Ranma Saotome (早乙女乱馬 Saotome Ranma) is the main protagonist and title character of Ranma ½. Ranma can mean "chaotic" or "reckless horse" or "a tangled thread". Saotome means "rice-planting girl".
When asked about the character's origins, Rumiko Takahashi said: "With Ranma ½, I had thought a lot of doing a series with a male/female like protagonist, and since in the greater part of my previous stories the main character had been a woman, I planned to use a man this time. I was worried about writing a male main character because of the hundreds and hundreds of male readers, therefore I decided on the character being half man and half woman."
Ranma can be considered of about "average" height compared to his fellow characters who are of the same age, as most of them are also around the same height, although Akane Tendo and several of the other females are slightly shorter than him, while Tatewaki Kuno is taller. His female form is shorter than his male form and half a head shorter than Akane. It has been revealed more than once than the female form has a larger bust size and smaller hip size than Akane, which has infuriated the latter whenever Ranma has pointed it out. Later in the manga it is revealed that both their bust sizes increased, with female Ranma's breasts still staying larger.
Ranma's most recognizable physical trait is his trademark pigtail, although before he was cursed he wore it instead as a ponytail. In the anime, male Ranma has black hair while his female form has red hair. In order to help distinguish between Ranma's forms in the manga, Takahashi always drew Ranma's female form with a shiny spot in her hair. However when the first chapter of the manga when published inShonen Sunday was printed in color, it portrayed Ranma's female form as having the same black hair as her male form.
Ranma favors Chinese-style clothing in the form of long-sleeved, short-sleeved, or sleeveless shirts of various colors, black pants (also dark blue or blue-green in the anime), and slip on shoes. This has served him well when changing into his cursed form or back. Ranma has his own gi which he will occasionally don specifically for learning a new technique. He wore a gakuran at his former school that he attended with Ryoga Hibiki, but is able to get away with not wearing the one required for boys at Furinkan High School. He also wears a tank top, either as a undershirt or not, and when he "dresses up", will usually put on a Mao suit, including the signature cap with a star in front. However he has also dressed in Western formal wear on a few occasions. Ranma has worn a wider variety of outfits in his female form than in his male form. She will dress in women's clothing voluntarily depending on the circumstances, usually in order to get something she wants, but also when she has to. In several instances however Ranma has involuntarily transformed back into a male while dressed as a woman.
Rumiko Takahashi herself has described Ranma's personality as a mixture of nice, clean-cut, frank, energetic, indecisive, stubborn, picky, stingy and sly, and has stated that she finds flawless characters rather boring. Under normal circumstances, he is fairly carefree and generally friendly to those around him. However, he also lacks experience in social situations and frequently speaks and acts without considering the consequences, or the feelings of others. He sometimes insults people by gloating about inflated perceptions of his prowess, or taunting them about their perceived flaws. For instance, he once boasted that his female form had a larger bust than Akane, despite that she was happy about her own growing bosom. He frequently insults the areas his fiancée has complexes about, by calling her an over-muscled, overweight, un-cute, clumsy, macho jock tomboy with poisonous cooking skills. Ranma has also given other people insulting nicknames, with shifting degrees of justification, for example calling Cologne "old hag" or "old ghoul", Happosai "old freak" or "old lech", Ryoga "clueless moron" or "sucker", Nabiki "heartless bitch", or Pantyhose Taro "pantyhose guy".
For this same reason, it is relatively easy to embarrass him. When faced with such a situation, he can freeze up or verbally lash out when found in highly incriminating 'amorous' positions. Nabiki has sometimes taken advantage of Ranma's lack of finesse and weak defenses against crying or emotional girls, manipulating him and various situations to her own advantage. While he occasionally blames others for his problems, Ranma has sporadically taken responsibility for matters not mainly his fault, such as when Akane's hair was accidentally chopped off during his first fight with Ryoga, or trying to soothe Ukyo's rage at being left behind.
