Ryoga Hibiki (響 良牙 Hibiki Ryōga?) is Ranma Saotome's eternal rival and a friend to him, the only one he has outright stated to truly consider as such, arguably the tritagonist, and one of the most powerful fighters in the series.
A few years prior to the events of the series Ryoga meet Ranma at his junior high school where the pair soon became rivals as Ranma continually got the last pieces of bread during lunch, usually knocking down Ryoga in the process as he attempted to do the same. This eventually lead Ryoga to challenge Ranma at the vacant lot behind his home. Ranma, however, left after waiting for three days, with Ryoga finally arriving on the fourth; deepening his anger towards Ranma.
Shortly after this Ranma left for China, prompting Ryoga to follow him there. Some time after heading to China Ryoga found himself helplessly lost in Jusenkyo where he was knocked off a cliff by a recently-cursed Ranma, resulting in him falling into the Heitowennīchuan spring and acquiring his own curse. Following a narrow escape from nearly being eaten by Genma and the Jusenkyo Guide, Ryoga began his return journey to Japan.
After finally returning to Japan, Ryoga started to try and track down Ranma. Despite getting lost several times, Ryoga eventually finds himself outside Furinkan High School where he soon finds Ranma to get his revenge. Ranma, however, doesn't remember Ryoga, much to his annoyance. Once Ranma finally does recall Ryoga's name the pair begin fighting until Ryoga loses sight of Ranma and storms through the school looking for him, before getting lost in the streets of Furinkan once more.
Helplessly lost yet again Ryoga sends Ranma a challenge letter, but takes several days before he finally returns to Furinkan in order to fulfill it. With Ryoga finally back, the pair quickly begin their rematch. Ranma and Ryoga finds themselves evenly matched, despite Ryoga chaining himself Ranma so that he can't "run away" again. The fight soon leaves the school grounds and heads over to a local park, during which time Ryoga learns of Ranma's curse. Unfortunately for the pair their fight is brought to an abrupt end once Akane's hair is cut by one of Ryoga's bandanas. Several days later Ryoga finds the Tendo Dojo during a dark and stormy night and attempts to face Ranma once more, but has to flee prematurely when Akane (mistaking him for a burglar) knocks his umbrella out of his hand. Ranma soon deduces that Ryoga must have a curse too, but initially mistakes Ryoga for a neighbours dog before discovering that Ryoga's cursed form is actually that of a piglet (which Akane has adopted as her pet).
Shortly after Akane's challenge to Kodachi, Ryoga, upon seeing how poorly her training was going, decides to help Akane practice Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics before ultimately doing the same with Ranma when Akane is unable to participate. Unfortunately Ryoga himself is dragged into the match between Ranma and Kodachi as the latter decided to use him (shortly after being turned into his cursed form) as a way to handicap Ranma, but with little success.
Upon learning of Shampoo and her hatred towards Ranma, Ryoga wastes no time in threatening to change Ranma into his female from right in front of Shampoo. That same evening Ryoga also threw cold water over the male-Ranma so that Shampoo would continue her pursuit until ultimately falling into the Tendo's Koi pond himself. The next day, however, Ryoga himself is subjected to Shampoo's whim as she uses him as the main ingredient in the lunch she prepares especially for Ranma. Following Shampoo giving Akane the "Kiss of Death" as well, Ryoga watched the start of the fight between the pair, until being rendered unconscious by Shampoo. Ryoga is later asked by Ranma to "nearly" kill him so that he (Ranma) can get the shampoo that will restore Akane's memory, but Ryoga refuses in favour of him becoming Akane's fiancé instead. He then watches with the others as Ranma reveals his curse to Shampoo and she subsequently returns to China. Ryoga later joined Kuno, Kodachi and the Tendos in stopping Ranma from returning to China so that he could (seemingly) elope with Shampoo.
