Tatewaki Kuno (九能 帯刀 Kunō Tatewaki?) is one of Ranma Saotome's rivals as well as a suitor for both Akane Tendo and Ranma in his female form. The son of Principal Kuno and the older brother of Kodachi Kuno, he is rarely referred to by his first name by the other characters.
"Tatewaki" means "bringing a sword" which relates to how he almost always carries a Bokken with him. "Kuno" means "nine abilities" which is an obvious joke on how skilled he believes he is.
Tatewaki is one of the taller characters and has dark brown hair worn short. Three years ago he was shaved bald by his father in the course of a fight, which he still resents. He normally wears the kendo uniform, known as a kendogi, in the form of a white uwagi (also blue in the anime), with medium colored hakama (also black in the anime), even while at school, moreso than the gakuran worn by the male students. Once in competition he wore the bōgu or training armor. Tatewaki has also dressed in a formal men's kimono depending on the circumstances. He also wears a purple formal suit during the Parents and Teachers Day in his younger sister, Kodachi's school.
A master of kendo, Tatewaki is a senior at Furinkan High School, captain of the Kendo Club and a classmate of Nabiki Tendo. He is also the older brother of Kodachi Kuno, who attends St. Hebereke's School for Girls (called St. Bacchus in the manga) instead of Furinkan High. He is almost exclusively referred to by his surname, unlike his sister.
He had long been interested in Akane, and had made a decree—given as his entry for a school speech contest—stating he would punish anyone who tried to date her without first defeating her in combat, thus resulting on Akane having to fight a barrage of boys every morning when she arrived at school. When he learned of her engagement to Ranma Saotome, he immediately assumed that Ranma was hounding Akane and challenged the pigtailed newcomer. It ended when both of them landed in a swimming pool and Ranma changed into his girl form. After being defeated, Tatewaki fell in love with her as well, though he continued to lust after Akane.
As the story progress, he attempts to make Ranma his girlfriend more than he does with Akane. Since Ranma is actually a man, he has no feelings for Tatewaki at all and has shown extreme disgust at the concept, although he has taken advantage of Tatewaki's obsession when it suited his purposes. Blown up photographs of Akane and the Pigtailed Girl, courtesy of Nabiki, adorn the walls of his bedroom.
Tatewaki comes from wealthy samurai stock, and speaks in flowery poetic text. No matter how many times Ranma defeats him, he continues to be supremely confident in his abilities, though he does sometimes acknowledge his defeats. He has a huge ego, which led Tatewaki to nickname himself "The Blue Thunder of Furinkan High," a moniker used by no one else. This is apparently not the first such nickname he has given himself, either, as when he first introduces himself, one of Nabiki's classmates notes that the last she knew, he was calling himself "Shooting Star".
He is totally clueless when it comes to Ranma's dual nature, making him the only one at school explicitly unaware of it even late in the manga (although Principal Kuno and all of the teachers except Hinako Ninomiya may be unaware in the anime). Unlike the other characters in the series, Tatewaki is ignorant of Jusenkyo and thus doesn't know how its curses work; thus, while he has seen Ranma go from boy to girl or vice versa before, and acknowledges that there is magic at work in the switching, he does not realize that the two are one in the same. Likely goaded by the fact the only explanation he has received was the almost deliberately unhelpful "her (the pigtailed girl's) body and soul both belong to Ranma" from Nabiki Tendo, he has decided that Ranma is a lecherous playboy who uses black magic to switch with or whisk away Tatewaki's "pigtailed girl" at any moment he pleases.
While Tatewaki is clueless about Ranma's curse, social matters, and several other things, he seems to do well in school. Its even mentioned in the episode "Ranma's Calligraphy Challenge" that his handwriting is very good and in a cursive style.
He spends a lot of his time in school talking to Nabiki as they are in the same class. She frequently manipulates him to obtain money through trickery, information, or selling photographs of female Ranma and her sister. When it initially appeared like he was going to 'dump' Akane for Girl-type Ranma, she encouraged him to keep his previous infatuation, since 'she wouldn't let him two-time her sister', and instantly offered him photographs of both. Beyond this, she generally seems to regard him with derision, while he once stated that he detests her in turn.
Tatewaki's strong sibling rivalry with Kodachi is a running gag. He once angered her by destroying her pictures of male Ranma and she retaliated by poisoning and throwing him to her pet alligator, Midorigame (Mr. Turtle / Green Turtle or Mr. Scaly Green in the English anime), and through spreading nasty rumors about Tatewaki and the pigtailed girl. He also has a small dog named Armadillo, who acts as a taster for any food his sister cooks.
Another common gag is his willingness to share everything he writes in his diary with female Ranma or any other girl he is interested in, usually Akane. He claims this helps to build trust in a relationship.
Tatewaki Kuno has an old fashioned way of speaking and refers to everyone by either their full or last name (Akane Tendo instead of Akane and "Saotome" instead of Ranma). He also demands to be referred by impersonal terms of respects such as Sempai/Upperclassman by other students. Nabiki makes fun of this by referring to him as Kuno-chan/baby, a more casual term used for close friends or kids.
