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Genma Saotome
(Panda Form)

It's panda-monium!

I "fake-swapped" (i.e., worked on a themed project without actually exchanging it with anyone) this figure for Craftster's Anime and Manga Swap Round 9. "Anime" is the Japanese adoption, and truncation, of the English word "animation" and "manga" simply means "comic/cartoon". I was very enamored with Japanese animation when I was younger, but I seldom watch them anymore (except for the occasional clip on YouTube), but I still read manga fairly regularly (in fact, I purchased a couple of back issues of Shounen Jump recently).

As usual, I hemmed-and-hawed for quite a while, trying to decide what I wanted to do, and I ultimately settled on Rumiko Takahashi's romantic martial arts comedy Ranma 1/2 as my subject matter. I feel that the comic series that she finished prior to starting Ranma 1/2 was better, but, while that story (a young man's misadventures as he repeatedly attempts to woo a beautiful young widow who also happens to be his landlady) has its zany moments, Maison Ikkoku had a much more realistic setting and characters than Ranma 1/2 did, so, despite liking it better, I have to admit that, as far as design goes, the cast was fairly pedestrian (in other words, none of Maison Ikkoku's characters are unique or weird enough for me to want to model them; Ranma 1/2, on the other hand, has several suitably strange individuals!) I've only seen the pilot episode of the Ranma 1/2 anime, but I read the first 17 trade paperbacks (translated into English) of the manga (it's been a while, so, I can't remember if I didn't finish the rest of them because I got bored with the storyline, or if I just had trouble tracking down the later volumes), and I also enjoyed the three Super Famicom (SNES) fighting games. The manga's original run (in Japan), was published, in 38 volumes, from September 1987 to March 1996 in Weekly Shounen Sunday magazine. Incredibly popular, the Ranma 1/2 comic was also adapted into two animated television series (as well as some feature-length films). The first TV show only lasted 18 episodes, in 1989, but a revised, second attempt was much more successful, ultimately spanning 143 installments that aired from 1989 through 1992.

Genma in both his panda and human forms.
The sign reads "Gao-!!", which is a Japanese sound effect used for roaring beasts/monsters.
Is it even possible for a panda bear to be terrifying?

Musabetsu Kakutou Ryuu ("Anything Goes Martial Arts") master Genma Saotome was training, with his teenage son, Ranma, at the Jusenkyo springs in China when both of them had the misfortune of falling into two different magically-cursed pools. The patriarch tumbled into the "Spring of Drowned Panda", and, as a result, whenever he gets doused with cold water, Genma instantly changes into said bamboo-munching mammal (hot water reverses the transformation, returning him to human form). Ranma, on the other hand, fell into a pool where a girl died, so he switches genders and becomes a young woman when he gets wet.

A panel from the manga.
Akane Tendo, Ranma's arranged-marriage fiancée (and, yes, that was Genma's doing too), is less-than-impressed with her future father-in-law.

Unlike Ranma, who very much wants to be rid of his curse (although he's not above using his female form if it will further his goals), Genma doesn't seem to be too concerned about their shape-shifting problems at all and goes about his business as usual, regardless of whether he's a man or a bear. And, to be honest, if I could turn into a panda whenever I wanted, I'd probably spend a good part of the day as one too.

While he's an accomplished martial artist, Genma is also a notoriously lazy, cowardly, and irresponsible oaf that's often more concerned with filling his stomach than anything else. He frequently douses himself with cold water on purpose so that he can weasel out of his obligations or avoid situations that he'd simply rather not deal with (nobody expects anything from a panda bear after all). For example, fearing her reaction [and rightfully so, as he promised to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) if he failed to train Ranma as a "man-amongst-men"], Genma continuously avoided telling his wife, Nodoka, about what had really befallen Ranma and himself, concocting an ongoing lie that female Ranma was Akane's cousin "Ranko" and that he was her pet, "Mr. Panda", whenever Mrs. Saotome was around. Needless to say, Genma's approach to matrimonial harmony is as questionable as his parenting (did I mention that he "values" Ranma so much that he has happily traded his son for food on multiple occasions?)

The pictured sign reads, "Genma da!!", which means (in an informal tone), "It's Genma!!"
If you're curious, the pair of kanji that make up Genma's first name literally translate as "Mysterious Horse".
"Horse's ass" would have been a more appropriate choice, if you ask me.

Aside from the general hilarity that ensues when one suddenly becomes a giant, fuzzy, black and white bear at inopportune moments, the Genma character is also well-known for another running joke: Since pandas can't speak, he can instantly and miraculously produce wooden signs, with messages scrawled on them, to convey whatever it is he wants to "say" at the moment (a la Looney Tunes' Wile E. Coyote). Conversely, Genma has also been known to conveniently use the "pandas can't talk" excuse to avoid any question that he doesn't want to answer (and he desperately hopes that, in the heat of the moment, the interrogator forgets that Genma could easily respond with a sign if he wanted to).

I based my Genma figure off of this sprite, from the 1992 "Ranma 1/2: Hard Battle" SNES video game.
The sign reads "Ei", which is a Japanese sound effect that an individual makes when they are exerting considerable force doing something physical, like fighting, although it's obviously much more literal in this case, as Genma is actually striking out with the sign it's written upon!

I began this project by making a rough sphere out of newsprint wrapped around tissue paper (the body) and gluing a thick papier-mâché snake shape on top of that (the arms).

Then I added a couple of tapered chunks (the legs) and refined the body a bit more.

Next, I started in on the head. I liked the look of the alien-esque "antennae" (the precursors to the ears) at this stage, but, as my goal wasn't to make a "green panda bear from Mars", they had to be cut down to size.

This is how the figure appeared after developing the anatomy some more (eyes, claws, etc.) I also fabricated the sign accessory at this point so that I could get the fit of the grasping hand right for the shape and diameter of the cylindrical handle.

Here's a look at things midway through the final painting and assembly process. I figured I'd probably mess up the "e" and "i" Japanese hiragana characters if I tried painting them directly onto the sign by hand (my college biochemistry lab partner nicknamed me "whiskey fingers" for a reason), so, I drew them on 3-ply newsprint, cut the hiragana out, slapped a coat of acrylic black paint on them, and then glued the characters onto the sign's surface. And, if you're wondering why I shoved a sewing needle up Genma's posterior, no, he didn't need an emergency prostate exam, that's just so that I'd have a handle to hold onto while I was finishing the panda (an object painted white gets discolored from dirt, oil, and perspiration on my hands very easily if I hold it with my fingers while I'm working on it).

While there's always room for improvement, I feel that the finished figure came out pretty good. My Genma is a little more stout than I'd like and the pose could be better, but, I think I did a fair job of capturing Rumiko Takahashi's creation. This was also the first panda bear I've ever modeled.

Newsprint, tissue paper, white glue, wire twist ties (ears only), and acrylic paint.

6.8 cm (2.7") wide (including the sign) x 4.6 cm (1.8") high x 3.2 cm (1.3") deep.

Two days; March 8th and 12th, 2016.


  •   Google "Ranma 1/2 Genma" image search.

  •   Hardcore Gaming 101 Ranma 1/2 Super Famicom Fighters article.

  •   Ranma 1/2: Hard Battle Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) video game.

  •   Wikipedia Ranma 1/2 and List of Ranma 1/2 Characters articles.

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    Any and all copyrighted imagery, terminology, etc., depicted on this page belongs to its respective holders/owners, namely Rumiko Takahashi.

    The midi music playing is the "A Lot to Learn" theme from Ranma 1/2: Hard Battle.