Ryoga's usual outfit consists of a yellow and black speckled bandana around his head, a yellow long sleeve tunic with pale yellow collar and the folded sleeves, black trousers with yellow leg bands around the ankles and a black sash-like belt and black Chinese shoes and pale yellow socks. He is sometimes shown wearing a pale yellow sleeveless shirt and his trousers are now dark blue. His hair, particularly the front fringe, is quite long, obscuring his bandana at the front. Quite often, Ryoga carries around a black backpack and a red bamboo umbrella either tucked into straps on top of his backpack or in his hand.
Before he was cursed into his P-chan form, he was seen wearing an indigo sleeveless shirt in matching pants, and his bandana is pale yellow.
In his P-chan form, Ryoga's clothes can be seen falling off when he got washed up by cold water in various occasions in every episode. He appears as a small black pig as his yellow and speckled bandanna on his head becomes his collar.
Ryoga's most notable characteristic is that, like his parents (and even his entire family), he has no sense of direction whatsoever. He is unable to go the right way, often sticking to the letter of any directions given to him, regardless of whether the path eventually turns. He has an inability to understand even the simplest of directions or draw any legible maps, once running the wrong way at the start of a three-legged race or getting lost in Shampoo's house for hours; looking for the exit. He cannot even follow someone pointing in the correct direction.
In the anime, this condition is worsened by Ryoga's ability to traverse obscene distances in surprisingly little time on foot. This, combined with Ryoga's complete lack of direction, results in him having essentially no idea where he is at any given time, which allows him to miss his destinations by insane margins.
Inversely, the manga depicts Ryoga needing much longer travel times, and has not explicitly been seen to swiftly and randomly traverse continents under his own power. However, in his first appearance he quickly overshot Tokyo by 500 kilometres twice in a row, apparently within the span of a few days. Through the aid of the Gekkaja, he also quickly made it all the way from Jusenkyo to Moscow and back while out to get some dumplings in Peking. His map was also once shown to contain a forest, a café, a road with a red car, the Tendo dojo, some Oni, China, and France, and he once sent Akane a postcard in which the photograph displayed that he had unwittingly traversed to Hong Kong. Ryoga's family house is within sight of Mount Fuji, where his dog Shirokuro and her puppies live.
Ryoga generally leads a nomadic lifestyle, and only occasionally manages to find his home. His poor sense of direction and his curse have regularly subjected him to imminent misery, constantly placing him lonely and lost in the wilderness, at the mercy of hungry predators. When first introduced, he is a very angry and seemingly unapproachable individual. Ryoga is very emotional, often following his heart rather than his head. However he has shown capability of using strategy when he is focused or lacking distractions. He is emotionally fragile, straightforward and naive. He regularly feels depressed, which thus far has served as the source for his chi projection. He is generally shy, humble and polite, especially around women. He is often easily tricked and used by some of the more manipulative characters, particularly Ranma, and turns extremely grateful, loyal and self-sacrificing for any kindness offered to him, and his compassion is just as overemotional as the rest of him, even bringing him to tears after realising that he is incapable of even trying to harm Ranma when the latter was weakened by Happosai. That said, while he is often used by Ranma, he's not above manipulating himself, albeit somewhat unknowingly. This is usually done in his P-Chan form. In addition, like many other characters in the series, Ryoga is always willing to blame others, mainly Ranma, for his misfortunes, regardless of how involved the other party was in them (for example blaming Ranma for not meeting him to fight, despite missing the fight being his own fault). Sometimes he cares for what happens to him, which makes him a friend of Ranma.
Ryoga is an exceptionally proficient martial artist, roughly comparable to Ranma, whom he has defeated or fought to a draw on many occasions. Unlike most cast members, Ryoga seems to be mostly self-taught, with only some of his special techniques passed on to him by others. When staying focused and keeping his emotions in control he proved efficient enough to simultaneously parry, disarm, and effortlessly overwhelm Kuno, Mousse, Principal Kuno and Gosunkugi in around a second.
