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 that 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 in Shonen 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.
The only son of Genma and Nodoka Saotome, Ranma was taken from his home by his father when approximately 2 years old to begin a 13-14-year training trip to perfect his skills in the martial arts. Genma was only able to convince his wife to let them go by promising him to raise his son as a "man among men" upon pain of death for both of them. He signed a pledge and had his infant son sign it via hand print. However Ranma remained ignorant of his pledge for years and did not learn of it until his mother resurfaced in his life and Genma prevented them from meeting face to face due to his curse.
While he was still a child, he befriended Ukyo Kuonji, the daughter of a traveling okonomiyaki chef and martial artist, although he was unaware that she was a girl. Genma engaged Ranma to Ukyo in exchange for her father's food cart, but he abandoned Ukyo and ran off with the cart without ever telling Ranma about the engagement or correcting him about Ukyo's real gender.
Later, near the end of the trip, Genma took Ranma to a training ground in China named Jusenkyo that few people used due to the springs being cursed. Falling into them would transform a person into whatever first fell into it and drowned. Not knowing this, and not having the patience to listen to a warning from the local guide, Genma attempted to train with Ranma atop the bamboo poles which jutted up out of the pools. When Ranma knocked Genma into Shonmaoniichuan/"Spring of 'Drowned' Panda", he was surprised to watch a panda emerge from the pond and leap onto one of the poles. Genma, now cursed, was able to hit Ranma into Nyannichuan (Niángníquán 娘溺泉), or the "Spring of 'Drowned' Girl". Thus he turns into a female version of his original form when splashed with cold water, which is only (temporarily) reversible through contact with hot water. Directly after this, Ranma and Genma, still in their cursed forms, the two were looking for food and found the Chinese Amazon Tribe and accidentally ate the the first prize food causing Shampoo to challenge Ranma to a fight. Ranma wins, but Shampoo gives her the Kiss of Death and had since hunted her and Genma down all over China. Sometime after that he had eaten a large bowl of porridge made from Dragon's Whisker which would make his hair grow at ridiculous rates when he was a man. The cook of the porridge then gave him a sliver of Dragon's Whisker to seal the effect until it wears off which leads to Ranma constantly keeping his hair as a braided pigtail even after the effects wore off (before the incident he tied his hair back in a simple, loose ponytail).
Before this incident, Genma had made an arrangement with his best friend Soun Tendo that Ranma would marry one of the latter's daughters and carry on the Tendo Dojo. After learning of Ranma's condition, Soun's daughters Kasumi and Nabiki began to insist that Ranma choose their younger sister Akane, and rationalized that a tomboy would be a more appropriate fiancee for a man who transforms into a woman. Although Akane and Ranma were initially unwilling to be engaged, they develop feelings for each other which they generally struggling to deny or otherwise avoid openly expressing throughout the entire series.
Ranma and Genma moved in as house guests of the Tendos. Since then, Ranma has endured a series of challenges from his various rivals, new adversaries, and picking up two new suitors and renewing his relationship with a former one. Female Ranma has also received a few male suitors, the most persistent of which is Tatewaki Kuno.
After receiving a letter from his wife, Genma revealed that he had promised that Ranma would return "a man among men", and that if she were to discover the truth about Ranma's transformation into a girl, they would be forced to commit seppuku. Therefore, to visit with his mother, Ranma would change into a girl during her visit, and presented himself as "Akane's cousin Ranko," accompanied by her pet, "Mr. Panda."
Ranma made several attempts to talk to his mother without revealing his curse to prove his manliness, but was generally thwarted by Genma or circumstances from doing so. However he eventually had enough of hiding from her and was able to save her from falling into the sea, proving his manhood. Nodoka soon after discovered that he and Ranko were the same person, but accepted his curse.
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.
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.
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 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 favors 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.
When Ranma was young, his father tried to teach him the "Nekoken" ("Cat Fist") technique. The training technique described the trainee being covered in fish sausage and thrown into a pit of starving cats, but that only made him afraid of them. Only then did Genma read the final page of the training book, which stated that it was "...just another technique that would only be used by a total idiot. Anyone who would teach it should have his head examined", but has stated that he fell for it completely. Genma then tried to desensitize his son by repeating the training, covering the boy in sardines, salted sardines, or fish cakes instead. His efforts only aggravated the phobia. Ranma became permanently afraid of cats; he couldn't even get near one and would usually faint if one surprised him.