His pride recurrently results in him being unable to accept defeat, and becoming preoccupied with trying to win the next skirmish against his foe. He also has a prominent petty side to his character which manifests itself in these situations. If he's repeatedly defeated, humbled or otherwise feels humiliated, he takes it personally, howling statements of revenge at the moon or even crying on the floor. He will frequently stoop to trickery or cheating in the rematch. Among many examples, he couldn't stand seeing Akane become more powerful through the use of super-strength soba. Nabiki and Kasumi both observed that he held a big grudge after she turned back to normal, which he satisfied through gloating while repeatedly defeating her in arm-wrestling. He was also willing to 'feign' love for her strictly to get rid of a similarly enhancing sentient battle-dougi, in part because he couldn't stand the thought of her being more skilled than him, and also because it was a severe nuisance that was literally coming between them between them.He takes great pride in his prowess as a martial artist and occasionally brags about it. Although he frequently has the skills to back it up, his overconfidence can also lead to trouble. Ranma tends to rely on direct tactics and planning, but he is adept at learning from his mistakes in a fight and generally takes advantage of an opponent's weaknesses during a later encounter. He will not back down from a challenge during very serious situations, or when his pride has been wounded, even if he is completely outmatched and unsure of how to overcome an opponent. Despite this, he will apparently refuse a match if he considers the opponent to be too ridiculous, given that female Ranma tried to withdraw when set up to fight the monkey Sanae in "martial arts tea ceremony". Apparently Ranma takes pride in his strength, skills and basically being a man, while in female form she takes pride in her beauty, but still takes her pride as a martial artist seriously.
He frequently uses insults, violence, or harebrained schemes when dealing with those who upset him, usually worsening the problem instead of solving it. But while his cunning generally lacks finesse, he generally makes an effort to try to avoid conflict through the use of disguises, trickery, and theatrics. Sometimes, he has attempted to use reasoning and diplomacy, to no avail. On one occasion, Ranma even set up a play in an effort to convince Happosai to change Taro's name. He has also attempted to haggle with Nabiki, clumsily tried to make her lose her eternal self-control by sifting through her room for potentially embarrassing letters, or feigned love for her, Shampoo, Ryoga, Tsubasa, and Akane under certain odd or extreme circumstances. However, his straightforward schemes and sleight-of-hand are usually effortlessly countered by more devious characters such as Nabiki, Cologne, Shampoo or Taro. Perhaps most prominently, he routinely uses his shapely female form, combined with a fabricated innocent persona, to convince hormonal boys to treat him to food, or buy something he is attempting to sell. Ranma also does this to set up simple traps for Happosai or as part of schemes to fool, make fun of, or play with Ryoga's feelings.
On several occasions, he has stated that he sees it as a martial artists' duty to protect normal people from monsters, the supernatural and similar threats, and has saved bystanders in danger of getting hurt. He has protected all of his fiancees at different times, with one of the best examples being when he saved Akane from the hungry Yamata no Orochi, although she returned the favor, and has saved or helped him a comparable number of times. He's even rescued enemies, such as Herb, who was trying to kill him.
Ranma apparently has limited respect for suspicious or obnoxious authority figures, such as his father, his teacher Hinako Ninomiya, or Principal Kuno. He is rather irresponsible, and usually doesn't display much interest in academics. He often skips school, flouts the regulations when he does attend, and otherwise dodges situations that don't involve martial arts or his personal interests. Other examples include juggling his various paramours and fighting tooth and nail against Hinako's attempts to give him private tutoring in English. His willingness to fight back against the Principal seems to have gained him some respect from his schoolmates, but they have also stated a certain contempt due to his shamelessness and weird condition.
He also a low tolerance for people who try to steal from him, manipulate him, or otherwise treat him very badly, such as Nabiki or Happosai. He generally considers Kuno, Shampoo and Kodachi to be annoying pests. At the same time, he can also be very forgiving and usually doesn't seem to stay mad for very long. For instance, despite that Herb severely tormented him out of sheer malevolence, he still opted to save Herb's life. Ranma has also made efforts to help out Kuno or Mousse, and refrained from seeking revenge against the Phoenix people after his conflict with Saffron. While his father frequently stole his food when he was small, and subjected him to the Cat-Fist technique, he usually just seems mildly irritated, but he has also been vengeful at times, repeatedly beating up Genma upon learning that he had become superior to his father in general hand-to-hand sparring. He has reacted in a similarly harsh manner whenever the Genma interfered with the reunion of Ranma and his mother.