Due to his harsh hiking Ryoga has great physical strength, which appears to heighten when he becomes overly emotional. This has led Ryoga to unintentionally destroy walls, lampposts and even large portions of buildings. Along with his strength, Ryoga is also shown to be very durable during battle.
Although significantly slower than Ranma after the latter had received training from Cologne, Ryoga eventually managed to improve himself to a point where he could easily outmatch Mousse, or Genma. (During the final Saffron story).
Despite his competent fighting skills, Ryoga does suffer from several limitations, most severely his Jusenkyo curse which typical causes any fight he's partaking where he transforms to end in his defeat. He is also easily distracted, creating openings for his opponents. Ryoga also suffers from being easily embarrassed at the sight of a woman's breasts, along his own sense of decency whereby which he refuses to fight anyone who he sees as weaker than himself.
It is noted that Ryoga is much tougher and stronger than Ranma, especially as Ryoga was able to effortlessly overpower and almost render female Ranma unconscious with a single finger during the "Yoiko" story, however Ranma is more agile and quicker than Ryoga.
Ryoga has learned a number of techniques from a variety of sources, mixing and matching them freely in battle.
- Iron Cloth (Fanon, but: 鉄布 - Tetsu Nuno): Ryoga seems to have a never-ending supply of his trademark bandannas, using them as razor sharp missiles, and can even turn his belt into a blade capable of easily cutting through a tree, or a steel pole, with a single slash. These attacks are assumed to be possible by Ryoga channelling his Chi into them, vastly enforcing the tensile strength and cutting edge of the fabrics. His umbrella is unusually resistant, but Ryoga easily wields it with one hand to deadly effect and increased impact damage. However, female Ranma was also able to use this, and it's unclear if Ryoga strictly carries this dense version towards the end, as even the Jusenkyo Guide's small daughter Plum was able to effortlessly lift it at this point.
- Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics: For some unknown reason, Ryoga has a fair knowledge of this martial art. The only time he really uses it is early in the series, when he tries to teach it to Akane, then to Ranma, to prepare them for a fight against Kodachi. Given his proficient use of "iron cloth" ribbon technique whip attacks, it is possible that he studied it for this purpose.
- "Bakusai Tenketsu" (爆砕点穴 - Lit. Explosive-Breaking Point-Hole): or Breaking Point, is a technique taught to Ryoga by Cologne. Originally used by construction workers to clear away debris, this technique enables Ryoga to shatter rocks and similar substances with a finger. The training is gruelling, consisting of tying yourself and a boulder to a tree and repeatedly slamming yourself, finger first into the boulder until you figure out the "breaking point". The technique is useless on humans, but the training's side effects make the user nearly invulnerable to physical attacks. Also, this technique is what allows Ryoga to tunnel underground. At some point, Ryoga also develops a version which works on wood. He is also seen using a "Rapid Fire" version at times, striking quickly and repeatedly to produce several small blasts in a row.
- "Shishi Hōkōdan" (獅子咆哮弾 - Lit. Lion Roaring-Bullet): or more simply known as Lion's Roar Blast, is a technique was taught to him by an engineer during his wanderings. By concentrating his depression and anger into his chi, Ryoga is able to unleash a massive blast of energy from his palms. When he was first taught it, in its imperfect form, the attack was strong enough to either knock out/defeat Ranma in one blow, or require a few shots, depending on his focus. The regular version proved enough to stun the latter noticeably, even when Ryoga was transformed into a small child. He has occasionally been shown to use this to help blow tunnels through solid earth.
- "Shin Shishi Hōkōdan" (真獅子咆哮弾 - Lit. True Lion Roaring-Bullet): The secret to perfecting the technique lay in the use of the chi and the strength of the user's emotions. As chi generated by depression and anger is "heavy," by projecting it into the air, Ryoga creates a massive sphere of chi that has been shown capable of instantly creating an even larger smoking crater, in what appeared to be a stone foundation, and later crack the earth around it, reaching the onlookers at what had been considered a safe viewing distance away from the epicentre. The more ki generated and used in this attack, the larger the resultant sphere of destruction; the greatest visual effect was shown when used to utterly vanquish Lime in a single blow.
