Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thoughts on Fanfiction Fandoms, Ranma 1/2

As one of my first posts here, I'm stripping some of what I put on my page, and moving it to this blog. It annoys me some when an author's page is too cluttered, but I do want to express these thoughts somewhere. I've also edited/added to my thoughts here.

Ranma 1/2:
Probably my favorite fandom, as far as the fanfiction you can find in it goes. It's important to note that I've only actually read the Manga up into the arcs dealing with Principal Kuno's first series of shenanigans, and have never watched the Anime at all. Thus every character introduced after Principal Kuno, I pretty much only know through Fanon depictions, and the occasional single/partial chapter I read that someone referenced.

My primary thoughts on the series as canon, is that it's a romantic comedy, that's so far into crack-territory that you can't take any of the characters or their actions seriously. You simply can't apply serious morality to the series at all, because it's so departed from reality as a fundament of the series. Pretty much all fanfiction I've read, aside from stuff by Black Dragon6, however, departs from the un-reality of crack-humor, into some form of seriousness or another.

When you do enter into a more serious realm, where you take a serious, quantitative look at the morality of various characters and their actions, the entire series disintegrates.

Allow me to stress this before I go further, if you remove the humor elements, every single aspect of the canon characterizations falls apart. This means that none of the canon depiction of relationships hold true anymore. With the comedic unrealism removed, the behavior of absolutely everybody means very different things. As an example to drive the point home, by author fiat, in some plot arcs, Ranma cares little, if at all, about being dressed in feminine clothing while in girl form, in others, it's something he absolutely loathes. If you try to take seriously everything falls apart.

Character deconstruction ensues:

Akane... Ah, Akane. As I said, in the original cannon, she's just one of a cast of crack-fic entities, but if she's taken seriously... She's inexcusable. Of all the cast, she has the closest to a normal life, and chance at being able to interact with normal society healthily, at least prior to the 'hentai horde' ambushing her for dates. Her animosity towards males is, at that point, somewhat understandable, but as the series develops, and so does her relationship with Ranma, her conduct is utterly inexcusable. She refuses to trust him, in essentially anything ever, and is both physically and emotionally abusive to someone who, she of all characters other than Genma has best reason to know, is a horribly scarred and socially impaired young man, who is not at all to blame for that fact. Drakensis wrote a piece, called 'Ignorance' I believe, it's in his accumulated short stories 'series' on his profile, that gives an excellent idea of just how ignorant Ranma would possibly be if the series were not crack/humor as in cannon. I have a personal particular antipathy towards 'serious' stories that try to portray her as a sympathetic character without first developing her character out of her abusive behavior, particularly because I've been in a very untrusting, emotionally abusive relationship in the past myself.

Again, to stress, in canon, she is the 'true' fiance, as I understand has more or less been stated directly by Rumiko Takahashi, and as long as the humor underpinning is present, that can hold up fine, but without it, she is a deeply destructive individual. I've read a couple of stories where I ended up liking her, but mostly I don't, her behavior is simply too close to my personal history of pain.

Ukyou, once removed from the humor elements, is, from all my understanding of the canon events, is the only fiance who can possibly be viewed in a good light. From the age of five or six years old, she was pushed by her father to hunt down and kill her best friend for his betrayal of her. That's a young enough age that he could very easily break and warp her entire concept of moral behavior, and you can very easily get a total psychopath out of those kinds of circumstances. Yet, the instant that what really happened becomes clear, and Ranma realizes she's actually a girl, she drops that, and instead tries to befriend him/court him again. Considering her age then, and the age at which her father started pushing her towards murder, that's damn impressive, especially in the structure of Japanese culture, with how it focuses on familial authority and honor more than western culture does. Combine this with the fact that (to my knowledge) she never tries to freaking *kill* anyone, and that while she has a temper, it never crops up for no reason whatsoever, she is literally the only fiancee that could be viewed as a protagonist rather than antagonist.

Shampoo and Cologne are an interestingly different story. The apparent tribal laws regarding 'obstacle is for killing' and etc would make them to be a vicious bloodthirsty group of savages. What actually happens however, ends up being nothing of the sort. They never kill anyone. Ever. Whether this is because Shampoo and Cologne possess a morality that exceeds that of the rest of the tribe, or they're far, far more bark than bite, for all their manipulative schemes. I personally have a bit of fondness for Shampoo as a character, probably partly because I didn't read far enough into the series to where the more blatantly manipulative plots are attempted, and I am a very direct person, and appreciate that she is too. By the end of the story, however, both are clearly untrustworthy and manipulative, even if they never quite cross to complete monster, though they come close several times. Ultimately, they are sometimes allies, sometimes villains, and if I were in Ranma's position, I'd be working to permanently break the culture of the Amazons.

The rivals, Mousse and Ryoga, when viewed in a more serious setting, are near total scum. Ryoga has a few redeeming moments in the portions of the story I read, and from what I understand, Mousse may later as well, but they're both recklessly dangerous (Ryoga nearly kills Akane in the arc that introduces him), willfully blind, and literally trying to kill Ranma for incredibly petty (or flat out untrue) reasons. They're both deluded, overpowered, and incredibly dangerous. If I was in Ranma's position, and it was not a comedy setting, I would cripple or kill these two, just to protect the public at large. Preferably cripple with something like the Moxibustion, but if that wasn't available, you simply can't leave cannons that loose running around, because they will kill someone if they don't have the Rule of Funny protecting the world from them.

Ranma himself is literally the only character who makes out as possibly a 'good guy,' aside from Kasumi. Up through as far as I read, the only blatantly reprehensible act he committed was his pretending to be a forgotten 'sister' of Ryoga. That arc was actually one of the main reasons I stopped reading, as I found it hard to find any characters to sympathize with anymore. Aside from that, admittedly rather emotionally horrific, prank, Ranma is nearly a paragon of virtue as far as anything serious goes. He's an incredible slacker academically, and is blatantly incompetent at forming healthy relationships, though that is hardly his own fault. He has had, quite literally, every authority figure or role model in his life fail him miserably, both his parents threaten his life deliberately or accidentally for incredibly callous reasons, and literally everyone around him is trying to use him, yet he still tries to be, and succeeds essentially all the time, at being the hero. How everyone else uses him so much is why I'm so fond of, and I'm sure why so many people write, crossover fics that set Ranma up with just about anybody who is a character outside of the Ranma series. I think that the opening chapter of 'Process of Elimination' by Durandall/Brian Randall, is an excellent example of just how far Ranma is willing to go to save the lives of others. In one of my writings, I intend to explore more realistic consequences of Ranma's life on his psyche, those who follow my fanfiction should see that down the road.

My final thoughts on Ranma fanfiction in general are that, like just about every fandom, if the writer does it well, pretty much any plot set up, character development, or romantic pairing are believable, though some take a lot more justification than others.

Over the last year, I've run through a fair number of old Ranma fanfiction archives, and discovered that a lot of the old stuff is complete crap. Oh gosh, it is terrible. I used to think that Ranma fanfiction, while less common overall than, say, HP or Naruto stuff, was of general higher quality, I've since realized that it's more a matter of the good stuff having had longer to rise to the surface. If people express interest, I'll post some stories that I *do* like, and why.

1 comment:

  1. Consider me curious to know what you consider as a "good" Ranma fic. Other than Black Dragon's Rosario crossover, do consider "The Key to a Successful Interview" by 'The Sage of Toads' as he is known on FF.NET. It's another one where the comedy is done well, or at least to crack-heights.
    A very old gem (and possibly my most favorite) is "Girl Days".

    It's impressive that you gave so much thought and consideration to the cast even after dropping the manga.

    About Akane - I have to disagree with you. In many of the manga arcs I've read, I come away thinking that she's the ONLY one who genuinely sticks by Ranma through thick/thin. Admittedly, this is more due to her actual presence near him than anything she has done - more because her role is to act as a "jealous girl" which when taken to comedic extremes, as you've said is inexcusable in any other setting.

    As far as "good" guys go, can you honestly say Kasumi falls into that category? Her ONLY redeeming quality is that she's normal. From memory, I cannot recall a single instance where she actually does something. She takes the role of housewife very well but frankly, there's not very exciting. Neutral is how I would peg her, or at best, loyal to family. Like a housewife.