"I had so much Ranma stuff rumbling around in my head, I just had to get it out, all the minutiae, all the little things I had discovered and couldn't wait to share."

- Harley Acres

Ranma ½

Aimed primarily at boys from elementary to junior high school, Ranma ½ is one of Takahashi's most successful series.

The comedy manga centers around a boy named Ranma Saotome, who is cursed to become a girl whenever he touches cold water, but turns back to a boy when splashed with hot water. The story chronicles Ranma's misadventures with his fiance Akane Tendo and a large cast of other wacky characters.

Introduction

Ranma ½ Perfect Edition is Harley Acres' contribution to Rumic World.

Already a Ranma ½ fan, Harley created Ranma ½ Perfect Edition on June 5, 1998 as a site on Geocities. Although Ranma ½ Perfect Edition wasn't as polished as some of its competitors (there were tons of Ranma ½ fansites at the time), it grew as Harley's skill with web design grew.

In October of 2001, Perfect Edition moved to furinkan.com, which eventually became the address for Rumic World. After Rumic World launched in May 2002, Perfect Edition became its home page until early 2003, when Perfect Edution was redesigned and moved to its own subsection so that Rumic World could move front and center.

Question and Answer

Q&A with Harley Acres

What was it like creating Ranma ½ Perfect Edition? Back then you already had some knowledge of HTML, how much did that help?

Harley: It didn't help much really. I was using Office '97, and the thing with that was that it named the images automatically in a sequence. So if I would go back and insert a new image to a page, it would throw off the whole sequence and I would have to re-upload the entire site. That was incredibly annoying. That lasted until I finally learned how to write my own tables. I still code the entire site by hand in Notepad, which is sad.

What was your goal and motivation when you first created Ranma ½ Perfect Edition? Has it changed over time?

Harley: The goal was always to have the best Ranma ½ site on the net, and I think I met that goal. There were an absolute ton of Ranma sites in the late 1990s and it was a really daunting goal, but I think I met that goal. When I scored that link with Anipike, I think that was when I first felt justified.

What kind of role did Tomobiki-cho play in your inspiration for Ranma ½ Perfect Edition?

Harley: Oh, it was huge. The second major layout was entirely based on Tomobiki-cho's. The professionalism was a big influence too, not just in design but in the writing too.

What tools and resources did you use to create Ranma ½ Perfect Edition? (Was most of the info from yourself, or did you use other ranma sites as reference, etc.)

Harley: I was very strict about not getting information from other Ranma ½ sites. I viewed them as my competition, so I tended to stay away from them. Unfortunately I guess that isolated me in the fan community somewhat, at least until we had our own messageboard. All the images I scanned, all the writing... it's a one man show.

Why the name "Furinkan.com" as opposed to a more general Takahashi-centric name? Where did Furinkan come from? And what made you decide to use it for Rumic World?

Harley: Again, that's a Tomobiki-cho influence. It used to be at Tomobiki.com (the name of the character's high school), so I used the name of Ranma and Akane's high school (Furinkan). Plus it means "Wind Chime Hall" which I think is pretty.

You purchased Furinkan.com in May 2000, but only "permanently" moved Ranma ½ Perfect Edition to it in October of 2001, care to tell us what's going on with Furinkan.com between those months?

Harley: Between that time, the site was still hosted by Geocities, but if you typed in furinkan.com, it would show the Geocities site. So I was promoting it as furinkan.com, but the site was still at Geocities for all intents and purposes until Oct. 2001.

From 1999 to 2001, you created a new index every month for Ranma ½ Perfect Edition, what did you do it? Was it hard trying to come up with a new index every month? And why did you stop?

Harley: I knew if I changed the index on a regular schedule, I might generate some repeat visits. If people were curious to see what the next index was, I was hoping they would continue to return to the site. So it was really a way to help promote the site and encourage repeat visits. It got to be somewhat difficult, and as I started having the Inuyasha Companion to update, and the increased workload of college, I just couldn't keep doing it.

Back when the site was still young, what were some of your worst nightmares? Who were the biggest "competitors" in your eyes?

Harley: My worst nightmare at the beginning was that I wasn't going to be THE Ranma ½ site. I mean, it's hard to even express how difficult setting out to do that was back then. It would be like trying to make the most popular Naruto or Fullmetal Alchemist site today. There were other sites that were already very established and had communities built around them, so I felt handicapped early on.

In the beginning I saw as my competitors a rather small group of Geocities sites run by a group of webmasters who all put "RNK" after their names. (Note: Wow, their http://www.geocities.com/tokyo/dojo/3755/ is still up!) They had pretty simple pages that were very indicative of web design towards the end of the 1990s. After I felt like I had surpassed them, my rivals were the main Ranma ½ sites, which were the Ranma FAQ and the Ranma ½ Library. A few years back the guy that ran the Library actually sent me a very nice email saying he liked my site. So that was nice.