Simply being grazed by the outermost boundary of one of its most powerful strikes was enough to immediately conquer Ranma, despite the latter's attempt to lessen the impact with his weakened Moko Takabisha. But a full hit from a later (seemingly weaker, given the lack of increased crater size) attempt simply stunned the latter for roughly a minute, quickly followed by a strike with even less impact.
- "Dairokkan" (第六感 - Sixth Sense): Like several other martial artists in the series, Ryoga has displayed an extrasensory awareness, which warns him from incoming danger/attacks. However, at least once in the manga, during the Musk Dynasty arc, his Sixth Sense and poor directional sense combined, causing him to predict an incoming attack, but to expect it from entirely the wrong direction!
In the video game Ranma ½: Akanekodan Teki Hihou, Ryoga is given several additional techniques, including:
- Sekiteki Kairin Gasa: Ryoga opens his umbrella horizontally and spins it rapidly, using this to hypnotize a foe and render them unable to move. A more potent variant that works on multiple opponents is the Shinteki Kairin Gasa.
- Chiri Metsuretsu: By twirling his umbrella in a flamboyant manner, Ryoga can baffle and confuse multiple foes at once. If he is in his piglet form, he can achieve the same effect with a bizarre, flamboyant dancing routine.
- Hisho Koryu Ha: An incredibly powerful energy blast technique.
It is very unclear as to what extent Akane is aware of Ryoga's highly visible infatuation with her. He regularly brings her gifts from the widespread locations he visits during his travels. He becomes extremely flustered at even talking to her, outright affirming that he's overjoyed from even innocent "dates" between them. Even more significantly, he becomes furious and comes to her defense at the very notion of anyone, especially Ranma disrespecting or hurting her, and has helped to save her life on multiple occasions. Ryoga has also made a few embarrassed, and highly transparent, attempts to confess his love to her. Perhaps the most transparent of these attempts was during the "Miraculous Soap" short story, in which Ryoga finds the courage to confess his feelings after using a soap (which ended up in his hands after Shampoo lost it) which would nullify his Jusenkyo curse (as a matter of fact, the soap itself was a product from Jusenkyo). However, Ryoga only managed to scare Akane off with his lack of control, as he kept on destroying everything before him while chasing after her.
His attempts at expressing his love often times fail either due to him losing courage at the last moment or Akane missing any hints and implications provided to her, if there are any signs that are apparent enough (such as Ryoga's love letters) they are usually destroyed or made illegible at the last moment.
Despite all the evidence, Akane seems almost completely oblivious to his affection. During Ukyo's prolonged introduction story, she witnessed Ryoga's very emotional reaction when Ranma made him think she was holding his hand, but drew no conclusions. She adamantly protested out of genuine confusion when Nabiki suggested that the latter was actively pursuing her, in the "Fishing-Rod of Love" arc, stating that he was simply a good friend.
However, she has mentioned that she considers him as kind, pure and gentle, in the "Sakura-Mochi" arc, and as more honest, sincere, and reliable than Ranma, in the "Tunnel of Lost Love" arc, where she also wanted him to hold her hand in order to comfort and protect her from the ghosts in the cave.
Given the above she generally seems to view him as a younger brother. There have, however, been a few exceptions.
Early in the manga, even Akane clearly noticed his feelings when Shampoo's "remote-control acupressure" made her charm Ryoga, making him overjoyed and relentlessly persistent. This ultimately terrified her when she realized that his overwhelming casual power might kill her through a simple hug. She afterwards stated that whoever became his girlfriend had to be a lot sturdier than herself. This suggests that in subsequent stories, Akane may be aware of Ryoga's continued feelings, but deliberately feigns ignorance, as she does not feel that way for him or wish for him to be encouraged to pursue her, given how scary he can be when romantically worked up.
