Maison Ikkoku is a classic romantic comedy from manga legend Rumiko Takahashi. For years it’s been out of print, and the original Viz Media run excluded some chapters. Now it’s back in a large collector’s edition, intended to show the whole story. This is a cause of celebration for fans of the manga, and for me an opportunity to see how this series has aged since it came out in the 1980s. While it hasn’t aged well in some areas, it has aged like fine wine where it counts.
The manga chronicles the day-to-day lives of the tenants of a run-down boarding house. “Always on the brink of collapse” is a good way to describe both the building and it’s tenants. The series focuses on Godai, a young slacker wanting to do great things, but doesn’t want to put in the effort to accomplish them. Things change for him when the building gets a new female manager, the beautiful Kyoko Otonashi. Godai is immediately smitten by her, and proclaims to himself that one day she will be his girlfriend. But to do that he has to become a better person and survive the antics of the other tenants. There's the gossipy Hanae Ichinose, her son Kentaro, the aloof Yotsuya, the flirty Akemi, and Kyoko’s dog Soichiro.
The best thing about this book is the interaction between the cast. These strong characters love giving each other hell, but in a friendly way. My favorite supporting character, Hanae Ichinose, is a middle-aged mother who is always looking to cause trouble. It’s never mean-spirited and done in good fun. Plus it’s just obvious that Godai and Koyoko like each other; why not force them into intimate situations?
I’ve always liked Takahashi’s art style, and here she gives a comedic whimsy to the characters. I never liked how people describe the art of manga published a long time ago as “outdated”; good art is never dated, because good art is timeless. That’s how the art looks; timeless.
However, there are parts of it that aren’t timeless. This is most apparent in the early chapters. Godai at the beginning fits into the “funny pervert” archetype, and many situations center around that early on. It is a trope that I’ve never found funny. The female characters not named Hanae aren’t given much agency, which is strange coming from Takakshi. Luckily everything gets better as the manga goes along. People who want to change have to start somewhere, and for Godai this is his starting point. As more female characters are introduced, you see once passive characters like Kyoko have more agency and depth. I hope that first-time readers are willing to get through the first few chapters to see it.
Maison Ikkoku is a classic rom-com that has many of the strengths of modern sitcoms. The back-and-forth between characters is always hilarious. The romance between Godai and Kyoko is both nuanced and sweet. It becomes easy to root for these characters and see what fun dialogue Takahashi whips up. It’s definitely something worth checking out.
Yusaku Godai didn’t get accepted into college on the first try, so he’s studying to retake the entrance exams. But living in a dilapidated building full of eccentric and noisy tenants is making it hard for him to achieve his goals. Now that a beautiful woman has moved in to become the new resident manager, Godai is driven to distraction!Add to CartLearn More