The Best and Worst Characters of Ranma 1/2 (morality-wise)

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I love Ranma 1/2. Everyone other anime fan in America as a kid watched either Sailor Moon or Dragon Ball Z. I obsessed over a show about Japanese teenagers who challenged each other to martial arts bouts and threw cold water on the ones cursed with weird transformations.

It’s awesome.

Someone gave me the idea to do some sort of subjective ranking, and I thought about doing so based on the character’s morality. By the end of this journey, I ended up learning a lot more about the show and why I like it so much. There’s a lot of intention behind its insanity.

For the purposes of simplifying my analyses, I’m using Moral Foundations Theory and assigned a score from 0 to 3 for each category to the most recognizable characters of the show. Below are the foundations.

  • Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm
  • Fairness: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating
  • Loyalty: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal
  • Respect: submitting to tradition and authority; opposite of subversion
  • Purity: dislike for disgusting things or actions; opposite of degradation

Let’s get into it!

15. Happosai

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The grandmaster of Anything Goes Martial Arts, Happosai is the most despised character in the show, loathed by characters and fandom alike. His crippling addiction to stealing women’s underwear goes frequently unchecked. He does help Ranma… but more just to grope her in female form.

If there’s a way for me to rank him any lower, let me know.

Total Score: 1

14. Tendo Nabiki

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Despite her middle-sister filial love, Nabiki is extremely amoral. She loves money and will do anything to pursue it, often via blackmail. Her preferred mark is Ranma, who can’t retaliate without risking her future sister-in-law’s wrath. She gets points for her purity, as she appreciates the finer things in life.

Total Score: 4

13. Kunou Kodachi

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Even to her own brother Tatewaki, “The Black Rose” Kodachi is a treacherous rhythmic gymnastics expert who insists on having Ranma all to herself. There is little to like about Kodachi, as she’ll resort to poison and scheming to get her way. Plus, that laugh of hers is just the stuff of pure wickedness.

Total Score: 6

12. Shampoo

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Don’t let this adorable Chinese Amazonian ramen peddler fool you. Shampoo is manipulative. She’s often scheming, play-acting, or ruthless poisoning others to advance her position with her fiancé: Ranma. Her love for her grandmother Cologne is her main redeeming quality, perhaps her only one.

Total Score: 7

11. Kunou Tatewaki

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The self-proclaimed “Blue Thunder of Furinkan High,” Kunou’s ego often gets the better of him. He frequently loses to Ranma in a fight and gets rejected by Akane and Ranma-girl. Nobody except his ninja slave Sasuke takes him seriously. His quixotic nature makes him a favorite of mine.

Total Score: 8

10. Saotome Genma

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Far more likable in panda form, Genma is a terrible father to Ranma. His parenting methods range from borderline to literally abusive, most notably when he tried to cure his son’s fear of cats by throwing him into … cat pits. Genma’s more interested in their family’s martial arts legacy than being a dad.

Total Score: 9

9. Saotome Ranma

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The show’s eponymous character is midway through this list. But how?

Ranma’s immaturity gets the best of him. He’s arrogant with everyone, and his abusive insults towards Akane in particular are egregious. He’s quite sexist despite being part-female. When he accepts his curse as more a part of his complex identity, Ranma’s actually quite a pleasant hero.

Total Score: 10

8. Tendo Soun

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The overzealous head of the Tendo household, Soun is overly emotional and often meddling in Ranma and Akane’s relationship. He struggles to stand up to Happosai’s lecherous ways. However, compared to Genma he seems to be a better father to his daughters and gets points for that.

Total Score: 11

7. Kuonji Ukyou

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Okonomiyaki martial arts chef Ukyou is my personal favorite. She has the tragic backstory of a supervillain, but grew up level-headed and charming. However, she’s not above the occasional scheme to win over Ranma’s affections. She’s at her worst when up against rival fiancee Shampoo.

Still, I’m #TeamUkyou all the way.

Total Score: 12

6. Cologne

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Ancient Chinese Amazonian leader Cologne is purely invested in the well-being of her granddaughter-in-law Shampoo. She deals with her fair share of sexism and ageism and will put anyone in their place. Cologne enables Shampoo’s bad behavior, but she’s … old. She’s just treacherous by proxy.

Total Score: 12

5. Mousse

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Martial artist/magician Mousse has a sincere, committed love for Shampoo. He would even give up a chance at her so that she’d love him freely. (She won’t). He is considered talented and handsome, but nobody seems to care. His schemes and tricks make him rank much lower than he should.

Total Score: 12

4. Tendo Akane

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The true protagonist, Akane’s aggressive nature affects her other skills and interferes with her attempts to connect with others. In truth, she is actually very sweet, especially to little pigs. She suffers from a gender double standard, as if she’s expected to be feminine, but she’s a fighter by heart.

Total Score: 13

3. Hibiki Ryouga

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Ryouga is considered one of the kindest characters of the show, especially to Akane. He’s good-natured and oblivious to wicked behavior, and even his antagonism towards Ranma is balanced with a sense of honor and even friendship. He’s only irritable whenever he gets lost. Which is all the time.

Total Score: 13

2. Ono Tofu

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Extremely kind and charming, no one doubts why Akane crushed on the high school chiropractor for so long. Even Ranma gets it without feeling insecure. Dr. Tofu, however, is a dangerous malpracticing physician in the presence of Kasumi. He’ll shatter bones and dislocate joints without any consequence.

Total Score: 14

1. Tendo Kasumi

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The eldest Tendo daughter is a straight-up Mary Sue character, always smiling and never flinching. Ever. There’s even an episode devoted to her lack of negative qualities. She tends to be unaffected by the insane circumstances all around her, which in itself could be a fundamentally amoral quality.

Total Score: 15

Why don’t we do a show about Kasumi then?

If Kasumi is the morally best character, why isn’t the show about her? Quite simply, she’s also boring compared to the others. Great stories require both internal and external conflict, and our titular character literally changes his gender when doused with cold water.

That’s what I learned through this analysis. We’re not interested in the extremes as much as we are in the middle of the pack. Perfection is boring compared to those with flaws who struggle like the rest of us. Despite its insane premise, Ranma 1/2 is far more interesting when it’s … human.

Special thanks to Stephanie Trinh for planting the idea in my head. Should I keep this conversation going elsewhere? Let me know!

— Lee

Write with intention. Think with compassion.

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