Sporadic Sequential
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The Mystery of the Missing Manga Mother

I was thinking of mothers in manga today, spurred by David Welsh's Twitter topic of #mangamoms. I was thinking that Ranma's mother must fall into the same "absent mother" category so many other series belong to, although I noticed that neither Ranma nor Genma (his father) ever brought her up, so she wasn't really a motivating factor in terms of either character or plot. And then this afternoon I happened to read Ranma ½ volume 20, which features the return of Ranma's long-lost mother, Nodoka Saotome. It turns out Ranma never knew his mother; his father, fearing that a mother's nurturing would weaken the boy, removed Ranma from their home and began his strict martial arts training at a very young age. And Genma never mentioned Nodoka because he had made a promise to her that if he failed in toughening up Ranma to become a true "man among men" then both he and the boy would commit seppuku. Given Ranma's condition, Genma had reason to worry.

It was a fun story, and an interesting coincidence to run across it on Mother's Day. Rumiko Takahashi came up with an inventive way to dramatize (or is that satirize?) the tension that frequently exists between grown children and their mothers. Obviously, Ranma wants his mother's approval, but his fears that her disappointment will take an especially harsh tone cause him to hide the truth from her. Rather than be open and honest with his mother, he crafts a convenient lie that he thinks will be easier for her (and him) to bear. Ah, fiction has such a wonderful way of exposing what is often ignored or suppressed in real life.

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