Ranma Saotome, alias: Ranko, is the series’ main protagonist. A 16-year-old proficient martial artist, he spent most of his youth on training trips with his father. The last of these trips led them to Jusenkyo, China, where he fell into the Spring of Drowned Girl. Since then, he changes into a red headed, well built girl when splashed with cold water. When splashed with hot water, he changes back into a man, but only until the next time he is hit with cold water. Thanks to an agreement between his father and Soun Tendo, he is engaged to Soun’s daughter Akane. Due to a series of other involuntary entanglements, he has several additional love interests, most notably the Chinese Amazon Shampoo, okonomiyaki chef and childhood friend Ukyo Kuonji, and Kodachi Kuno, the younger sister of rival Tatewaki Kuno. He is very much in love with Akane, but does not want to admit it. When another man shows general interest in her, he can’t help but grow jealous leading him to becoming depressed, scheming something to separate them, or growing worried.
Martial arts is the 16-year-old hero’s life. Whenever his pride is damaged, Ranma will go to great lengths to rectify the situation. He can come across as petty, arrogant, and disrespectful, as he is prone to bragging and tossing insults. Despite these flaws, he retains a moral center throughout the series and has little to no problems helping those in need. Ranma also has an extreme fear of cats resulting from when his father trained him in the misconcepted ‘Cat Fu’ technique. If he is isolated with a cat in a very small space, or when he can no longer cope with his fear of cats, he begins behaving like a cat himself and becomes a master of the ‘Cat Fu’, and only Akane can calm him down. He and Akane drift closer throughout the series, each going to great lengths to save the other when in trouble. The reason why Ranma tolerates his big number of suitors is not only because he is generally very friendly and caring towards them (going through great lengths to make sure Shampoo doesn’t hate him, for example), but mainly because he considers himself a hunk. In spite of this, Ranma is the butt of most of the violence that happens in the story.
Akane Tendo is the female protagonist of the series and Soun’s youngest daughter at age 16. She first encountered Ranma’s male form as a naked stranger in the bathroom, as she originally believed him to be a girl. Her family chose her to be engaged to him and carry on the Tendo family dojo. Due to numerous arguments and misunderstandings, their engagement was not off to a good start and both later mellow out. In spite of Ranma’s apparent derision, Akane is actually often revered due to her beauty and strength.
Akane regularly feels inferior to Kasumi in beauty and feminine pursuits, to Ranma and his other fiancées in cooking, martial arts ability or gymnastics, and to other students in swimming. She is trying hard to excel in everything, but is either clumsy or completely inept at all (especially cooking — the taste of her cooking can incapacitate most people for a significant amount of time) except for schoolwork and certain sports activities, like volleyball. She is also a capable martial artist, particularly excelling in the use of a wide variety of archaic weaponry, and is quite popular with the boys at school, though she would prefer a little less attention from them, especially Tatewaki Kuno. When someone, frequently Ranma, belittles her lack of success, or calls her uncute, ugly, over-muscled, unfeminine and tomboyish, she often feels upset and also gets very jealous when one of Ranma’s other fiancees show physical affection towards him, although she will often state that she is not affected. She loves Ranma deep down, despite frequently refusing to show it.
Akane’s personality usually swings from violent, hot-tempered, aloof, bad-mannered scorn towards her suitor to friendliness regarding other loved ones or just strangers in general.
In spite of her apparent disadvantages, out of the four fiancees, Akane is considered to have the best claim as a suitor for Ranma; this puts her as the main target for the rest of the fiancees except Ukyo.
Ryoga Hibiki is Ranma’s long-time primary rival, and the only one the latter has stated to truly consider as such. He has no sense of direction and is always lost on long strenuous journeys – traits he inherited from his parents. This caused him to be four days late for a duel he and Ranma had planned to fight, and Ranma left on the third day. After spending months looking for male Ranma to have the belated duel, Ryoga finally ends up at Jusenkyo in China, but is pushed into a cursed spring by female Ranma (while chasing Genma and not looking where he was going). Ever since then Ryoga turns into a black piglet when doused with cold water, which makes his constant wanderings much more dangerous from hungry hunters and predators, and he initially carries a large grudge at Ranma for that once he learned the truth.
Ryoga is the first major challenge to Ranma in Nerima. Their first fight showcases their strengths, and it is a close match. Akane accidentally discovers Ryoga in cursed form, and not knowing the pig’s true identity, adopts him as her pet and names him P-chan. She is the first person to show him real kindness, and Ryoga falls head-over-heels in love with her, and consistently acts as a fierce protector from both real and imagined threats, whether in normal or cursed form. She even takes him to bed with her, and generally beats him severely with her sleep-movements.
When not upset Ryoga is usually shy, humble, helpful, well-intended, and polite, especially around women. He tends to stock up on an assortments of gifts and local food specialties from the highly diverse locations where he ends up during his travels. Ryoga also has strong chivalrous streaks, and consistently protects any maidens in distress, or victims of bullies, monsters, or bandits that he comes across, and is overemotional enough to be brought to tears from compassion, including for Ranma. However, he also recurrently tends to be led more by impulse and emotions than common sense, is prone to anger and misunderstandings, and although he is generally more considerate and naive than Ranma, and needs considerably stronger reasons to turn petty and spiteful, when sufficiently pressed he has displayed a few rare more ruthless moments than his rival seems capable of. Ryoga is largely clumsy with his own strength when he is not engaging in combat, often going through walls and destroying property whenever he feels embarrassed. Ranma often takes advantage of Ryoga’s good nature: Ryoga is utterly incapable of seeing through a lady in disguise (mostly Ranma), though this is not a unique trait in him, as Shampoo and Ukyo have also used (blatantly obvious) disguises on other people with success.
