a blind eye to scanlations and filesharing actually increases sales for their translated comics (the reverse of what opponents of filesharing claim). It’s thanks to scanlations that I’ve been introduced to manga like Eden and Welcome to the NHK!, the former being a series I intend to buy and already on my Amazon wish list.

As you should note, then, the Internet has been instrumental in the expansion of fandom, especially Ranma fandom in this case — I still remember getting tapes of the series from a friend of mine. Before scanlations caught on, which pretty much means before affordable scanners and high-speed Internet arrived, online fans of manga apparently used text translations of the comics that were released by other fans online. They’d buy Japanese versions of the comics and switch back and forth between the comic and the printed translation. It all sounds quite tedious, which is why I’m glad I never had to deal with such an unwieldy system.

Still, I haven’t explained what Ranma 1/2 is itself about. What kind of series could have aroused such passion in my young self, such devotion that even now, more than half a decade after I’d last encountered any version of the series, I should still rhapsodize about it? That’s kind of a long story, one which deserves to be explored in its own post, but definitely a topic I’ll revisit.

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2 comments to Terminus est

  • Wow I never heard of this Ranma 1/2 before. My first anime I really got into was Dragonball Z. Still I find most of all anime and even some manga to be very well written with a deep story. If you ever write what Ranma 1/2 is about I really would like to read it. If you have time take a look at my site. If you would like a free book to blog about let me know. I know my art needs to improve. Your feed back would be much appreciated.

  • It would be very hard for me to name an anime I dislike more than Dragonball Z. Fist of the North Star, maybe. I like action well enough, but it has to be supported by a narrative I can stand. Otherwise, the story will just be a bunch of disconnected fights, in which case I might as well just watch Ultimate Fighting or Pride.
    I also don’t watch much anime anymore, I’m just following Bleach and have finished Welcome to the NHK. I may eventually watch Nana, since I’m a fan of the manga, and possibly Stand Alone Complex, since apparently it draws heavily from Deleuze and Guattari’s theoretical musings. The production and circulation of fansubs and the subjective experience of watching them is also a subject I plan to cover sometime.
    I’m just telling you that so you understand that I might have different tastes than you. It’s nice of you to offer a review copy, but I’m supposedly writing my thesis now and I shouldn’t put more on my plate. The reviews that I write are either about old stuff or are just my immediate thoughts on what I’ve seen. If I had more time, I’d write in-depth critiques (for example, I’ve got a feminist analysis of The Children of Men that I can never get around to writing).
    As for your comic, yes, I suggest you work at your art. I’m not saying that to be mean, you’ve clearly got enthusiasm and passion, having produced a comic book by yourself. Take some classes at your local community centre or such.
    It will take time, but a formal artistic education will give you a greater range of expression. For example, I noticed that your comic has static panels, whereas an art teacher could show you how to convey dynamic movement such that your drawings have a natural flow and fairly leap off the page, a la Spider-Man. I nearly went to art school and still have a portfolio of artwork stored away, so I’m not just being a backseat driver by telling you this. Anyway, keep at it and you’ll be amazed at your steady improvement. Good luck with your comic.

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