rethinking Ranma

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…

5 thoughts on “rethinking Ranma”

  1. It may not be for you; not everything is for everyone. But now that I’m watching season 1, and just having finished the first DVD, I am noticing a qualitative diference between season 1 and season 2.

    Season 1 is more serious. And things are more complicated. One of my readers said that the first season wasn’t as successful as they hoped, and they rethought the whole presentation before they restarted production. I think that is why Kasumi and Nabiki are not really very important in season 2, for example; they represent the kind of complication in the first season that they decided to get rid of later.

    Season 1 now comes off as more soap-operish than season 2 did. Season 2 is more slapstick, more farce. But the main thing is that it’s lighter, more fluffy, more fun.

  2. A bit more: Actually, in watching the first season I was rather surprised by the love hypercube when they started hinting at it. There’s no trace of that in the second season. The chiropractor (Dr. Tofu) only shows up once, and just as a comedic prop in one of the arcs.

  3. I actually watched disc 2 today, where P-chan and the Black Rose are introduced. I think I appreciate it more and have more patience with it. There were some genuinely hilarious moments involving P-chan (Ryogi) on disc 2 that really did a lot to get me to stay with it.

    Truly, the echhi level of the first few episodes really turned me off and it is possible that colored my view. The atrocious stereotype of the Chinese also didn’t help 😛

    You are ahead of me in overall plot awareness/episode consumption, but it is cool to think we are watching season 1 in tandem 🙂

  4. Well, for me the ecchi is a big plus. I admit it, my tastes are low. But that’s an example of the way people’s tastes are different. You’re right, though; this is fundamentally a situation comedy with little-to-no long term plot development.

    After 163 episodes of the regular series plus two movies, the summary description of the OVA that follows in plot terms includes Ranma trying to work up his courage to tell Akane that he likes her. Not a lot of movement for all that time, eh?

  5. Wow. That’s good to know up front 🙂 But you know, that is actually a smart choice, plot wise. Every show with an unresolved love triangle, animated or otherwise, immediately suffers once it gets resolved. Sexual tension works as a plot driver. And comedic gold. Once you cross that line, though, its boring relationship humor, which is really hard to keep fresh.

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