The word “Ranma” stirs dusty memories in the abandoned and forgotten halls of my brain. I remember it, from a time when my friends were into anime and I wasn’t, when the idea of watching Japanese cartoons was new and exciting instead of old and revolting.
I remember weird adolescent sexual hijinx, and the switching of genders, and a giant panda, and weird pervy old men who stole underwear, I think? And martial arts, sometimes. I guess.
I remember a card game.
I could go to Wikipedia and look it up, or I could Google the damn thing and surely find millions of results, all positively bursting with information that I have no interest in. I don’t know if the weird fetishisized fanfiction would be aggravated or diminished by the fact that the characters already switch genders in the actual show; it is not a topic I am interested in pursuing.
What Ranma 1/2 really is to me, honestly, is a pulsing psychic wound, a rift in my very soul, a nexus of shame and denial and self-loathing. It is not the sole element of this swirling vortex, of course. It’s only a signpost, or a reminder. It is an indicator, pointing me inwards towards the dark underside of my geekdom, the side that remembers slouching in chairs on a university campus and watching subtitled Japanese animation on a big screen when I was in high school, and wearing baggy black shirts and baggy black sweaters and baggy black cargo pants and thinking that, if I was having a bad day, in the morning, somehow, I should wear all black and then they would see, and playing Final Fantasy games for over six hours a day, and of reading R. A. Salvatore books and thinking they were actually good and inventing my “own” character with long hair and pointed ears and two weapons who was also a sad ninja, and playing Dungeons and Dragons in my friend’s basement while eating Doritos and drinking liter upon liter of non-diet soda – a marvel that I am still underweight – and arguing about an interpretation of the rules while pushing my long hair back from my greasy forehead, and lying in bed wondering if I’d ever touch a breast.
These things have shaped me, and they are inextricably part of the person I am even as I distance myself from them, but the kind of complete absence of self-awareness and social awareness that they bespoke still disturbs me. I think that perhaps this is part of what makes someone a nerd or a geek or whatever you want to label them; a lack of awareness of their own identity as it would be perceived from the outside. A lack of perspective. A lack of understanding that superficial things often do matter, and aren’t as superficial as you think, and that the depths you see might not be very deep at all.
This is what Ranma reminds me of.
It is not a good fighting game, either.