Today’s feature is “Hell is a Martial Artist” by Ozzallos, a Ranma ½ – Oh My Goddess! crossover, which is also a “Ranma-chan fic”.
Now, before you start to tune out at that last point, I want to point out something: I’m normally not a big fan of Ranma-chan fics, because authors almost universally write them badly. This is not the case. Ozzallos, for those unaware, is possibly the best author of believable Ranma-chan fics in the entire fandom. (See, for example, the abandoned Kunoification, which looked like it might actually get away with believably pairing up Ranma with Tatewaki Kuno.)
Also, for people unfamiliar with Oh My Goddess, I’ll provide a basic summary of the relevant points, since this is a fic that you can still enjoy if you only have first-hand knowledge of Ranma ½:
In Oh My Goddess, the story revolves around a guy who winds up with a Goddess for a girlfriend (Belldandy, who could be described as “Kasumi Tendo with more character depth”). Belldandy’s older sister, Urd, is actually her half-sister, being the daughter of Kami-sama and Hild, the Daimakaicho (which roughly translates to “Grand Demoness”). In Oh My Goddess canon, this is used so that certain story arcs can have “my future mother-in-law is literally the devil and she’s bored again” as the driving element.
Now, with that said, let’s get on with the story. Hell is a Martial Artist is a tale of Ranma Saotome willingly becoming the adopted daughter of Hild. Does that sound interesting when paired with my assurance that it’s done well?
The story begins during the Ryu Kumon arc. Ranma has been sent flying by Akane after using her posessions for training and happens to crash-land next to a brewing spat between the Norns and Hild. Being Ranma, he proceeds to offer to help the young-looking girl (Hild) even the odds but his offer is turned down. However, he does manage to have enough of a foot-in-mouth moment to goad Urd into a fight. In the end, Urd recognizes the Hiryuu Shoten Ha a second too late, Hild’s interest is piqued, and Ranma wakes up in her office.
This is one of those stories which succeeds or fails entirely on how the plot points are implemented, so it doesn’t make sense to go into too much detail. This is a story about the slow development of a relationship between Ranma and Hild which could be seen as Hild corrupting Ranma, but could also be seen as two characters with less than ideal family situations finding long-denied companionship and understanding in each other.
What makes this story work so well is how Ozzallos uses and draws attention to the similarities between Ranma and Hild as portrayed in canon. Both are used to being misunderstood, both like to “harmlessly” take advantage of others (eg. Ranma-chan scamming extra treats off food vendors in canon, Hild having a history of bending the rules around her position), and both have big egos.
Hild masterfully “corrupts” Ranma as she gives “her” the sympathetic ear “she” desires, yet, at the same time, eventually getting caught by surprise by how much she’s grown to care for what began as merely an uncommonly entertaining mortal… Two individuals who keep surprising each other by continuing to give the benefit of the doubt. (With the backfiring of Urd’s attempts to warn Ranma being a nice seasoning on the mix.)
On a more specific level, I especially like how Ozzallos used this context and interactions with Hild to justify Ranma becoming increasingly comfortable with his female form. So many people forget that, by this point in the manga, Ranma’s main issues with the curse are the lack of control and its social implications. Take Ranma at his most disillusioned with his birth mother, a master manipulator like Hild who wants a daughter, “mother-daughter bonding” over activities Ranma has already shown a propensity for in canon, and a sequence of events that builds trust between them, and the eventual gift of control over the curse, and having Ranma come to enjoy spending time in female form is surprisingly plausible.
I also like the inherent nuance to how Hild is portrayed. Urd thinks Hild is dangerous and not to be trusted, while Ranma comes to see Hild as misunderstood… and they’re both right. (With the irony that Urd is possibly the only other person who could safely trust Hild and Ranma’s recognition of that is a not-insignificant part of why Urd’s attempt to “save Ranma” backfires.)
Now, I should caution that this story does not have a high opinion of the Tendo and Saotome families, and Nabiki in particular. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it qualifies as “bashing”, but Ozzallos definitely takes the opportunity for Hild to “take the blinders off” in order to turn Ranma away from them and, for Nabiki, let’s just say that Hubris is a very bad thing to have when the devil’s in town.
As for the technicals, there is the odd typo, such as “puissant” instead of “pissant”, “kawaii-kun” (cute, with a “-kun” honorific) instead of “kawaiikune” (uncute), or “mana” instead of “manna”, but they don’t show up often enough to be a significant issue.
Finally, don’t skip the author’s notes on this one. Ozzallos is in fine form when talking about the origins of the characterizations being used and how canon events play into the fic.
On the one hand, it’s incomplete, but, on the other, this is my second or third re-reading of it and I’d rate it somewhere between 4.7 and 5.0 out of 5. (And, judging by the author’s notes, it’s very close to complete, even if Ozzallos never does manage to find time to get back to it.)