It's not the nudity, although I dislike that element.
No, not the gender-bending part of it, either, although I think that's why I initially marked it "won't watch" on Anime-Planet.
I take issue with the way Ranma treats Akane.
He attacks her femininity almost constantly. His most common insult is "you're so not cute."
|Ranma and Akane walk to school together for the first time in episode|
2. They're both frustrated about the whole arranged marriage thing,
and they take it out on each other. This setting becomes a common
one for their spats.
It's just an anime, Annalyn. Tsunderes and insensitive boys are always throwing out insults they don't mean. You should be used to it by now.
Ranma just says those things because he's immature and can't process his true feelings. He's bashful. "You're not cute" means "you're adorable."
Akane isn't innocent, either. She calls him "baka" ("stupid") all the time, even though we all know that "baka" is practically a love confession.
I've told myself the same things. Here's my response to the second and third defenses: Yes, the audience knows what's really in the characters' hearts. But the characters don't. Those are hurtful words.
It's just anime, you say? You're not wrong. So, why am I so annoyed by this very common comedic device?
Because I think Akane really believes she isn't cute, that she's boyish and not a desirable wife. I think she gave up on being "truly" feminine years ago, because she doesn't have traditional beauty, interests, or skills, like her oldest sister does. Sure, the guys at school are all after her. But they treat her like a trophy to be won, and they miss her heart. She's raised her defenses around her heart and invested her whole being into martial arts, because that's safe.
Yes, it's just an anime. Akane and Ranma will probably live happily ever after. I doubt that Ranma 1/2 will deal with the self-confidence and image issues that often result from these kinds of insults.
But what about the real Akanes? How many girls and women believe that they have somehow failed at womanhood? How many believe that they aren't cute, pretty, beautiful, or otherwise desirable? How many believe that they will never be married, because no one could possibly love them that much? How many married women believe they still don't measure up?
When Ranma tells Akane that she's not cute, or that she's otherwise unfeminine, he tells a lie. It's not a lie just because he really thinks she's cute. It's a lie because she is a woman. The mangaka, Takahashi, created her to be lovely. And he created her in the image of real women, who are all the more majestic, because we were created by God himself, in his image.
God created man in his image, too, and men are thus amazing. But that's a different topic.
We're women. We're beautiful by nature, both on the outside and inside, although we don't always feel like we can show it. We're not just desirable. We're desired and loved by God. Each one of us. No exceptions. It doesn't matter if we, like Akane, can beat up boys, and it doesn't even matter if we've beaten up boys we really shouldn't have. We might, like Akane, spit out insults we shouldn't, call people baka or worse… we might not always be graceful, or merciful, or sweet. We're not perfect. We need salvation. But we're still feminine. We're still beautiful. We're still passionately loved and pursued by God.
And anyone who says otherwise, about any of us, is a liar. I don't care if they mean it, and I don't care if the perpetrator is just an anime character.
Because girls need to be told that they are lovely. We're strong, but we're also breakable. Too many women have been broken with the lie, "you're not enough of a woman." Some try to harden themselves to the insults, and when they do that, they deny part of who they are. They deny their need to know that they are beautiful and loved.
Let me speak to the women reading this blog: your need is real. Never feel silly for wanting to know that you are beautiful, you are loved, and you are womanly. If you doubt that any of this is true about you, and you're hurting because of it, then please, know that your hurt is real, and it is worth crying over.
You don't have to believe the lies.
I'm a little more passionate about this topic than usual, probably because I just read Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul. This book, written by John and Stasi Eldredge, has been popular for years now, and rightly so. It's not like they have all the answers, but they seem to have a pretty Biblical perspective on who women are and what we need—not what we should be doing, but what we desire and why. This book hasn't told me very much that's new, but it's affirmed what I already know about myself and other women. It gives a little extra confidence to what I'm writing in this post. Here's a taste of what I read in the chapter called "Beauty to Unveil":
"Beauty is what the world longs to experience from a woman. We know that. Somewhere down deep, we know it to be true. Most of our shame comes from this knowing and feeling that we have failed here. So listen to this: beauty is an essence that dwells in every woman. It was given to her by God. It was given to you" (p. 131, italics theirs).
Essence. That's something internal, unremovable. It cannot be gained with cooking skills, makeup, or a quiet demeanor. It can, however, be covered up, as the Eldredges explain. That's why beauty is something we unveil. We are image-bearers of a beautiful God, but sometimes our beauty gets hidden, even from ourselves. Our doubts get in the way. We hide our beauty, or try to put on artificial beauty, or otherwise raise our defenses.