Another exception to this rule would be Happosai, whom Ranma has been stated to truly hate, and apparently considers a personal archenemy according to The art of Ranma ½ relationship chart. He never misses an opportunity to trick or torment the ancient pervert, and once explicitly attempted to kill the grandmaster by punting him and a 5m diameter Happo Fire Burst over a cliff, even before he almost turned Ranma powerless for life thanks to a weakness moxibustion point. Even Happosai, however, has been a recipient of Ranma's compassion. Most notably, Ranma permitted him to come back to stay at the Tendo Dojo after finding him marauding a tourist resort disguised as an octopus jar (for thievery and peeping in the manga, and to help a starving young girl in the anime), when he became very sad from loneliness. Ranma also helped to save the sprightly senior's life by eventually deciding to assist in creating a rejuvenation potion, and together with Akane freed him from a death curse cast by a matronly ghost.
One of Ranma's worst habits is that when preoccupied with his own thoughts or training with his father, he is generally oblivious to his surroundings. The most notable consequence of this is his accidentally kicked Ryoga into the "Spring of the Drowned Pig" while pursuing his father at the cursed springs of Jusenkyo, effectively ruining Ryoga's life even further than before. He's accidentally mowed down child Hinako when late for school, but Kuno's head is his most frequent "stepping stone," which appears to be intentional since the two despise each other. Another victim of his carelessness is the Frog Hermit, who was knocked into the "Spring of the Drowned Frog" when Ranma accidentally kicked out his bamboo pole from under him.
Ranma has often professed his wish to become all male again. However this has not stopped him from using his girl identity to his advantage. He has often used his female form to conceal his true identity from others, most notably Ryoga and his mother, Nodoka. Other times he has used it to obtain favours from Kuno, or other situations when being female would benefit him. Sometimes, he's even taken pride in that his girl form is more attractive than Akane. In the anime, he enjoys ice cream Parfait, although he is always female when she eats them because he considers it somewhat embarrassing for men to consume.
Ranma's speech is casual and unrefined, using a coarse form of Japanese (English in the case of the American-translated anime and manga). He rarely uses -san, -kun, -chan or any other traditional Japanese honorifics. He does use -sempai (elder student) for Kuno, but that is more for sarcasm. Others he uses honorifics for include his benefactor Soun (Ojisan or "Uncle"), his childhood friend Ukyo (Ucchan), the considerate Kasumi (usually -san), and even Ojiisan and Obaasan for Happosai and Cologne when he's not mad at them. And while Akane usually uses honorifics for other people, she rarely addresses him with one. This is amusing since it would denote that the two are particularly intimate with each other.
Although Ranma turns into an attractive woman, he has a very strong heterosexual male gender identity, such that even while female himself, he still feels uncomfortable in the presence of naked women. His masculinity is so strong that he prefers to wear boxer shorts under his clothes even when he dons feminine garments such as dresses. During the moxibustion story arc, however, he learned how to use the emotion dampening aspect of his Soul of Ice training to suppress his pride and posed for pictures in lingerie as part an effort to defeat Happosai, and later did the same to appease Nabiki when accidentally destroying her concert tickets. Men who try to get grabby (even accidentally), such as Kuno or Happosai—who especially disgusts him—generally get pummelled.
But since Ranma is a man, he has little feminine modesty. He sometimes removes his shirt in public, as he is generally unaware of the effect that the sight of his unclothed female body has on others. The guys at school appreciate this side of Ranma as it offers them a free glimpse of his exposed chest, and they openly wish there were more girls like him. His worst nightmare is being kissed by a man, and he even has two hideous dreams: one in which he was a girl and married Kuno, spawning several children and in the first season when he had a dream about Kuno asking him to marry him in both forms. Ranma does however receive his first kiss, excluding Shampoo's kiss of death, while a female from Mikado Sanzenin of the Golden Pair of Martial Arts Skating, an occurrence that, by Ranma's own admission, made him truly angry for the first time. Even sending him to the point of crying.
