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Yeah, I know that she has her faults, but when Rumiko Takahashi is on top of her game, she can put out some lovely art and extremely funny stories. And since it's come up during my cleaning efforts, let's look at her introduction of Nodoka Saotome.

This is from the Viz edition; back in 1992 they still printed manga in floppies, and flipped so they read left to right. (Though they'd eased up a bit on "no Japanese words we can possibly avoid.") "Ranma 1/2" Volume Ten, #7, 10 pages of 31.





Our story opens with a flashback to when Akane was in kindergarten (we can tell by the stereotypical kindergarten uniform she's wearing.) She's crying on the sidewalk, and a woman (Mrs. Tendou, her mother, the first time we see her face in the manga) approaches to find out what's wrong. Turns out Akane bought a flower to bring her mother, but tripped, and the stem is broken. Happily, Mrs. Tendou is able to find a vase that just shows the unbroken top part. She soothes Akane's tears, and Akane declares her love for Mommy.

Kasumi wakes Akane from her dream to remind her what day this is.

We next see the Tendou family and their houseguests at the cemetary. Genma has come as a panda, presumably to avoid wearing the ragged gi that is his usual garment. Kasumi waters the grave as Akane lays a bouquet and Souun talks to his departed wife. Even Nabiki stands respectfully. It turns out that this is the first time anyone's directly told Ranma that Mrs. Tendou is dead, when Akane was quite small.



Later, Ranma is back in his less formal Chinese outfit, and walking on the canal fences as is his usual practice. He stops to reflect on the concept of having a mother, and assumes that only a freak would marry his father. It turns out that the fence segment Ranma's on is labeled "Danger Unstable Do Not Stand On Top" and starts to fall over. Ranma quickly saves himself by hopping to another segment...labeled "Also Unstable."

Now female, Ranma is spotted by a blurry-looking woman, who reaches down to him with a long cloth bundle. Ranma tries to pull himself up with it, but...



It doesn't come across well in the translation, but Ranma uses very rough masculine speech even while in female form, thus Nodoka's remarks.

Ranma reflects on how nice the strange lady is. Later, he returns home, still female, only to be greeted by his father (in human form) saying that they're leaving town immediately. But before he can leave the premises, Souun trips him, and asks for an explanation. A postcard slips from Genma's blouse, which says "I am coming to visit now. Sincerely, Nodoka." Genma is tied up and Ranma doses himself with hot water, as the family tries to figure out who this Nodoka person is. Ranma thinks it might be the owner of a restaurant that Genma stiffed on the bill. Genma pretends shame at how his son thinks of him. Nabiki thinks Nodoka might be from a collection agency, and Kasumi thinks it's a dreadful thing to steal from an old lady (Nodoka being an old-fashioned name.) Genma protests that she's not an old lady.

Genma rips free of the ropes to say that Nodoka is Ranma's--Yes, Ranma's what? At that moment, a female voice is heard at the entrance. Genma panics, puts a pillow over his head, and says "I'm sorry I took him away!"



Akane is very pleased for Ranma, but he's not so sure...he doesn't remember his mother at all. Another female voice is heard at the entrance, and the Tendou family happily rushes off to see the visitor, but before Ranma can follow...




The visitor politely asks to see Genma and Ranma Saotome, but there's a flashback to just moments before when Genma asked Souun not to reveal their whereabouts. So Souun claims that the sought people are out on "a...um...mission."



Back in his male form, Ranma asks why he should hide, having done nothing wrong.

Meanwhile, Nodoka explains to the Tendou family that she has in fact been waiting all these years at the Saotome home for her wandering relatives. She flashes back to Genma (then with hair) trying to take Ranma away, and her hitting Genma with progressively larger objects in an effort to make him stop. Genma explains that in order for Ranma to be worthy of taking over the Saotome School of Anything-Goes Martial Arts, he must not be softened by a mother's love. It's what's best for Ranma. The Tendou family is impressed by the sacrifice that Nodoka made. But she says that Genma also made a vow.

Abruptly, there's a boy's voice off-panel, followed by scuffling noises and a splash. When Nodoka goes to check, she finds female Ranma and a panda holding a sign that says "Hello, someone else's wife!" Ranma berates his father, and Nodoka tells him young ladies shouldn't use such language. Ranma's about to spill his actual gender when Akane interrupts to ask about that vow.



Back around the living room table, Noidoka explains that Genma had been writing to her all along, but the letters stopped abruptly just before he and Ranma were going to some training ground in China. Souun and Akane remember that it was the cursed springs of Jyuusenkyo that made Ranma turn into a girl--not, by definition, a man. Akane asks if Nodoka is really going to hold them to that--"Suicide is so...extreme!" In answer, Nodoka unwraps her cloth bundle to reveal the family katana. But as she's unsheathing it, it slips from her hand, nearly circumcising Ranma. Turns out Nodoka's a bit clumsy.




But surely that will never happen, because Ranma no doubt has grown up manly as can be. Right? Still, Nodoka wishes he had been there so she could see him, even if only for a moment. Ranma starts trying to say something, then Nodoka asks his name.



It's late, and Nodoka is invited to stay the night, despite the danger. Akane wishes she could tell Nodoka the truth, sympathizing with the older woman. In the bath, Ranma complains about the suicide vow, while Genma explains that Nodoka "is a woman of the highest principles." She would surely enforce the vow, so the father and son will simply have to live the rest of their lives in the alternate forms to avoid detection. Nodoka thinks she hears Ranko in the tub, and comes in to share the bath.

And that's where the issue ends. To relieve the suspense, I can reveal that Ranma and Genma manage to keep Nodoka from finding out the truth before she leaves. But since she's a recurring character....



Your thoughts and comments?

Suggested tags
creator: Rumiko Takahashi
medium: manga
publisher: Viz Comics
series: 30 days of scans
title: Ranma 1/2

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