If beauty is our essence, that means it's a core part of us. In order to unveil more of our beauty, we have to unveil who we really are. We have to be vulnerable and open.
In the first couple dozen episodes, Akane is rarely emotionally vulnerable. She's beautiful, and that can't be completely hidden, but she doesn't feel safe enough to share her heart and essence with those around her. And how could she? She doesn't feel desired or deeply cared for—in fact, Ranma repeatedly tells her that she is undesirable. Her beauty, her essence is constantly called into question by herself and others, because it doesn't always show up in the traditional way. She's constantly on the defense around the guy her father betrothed her to. She won't show how much the insults hurt her, so she can't be herself.
She's not at rest.
One of my favorite moments in Ranma 1/2 is when Ranma goes a little nuts and believes he's a cat. In that moment, he is honest about his feelings. He curls up on Akane's lap, content to be with the one he loves.
|Kitty Ranma curls up on Akane's lap in episode twenty-three.|
And when he is an honest kitty, Akane is safe. She calls to him, holds him, and treats him tenderly. Cat Ranma won't reject her. So she can unveil more of her beauty.
She is at rest.
Her beauty also shows up when she defends her friends (or even her "pig"). She holds nothing back, she doesn't bother with the opinions of those watching, and she kicks the offender into the next zip code. She's too busy being beautiful to hide.
Of course, the deepest rest, the strongest confidence, comes through a relationship with God.
God isn't written into most anime or manga. Instead, the writers create love interests to clumsily take over God's affirming role. When a girl knows that she is loved, that she is desirable, she can be a little more at rest.
It would be nice to say women don't need affirmation from anyone. It doesn't matter if anyone says we're beautiful, as long as we think we are. But that's a lie. We're relational creatures. At the very least, we need affirmation from God, and we have that—we just might not realize it. We aren't cut out to be self-reliant anymore than man is (I'm thinking of Genesis 2, when God said "It's not good for man to be alone," right before he made Eve).
In a world without God, such as an anime, women must turn to others to affirm who they are. They must know that they are desired, that someone desires to really know them, not just the veneer they wear to keep themselves safe. That is how they find true rest, how they begin to unveil more of their beauty.
That's partially why Ranma annoys me. He doesn't help Akane to be really at rest. She can't trust in his acceptance, and she can't trust in her own beauty.
If I were talking about a real couple, I'd encourage Akane to turn to God for affirmation. By drawing closer to God, she could find the love and peace she needs to let down her defenses. Then I'd turn my attention to Ranma, who would still need to man up. Since this is anime, not reality, I'll skip straight to the Ranma part.
What's with our shape-shifting protagonist, anyway? Why won't Ranma acknowledge Akane's beauty? Is he afraid he won't measure up, that he can't gain the heart of a beautiful, confident woman? Does he fear the responsibility of caring for her heart? If it's that last one, then here's a newsflash:
Perhaps Ranma believes that Akane's words are true, he really is a "baka," and she'd like to break off their engagement.
For obvious reasons, I know less about men than women. But I've picked up on a little. Love is just as vulnerable for men as for women. Perhaps Ranma doesn't have the confidence to tenderly pursue her or to enjoy her, just as she doesn't have confidence to invite him. Perhaps he believes he'll have a better chance when he breaks his curse and becomes "fully man." But, at this rate, waiting to break his curse looks like a bad idea. And, honestly, he doesn't need to wait. Even if he stops turning into a girl every time he gets a splash of cold water, he won't magically become all the man he's created to be.
Instead of waiting to have everything figured out, Ranma needs to man up now and tell Akane that she's cute—or, more honestly, downright beautiful.
When he finally does, Akane needs to affirm him for the compliment, rather than call him stupid. That might be hard for her at first, but eventually she'll start accepting his encouragement. She can invite him (and, in a different way, others) to get to know her and her beauty, encouraging him to be all of the man he is made to be. And he must pursue her, offer his strength as her defender, not only in combat, but also as a defender and pursuer of her heart.
I believe that, since God created us in his image, he gave us the opportunity to reflect who he is through our relationships with one another. We can show love, beauty, and bravery—and, through that, hopefully point to God. Or we can hide from who we are made to be, and show only hate and fear. In the first chunk of Ranma 1/2, Ranma and Akane often lean more toward hate and fear than beauty and bravery. They throw insults that would chip away at anyone's confidence—or cause them to harden their hearts. It's all the more irritating because I've seen glimpses of who they could be without those insults, if they'd only stop.
So, Ranma, tell Akane she's cute. Stop wounding her heart, and start defending and delighting in it.
And Akane, know that you're beautiful, that you're loved. And let that knowledge transform you.