Ever wonder what it would be like if you could change your own sex? Ranma 1/2 explores such a question. It's the story of a 16-year-old boy martial artist who turns into a girl when splashed with cold water. How did this happen? It happened during a training accident where Ranma Saotome was sparring with his father Genma over the cursed Jusenkyo springs in the Bayankala Mountain Range in the Qinghai Province of China. Ranma knocks his father out into the Spring of the Drowned Panda, where anyone who enters the spring turns into a panda. In retaliation, Genma knocks Ranma into the Spring of Drowned Girl, where anyone who enters the spring turns into a girl. Fortunately, this curse has a remedy, but only a temporary one: dowsing oneself with hot water. Cold water takes on the cursed form again.
After the training trip, the Saotomes move in with Soun Tendo and his three daughters: the kind and nuturing Kasumi; the smart, manipulative and capitalist Nabiki, and the hot-tempered tomboyish martial arts student Akane. Ranma and Akane seemed to be friends at first, but that was only when Akane met Ranma as a girl. When she found out about Ranma originally being a boy, she basically wants nothing to do with him. Unfortunately for her (and him), the two fathers had set them up for engagement to be married so they can pass on the School of Anything Goes Martial Arts Dojo to the next generation.
Ranma 1/2 can be best described as a fantasy martial-arts sitcom. The first few episodes are basically introducing the entire concept of the series and the main protagonists. There is a plethora of other characters with their own quirks and eccentric personalities introduced throughout the series: including a jealous Kendo-expert who is also the most popular guy at school, a revenge-seeking Chinese Amazon, a jealous Gymnastics-expert from another school, and even a rival to Ranma with no sense of direction whatsoever. Every episode has a self-contained story, almost as if it were a sitcom. There are a lot of crazy things that go on in the world of Ranma beyond water-based curses.
Ranma 1/2 is a very enjoyable TV series. The humor is laugh-out-loud funny at first, but it does drag out after several years of the same gags over and over again. The concept of a curse that actually changes your sex is pure genius that has a lot of potential, unfortunately Ranma doesn't explore that concept enough. For the mature viewers: there is plenty of upper-female nudity and fan service early on, but it kind of dies out during the middle of the seires until the beach episode toward the end of the series.
Ranma 1/2 ran on TV in Japan from 1989 to 1992, and it's based on Rumiko Takahashi's manga of the same name. It later came to North America as early as 1993 where it was dubbed and released on home video by The Ocean Group (famous for the Canadian English version of DragonBall Z). It was released on DVDs as early as 1999 and again in the mid 2000s with smaller DVD cases. Viz Media plans to re-release it on Blu-ray/DVD combo packs, and it is also streaming on Hulu.com. Because there is some nudity, MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.