A running gag through the series is that Ranma is sometimes accused of doing perverted things but rarely actually committed the accused act. During P-Chan's (Ryoga's cursed form) first appearance, Ranma tried to threaten him to get out of Akane's room, but was maneuvered into falling on top of Akane's sleeping body. In an attempt to find the Japanese 'Spring of drowned man' he also disguised himself to gain entrance to the girls' locker room while they were still changing clothes, and accidentally tipped Happosai's stash of stolen underwear over himself in front of his classmates. Other examples include when Shampoo has turned up naked and hugged him in the Tendo bath, crept into his bed without his knowledge or when they both ended up in the Kuno bathtub. Usually right before Akane sees him through the open doorway. Another double misunderstanding happened when Kodachi once doctored a photograph to show them kissing, and Ranma tried to get the negative from Tatewaki by offerring to bathe with him.
In reality, however, he's a bit prudish, though not close to Ryoga's level. The concept of kissing Akane, even as part of a school play, is enough to fluster him. So was simply receiving a heartfelt hug from her because he survived the battle against Herb. His defences have occasionally been shaken, for example, when Kiima or a spirit doll assumed Akane's form and made sexual advances toward him, or when Akane hid with him in a closet, and he mistakenly believed that she wanted sex. Also notable is when Nabiki assumed a cute face and declared her deep love for him (actually just sadistic play-acting), and Shampoo's soothing and cuddling him during her first appearance. But beyond these few exceptions, Ranma's reaction to such situations is generally one of fear and confusion, possibly because any admission of love on his part will force him into a wedding for which he is not yet emotionally prepared.
Trained from the time he was about two years old (when their training trip began) by his father in the ways of the Saotome style of Anything Goes Martial Arts, Ranma is a master of several styles of martial arts, utilizing a blend of Chinese and Japanese techniques. The other branch, the Tendo School, is practiced by Soun and Akane. Ranma is seen as the school's primary heir.
His impressive physical abilities include incredible strength, and outstanding speed. He also has superhuman endurance, enabling him to continue fighting even after he has taken many powerful blows or fallen from a great height.A practitioner of the Anything Goes Martial Arts is expected to be prepared to do almost anything to triumph, regardless of the challenges, humiliations, or cheating involved. This versatile combat style can produce a warrior who is strong in virtually every aspect of battle, both mentally and physically, with limited weaknesses. In most fights, neither form has a discernable advantange, as they both perform equally well. Ranma is, however, stronger with a longer reach in his male form, and possibly more agile as a female in either canon, with the anime stating that he gains an increase in speed in female form. His training has made him a very balanced fighter, though he can still be surprised by opponents whom he has never fought before.
As a gauge of the extent of his speed, he has been able to land 518 blows in a few seconds, during a brief ice-skating skirmish with Mikado Sanzenin, even before undergoing Cologne's speed training. Afterwards, he was able to land hundreds of punches on Ryoga so swiftly that it looked like a single strike, or catch over a hundred pebbles from the latter's Bakusai Tenketsu rock explosion within at most a few seconds. Thus he is able to move at supersonic speeds, but generally only uses it in combat situations.
Ryoga's regular Shi-shi Hokodan (a technique created to clear out cave-ins, or to help blow tunnels through the earth) can either knock him out in one blow, or require a few to several shots, depending on the latter's focus. This version even managed to stun Ranma for a few seconds when Ryoga was turned into a small child. Simply being grazed by the outermost limit of the ultimate version was enough to instantly knock him out, despite attempting to lessen the impact with his weakened Moko Takabisha. Although a later, apparently vastly diminished/worn out (no change was noticeable in the size of the crater) attempt, during the second round of their fight, only stunned him for a minute at most, and he was able to handle them much better by distracting Ryoga into absorbing most of the impact. He is durable enough to withstand the full power of Ryu Kumon's large iron Buddha-statue splitting, "demon god assault bomb" vacuum blade-barrage, and immediately continue to fight afterwards, (which, at the very least, would qualify him as bulletproof), managed to withstand exposure to Rouge's and Saffron's firestorms, and has fallen hundreds of meters into solid stone with only minor bruisings. Regarding his limits, when in a state of surprise, a single strike from Taro in his cursed form almost rendered female Ranma unconscious after crashing into a stone palisade. Although later, during their aerial battle against Rouge, he was only momentarily stunned.
Happosai's smaller Happo-daikarin are also shown as capable of downing him in one strike, which is understandable, given that they have proved able to repeatedly do the same to Taro's cursed 'monster' form, but he's withstood them on other occasions, so it apparently depends on the force his grandmaster puts into them.
