Ranma 1/2 (TV)

Ranma Saotome is a young man trained to be a superior martial artist by his father Genma. He’s been betrothed to one of the three daughters of Genma’s friend and colleague Soun Tendou. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a problem. While training in China, Gemna and Ranma fall into cursed springs, with the result that when they are splashed with cold water, Genma turns into a giant panda and Ranma into nicely-built red-haired girl. (Hot water reverses the transformation.) The youngest of the Tendou girls, Akane, doesn’t like boys, so the rest figure that she and Ranma are a natural match because he’s a boy only half the time. Akane and Ranma aren’t so sure about that.
Like Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2 feels more like a sitcom than a typical anime. Although the nine episodes I’ve seen are not enough to let me draw firm conclusions, it does seem that there is little emphasis on an overall narrative arc. Apparently, instead of developing the main characters in increasing depth, the writers constantly invent new characters of varying degrees of silliness (a look at a Ranma fan site reveals that there are literally dozens of characters introduced over the course of the series).
Ranma 1/2 is not a waste of time. It’s often very funny. Part of the humor lies in clash of the feisty Ranma and the equally feisty Akane (they’ll never admit it, but they are well-suited for each other). The comic possibilites of Ranma’s peculiar situation are fully exploited: one of the secondary characters hates the male Ramna but is madly infatuated with the mysterious red-haired girl. Ramna himself is always a very much a boy, even when he is a pretty girl. Neverthless, while I enjoyed watching the first two discs of this nearly infinite series, I have no urge to see more.
There’s quite a bit of nudity in the first few episodes. It’s essential to the story, though, and it shouldn’t offend anyone. What I’ve seen is suitable for all but the youngest audiences, I think; nevertheless, parents might want to preview the show first. (I gather that later episodes may be more problematic.)