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!