I was not impressed with Ranma – I barely made it through the first disc. But Steven’s enthusiasm is somewhat infectious. I wonder if I approached it from the wrong perspective; it seems more like a recurring romantic sitcom than a genuine story arc-driven plot. If I treat it at the level I would, say, Three’s Company, then maybe it will work for me. It probably also helps that Steven started in season 2, where presumably the writers had long since hit their stride. Pete theorizes that this might be the best way to approach a long-running series (and they don’t get much longer than Ranma). So, I think I will give Ranma another chance.
UPDATE: Steven discusses the plot structure:
It’s more comedic and slapstick than Maison Ikkoku but the characters are far better conceived than in Urusei Yatsura.
One thing becomes clear at this point: the series is constructed of a sequence of multi-episode story arcs. There’s an occasional one-off ep (like the “Ramen Delivery martial arts” story) but what you mainly have is arcs that cover 3-5 episodes. And that really does work pretty well. If the series were constructed entirely of one-ep stories it would come off as rather vapid. This way the stories are more deep. It keeps me coming back.
I think “vapid” and “slapstick” accurately describe my impressions of Ranma after watching disc 1 of season 1. All the more evidence that Pete’s theory is generalizable to long series. The writers simply take time to mature into their characters and flesh them out. I know I still wince whenever I see an episode from season 1 of Star Trek: Next Generation…