The Nekoken turned out not to be a "technique" at all, but an induced psychosis. If Ranma's fear reaches a critical point (the result of being surrounded by cats and/or unable to get away from them for an extended period of time) his mind retreats into a condition of galeanthropy, the delusion that he is a cat. This state manifests by fighting like an unrestrained wild animal, using his power more efficiently, as well as the ability to attack his surroundings with air pressure swipes powerful enough to shred trees, floorboards or water blasts. He once willingly entered the Nekoken in order to aid him in a beach side (Snow Mountain winter resort in the anime) fight with Cologne (for a "Phoenix Pill" that would allow him to tolerate hot water again). To do so, he tied Shampoo to his back and ran back into the surf, turning the her into a cat.
However he lacks the ability to strategize or use signature moves, as his galeanthropy is so strong his mentality also becomes that of a cat. So long as he is not being directly threatened, Ranma is content to simply climb trees, chew catnip, scratch on bark, lounge in the sun and generally act like any cat would. He can easily be outsmarted, having only the mental capability of an animal. So long as the opponent can keep their calm and appear nonthreatening, he can be swiftly mollified. Most notably, when he first enters the Nekoken, Kuno immediately realized how to avoid being attacked by Ranma and sent him running off by throwing a stick and shouting "fetch!", after which Ranma decided to climb a tree - in the anime, this was changed to Sasuke throwing a fish sausage, which caused Ranma to cease mauling Kuno and go chasing after it; upon snatching it, he leapt out of the window and up into a tree, where he remained until Akane tried to calm him down with catnip.
His 'cat' mentality is territorial, playful, sleepy, and has an extremely limited attention span, easily losing interest or being distracted by a thrown stick/plaything or being drugged by catnip. However, he comes out of it after calming down/taking a nap in the lap of someone he trusts or landing in water. These have included an old woman who lived in his neighborhood as a child, as well as Akane, much to her embarrassment. Dousing him with water can also work. Ranma remembers almost nothing of what goes on while he is in Nekoken mode, which can cause great problems if his behavior was unacceptable by human standards.
While Ranma's phobia seems to have turned slightly less drastic over the course of the manga, it does not help that Shampoo, who is obsessed with him, is cursed to turn into a cat when hit with water, or that Maomolin the 'monster cat' is counted among his adversaries.
A less obvious, but possibly greater fear that Ranma has is that of defeat. If he suffers a loss that he knows he cannot do anything about, he becomes despondent. Extremely proud of his abilities, he feels humiliated by even one setback. When this happens, he becomes obsessed with avenging his defeat in another battle. He fears only the possibility that he might not be able to do so, even with sufficient training, under these circumstances. But that has not yet prevented him from trying.
Ranma leads one of the most bizarre love lives in anime and manga thanks to his father's foolishness and some bad luck. He has multiple fiancées, none of whom seem willing to give up on him, and who all have a legitimate engagement with him.
The first fiancée featured in the manga is Akane Tendo, to whom he has apparently been promised from a young age thanks to a deal made between his father, Genma and his father's oldest friend, Soun Tendo. Their relationship gets off to a rocky start thanks to Ranma's curse, Akane's short temper, and his smart mouth, but they do end up caring for each other quite deeply; though they rarely acknowledge it openly. They constantly bicker, but recurrently in a non-serious, almost comradely, manner. They are almost always willing to help each other out of tight spots, and will risk their life in an instant to ensure the other's safety.
When they first met, Ranma was a girl and seemed to feel a shy friendship with her. When Akane thought he was a pervert after she first encountered his male form as a naked stranger awaiting her in the Tendo bath, he retaliated through insults. He did, however, retain a fondness for her, as shown in several awkward moments. Even though they often argue with each other, he has never caused Akane any actual physical harm, and has sometimes taken damage (in one case severe damage) for her. During the two times they've seriously fought (super-soba and living battle-dougi) he mostly limited himself to attempts to either restrain or talk her down, though he didn't seem so concerned during their initial dougi-battles. Ranma did however beat Shampoo twice in a fight, defeated Ukyo in a fight (before he found out she was a girl), and beat Kodachi in martial arts rhythmic gymnastics.