When you started making the site, Dylan was also busy with his own Maison site, did his site influence you in any way?

Harley: His diligence in updating more than anything. Prior to being influenced by Mason's site, both of our sites looked very differnt from one another. We were both doing our own things early on in terms of design. But the scope was the same, even then.

What is the one thing on Ranma ½ Perfect Edition that you're most proud of?

Harley: It used to by my anime summaries, because I had summarized the entire series long before Viz finished bringing it out over here. I remember finding one site that copied my summaries verbatim, and when I asked him to take them down, he accused me of taking them from him. That's the internet for you. Now though I would probably say I'm proudest of my character profiles. They were a lot of fun to write.

You said on Ranma ½ Perfect Edition that "It's Complete." Does that mean unless something new comes out, the site won't receive any more updates? What's the future for the site?

Harley: Unfortunately that's probably the case. That was a tough message to write last month. I've worked on that site forever it seems like, and the thought of there not being anything left to add to it is a little sad. But all good things come to an end I suppose.

General

How do you think Ranma affected the otaku-dom in the U.S. in the early days of anime, before the whole industry became "mainstream"?

Harley: Well, when a series that was essentially about a transsexual can become a big hit, I think it opened a lot of doors. Another thing was that companies were very hesitant about licensing shows of that length, and I think Ranma ½ showed that there is a sustainable audience for a lengthy show.

Dylan: It was the hottest thing going. I think Ranma really encapsulated what anime was all about for a lot of Americans. It was this very exotic, funny series that had a sort of out there concept that most Americans would never dream of (a boy turning into a girl), enough attractive girls that everyone could have their favorite, really good action..... I think some of the early appeal was also based on the generous fan service that Ranma provides.

Harley: Personally, I think Ranma ½ was the first big anime series of modern fandom in the U.S. It predated Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball, but followed on the success of Macross/Robotech and later Akira. I think Ranma ½ established the modern anime industry and was the first big hit that showed it was a viable industry here in the States. Sometimes it feels like that has been forgotten, but Takahashi's work, both manga and anime, was really what shaped where we are today in the U.S.

Around the time Ranma ½ Perfect Edition was online, Ranma was one of the most popular series, and thanks to Geocities and Angelfire, short-lived fan sites were everywhere, now with all these Web 2.0 technology and AJAX, do you think the online "fan site scene" is different? Or is everything repeating itself, just with shinier technology like WordPress and Live Journal?

Dylan: Yeah, I think its repeating itself in a less effective way. You get all these community sites where people basically log in to talk about a series and share their love of it, but you don't get a lot of content oriented sites anymore. I think a lot of fans are getting lazier about trying to create good quality websites that look at their favorite series in a unique, all-encompassing way. Thatí»s what I really want to see from fans. C'mon guys and girls, make a good Detective Conan site or a good Naoki Urusawa site or something!

Harley: It's incredibly different. Back then no one expected to be able to get their manga or anime online. If you could find a summary you counted yourself lucky. Now with Bittorrent and You Tube you can have things as soon as they are released in Japan. I suppose that's good on some levels, I'm all for people getting exposed to quirky stuff that would never come to their attention otherwise, but the difficulty getting things was always part of the fun for me. The journey was more important than the destination, I suppose. I think that's been forgotten these days.

To Dylan: When Harley was busy working on Ranma½, you had already established your own Maison Ikkoku fan site, what was it like looking at your brother making another site? What did you think of the site back then? (Fansite-wise, design-wise, etc.)

Dylan: I was really encouraging of him. Harley originally cut his teeth web-design-wise on a Please Save My Earth website. He was very hesitant to do a Ranma ½ site because there were so, so many of them around back in the mid to late 90s. I had faith that he could make something that could top them all as far as content went, but he wanted to learn more about design and HTML before he started that. By the time he finally felt confident enough in his abilities to make Ranma ½ Perfect Edition, I was really curious to see what he'd put out.

Any interesting stories you'd like to share regarding Ranma ½ Perfect Edition?

Dylan: It was a little difficult to see his site blaze past mine in popularity in a really short period of time though, but that's just the way it is. Ranma ½ is one of the more popular series in the US and Maison Ikkoku has always struggled to find an audience here.

Viz recently released the last volume of the Ranma manga, what was it like growing up reading the manga when you're only a teenager, creating and maintaining a fan site on Ranma, and then finally see the series complete as an adult?

Harley: I have to admit, it was very difficult finally reading that final volume. Like you said, it was a big big part of my childhood. I discovered Ranma ½ when I was twelve, and now I'm twenty-five and there wasn't a day in between where I didn't at least think about it on some level. So when it ended and Ranma ½ Perfect Edition is basically ended too, it was like having to let go of my childhood.

At the end of Ranma ½, like Takahashi's other major series, you get a sense that the characters lives continue, but you don't get to be there to experience it with them anymore. It's bittersweet. It's like saying goodbye to an old friend.