"Le Tour de Force" of a passion
by Rosa María Carmona Plata
THE HIDDEN HEROINE
Probably, Ranko, is one of the most complex Ace o Nerae characters, maybe one of the deepest and least typical ones, one of those figures who, without having main protagonism, leave in the spectator a fingerprint difficult to erase. A heroine able to be compared with the greatest feminine characters of the Worldwide Fictional Universe: for her abnegation, for her bravery and courage, for her suffering endurance, for her extraordinary inner strength, for her lively sense of justice and honour, for her generosity, for her goodness
Because, in spite of being one of the best sportswomen of the series, her brother (and beloved) never preferred her as a player, having to remain under the shadows of the two great divas of the story: Hiromi Oka and Mme. Butterfly.
Ranko is the solid stone that stays still under the most furious tempests. Her self-confidence, her contempt at difficulties
emerge from the experience acquired from the various proofs she had to face during her life, from her numerous slopes and rebirths, from her constant failures and successes, from her frequent injuries and recoveries
From her passionate and impetuous personality and the unlucky fate which obliged her to constantly reinvent herself in her fight for being a better person, a better player, for being the woman whom Jin could admire and love.
AN UNBREAKABLE SPIRIT
She lost her coach when he chose another girl as a pupil; she lost hope to have her loving feelings corresponded when she found the truth about her beloved; she lost her beloveds donation when he fell in love with another woman and his presence when he died; she almost lost her life after a motorcycle accident. An injury prevented her from using her right arm, having to become a left-handed tennis player
Ranko reincarnates the fierce warriors role, that one who laughs at Death knowing that her end is near but savouring her last combat to its fullest. She also embodies the idealistic soldiers role, that one ready to fight for her ideals or to give her life for those who she loves. She also reincarnates the feeling of eternal love, the woman who, witness of the immorality of her desires, has to give up the single man able to make her happy (as Rebecca in "Ivanhoe", Morgana is the "Mists of Avalon" or Dr Kennedy in "Amy Forster") because he is the only one she cant have.
If Hiromi is the dazzling protagonist who, in spite of all obstacles, manages to improve her skills and obtain decisive victories, Ingrid is her alter ego, her antithetic image. Both share the same hobby: tennis, the same love: Jin, the very same rival: Reika, an analogue desire of success and of overcoming the limits. But whether Hiromi always ends up conquering all her aims (helped constantly by various mentors: Jin, Katsura, Tohdoh, even Reika); Ranko is the everlasting fighter, that one who always loses her crucial matches and constantly regains forces to emerge from her cinders thanks exclusively to her inner strengths, never getting discouraged, never losing neither her combative spirit nor her hope to surpass her own limitations.
Hiromi, heiress of all elements that constitute the symbology of invincible heroes, manages to make us all participate from all her confrontations and misfortunes, but it is Ranko the secondary character who, shot by shot (mainly in the OAVs story) truly gains our hearts, mute witness of her fruitless battle to gain a success that is always drained from her hands, despite her stated sportive qualities.
A LIFE OF SUFFOCATED FEELINGS
Born after Jins fathers wedding subsequent to repudiating his first wife, Ranko was a desired child: loved, cherished, spoilt and over protected. She met her half brother when she was an infant, unaware of the blood link that connected them, believing that he was just a family friend. With typical childish innocence, she got seduced by the older boys charm. Although Jin hated his father whom he blamed for her mothers death, his half sister was precious to him, his only family besides his motherly grandparents.
It was Jin who helped Ranko overcoming her complex of being too tall for a girl convincing her of starting practising tennis from childhood (a sport in which her measures were a full advantage, and thanks to which she could be modelled physical and spiritually). It was also Jin who helped her train at the beginning, becoming Rankos friend and confident
It was natural that as time passed, her infatuation changed into real love.
Discovering in her youth that the man she loved was in fact her half brother, was a hard shock she could never overcome. After that, she never forgave her father for abandoning his former wife and son. From then, she became Jins most loyal ally and defender. Though accepting that her feelings towards him could never be corresponded, she never stopped loving, protecting and admiring him. A love without hope whose roots had been planted so deep inside her heart that she could not extinguish its flames. An affection of which Jin was aware and fought to discourage being with her especially exigent, even harsh at times, and little affective.
Nevertheless, Jin would always be Rankos ideal. When he abandoned his tennis career, she accepted the fact without questioning him. She didnt know about his fatal disease and assumed it was an inevitable consequence after the mysterious attack that hospitalised him for months. Later on, he decided becoming a tennis coach and Ranko not even doubted that he would become her teacher and coach. Nevertheless, though he valued his sisters tenacity and sacrificing spirit, she wasnt the ideal pupil he was searching for, that one he desired to find in order to be a recipient for his knowledge and dreams.
THREE WOMEN, THREE RIVALS
Then Jin found Hiromi, and Ranko couldnt avoid her jealousy. Why had her brother chosen an unfamiliar person, besides a rookie, instead of herself? She had never dared to question him before, but she just couldnt understand his motives, his devotion, his dedication towards Hiromi. When later on in the story he confessed his sister, her expectations concerning Hiromi as a player, and his feelings towards her as a woman, Ranko believed she was going to die of sadness. But despite her despair, she learnt to hide her emotions and to accept the situation. He seemed so truly happy, full of illusion, complete
She knew she had to approve his decisions and renounce to her own dreams.
Ranko couldnt see anything special in Hiromi. In fact, she never considered her a natural rival. Her goal was Reika, whose tennis style was so perfect and different from her own (more masculine and based in powerful aces). Reika was the person whom Ingrid admired most as a player, the rival she wanted to defeat, her eternal enemy at the courts. As time went by, both developed also a deep friendship never steamed up by their rivalry.
Besides, although the only real rival for Reika was Hiromi, it was Ranko the one who helped her taking the most important decision in her life: becoming a professional player; the one that, with her example, drove her to abandoning her divas shell; the one who showed her how to accept failure as a reference point for a new beginning; the one who taught her, with her innate humbleness, to dismiss her haughtiness.
Only at the end of the series, when the true nature of Hiromis tennis technique is revealed in all its splendour, could Ranko and Reika understand Jins dedication, the reason for him choosing Hiromi as his pupil in their places. Only at the end was Ranko ready to accept it. Until that moment, Hiromi was to her only his brothers spoilt pupil, whom she had to protect for her brothers sake.
On the contrary, Hiromi was always impressed at Rankos extraordinary physical strength. At their first match, Ranko appeared as an invisible enemy, scary and harsh. Afterwards, Ranko became her protector, her dear coachs sister, somebody whom she trusted and respected. After Jins death, both girls lived his disappearance with agonic desperation; then, Hiromi turned to her best friend, Maki, and her trainer Katsura, while Ranko focussed on Reika, emotionally, the person more attached to her.
Even so, it was finally Ranko the one and only whose approval did Hiromi need to definitely accept Tohdohs loving feelings for her as, in her heart, Ranko personalized, in a way, her dear coachs soul. And she, in an unspoken manner, gave them her sincere blessing.
A NEW START
When at the end of the series, Reika and Ranko witnessed Hiromis birth as the major Japanese tennis promise, as the unique and true heiress of Jins dream, they realized that more than a reason for their retirement, the new Hiromi gave them a reason, an encouragement, to continue fighting in order to conquer complete perfection in that sport that Jin had taught them to love.
And Ranko, looking at the sky, knew that her brother would never abandon her. That, in fact, had never abandoned her. And that his affection would accompany her over her life, no matter how hard it seemed to appear.