I just finished the Three Urns arc and had a total blast. Why am i enjoying this? Steven meanwhile is having buyer’s remorse, arguing that there just isn’t enough plot to fill a series of this length. However, i think that the plot staples of hair matches and treasure hunts works well enough. What was great about the Urn arc was that a lot of characters made a return, we got to see Ryoga interact with Kuno, for example, and Kodachi square off against Mousse (who played fowl). Brief, to be sure, but still fun. I also think there’s a lot of ground to cover in fleshing out Ryoga, who is clearly destined to be Ranma’s ally and friend. The arc of how he gets there is a long one no doubt. The ensemble cast is large enough that all the characters might end up with a role to play. I certainly hadn’t expected Shampoo to stick around this long. And of course with N characters there are N^2 possible pairings in terms of conflict or alliance. 2*N^2 if you allow for both.
As far as the treasure hunts go, I’m cool with knowing they are destined to fail. The suspense is not if, but how. The ending to the Urn arc was awesome, it had that whole meta, Douglas Adams vibe to it. And I also speculate that there’s no way that Ranma will ever lift his curse (I may be wrong, don’t spoil me). So the purpose of the treasure hunts are more for Ranma’s acceptance of his fate, than for my need for plot resolution. And they provide just wonderful backdrops for all the minor characters to shine, and interact.
For some reason I am reminded of Samurai Jack. Here too is a series where the basic plot is recycled: treasure hunts, or liberation of group/race X from Aku’s clutches. And here too I have my doubts as to whether samurai Jack will ever succeed – his goal of going back in time to stop Aku would just be too much of a reset. All the suffering that Aku has inflicted on Earth is real. Can it be washed away? I don’t see how that squares with the idea central to the series that one man makes a difference. If Jack resets the world, then all of his own efforts in the future also become meaningless.
Ranma plays the hero for laughs, whereas Jack plays it for drama. But in the end, the two of them have the same general problem. In trying to solve it, they drag reality along, and it’s in their wake that the real stories are told.