It's mayhem as usual, with a particularly feline twist, at the 'Anything Goes School of Martial Arts' in Ranma 1/2 Volume 4.
The boys at Furikan High School are causing trouble again. One of them, Hikaru Gosunkugi, just can't get over the fact that Akane isn't interested. He redirects that rage onto Ranma (for stealing Akane's nonexistent affections) and has taken to spying on him and making voodoo dolls of him. So when the nearsighted Mousse, Shampoo's would-be suitor, comes to town, they team up. Mousse enlists Hikaru's spying abilities to discover Ranma's weakness. And even though he's not a particularly good spy, eventually that weakness gets out.
Although really, when one looks at the other training methods that Genma has subjected poor Ranma to, the cursed springs really don't look that bad anymore.
Shampoo's grandmother Cologne is back too, causing her own type of trouble. Believing that Shampoo hasn't trained enough since she hasn't succeeded in capturing Ranma, she takes her to the same cursed springs that has caused so much trouble already. So, of course, Shampoo had a little accident there, and now she's just as cursed as everyone else.
Even more so than with the previous volumes, the reader really needs to check his common sense at the door. There's no reason for ANYONE to train at the cursed springs. There's no reason for Ranma to work at Cologne's restaurant. And besides fanservice, there's no reason to take a trip to the beach when everyone should be training and researching how to get this whole body-switching thing figured out. On another note, why isn't anyone doing any research to see what can counter cursed springs? Some of the Tendo girls seem clever enough, and so does their doctor.
And yet, this is Ranma 1/2, and things don't always have to make sense.
Beyond the martial arts training and love triangles, this is also a high school manga. It's rather nice to see Ranma and Akane at a summer festival, snacking on food from food stands and trying to beat the carnival games. Admittedly, only Ranma would turn a catch-the-goldfish game into a catch-the-piranha game, but even that makes a certain twisted kind of sense. Because when you take away all the martial arts, and all the magical issues, and all the betrothals, it's still a story about a bunch of teenagers living their lives. And to them, their lives are their lives, and they're simply trying to live them.
Highs: Poor Ranma and his 'fatal weakness.'
Lows: Does every manga need a trip to the beach to show its female characters in bikinis?
Verdict: More of the same type of strangeness, but novel enough that it doesn't get stale
Further Reading: Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku