Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ranma 1/2 features the Super Famicom

A look at episode 75 of Ranma 1/2, Step Outside! (Omote ni Deyagare! / おもてに出やがれ!), which features a cameo by everyone’s favourite 16-bit Nintendo machine.

Some time ago I decided I wanted the entire series of Ranma, but I didn’t want to pay $200 for it. So I visited IOffer and got a bootleg set for around $20 delivered. Bargain of the century it was. Since then I’ve spent 20 minutes each morning before work, sipping my favourite coffee (freshly ground triple espresso, warmed full-cream organic unpasteurised milk, plus honey) and watching an episode.
Episode 75 (season 4) caught my eye for its videogame reference. Game references in anime shows are fairly common, since there’s a lot of overlap between anime, manga and games, as astutely pointed out by the always interesting Sankaku Complex (which unquestionably contains NSFW porn, hence no hyperlinks, but does on occasion have some very insightful articles and interviews). I seem to recall an anime show where one episode had some major Gradius references interwoven into it. Or some other shooter – fairly sure it was Gradius though.

In fact you’ll find game references in all kinds of strange places, including the Muppet Babies, as pointed out by Kurt.

Sadly the Ranma reference isn’t as clever as either the Muppet Babies, nor the Gradius episode to the anime I can’t remember the name of.

Episode Step Outside! of Ranma 1/2 isn’t a great one by the show’s standards (some are fantastic), and it involves Ranma looking for his dad who has gone missing. Turns out he was caught eating garbage out of some lady’s trash can while in panda form, and since her bed-ridden son has had dreams about pandas, she takes him in. Ranma finds the house with pop ensconced, and the rest of the episode is trying to get the kid to go outside.

Turns out he’s not ill, just really lazy, and the game reference is merely a symbolic way of criticising the kid’s lifestyle. He says he doesn’t want to go outside, but would rather play games, and so pulls out what is clearly a Japanese Super Famicom (SNES). Once Ranma and panda pop start playing they begin arguing, and generally no good comes of the games.

A funny moment is when Ranma first sees the machine and comments:
“Jeez, that’s not even the latest model.”

Which begs the questions of what would be? At the time the show aired, the SFC was likely the latest and most popular systems in Japan, with the Saturn and PS1 being a ways off. Perhaps it was the scriptwriters clever way of implying a future situation...
The game they end up playing (Cyber Arms) resembles a kind of crude rendition of Hudson’s Famicom shooter Star Soldier (pictured below), which makes sense since it was hugely popular. But really it could be any crap vertical shooter they’re playing. This scene has a strobe light effect which makes it difficult to make out anything.
The best bit about all this, is that I can do my uber-nerd impression and point out that the scene lacks continuity. It starts off with Ranma holding the controller like an SFC pad (heading shot to this entry), then switches to panda dad pulling it away, where again it’s clearly an SFC pad, albeit with the colours rotated 90 degrees clockwise. Note how the cable attaches to the centre of the pad.
A little later though we see Ranma continuing to struggle with the game, and we find that the cable has now moved to the side, much like it was with the original Famicom. Considering the number of far worse gaffs I’ve seen regarding videogames on TV, I can’t fault them too much though. Overall, despite the negativity implied by playing games, the scene is done reasonably well. I just wish they'd had more fun with the idea!


  1. Wow. I never noticed that, though I'd never gotten that far. Ranma's anime loses steam REAL fast after Season 2. Season 1 is amazing.

  2. I've seen seasons 1-5 because that's what my library has. Ranma 1/2 is one of the rare Anime shows that suffers from too much success, due in part to the original manga being too much of a success.

    The manga itself is fairly long and has a ton of characters. The Anime is even longer due to necessary decompression (because the manga wasn't finished and they didn't want to end the anime series too early), and addition of even more characters. Eventually, the anime didn't even quite get to the end, but the manga does have a proper ending. Or so I heard. I haven't gotten to the end of either yet (and the show ended HOW long ago?.

    Still a kerjillion times better than post-Saiyan-Saga DBZ.

    I find two things about this episode particularly amusing:

    1) The aesop about the kid needing to get outside and be more physically active at first doesn't seem so much a slam on the game itself (after all, Ranma plays video games himself in other episodes), but rather just another variation on the whole show's theme of Martial Arts Are Awesome. Or at least, that's how they try to spin it, but it really seems like one or more of the writers had a kid who acted like this and they threw it in for that reason.

    2) There was a Ranma 1/2 fighting game for the Super Famicom (and later SNES) around this time. I can't help but think that the timing of this episode was deliberate and more than a little ironic.

  3. Another anime that has video game references that I specially like is Genshiken. It has references to both the Puyo Puyo and Guilty Gear series. :)

  4. @The Mad Tinkerer:
    Ranma plays games in other episodes? Must be later in the show I'm guessing. This was the first time I specifically noticed it. If I spot any others I'll put more entries up (perhaps!). Or have I missed some?

  5. I can't vouch for what the subtitled/original Japanese version said, but Ranma saying “Jeez, that’s not even the latest model.” was in the English dub since it and its commercial tapes came out in the US in the late 90s, when the SNES/SFC would have been old.

  6. The manga and anime kind of end on a similar note. Ranma and Akane finally get married, and EVERY CHARACTER IN THE ENTIRE SERIES CRASHES THE WEDDING.

    Ranma and Akane get away and have a quiet moment together, end.

    The OAVs continue from there, and mostly have similar bittersweet moments, especially the one with the Orochi. Movie 1 is another highlight.

  7. Why the fuck would you pay for a pirated copy of an anime?

  8. I want to say the anime with the Gradius reference is either Sky Girls (which has the Vic Viper in it somewhere) or Pani Poni Dash. Also, La Blue Girl, of all things, had the main character playing Gradius.

  9. I just checked out HG101's Gradius references page. I'm fairly sure it was La Blue Girl, seeing that picture. Someone made a topic about it on IC years back, I think. Amazing to see how many Gradius references there are in things.

  10. I remember that episode :) It was cool seeing that in the show.

    I really love season 1 of the Ranma anime, and seasons 2 and 3 are pretty good too, but the show took a huge downturn in quality in Season 4. There were some good episodes (one three-parter in particular comes to mind), but a lot of episodes in it were really mediocre. I wish the series had continued to have an overarching storyline ala Season 1, rather than devolving into separate stories per episode, like a cartoon sitcom. I don't know if the manga is like this or not, since I've never really read it. I've heard it's better than the anime as a whole however.

  11. The manga can get a bit drawn out at some points too. But the last 1/3 or so of the manga is quite excellent, I think the author really hit her stride there.

    Regarding the anime, I enjoyed the first two seasons and the OAVs, but for the most part I didn't care for the rest.

  12. I think the anime with the Gradius reference you're referring to might be Yu-Gi-Oh, but I'm not quite sure.

    Here's a clip from it: