Ranma 1/2 starts out with Ranma Saotome and Akane Tendou being engaged to each other, against their wills, and only shortly after they find that the engagement exists at all. They get off to a bad start, which lasts through the rest of the series, with them bickering and insulting each other. But even though they fight, and claim they don't like, much less love, each other, let someone of the wrong sex get too close to one of them, and watch the other go into a fit of jealousy...

With this love/hate relationship established, various rivals and suitors for the two keep showing up, eventually creating a love polyhedron that, save for the absence of long lost twins and people coming back from the dead, is the rival of any to be found in an American soap opera. In addition to this silly love tangle, Ranma and company have to regularly deal with bizarre forms of martial arts and ridiculously powerful martial artists. Ranma, though he might loose at first, always wins these challenges in the end, by:

  • Mastering the new form of martial arts.
  • Raw skill at martial arts.
  • Coming up with some clever trick.
  • Sheer bloody-mindedness.
  • Some combination of the above.
Among the bizarre forms of martial arts are:
The characters:
  • Ranma Saotome: The main character, a 16 year old boy who fell into the cursed Spring of Drowned Girl at Jusenkyo; now, whenever splashed with cold water, he turns into a girl, and hot water changes him back. Having spent the previous 10 years on one long training journey, doing almost nothing but training in martial arts, Ranma is an incredible martial artist; he can pick up new techniques very quickly and make on-the-fly adaptations to them during battle.

    Ranma is basically a very decent person, but has two big problems which can make him act like a jerk: having been raised on the road by Genma, he has almost no social skills, and he has a huge ego which won't let him turn down a challenge or admit to being second best at anything.

  • Akane Tendou: Ranma's not-quite-willing fiance, also 16 years old. While called violent by the other characters (according to her sister Kasumi, "She's really a very sweet girl; she's just a violent maniac."), she's generally pretty calm and gentle while not being aggravated by Ranma. She is very unskilled at any traditional feminine activities (or, indeed, anything requiring physical skills besides martial arts and ice-skating), and is especially bad at cooking: her food doesn't spontaneously develop into life, or send you to the hospital (as is portrayed in much fanfiction), but tasting it can send you into agony.

    It should be noted that, while Akane does frequently hit Ranma, she usually does not use a mallet to do so; she usually uses her bare hands or a shinai (bamboo sword). Also, other characters will grab a mallet out of hammerspace and give someone a good whack with it; it isn't Akane's trademark or anything.

  • Nabiki Tendou: Akane's 17 year old sister, who is primarily concerned with making money. She does this primarily by selling pictures of Akane and female Ranma to Kunou, though she sometimes uses scams and blackmail; in the anime, she also acts as a bookie for fights involving Ranma, with the help of a few cronies. Many people think that Nabiki uses this money to support her family, since she is never shown using the money on herself, and her father is never shown teaching any martial arts classes, but this is never shown directly in the series.
  • Kasumi Tendou: Akane's 19 year old sister, acts as the unmarried housewife of the Tendou household, doing all of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry; it's not know what her ambitions might be. Her primary character trait seems to be obliviousness.
  • Soun Tendou: The father of the Tendou sisters, master of the Tendou dojo and the Tendou school of Anything Goes Martial Arts; best friend of Genma, with whom he trained under Happosai. Seems to care more about the future of his dojo than he does about his daughters.
  • Genma Saotome: Ranma's father and teacher, the master of the Saotome school of Anything Goes Martial Arts; pretty much a complete waste of skin, except that he's something of an idiot savant at martial arts. He took Ranma away from his mother, Nodoka, at the age of six, because he believed that if Ranma was to be raised to be the heir to the Saotome School, he must not be softened by a mother's love; he got her to agree to this by swearing a vow that, if he did not raise Ranma to be a man among men, both he and Ranma would commit seppuku. We can see that Genma has some small shred of honor left, as he is terrified that Nodoka will find Ranma unmanly because of his Jusenkyo curse, and thus oblige Genma to take his own life.

    He is cursed to turn into a panda when splashed with cold water.

  • Happosai: The withered, perverted grand master and founder of Anything Goes Martial Arts, and teacher of Genma and Soun. Though he's a 100 years old (300 in the anime), and is about the size of a two year old, he is the strongest, most skilled martial artist in the series (along with Cologne). Besides martial arts, the only thing he cares about is groping women and stealing their underwear. He is addicted to women and their undergarments, and in the anime he can even derive some energy from touching them.
  • Tatewaki Kunou: 17 year old poetry-spouting samurai wannabe with delusions of grandeur; always goes around dressed in traditional samurai garb and a bokken (wooden practice sword). He is in love with Akane, and declared that he would allow no one to date her unless without first defeating Akane in combat; this lead to a horde of boys trying to beat Akane up every morning before school, which in turn lead to Akane's hatred of boys. He hates Ranma for being engaged to Akane, yet at the same time loves Ranma's female side (the "pigtailed-girl"), since he can't get it through his thick head that Ranma's male and female sides are the same person.

    Even though Kunou's weapon is a wooden sword, he can use it to cut through rock, and his thrusts can create waves of air pressure that can crack stone.