In both continuities, he's been shown to ally with Mousse, Gosunkugi, or Ryoga against Ranma, though it's only happened a few times in the manga with one case being an accident (in Ryoga's case, after seeing a picture with Ranma kissing Akane, and during a noodle-eating competition, and with Mousse during the Moxibustion Saga). Tatewaki and Ryoga attacked Ranma in Ukyo's Skirt! The Great Girly-Girl Gambit as well as trying to prevent Ranma and Akane from getting together in "Let's Go to the Mushroom Temple!". He and Ryoga smashed up Ranma and sent him to the hospital for an entire month in a full-body cast in the first OAV. He also trained with Ranma, Ryoga, and Mousse in order to defeat Ken in "Enter Ken and his Copycat Handkerchief". Even if they may team up, Tatewaki is not friends with Ryoga or Mousse and appears to on somewhat better terms with Ranma in the anime, even though they generally loathe each other more in the Manga.
Though he generally acts antagonistic towards Ranma, there have been some occasions where he has teamed up with, talked politely with him or even asked help from him in certain situations either involving arguments with his sister or his father. He was willing to give transportation to the other members of the cast (including Ranma) to Nekonron after Akane was kidnapped by Kirin in the first movie (though it's seems that he thought Ranma was helping him save Akane).
Tatewaki romantically pursues girl Ranma (not knowing she is really a boy) and Akane. Despite copious evidence to the contrary, Tatewaki is convinced that Akane and his pigtailed girl love him even though they have made it very clear they can't stand him. Despite this Ranma will sometimes pretend to be interested in him if Tatewaki has something Ranma needs or wants (a good example of this is during the Wish Bringing Sword Saga).
While considered very attractive by girls outside of his school, no members of the regular cast pursue him.
There are some possible indications he might like Nabiki.
As captain of the Kendo Club at Furinkan High School, Tatewaki was the school's most powerful warrior (and greatest pervert according to one schoolmate) before Ranma's arrival. Initially he constituted a legitimate threat, but has afterwards generally been used as a running joke and is usually swiftly defeated by Ranma. During the Martial Arts Cheerleading Arc he kept Akane strictly on the defensive in a kendo match. During this match he did not use his air pressure strikes, but this could have been because it was an official match. He is roughly a match for Kodachi, but has been defeated by her due to the greater versatility offered by her gymnastics equipment.
In both the manga and anime, upon losing his memory during training to slice watermelons, Tatewaki temporarily became far more than a match for Ranma, demonstrating the potential to exceed his nemesis.
While Tatewaki has mastered kendo, he has not learned unarmed combat skills and is therefore totally reliant on his bokken. For this reason, he always carries several of them with him. Despite his speed, he also has never been shown as physically strong, although he was able to effortlessly remove a boulder with one hand. A recurring gag is that he gets knocked out easily through various means, although his revival time varies.
Ultimately, Tatewaki's arrogance and delusions may have hindered his progress as a martial artist, but in the Akanekodan Ranma RPG, he is portrayed as the most powerful member of the Kuno family.
He has sometimes gained the use of magical items, such as the "Wishbringer" sword, which emitted blinding light, or (Anime continuity) Musashi Miyamoto's wooden sword, as well as some odd techniques.
- Air-Pressure Strikes/Blue Thunder Attack: Tatewaki's primary move. He jabs his bokken at a target at high speeds, in the anime yelling "Atatatatatatatatatata!". During their first battles the air pressure alone proved enough to shatter a stone pillar, gave a significant bruise to Ranma's throat, and later made him unable to hold back the tears from the severe pain over his entire body. Tatwaki occasionally invents different names for this move.
- Senpū-Ken (Whirlwind Sword): (Anime) Tatewaki spins his sword at his target in small circles, creating a small whirlwind. Only used when Tatewaki thought he was under the effects of Happosai's speed of light elixir.
- Watermelon Splitter: A conditioned reaction, usable to greatly boost the speed and power of his strikes, although the training to learn it rendered him amnesiac. When in the presence of watermelons, Tatewaki can spin rapidly, creating a forceful torrent of wind, and easily slices through all watermelons in sight. His defense in this state is almost impenetrable, and his assault taxing to avoid, even for Ranma himself. Even outside of their presence, Tatewaki's regular attacks repeatedly got through Ranma's guard/held him/her at sword-point, and kept his female form strictly on the defensive/running for her life.
A shown limitation is that Tatewaki remained comparatively physically weak. He seemed unable to defend himself against, and was briefly stunned by, a thrown small boulder. Female Ranma likewise managed to overcome the technique through distracting, and then placing a watermelon on Tatewaki's head, making him instinctively knock himself out. This also restored his memory. Tatewaki later revealed that it was training for a watermelon-slicing contest, which he intended to win to impress the "pigtailed girl". He hasn't been shown close to this level in later encounters, so he may either have lost the ability beyond the originally intended usage, or require the proximity of several watermelons to 'power-up'/'enter a trance', but never had the sense to do so (Tatewaki did not figure out this was a fighting technique after regaining his memory). He later uses the technique in the OVA "Tendo Family Christmas Scramble" as part of a talent show act, and uses it in the "Battle for Miss Beachside" episode of the anime, apparently at Nabiki's request so that she can earn money from both spectators and selling the resultant watermelon slices.
