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More pronoun problems in Ranma fanfics

(Edited from a Twitter rant in ten parts.)

One thing I find linguistically interesting about Ranma ½ fan fiction, especially most of the more recent works, is that they make a big fucking deal of Ranma’s pronouns. Mind you, these stories are set in Japan, starring Japanese characters, speaking Japanese. It’s all just rendered in English because Internet.

Third-person pronouns in English have genders. He/she and such, you know the ones. Since these stories are written in English, you’ll often find characters refer to Ranma with one pronoun or the other. No problem there, the original manga and anime do it too. But there’s a twist.

There are lots of stories about Ranma being transgender, especially in recent years as far as I’ve seen. Which is totally understandable, really. That’s not the problem. Write about transgender Ranma all you want. The problem, at least to me, is when characters start mentioning how other characters use this or that pronoun to refer to Ranma.

(This of course applies not just to Ranma but to any other character who shares the same curse. Let’s keep it simple, though.)

Worse, for the purpose of this rant, is this one story where Ranma joins a support group for LGBTQ people and the members all introduce themselves and state their pronouns. See, if these are Japanese characters (they are) speaking Japanese (this is implied), and my research is correct (I can only hope), that is literally not a thing they could do.

Where in English it is the third person pronouns that are gendered (he/him, she/her), Japanese has them in the first person. Ano hito, yatsu, and koitsu, those are all gender-neutral. Boku, watashi, and atai, are all gendered. And that’s just a small sample of first person pronouns.

So the very first time someone like Ranma opens his pie hole and speaks of himself, he’ll use whatever pronoun he wants. That’d be ore, a very manly one, as in “ore wa otoko da,” “I’m a guy.” It’s when Ranma uses a feminine pronoun that the eyebrows rise. Mind the phrasing there!

I was reminded of the Twitter rant this post is adapted from by another fanfic I read last night, where Genma caught himself thinking about his recently-cursed child with female pronouns. As in, the English third-person ones. It didn’t do much to damage the scene or anything but I felt mildly distracted by the idea that a Japanese man would think in English terms.

There are in fact fanfics, written in English, where Ranma will say something and maybe there’s something about the phrasing in English, and another character remarks that Ranma used a feminine pronoun, perhaps even saying the pronoun itself in Japanese, in the middle of a story otherwise written in English. Just as an example: “Ranma used atashi just now instead of ore, and he’s not trying to trick Ryōga. Something’s going on here.” Something like that. It’s quite interesting how you might handle this difference.

The episode Am I Pretty comes to mind, where Ranma’s entire way of talking changes right along with his first-person pronoun. I only watched it in Japanese, but I’d imagine the dub just only has his way of talking change. If you’ve seen it dubbed, feel free to let me know how they handled it in the comments.

Suffice it to say, as weird as pronouns can get in one language, it gets so much weirder when there’s two in play.

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Shampoo, Cologne, Mousse

(Edited from a Twitter rant in nine parts.)

I’ve complained about Shampoo’s name and how fanfic writers tend to write her “original Chinese name” often enough. I’d like to discuss Cologne and Mousse this time.

Now then. Knowing that Shampoo is the only one of the three with a name in actual Chinese characters, Cologne and Mousse are only ever written in katakana: コロン and ムース. Koron and Mūsu. Simple, right? That’s basically exactly how the products would be pronounced, just like with Shampoo.

Problem #1: Cologne’s fandom name is usually written as Khu Lon. Sometimes I think without the H. First of all, I can find no romanization scheme where khu is a valid sound, written that way. There’s khu but that’s in a scheme that’s not even used, and kuh isn’t quite it either. Second, it seems to me to be simply the wrong sound. The vowel is all wrong!

Problem #2: Mousse is usually given the name Mu Tsu, Mu Tse, and in this one doorstopper I’m slogging through, Mse Tsu. I already covered how absurdly wrong that third one is. If these were at all right, wouldn’t his name be written ムー, tsu? But it’s not. There is no T sound in either his established katakana writing or in his name as spoken.

Shampoo’s name, as covered before, is shanpū in Japanese, with a lengthened -u. It’s shānpū in Chinese, where I believe the accent marks denote tone? Correct me on that if I’m wrong. So at worst the length of the -u is different. Likewise, Ranma’s name “translates” to Chinese as luanma. Exactly the same kanji (乱馬) and all that. Readings are cool like that. Between the well-known L/R difficulty and an easily drowned out u, that’s also basically the same when pronounced.