During the "Sakura Mochi" story she also, for once, actively considered him as a potential boyfriend upon noticing several "petal marks" on Ryoga's face after he ate a "true love predicting" cookie. Even then, Akane was visibly relieved when Ranma's face showed more of them, though the "petal marks" she saw were actually P-chan's hoofprints. She has also consistently been very happy for Ryoga whenever she thinks that he has managed to find a girlfriend, admitting that she has been worried about him due to his overwhelming loneliness.
As P-chan, Ryoga is doted upon by Akane. She holds him in her lap, cuddles him, feeds him tidbits from her plate, talks to him about her private feelings and thoughts, and allows him to sleep in her bed. To her, P-chan is not a mere pet, but a true confidant, someone she can share her deepest thoughts with and always trust to be there to comfort her.
This intimacy is why Ryoga allows himself to be treated as a mere pet. Having engendered his initial infatuation with Akane in the first place, it gives him a sense of comfort and assurance to be treated so warmly. It helps him to believe he and Akane can be together, someday, and lets him feel that someone truly loves him, giving him a spot of hope in his awful life.
That said, Ryoga is aware that Akane would not react well to discovering the truth. The fact of the matter is, even though Ryoga canonically avoids trying to see Akane naked (if only because of how painfully shy he is about the female body), Akane only does the things she does with P-chan because she doesn't know that P-chan is really a human. If Akane found out, she would feel that Ryoga had violated her trust, deceiving her, and she would be furious, especially as she normally thinks of Ryoga as being morally superior to Ranma in many ways.
This, then, is why Ryoga has never told Akane the truth about being P-chan, and actively does his best to keep her ignorant. He knows that being P-chan is wrong, but he's so addicted to the opportunities to be close to an especially affectionate Akane that he manages not to think about it until the consequences of her learning the truth are brought to mind. And then he tries to keep the masquerade going.
In the episode Ryoga, Run Into the Sunset, he fell in love with girl named Anna who loved him as well. During this episode, Ryoga was questioning whenever or not he should stay and be with Anna or return to Akane. While he thinks about this, he and Anna drift closer to each other and he saves her life when she was kidnapped. When he saved her Anna runs up to him and they hug. But, soon he realizes that he still loves Akane and returns to her.
Ryoga meets a girl named Akari Unryu whose family runs a dojo dedicated to training massive "sumo pigs". By accidentally defeating her strongest pig, Katsunishiki, Ryoga became Akari's betrothed by the decree of her grandfather. kari is a sweet girl who loves Ryoga, although she is initially unaware of his curse, and when she tries to compliment him through comparisons with pigs (which she cherishes above everything), he takes it as a grave insult. Ryoga despises his curse and thinks it makes him pathetic and inferior, which is one of the main reasons he has trouble sharing his feelings with Akane. In the end, Akari finds out about his condition, which only makes her adore him even more. This further complicates Ryoga's life, since he is initially indecisive about her and Akane and once tried to court both of them at the same time. Towards the end of the series he seems mostly focused on dating Akari, but during the Saffron arc, he adds Akane's photo (purchased from Nabiki) into a holder, which also has Akari's picture, it suggests he can't forget Akane and still loves her. After Ryoga accidentally loses them during one of their initial skirmishes with Saffron, he is desperate to reclaim them, to the point of falling into a deep fissure. Ryoga has said he will always love Akane even if she marries another man that isn't him. At the end of the manga, Ryoga decides not to attend Akane and Ranma's wedding because of her feelings towards her, and decides that the best thing for him is to make a long trip. He said that he acknowledges that their marriage was inevitable and that no technique he ever learned was powerful to fight fate. It suggest once again his inconditional and platonic love towards Akane.