It is Tatewaki's ultimate attack in a few of the Ranma fighting games such as Ranma ½: Chougi Rambuhen.
- Phoenix Sword/Sword of the Phoenix (鳳凰剣 Ho'oken?): After the Legendary Phoenix hatched on his head, Tatewaki became invincible against Ranma, who the phoenix had imprinted on as its enemy. However it was so fixated on Ranma's demise that Tatewaki could not do as he wanted unless Ranma escaped by using darkness as a cover and remained out of sight of it. After the phoenix was fed enough growth pills it flew away. In Team Ranma vs. the Legendary Phoenix the phoenix imprinted on Akane on the second day and Tatewaki became irrelevant once it had reached a certain size and could fly. However he was still protected by its abilities and attention was shifted to the phoenix as it became more dangerous the larger it got. Essentially ignoring him, it began to attack indiscriminately until it was fed enough growth pills and flew away.
- Ko-Ku-Zan (Arc Air Slash): (Ranma ½: Chougi Rambuhen) Tatewaki does a cut with his sword sending a crescent shaped blast of air pressure.
- Tenshi Raimeikiri (Heaven Thunder Cut): (Ranma ½: Chougi Rambuhen) Tatewaki does an uppercut with his bokken and descends down with Blue Thunder running through his blade.
- Thunder Strike: (Ranma ½: Akanekodan Teki Hihou) Tatewaki waves his sword and Blue Thunder strikes his opponent.
Tatewaki has appeared in all of the fighting games except Ranma ½: Hard Battle, which is odd as Furinkan High School is the primary setting and Principal Kuno is a prominent character.
In the live action special Tatewaki Kuno is portrayed by Kento Nagayama and always dresses in a dark blue uwagi and hakama. He can generate an unnamed energy wave with his bokken which knocks down his opponents.
In the music CD Fighting Songs Karuta, Tatewaki sings the song "Mori No Kuma-san" in a duet with his sister Kodachi. He is also the subject of the song "Kuno-chan ga Yattekuru", which is about his eccentricity.
- While Tatewaki often says he would do anything for Ranma's female side, it often applies as long as it involves kissing, touching, or buying expensive (and frequently bizarre) gifts for her. For example, in one storyline he refused to apologize to his sister despite her insistence. However he has genuinely helped Ranma's female side on some occasions and have in the manga even been shown to choose her over Akane when running away with her.
- According to the anime only episode "Dear Daddy...Love, Kodachi" Tatewaki always comes to Kodachi's school for Parents' Day, apparently appearing as her guardian, since he is her older brother.
- Though he almost exclusively uses his bokken, there were at least two exceptions: in the last chapter of Volume 36 he suddenly forges a katana to use against Ranma, and this is repeated in the very last chapter of the manga when he tries to stop Ranma and Akane's wedding.
- His seiyu previously voiced Inaba of Urusei Yatsura, Rumiko Takahshi's first major manga series.
- Originally, Rumiko Takahashi recommended Akira Kamiya, who had voiced Shutaro Mendo, a character with similar personality traits in her first manga series, Urusei Yatsura, to voice Tatewaki in the anime. However, because the series director wanted new faces, he chose Hirotaka Suzuoki instead. After Suzuoki's death, he was replaced by Hikaru Midorikawa, who voices Tatewaki in the recent video games.
- A recurring gag in the anime is for blue thunder to strike after Tatewaki makes a dramatic announcement. He even managed to do this indoors in the The Secret Don of Furinkan High.
- Tatewaki can use Blue Thunder in his attacks in many of the video games. This is likely influenced by the above.
- Tatewaki does not wear shoes with his kendo hakama, although sometimes he wears sandals.
- As mentioned at the top of the page, "Tatewaki" and "Kuno" mean "Bringing a Sword" and "Nine Abilities" respectively. However, written down, Tatewaki can also mean "Insufferable", "Capable" and "Incapable", depending on which characters are used; this is used in the anime's second episode to replace a joke from the manga's 1st volume, 4th chapter.
- In the manga, Ranma writes the kanji for "Buffoon" on Tatewaki's forehead in bruises, misspelling it as "Bufoon". Kuno then tries to correct it by writing it on the blackboard, misspelling it as "Boofun", only to then be corrected by Nabiki, who spells it correctly.
- In the anime, Ranma instead uses bruising to write the Tatewaki kanji that read "Insufferable" on Kuno's forehead. Kuno complains that his name is spelled differently, and proceeds to write it on the board with the kanji for "Capable". Nabiki then writes the kanji for "Incapable" on the board and snidely asks if this isn't the real spelling for his name.