Why then, in the name of logic, should Cologne and Mousse have their names so different? At least back when they started, fanfic authors had no way to look this shit up — there was no Wiktionary or such back then. You really have no excuse now. You can do better than this. If you were to tell me “but those are their names”, you basically admit to being both uninformed and being too lazy. “That’s how we’ve always called it in the fandom” is arguably better, but again you can do better.

Since we can look shit up, let’s actually do look this shit up! What is “eau de cologne” in Mandarin Chinese? It’s 科隆香水, kēlóng xiāngshuǐ. “Mousse” as in the hair product? That’s 摩絲, mósī.

Shānpū, Kēlóng, Mósī. Research over.

But wait. Kēlóng? Ke? Didn’t I say earlier that the vowel is all wrong? I did. It’s a romanization difference. The zhuyin is ㄎㄜ. I gave their names just now in hanyu pinyin. In Wade-Giles, it’s written with an o. Simple. Mousse’s ㄇㄛ is mo in both.

Just for fun, I thought I’d look up some common fanmazon names, but reconsidered when I found Chinese has a perfectly good word for perfume. Oh well, I’d made my point already 🤷‍♀️

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Fanfics? Sure!

Letrune suggested via the new suggestion box that I could blog about fanfics. Well, I got a few Ranma ½ stories I guess? Let me just put up a page to quickly list and link them… there we go!

Anyway, the chronologically first one would be Ranmya (available on Archive of our Own and locally), where our hero is born and raised a girl, gets cursed to be a cat, then immediate and unwisely turns and tries to cure herself, resulting in a mixed curse. And then she hooks up with Nabiki.

I’d been sitting on the first version of this story, then unnamed, for several years before finally continuing, then rewriting the first bits for style points. Ranmya is relatively heavy on the sex compared to the others, and has a fair bit of Weird Shit™ going on especially in the dream chapter which features some lines in the conlang I developed for the Firrhna Project. Why? Because I can.


Next in line is Good and Pure (available on AO3 and locally), which was inspired by a severe lack of Ranma/Kasumi fics. It starts out pretty much in a canon-compatible situation, with Ranma engaged to Akane, but quickly derails into a Ransumi story. Kasumi is a precious cinnamon bun, too good, too pure for this world.

The thing about pure things is that its all the sweeter to corrupt them.


There’s a one-shot about Shampoo too, I’m a Kittycat (AO3, local), where the important change is that Shampoo is not a human who turns into a cat, but the other way around. During the competition, her instincts flare up and make her mess up the Kiss of Death.


My most recent work is yet another damn Ranma AU. I’m sorry, I should’ve title-cased and italicized that. (AO3, local) The setting is easy enough to explain: there’s no turning back. Once you’re cursed and take on another form, that’s it. This story features Rankane shipping, a defiant lesbian tomboy and her equally defiant pet cat, no pandas, and when I get off my lazy ass and write, a very confused Ryōga.

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This is a callout post

This is a callout post.

I recently wrote and published a Ranma ½ oneshot fic, I’m a Kittycat, on FFNet and AO3. I got two anonymous guest reviews on the FFNet version, both of which were just so off the mark I couldn’t bear to let them pass the moderation queue.

I would’ve sent a private message to explain why every single sentence in both of them were wrong, but you can’t do that on guest reviews as there’s no account to send them to. Public it is.

So yeah, I deleted them, but kept unaltered copies for later. It’s later now, so let’s see what’s wrong with the shorter of the two. Because of spoilers, I’ll put the actual thing and my reply under readmore.

(Sidenote: what I find particularly interesting is that the two non-anonymous reviews are both positive, and these anonymous reviews were both negative…)

If you are the anonymous guest who wrote this so-called review, please do both of us a favor and don’t reply. I don’t want to know who you are.

Continue reading “This is a callout post”

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Regarding Shampoo – an open letter to fanfic authors

The Ranma ½ fanfiction community has a bit of a history. People like pata-hikari have written about it before, but it boils down to people copying certain elements from earlier fanfics.

This includes characters’ names.

It’s quite obvious that the three Chinese Amazons warriors have a naming theme going, as is common in manga. “Shampoo”, “Mousse”, and “Cologne”. Besides some people apparently not getting the joke and naming the functionally blind guy “Moose”, there’s the added joke, to some degree, that these are actually mutations of their “proper” Chinese names.

Unfortunately, this only holds up well for Shampoo.

Continue reading “Regarding Shampoo – an open letter to fanfic authors”

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