In the German translation of the "Memorial Book", Ryoga and Akari are described as feeling reciprocal "great attraction" towards one another, while he feels "lingering affection" for Akane. In this respect Ryoga seems to have received a more conclusive ending than most of the main characters, since the others were still caught up in the usual romantic entanglements and complications. His rivalry for Akane is gone and he has met his seemingly perfect match, but his direction sense and remaining curse naturally still complicate matters.
Ryoga and Ukyo as a couple are joked about in both continuities, but somewhat more so in the anime (likely due to the fact Akari was never introduced in this continuity). However, this pairing seems unlikely at best. She has bluntly and abrasively reiterated her derision towards his lack of judgement, direction sense and shyness/"cowardice", followed by hard whacks of her battle spatula. Ryoga also tends to be infatuated with girls who are consistently gentle with his feelings. They seemed even more antipathetic towards one another after being forcefully separated by the ghosts in the "Tunnel of Lost Love", possibly due to the previously referred "break-up curse", alternately simply due to blaming one another.
Regardless, they never cooperate, or speak, again in the manga. In their one real interaction in the anime after the Tunnel of Love story (the "Nihao My Concubine" movie) they were both quite hostile towards each other. Ryoga was initially uninterested in helping Ukyo to vanquish her unwanted paramour Sarutoru, the monkey man, who was courting her at a dinner table, turning to leave until she pointed out that his lack of direction-sense meant that he needed her help to find Akane. It was only then that he was willing to fight Sarutoru, and defeats the latters with a Shi Shi Hokodan blast, whereupon Ukyo seems thankful and leads him away.
- Where the heck am I now?
- I got here without getting lost my directional sense has never led me right. But now I came straight where I want to be! It's the power of love, Akane.
- No more pig!
- I gave myself a week to get here.
- I set off as soon as the poster came out.
- The name "Ryoga" can be broken down to read as "good fang," which refers to the fact that he possesses rather prominent canines. Hibiki is translated as "to echo" or "to resound."
- The precise level of Ranma's fault for Ryoga falling into the Heitowennīchuan varies between the mediums. In the manga, the art more directly suggests that Ranma knocked Ryoga clean off of the cliff-face and down into the spring. In the anime, Ryoga safely landed back on the cliff-face after being hit by Ranma in mid-air - but lost his balance when the edge where his hand was resting crumbled, causing him to fall to the side and tumble over the edge into the spring.
- A recurring joke throughout the franchise is that Ranma frequently refers to Ryoga's pig form as his actual name Ryoga while referring his human form as P-chan instead of the other way around.
- Ryoga is similar in appearance to Kōga from Inuyasha, who is also romantically interested in the female protagonist and has a similar name that in part means "fang". Given Takahashi's tendency to recycle character archetypes and outlines between series, it's clear that Kōga is the "Ryoga" of the Inuyasha series.
- Ranma, Genma and Soun Tendo are all aware of Ryoga's curse and that he is truly P-chan.
- On Tvtropes.org Ryoga is considered the undisputed "king of getting lost" and with good reason. Another interesting fact is that since his debut numerous other mangas and animes have featured characters with an almost identical sense of direction as Ryoga, also of note is that these characters also share similar attributes to Ryoga such as monstrous super-human strength and endurance, examples of such characters are Roronoa Zoro from One Piece, Sagara Sanosuke from Rurouni Kenshin and Kenpachi Zaraki from Bleach.
- In The Obstacle Course Swim Meet OVA episode of Urusei Yatsura he appears in his cursed form as one of the drown students.
- His P-chan form makes 2 cameo appearances as a tiny doll in episodes 4 and 39 of the anime version of Kyokai no Rinne, another work of Rumiko Takahashi.
- His seiyū provided the voice of Yuta of the Mermaid Saga, another work by Rumiko Takahashi.
- His seiyū also voices the Jusenkyo Guide.
- His English voice actor, Michael Donovan provided the voices of Zenzaburo Mitsukoshi of the Maison Ikkoku and Suikotsu of the InuYasha.
- Michael Donovan also voices Jusenkyo Guide (second voice) and Bess.