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Saffron (サフラン Safuran?) is a humanoid phoenix who is the ruler of the Phoenix People, a tribe of human-bird hybrids who have all adopted these traits from the magical Jusenkyo waters due to living near their source. He was the final villain to appear in the manga and is considered the most powerful foes that Ranma Saotome ever faced.
Given the attributes connected to his archetype, he is reborn in infant form when violently killed, but it is unknown if this extends to natural causes, i.e. if he has ruled his people for many generations. His motivation was given as bathing in these waters, which were indispensable to regulate his transformation into adult form, as well as provide heat and light to his rural people. But this also made it necessary to strangle the flow to the cursed Jusenkyo springs, which coerced Ranma Saotome and the other victims into acting to reestablish their only available cure.
When Saffron activated the bath, he was engulfed in a strange frozen material that put him in an egglike state until he finished his rebirth. After the protagonists found out about Saffron's spring, they quickly went looking for it. When they found the hidden spring of rebirth, the Jusenkyo Guide informed Akane Tendo that the only way to restore the cursed springs was to release the water from the Dragon Statue connected to Jusenkyo and to close the valve of the Phoenix Statue, which provided the rebirthing water for Saffron's bath. Afterwards, Ranma interrupted Saffron's rebirthing process. This caused Saffron's transformation to be incomplete, making him unable to control how much of his power he used. Because of this, he would run the risk of burning himself out if he did not complete the transformation. Akane then tried to shut off the valve, which was actually the Kinjakan, but its heat evaporated all of the water in her body, causing her to become a small doll.
As Akane shriveled into a doll, the Jusenkyo Guide informed them that the only way to restore Akane to normal was to give her the water from the Dragon Statue. Ranma, Ryoga, and Mousse went back to Mt. Phoenix to challenge Saffron and cure Akane. In the resulting battle, the Akane doll threw herself through the hot air created by Saffron's attacks, creating a small channel of cold air and allowing Ranma to fire a whirlwind through it, squeezing the cold spiral into a razor's edge. The resulting attack drilled straight through Saffron's chest, killing him.
However, Saffron wasn't dead. Being an immortal phoenix, he revived as an egg and hatched as a baby. Before Ranma and the others left, Ranma warned Saffron's caretaker Kiima to make sure he grows up with a much better personality this time. Miraculously, the fight between Saffron and Ranma seemed to have opened up new waterways in Phoenix Mountain, saving their people. Ranma parts ways with the Phoenix people on surprisingly good terms.
It is a common misconception that Saffron is a god or demigod. This is due to the common mistranslation of "kami" into English as "deity". While it is correct to refer to Saffron as a kami due to him being a phoenix and thus immortal, it does not make him a deity anymore than an ancestral spirit is.
Saffron is portrayed as a selfish, territorial, obnoxious and utterly ruthless brat, who only cares about his own goals and desires. He is willing to kill or torture anyone who so much as annoys him, even if he bears full responsibility for initiating the conflict. He also appears to be very predjudice towards "landling scum".
He tends to be cold and condescending even towards those who treat him with kindness and loyalty, but it is unknown whether or not he is tyrannical. Adult subjects have been shown as kept in a storeroom full of surikomi-eggs, which enslave them to the first person they see, but this was not expanded upon. Neither has his possible status as a recurrently reborn ruler of his tribe, although Koruma and Masara referred to that only the royal family (plural) dared to touch the Kinjakan, so he has likely had at least some predecessors to his position. However, Saffron does seem to take his duties as a ruler rather seriously, as he originally wanted to use his new form to give light and energy to his people.
Despite his outwardly young age, Saffron has a devious and sadistic mind. He was able to trick Ranma and the others into going into an entranceway to Mt. Phoenix before triggering a trap send them falling several hundred meters. He came up with the plan to kidnap Akane and imprint a Jusenkyo spring with her likeness, so Kiima could seduce Ranma and retrieve the Kinjakan.
He was enthusiastic about the prospect of eating Ranma alive as sustenance for his own transformation. During their battle, Saffron was unwilling to let the latter save the magically dehydrated Akane's life, but when misunderstanding Ranma's intent, stated that "even he" was disgusted by the notion of using someone willing to sacrifice her life for oneself as a shield. However, he had no problem blasting through Akane to hit Ranma. In the end, Saffron's own obsession and anger contributed to his loss and temporary death.
Powers and Abilities
Aside from his immense fire generation, Saffron also possesses decent skill with the Kinjakan. While using his wings to fly, he has superb manoeuvrability. He's easily one of the characters with highest amount of raw power in the series, but is very lacking in fighting prowess compared to the most experienced martial artists of his world. As mentioned above, he can rapidly heal missing limbs and is reborn as an infant after violent deaths. However, his physical defences against blunt impacts are very low, due to being pampered since birth and he can be beaten unconscious by severe blunt impacts. Limits of his rebirth ability for repeated fatalities are unknown.
Fire Ball and Fire Column: When Saffron was released from his rebirth process, he gained an endless source of flaming energy which allows him to release large orbs of pure fire and the ability to create columns of fire as well. But since his rebirth process was incomplete, he did not have full control of it.
Regeneration: Apparently Saffron is capable of swiftly regrowing lost limbs or tissue. In conventional phoenix manner, he was reborn as a baby in an egg after Ranma managed to shatter his body beyond conventional repair. It is left uncertain how far this ability could be stretched and if repeatedly destroying his helpless infant form would eventually wear him down.
Blazing Emperor's Wing: Saffron can rip off his wings and set them ablaze so he can throw them at his enemies like a buzz saw or a boomerang, whereupon they instantly grow back.
Kinjakan: The Kinjakan is Saffron's primary weapon and mode of transportation. It generates immense heat and acts as a sword and/or a boomerang when the tip is removed. It can cut through almost anything and also acts as the Jusendo spring's primary key. The Gekkaja causes vast freezing cold.
Instant-Annihilation-of-all-Mortals-Blast: Saffron's strongest attack and likely the most powerful shown in the series. He creates a huge sphere of fire, light, and heat (over 10x wider than Ranma) and shoots it forward as a beam. The move was shown to blow away and possibly vaporise, a few mountaintops directly in its path and Ranma only avoided being killed by using the Gekkaja's freezing power on himself. It is unknown if Saffron could perform this move without wielding the Kinjakan.
- Saffron's appearance is similar to to Kyōra from the fourth InuYasha movie. Both are associated with birds and can use fire elemental attacks.