Ranma's strength seems to be portrayed somewhat inconsistently. He broke his legs from the impact of a considerable fall while carrying four girls, but was likely still severely weakened from poison at the time, so his peak effort should be multiplied. Male Ranma proved unable to get out when stuck under an 90-100 ton large iron bell, but wasn't significantly motivated. Female Ranma almost effortlessly pushed a boulder several times her size, weighing at least 40-tonnes, into the mouth of the Yamata-Orochi while swimming underwater, when supremely determined to save Akane from being eaten, and also managed to support the pressure Ryoga exerted on two enormous floating slabs of ice, several stories tall, when the latter was standing on her head. Thus, he would presumably have succeeded with better leverage and motivation.
His naïveté or overconfidence have been taken advantage of by new foes. Unless he cannot possibly win without extensive cheating, whether through trickery, severe distraction or sucker-punch combinations, (like in battles against Happosai, Herb, Ryoga or Taro-monster) he tends to fight fairly while expecting them to follow the same conduct. Craftier opponents have sometimes used this assumption to their advantage against him. An example of this is when Cologne held back her true power, allowing Ranma to believe that he had the edge. With this she was able to trick him into a deal: If he lost, he would marry Shampoo immediately. Flushed with his success so far, he recklessly accepted. Afterwards, Cologne unleashed her true power, surprising and nearly defeating him. Taro has also managed to goad him into repeated sucker-punch attacks.Given his ability to contend with Ryoga, who by all appearances could exert force equivalent to lifting a few dozen thousand tons under optimal circumstances, he must be at least a fourth as strong himself, and possibly even up to half as strong. Although comparatively weaker, Ranma seems to have superior conscious control of his abilities, and can more easily dial it back during basic social interactions, while Ryoga occasionally breaks anything he touches. That said, he has stated outright that he generally honours his opponents' pride by fighting seriously, and refuses to give up both for himself and because he thinks a hollow victory would never be satisfying in a battle between honourable men. This is most noted in battles with Mousse and Gosunkugi, but he has also occasionally restrained himself, as in battles with Akane, Shampoo, or (initially) Ukyo and Konatsu. As a gauge of female Ranma's hitting power, a few minutes of focusing her energies proved sufficient to split a 3m diameter boulder (stated and shown to be impervious to the conventional efforts of the island resort owner), with a single strike, while male Ranma managed to immediately shatter a 2m-2.5m ordinary boulder that had been thrown at him by Pantyhose Taro.
It often seems like Ranma cannot, or will not, accept the possibility of defeat, regardless of how outmatched he is, although his confidence can be shaken enough to not be able to use the Moko Takabisha. He generally takes every opportunity to brag about his inflated sense of skill, arrogant in the face of hurt feelings or possible payback, a mistake he has sometimes made after temporarily tricking and trapping/sucker-attacking the overwhelmingly superior Happosai.
As the story progresses, Ranma learns and uses numerous martial art styles, several of them ridiculous or virtually useless, such as Martial Arts Figure Skating, Martial Arts Tea Ceremony, Martial Arts Dining, and Martial Arts Cheerleading. Although he's never been seen to have use for them outside of the original environment, he commonly purports himself to be able to win any competition in which martial arts are involved, but frequently has to use unorthodox methods against superior foes. Regardless, his confidence and unwillingness to ever accept defeat has so far enabled him to in some manner, handle most challenges in his path.
- In most of Ranma's official artwork he is shown in both forms as if they are separate beings.
- In the English and Japanese versions, Ranma is voiced by Richard Ian Cox and Kappei Yamaguchi who are also known for voicing Inuyasha from Inuyasha, Takahashi's next manga series after Ranma ½. The two characters are similar in terms of personality and behavior. Inuyasha's human form also bears a strong physical resemblance to Ranma.
- Ranma's female form in the anime bears a strong resemblance to Suzuki Linn/Kotetsu from the anime and manga, Adventures of Kotetsu.
- Ranma's male form bears a slight resemblance to Kensei Ma in his teenaged years from the anime and manga, History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi.
- Ranma appearance in the first season also bears a resemblance to Kyosuke Kasuga from Kimagure Orange Road.
- Like Rinne Rokudō, he is unable to skate.