Genma Saotome is Ranma’s father and the sensei of the Anything Goes Martial Arts. He trained with Soun under Happosai. Because they were treated like slaves, they eventually sealed him within a cave and opened their own schools. Starting from a young age, Genma took Ranma on a continuous training trip to perfect his skills. So his wife Nodoka would agree to this plan, he promised to turn Ranma into a “man-among-men” under the threat of them both committing seppuku if he failed. He originally took Ranma to Jusenkyo because he had heard about it in a Chinese brochure even though he cannot read a word of Chinese. During their training there, Genma fell into a cursed spring, which gave him a giant panda curse. Unlike Ranma, he doesn’t have much trouble with his curse, especially because he can get away from his problems in his panda form. He and Ranma eventually return to Japan to fulfill an arranged marriage between Ranma and Akane to keep the school going. He hides from his wife by staying as a panda while she is around, and she simply believes Ranko, Ranma’s female form, has “Mr. Panda” as a pet.
Genma follows his own interpretation of the “Indiscriminate Grappling” code, which is not exactly all that virtuous itself to begin with. He frequently preaches duty and honor as a martial artist, but seems to be a poor example by which to set those standards. Though he himself claims to be a model martial artist, and makes a point of telling Ranma about the right thing to do, he is not above acting cowardly, stealing a dowry, or only looking out for his own well being. He usually tries to flee from any problems he has caused or is entangled in, foisting the matter on Ranma if he cannot. His love of food regularly overpowers his love of his son, once trading him for a bowl of ramen, and in another, he traded the infant Ranma for a meal of fish. He is very open with his panda form, and regularly uses it to avoid questions as pandas cannot speak. In panda form, he communicates by writing on wooden signs which he seems to pull out of a type of hammerspace in that form.
While he’s usually either too lazy or scared to show it, Genma is an accomplished martial artist. He is extremely strong and agile despite his size, and his panda form increases his abilities even further, managing to give his son a run for his money in most of their serious battles or spars. Most of his special techniques are ridiculous to behold (but, amazingly enough, not completely useless), and he uses those quite often. However, he created a couple of “serious” schools: the Umisenken that allows him to hide his aura and execute ambush attacks from behind; and the Yamasenken that allows him to make opponents lose focus, create powerful vacuum-slice barrages, or strike deadly, piercing blows. These techniques having been found to be much more dangerous than he thought, he decided to seal them; he is revealed to have created the techniques to be able to survive in dire conditions by way of thieving. He usually resorts to grapple Ranma in the way he grapples a tire when he is a panda to sway him. Genma is also able to invoke a battle aura of epic proportions similar to Happosai’s, but he can only use it for very brief periods (possibly just half a minute) before collapsing from overexertion, making it rather useless.
Soun Tendo the head of the Tendo family, one of two that practices Anything Goes Martial Arts. He has a large house that is occasionally in need of repairs due to the fights that take place there. While he owns the Musabetsu Kakutō Ryū Tendo Dojo and is its current master, it has not been explicitly shown to have students, making the source of his income uncertain. Community representatives frequently approach him when they have problems with unusual phenomena, so this may provide some of it, and he has rented out the dojo for social meetings. He is shown to be quite careful with the expenses and gets upset when his daughter Nabiki spends his savings on expensive gifts, or when Ranma throws dinner on the floor. In spite of this, he is a very mindful and accommodating host at his dojo towards all sorts of visitors.
He studied under the founder of the style, Happosai, with Genma, who is a close friend. Their training was nothing short of abuse and slave labor, so they eventually managed to get away from him. He and Genma set up an arranged marriage between his daughter, Akane, and Ranma in order to unite the Tendo and Saotome Schools and continue its legacy. Despite protests from both parties, they believe the two will eventually grow to love each other. Soun is eager for his daughter to say she loves Ranma or vice versa. He’ll start announcing wedding plans if Ranma and Akane seem romantically involved.
Soun is very emotional, often brought to tears just by thinking of a sad thought (though this tendency to cry is an anime-only trait). He is also a widower, left to single-handedly take care of his three daughters. He is very respectful to his deceased wife, whose grave he visits regularly, and he constantly mourns her. He’s extremely protective of his three girls, especially Kasumi, and becomes sad if their affection is in doubt. Perhaps for this reason, he tends to become very angry whenever he suspects that Ranma is ‘cheating’ on Akane or otherwise is treating her badly, being intensely paranoid in this regard. He generally assumes that most incidents are Ranma’s fault, and he often manifests himself as a ghostly, floating oni head to scare or intimidate Ranma in such a situation. In combat, Soun frequently fights clad fully in traditional samurai armor and he is skilled in both hand-to-hand combat and the use of a wide variety of archaic weaponry. In the anime, he spends most of his time playing shogi with his old training partner Genma.