Where it all began, though, was in the kitchen of a smallChinese restaurant, the Nekohanten by name. Ranma had gone therefor aid with an affliction of the mind. A long-ago incident ofhis childhood, brought on by a feckless father's imbecilicactions, had left him with a severe phobia of all things feline.That in itself would be bad enough, but with sufficient exposure,he would cease to be terrified of cats for a time and come tobelieve that he himself was one; reverting, as it was, to a feralstate.The complexities of Ranma's personal life need not beexplained here; the details of that alone have filled volumes.Let it only be said that he had, at long last, been coerced intoan evening out with Akane Tendo. One that had, astonishingly,been uninterrupted by the intrusion of any of the other claimantsto the love of either himself or his lady. A pleasant dinnerwith little conflict was spent at one of the nicer restaurants intown, and both had, though they would not have readily admittedit, an enjoyable time. Walking home, however, they chanced toencounter a stray cat wandering through the darkened streets.Stricken with fear, Ranma fled into a nearby alley, thereupon toencounter a dozen more cats picking through the refuse bins.Unaware of this fact, Akane shooed away the single cat outsidethe alley and then entered to retrieve her wayward fiancee, onlyto find that the cats had surrounded him. Already nervous fromthe alien events of the date, Ranma had become, in mind, a cat.Thus, he avoided further mental trauma from his fear.Upon spotting Akane, he grew affectionate and leapt uponher. The precise detailing of what occurred afterwards would beunnecessary; let it only be said that the end results were oneruined suit, one ruined dress, and one very angry and upsetfiancee. Ranma's phobia had, in her mind, spoiled what hadotherwise been a most pleasant time. For this, she blamed Ranmahimself, rather than the phobia. Such was her wont to do; Akanehad many fine points to her character, but reasonableness hadnever been one of them, nor had the proper assignment of blame.Ranma himself felt horribly guilty. His mental difficultieshad destroyed what should have been a very pleasurable outing forhim. His feelings for Akane, uncertain and nervous as they were,were strong. Their engagement had been difficult before, but nowit seemed to Ranma that no chance of taking a step beyondengagement, or even of attaining a normal life, existed while helay under the curse of his ailurophobia. Thus he found himself that day in the Nekohanten speakingto the aged proprietor, a woman renowned for her wisdom of theeldritch lores and judgement in applying them, if no longer forher beauty. And so began a grand and terrifying adventure, intoa realm of nightmares and dreams, gods and monsters, beyond theveil of sleep...."Ya gotta help me out, Cologne."