The next fiancée to show up was Shampoo, a Chinese Amazon, who went from trying to kill Ranma in his female form, courtesy of some extremely strict tribal laws, to wanting to marry him after Ranma accidentally knocked her unconscious in his male form to stop her from attacking Akane. He temporarily drove her off by using his curse to confuse her, but she soon returned, now cursed to turn into a cat with cold water, making her aware of his situation as a male cursed to become female. Shampoo has stated variations on "obstacle is for killing" as a personal philosophy, and made occasional failed attempts to kill Akane, Ukyo and even Nabiki or Hinako, to prevent them from getting close to Ranma, whom she considers to be her husband. She hasn't been above attempting to permanently enslaving Ranma into loving her through the use of a magic pills or imprinting eggs. When angered at him, she has been known to take advantage of Ranma's fear of cats and torment him with her cursed form. However, while he has stated outright that he views her as a pest, and has occasionally shown outrage at her cruel or completely ruthless moments, Ranma usually treats her in a comradely manner.
The third and final fiancée to appear was Ukyo Kuonji, a childhood friend of Ranma's. He did not know about the arrangement Genma had made with her father and believed Ukyo was male at first. She initially wanted revenge, thanks to Genma's abandoning her and stealing her dowry, leading her to be considered a social pariah, and believing Ranma was an accessory. During the subsequent fight, Ranma finally learned she was a girl by accidentally grabbing her breasts, then pouring hot water on her to confirm she did not have a Jusenkyo curse. Ukyo was still upset, and he offered to let her beat him up in restitution, but turned extremely unwilling when she took the offer. Ranma told Ukyo that she was cute, to give her faith in her feminity, and let go of the grudge, turning her heavily embarrassed. When he then explicitly presented his 'uncute' fiancée Akane and they didn't seem to get along, Ukyo immediately forgave him and, to his surprise, handed over an okonomiyaki with a heart on it to indicate the restoration of their friendship. She has since treated their engagement very seriously and often has romantic visions of their future together. She helped him recover his strength from Happosai's moxibustion, but was willing to marry him even if he remained weak for life. She also offered her restaurant as collateral to help him win against the Gambling King and was willing to give up her work and greatest passion to be a proper wife for Ranma.
There are others who have tried to win Ranma over - both male and female, depending on the form he was in at the time. Although he does not return their affections, he's not above using them to get what he wants either. Two of his more determined suitors are Tatewaki Kuno and his sister, Kodachi. The anime introduces other suitors as well, though they are mostly for laughs and not meant to be taken very seriously.
Despite his protests and his pride, he does have strong feelings for Akane. By the end of the manga, he has admitted to himself that he loves her, even if it was left unclear if he mustered the courage to admit it out loud. Despite this, Ranma will often go to great lengths to avoid making any decision on the matter at all. He also shows no real interest in rectifying the situation with his other fiancées. In fact, in a few instances, he has gone out of his way to ensure that things don't change.
The stated reason in the original manga version of the "Reversal Jewel" story being that he needs to feel attractive, and "win" any type of confrontation. He here went out of his way to ensure that Shampoo didn't give him up and demanded an expression of love from Ukyo purely for ego gratification, being satisfied when she conceded. The preceding story arc also introduced Ranma's mother and the "man among men" pledge, which, more speculatively, may have factored into it. He has been shown as extremely enthusiastic to get rid of the curse in several instances, so further loose speculation could make a case that his 'masculine pride' is more easily wounded than it used to be.
However, Ranma was also unwilling to hurt Shampoo's feelings during the onsen race, or Ukyo's during the "secret sauce" arc, so his feelings on the subject seem torn between selfishness and consideration. But beyond Shampoo's introduction story, and briefly during the aforementioned "secret sauce" story, he's never followed through with a serious effort to set either Shampoo or Ukyo loose, though it's unclear if he ever could in the former case. He has, however, chided Mousse for his failures in winning Shampoo, to "make her stop pestering him", and he was happy for Ryoga and Ukyo when he misinterpreted their intentions to split him and Akane up in the "Tunnel of Lost Love," assuming them to be in a relationship. He's also occasionally saved them both from danger, though not nearly as frequently as Akane. It seems that as long as the separation was amicable, he would not mind seeing Shampoo or Ukyo with other people. Although in the case of Akane, any evidence that she has shown interest in another man, more specifically Ryoga or Shinnosuke, has either driven him to paranoia, depression or outrageous schemes.
Ranma can occasionally be somewhat romantic, but he has a difficult time expressing his feelings. He becomes nervous when confronted with romance, such as with Shampoo during the Reversal Jewel story, or in numerous moments with Akane. Even in the beginning of the series he complimented her haircut, when they were alone on a bridge. His softer side more prominently started to emerge in the latter half of the series. He accepted a hug after coming home alive from his confrontation with Herb. and on their way back to Nerima after the Yamata Orochi arc he, with difficulty, forced himself to take the initiative to hold her hand. Ranma was also relieved after accidentally proclaiming his true feelings during the battle dougi debacle and held her in his lap at the end. He was embarrassed by advances from the far more sensual spirit-doll possessed Akane but hesitantly accepted them. Such moments have generally been interrrupted by spying, or othervise interfering, family members, turning the pair very embarrassed.
Although even near the end, during the "love leaf" Tanabata chapter, they remained extremely tense about taking the first step in expressing it, while attempting to tauntingly goad the other into confessing, but in the end they had a quickly interrupted romantic moment. Even during the final chapter, after the concluding battle with Saffron, Ranma was unwilling to admit outright, but this time Akane implicitly knew it for a fact anyway. The end of the manga strongly suggests that Ranma and Akane will marry once they have sorted out their tangled personal affairs. Many people suggests that the wedding will never happen because of the other fiancees of Ranma, which will never accept defeat.
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 pummeled.
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 defenses 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.
Ranma has several rivals. However, his main opponents are:
- Ryoga Hibiki is Ranma's primary rival in the martial arts, and Ranma has stated outright that he is the only one that he truly considers as such. If shorter battles are included he has beaten Ranma roughly twice as many times as the reverse, despite being almost entirely self-taught, occasionally in seconds when sufficiently upset. He has a non-existent sense of direction, and used to hold a grudge because Ranma accidentally cursed him to turn into a piglet, which makes his constant lost wandering through the wilderness even more dangerous. Their later rivalry circled around simultaneously competing to exceed each other, general annoyance and, most importantly, fighting for Akane's affection. Ranma frequently put on a disguise to fool Ryoga, when he needed something, wanted to make fun of him, or the latter somehow risked to get 'too close' to Akane despite his extreme prudish shyness. This continued until near the end of the series, when Ryoga got a girlfriend of his own. Although they constantly fight or banter, Ranma eventually comes to regard Ryoga as a friend and helps him out on various occasions, most notably hiding his curse from Akane, who keeps his piglet form as a pet. In addition to at least thrice having a crucial part in preventing Akane from being killed, Ryoga has also repeatedly risked himself to assist or save Ranma's life during serious conflicts, including rescuing female Ranma from drowning even in piglet form, entering a closing chasm to unlock his curse, or preventing male Ranma from being eaten alive. Having done so several more times than the opposite. Despite sometimes shouting out "shine"/"die", he's actually always been content to beat Ranma up during the many confrontations when he's prevailed. As time passed in the series, their rivalry has turned mostly friendly; as the two will sometimes talk in a civil conversation, and recurrently help each other out, although they are still easily brought to frenetically compete with each other if a problem arises, such as in the mushroom story, and Ranma sometimes still finds it amusing to make fun of Ryoga through zany minor schemes, which Ryoga in turn finds quite annoying.