  • Kodachi Kunou: Tatewaki's 16 year old sister, a master of martial arts rhythmic gymnastics. She enters the story when she ambushes all of her competitors at Akane and Ranma's high school (though she calls it "fighting in all fairness before the match"), even though she could easily beat any of the girls she ambushed. Falls madly in love with Ranma after he accidentally knocks her off a roof and then saves her. Like her brother, she can't add two and two together to figure out that Ranma's male and female halves are the same person. Is often consider insane because of her anime psycho rich girl laugh and her penchant for using sleeping and paralysis gasses and potions.

    Kodachi's primary weapon is a gymnastics ribbon, which she can use a lasso or a whip with a sharp edge; she supplements this with juggling/gymnastics clubs.

  • Principal Kunou: Father of Tatewaki and Kodachi and Principle of Furinkan High (where Akane and Ranma go). He is obsessed with haircuts and Hawaii, and wears a topknot which is decorated to look like a tiny palm tree. His single goal as principal is to make his students miserable.
  • Ryoga Hibiki: Ranma's primary rival and sorta-friend. He is a great martial artist, and enormously strong, but he has the world's worst sense of direction; I mean, it's really bad. If you tell him to go straight ahead, he'll go left or right, or even back-wards; he needs Ranma's help to even find his own house. Because of this abysmal sense of direction, he was four days late to a grudge match against Ranma. Since Ranma "ran away" from the fight, he (against all odds) followed Ranma to Jusenkyo in China, where he fell in the Spring of Drowned Piglet; now, because of the curse, Ryoga is really out for Ranma's blood.

    When Ranma discovers this secret, he vows not to tell anyone, in the manga because it's against the warriors code to reveal the secret of an opponent, and in the anime because Ryoga made him promise to make up for knocking him into the Spring of Drowned Piglet in the first place. He then takes advantage of this vow by becoming P-chan, the pet pig of Akane, who he fell madly in love with. He frequently tries to get closer to Akane, but either his shyness gets in the way, or Ranma messes things up in a fit of jealousy.

  • Shampoo: A 16 year old Chinese Amazon from a village near Jusenkyo. Female Ranma eats the first prize of a martial arts contest she just won, and then easily defeats her so he'll be the first prize winner. However, according to Amazon law, if a female Amazon is defeated by an outsider, she must give the outsider the Kiss of Death, chase her to the ends of the Earth, and kill her! She eventually catches up to Ranma in Japan, where male Ranma accidentally defeats her. However, instead of a Kiss of Death for the male Ranma, she gives him a searing, passionate kiss: turns out that if the outsider is male, then the Amazon has to marry him; thus, according to Amazon law, Shampoo is his fiance. Unfortunately for her, she is cursed to turn into a cat when splashed with cold water, an animal which Ranma is terrified of.

    Though many fans consider her to be a bimbo, she just speaks Japanese very badly, plus her head-over-heels love for Ranma often makes her do some not-so-smart things.

  • Mousse: A 16 year old male Chinese Amazon, master of hidden weapons fighting, and blind as a bat without his coke-bottle glasses; cursed to turn into a duck. He is desperately in love with Shampoo, and has basically been stalking her since they were both three years old. He hates Ranma for "stealing" Shampoo from him, and often tries to defeat him.
  • Cologne: Great-grandmother of Shampoo, and most probably a leader of the Chinese Amazons; she is as small and withered as Happosai, and as good a fighter. She is very determined to see Ranma married to Shampoo, and has on several occasions tried to coerce or trick Ranma into marrying her; however, she seems to be genuinely fond of him, and enjoys teaching him. Her primary method of moving around is pogoing on a wooden staff.
  • Ukyo Kuonji: 16 year old okonomoyaki chef, martial artist, and Ranma's third, "cute" fiance. When Ranma and Ukyo were 6, Genma engaged Ranma to her (after he was already engaged to a Tendou daughter) for her dowry, the family okonomoyaki cart; Genma then stole the cart, leaving Ukyo behind in the dust. Embittered by the experience, she renounced her femininity, dressed like a boy, and devoted her life to revenge. However, even though she hated Ranma for most of her life, the moment he calls her "cute", she tosses that all aside and falls madly in love with him.

    Ukyo's primary weapon is a giant metal spatula (resembling a baker's peel) which she wears strapped to her back, supplemented by a bandoleer of mini-spatulas which she uses like shuriken. She also occasionally uses other cooking-related items, like using a bag of flour to create a smoke screen.

An attempt at the complex web of interactions between the characters of this show.

                                        Happosai
           Nodoka Saotome --wife of         | 
                    |        |       /---sensei----\
works for- Cologne  |  Genma Saotome               Soun Tendo 
 |	   |    mother of   |                           |
 |     grandmother    |	  dad      Kasumi Tendo ----- Dad ----- Nabiki Tendo
 |	   |	    |-----|  |                 sisters   |        sisters
 |          |                |                     \     |       / 
 |-loves-Shampoo-loves Ranma Saotome ---loves -----Akane Tendo -----------|
 |                           |      \                    |                |
 |       (Cat Form) ------ fears    ^loves               |                |
 |                                      \                |                |
 |Kodachi Kunou -loves- Male Ranma       Ukyo            |                |
 |         |                                           loves^-----------| |
 |         |                                             |              | |
 |         |--- hates   Female Ranma -----loves- Tatewaki Kunou         | |
 |         |           (pigtailed girl)                  |              | |
 |         |                                             |              | |
 |         |-----------brother and sister----------------|              | |
 |                                                                      | |
 |------Mousse            Ryoga Hibiki ---------------------------------| |
                           (P-Chan)----------------is the pet of----------|

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