- Mousse is angry at Ranma for taking Shampoo away from him, even though she has found him severely annoying since they were children and even stated outright that she hates him. Since Shampoo only likes extremely strong men, Mousse tries to prove his worth by beating her declared groom, but she has been enthusiastic in sabotaging his prospects if she suspects that he may succeed. In three of his fights with Ranma he has come very close to prevailing, despite handicaps in each of them. That said, he is more interested in winning Shampoo than beating Ranma and was enthusiastic at the prospect of a wedding between the latter and Akane.
- Tatewaki Kuno is Ranma's rival at school and conversely his suitor for his female counterpart, who he knows as the "pigtailed girl". He is the only student at Furinkan High School who does not know that Ranma can change into a girl, disgusting Ranma by his repeated silly attempts at intimacy. When Nabiki told him that the "pigtailed girl" belongs to Ranma, body and soul, he reached the conclusion that Ranma has enslaved her, but after this incident the rivalry returned to its previous level. He also pursues Akane's affection, and has tried to convince Ranma to hook up with his sister or Nabiki instead.
- Happosai is the perverted founder and grandmaster of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, and is mainly interested in stealing food or female underwear, peeping, or being a general nuisance. He occasionally attempts to force female Ranma to model lingerie for him, or male Ranma to acknowledge his superiority as a humble student to a teacher, but Ranma continues to refuse his requests. As previously mentioned he was willing to turn Ranma powerless for life, when the latter sufficiently displeased him. He is technically far too dangerous to be considered a rival, rather than an irritant and antagonist.
- Kodachi Kuno, a master of Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics, is Tatewaki's eccentric, exhibitionistic and aristocratic sister. She has viewed Ranma as her chivalrous knight ever since he rescued her from a fall from the Tendo Dojo's roof. She regularly tries to paralyse him and so and have her way with him. She has stated that she desires him as an overwhelmingly enamored servant. Like her brother, she is oblivious to Ranma's curse and sees his female half as a rival to gain the affection of the male half. Kodachi and her brother share a strong sibling rivalry, in part because they are each in love with the other's object of hatred.
- Pantyhose Taro is one of Ranma's few almost completely evil recurrent adversaries. Ranma has consistently helped him out to change his name and saved his life, but despite this Taro is willing to betray and kill him without a second thought, and remains completely unrepentant about his behavior no matter how charitably others treat him. Rather than training to improve, his focus seems to lie in finding shortcuts to enhance his very powerful monster form, through bathing in the Spring of Drowned Octopus, or seeking to claim the 'power-source' of Rouge/'Asura'. He has even harboured plans to take over the world some day, but is apparently quite clueless in this endeavour.
Ranma had other rivals throughout the series, although most of them only appeared in a single story arc, such as Mariko Konjo, Ryu Kumon, Herb and Saffron. They all tried to kill and/or tormented Ranma for various reasons. In the first case for love, in the second for legacy and fulfillment, and in the final two for petty pride, sadistic vengeance and conflicting interests. But unlike his primary foes, none of them have apparently had motivation to keep their rivalry, alternately visit the Nerima area, after the conclusion of their conflict.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Mōko 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ranma is a playable character in all of the video games that have been based on the series, with both of his forms available as playable characters in the fighting games. In the live action special his male form is portrayed by Kento Kaku while his female form is portrayed by Natsuna Wantanabe. He wears a red long-sleeved Chinese top with a circle pattern and black pants. He can already use the Mōko Takabisha but struggles to master it in his female form.
- 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.
- Both Ranma's Seiyuus (Kappei Yamaguchi and Megumi Hayashibara) would provide their voices together on another work of Rumiko Takahashi: the parents of Kyōkai no Rinne's protagonist (Sabato Rokudō and Otome Rokudō). Interestingly, the protagonist Rinne Rokudō and Ranma share some similar traits:
- They don't appreciate their father.
- They were separated from their mother when they were babies and got to meet them around 15 years later.
- They are unable to skate.
- Ranma makes a cameo in episode 4 of Kyokai no Rinne as a doll in a claw machine, along with Akane, P-chan, Genma's panda form, and Lum from Urusei Yatsura. However, his hair is brown instead of black.
- 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. This is because Masako Goto, the character designer for KOR, was the art director for the first season.