Published: Nov 1980 to Apr 1987
Authors: Takahashi, Rumiko (Story & Art)
Serialization: Big Comic Spirits
Score: 8.261 (scored by 1679 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
2 based on the top manga page.
Popular Tagscomedy romance
Mar 24, 2010
Misunderstandings are brought about by a failure to convey what one truly wants to say. In many cases the problems caused are nothing more than trivialities, but in certain situations a misunderstanding can have damaging consequences. Relationships can end, families can turn against each other, friends can become enemies, misunderstandings can even spark wars.
Maison Ikkoku is probably one of the most well known and influential romantic comedies in the history of manga and anime. Created in 1980 by the reknowned Takahashi Rumiko, the manga was serialised in "Big Comic Spirits" for its entire 7 year run. The story was adapted into a 96 episode anime in 1986, and also spawned a movie, three OVAs, and a music special.
The tale begins with Godai Yusaku, a student who is attempting to leave the the boarding house known as Maison Ikkoku as he feels that the residents there are hindering his studies and causing him to fail his exams. He changes his mind however, when a beautiful woman, Otonashi Kyoko, appears and tells everyone that she is the new manager.
Now, many people consider the story in Maison Ikkoku to be a straightforward romantic comedy with indecisive lead characters, and to be honest, this is a perfectly reasonable and logical conclusion - on the surface. What really struck me about this series though, wasn't actually the romance or the comedy, both of which were pretty decent. No, what really stood out for me was the fact that the main concept seemed to be about misunderstandings, in particular how they can force people to behave in certain ways over time (more on this in a bit).
While the majority of the story flows pretty well, one of the issues that some people have with Maison Ikkoku is that there is a large section in the middle of the series where it seems as though nothing in particular happens. While I can understand that perspective, I actually thought this was a rather clever way of highlighting how time can pass with nothing actually happening. Those of you who are familiar with Takahashi Rumiko's other works will know that she is an author who doesn't approach a story in a typical manner, and that her tales aren't often straightforward affairs.
That said, even I felt that the middle section of the series dragged on a bit too long, however I didn't really get bored of reading the series as the comedy made up for some of the shortfalls.
As far as the artwork goes the series shows its age in two main areas - the drawing style and the character design. This is particularly noticeable at the beginning of the series and may put some people off reading the series altogether. However, while the style may be typical Takahashi Rumiko, the series is particularly indicative of how her she developed during the course of the manga, and the latter half of the series is more reminiscent of much of her later work.
Even though the series does have some flaws with the artwork, some of the visual gags were truly inspired and the characters are a lot more expressive and emotive than one might expect from a series this old.
One of the biggest gripes people have with Maison Ikkoku is the characters. I've heard it mentioned that if both lead characters were less indecisive then the series could have been completed in half the time, and even I have to agree with that statement. However, I would have to add that certain ways of thinking, certain behaviours, become habitual in a very short space of time. Kyoko's inability to choose between Godai Yusakui and Mitaka Shun is one example of how the characters become accustomed to a certain situation - something that can happen in real life as well. The middle section of the series is the area where these habits are most prominent, and it's actually rather nice to see a mangaka acknowledge that any type of relationship can become stale when one is simply "going through the motions".
One thing I will add is that while both character display a clear inability to make a decision, Takahashi has made the effort to justify their indecisiveness to a degree.
As far as development goes, much of it occurs on the part of Yusaku and Kyoko, however a number of other characters are also given some depth over the course of the series, and while the amount may vary from one character to the next, the series is surprising in its ambition to give every character a moment in the spotlight.
In terms of enjoyment, Maison Ikkoku is one of those stories that you can love and hate at the same time. The romance and comedy are well handled, however the numerous misunderstandings that lead compound Yusaku and Kyoko's indecisiveness can become annoying for some people, and I will admit that the series tested even my patience on a couple of occasions.
That said, if you can work through the flaws in the plot, the poor artwork at the beginning, the numerous misunderstandings, etc, then what is left is a surprisingly charming series with some unique characters. One thing that many people may find though, is how similar Maison Ikkoku is to later romantic comedies, but given that many took inspiration/borrowed/stole outright from this series, it's understandable that there would be more than a passing resemblance.
Still, they do say plagiarism is the first form of flattery :P read more
Mar 13, 2009
The story is about a group of individuals who live at a boarding house, the boarding house being called Maison Ikkoku ('MI' from this point onwards). Kyoko Otonashi, a 22 year old widow still trying to come to terms with the death of her husband, moves into MI as the manager in an attempt to take her mind off her problems. One of the tenants, Yusaku Godai, was just about to leave in order to find a more peaceful study environment when she walked into the building. He was quick to change his mind about escaping once he looked at her and fell in love at first sight. But, as Godai soon discovered, winning the heart of a woman still in love with her dead husband isn't an easy task...
How to a rate a series that's so heart-warming yet has many bothersome flaws... Reading it filled me with feelings of warmth I haven't felt since I read Love Hina, another rom-com that copied a lot from MI and improved a lot. But, during the middle sections of the story in particular, nothing advanced at all in 80% of the chapters. In fact, because the main characters were so indecisive, it took six years for four people to sort out relationship issues that could, and should, have been sorted out in under half the time.
...But I'm not going to get into the negative right from the get-go. That would give readers the wrong impression about the series. I have a habit of going on forever about the negative when something irks me, even when I actually like what I'm talking about. And as you'll see as you read on, that's true in the case of MI.
Even though MI may appear to be more of the same to fairly experienced manga readers because many people have seen a rom-com involving a boarding house by now, before going into the series you have to understand that it started its serialization back in 1980 - we're now in 2009 and it has been copied to death. And even by today’s standards, MI is still a worthy rival for any other rom-com in existence, it being far more amusing and touching than a lot of attempts that have been made at copying it.
Despite its age, MI has something many rom-com stories lack: charm and respectability. In this day and age, it's rare to see a comedy manga that doesn't involve much in the way of nudity/panty shots - it's almost a requirement these days. But, to its credit, MI isn't like that, and that adds a mature feel to the relationships of the character that just isn't there in most of the perverse rubbish out there. That's why it felt so special when, after over 130 chapters, Godai and Kyoko finally did the deed, touching each other and being intimate for the first time. It's difficult to feel the same way in other rom-coms where the male lead has already felt up and saw the female lead naked in every other chapter.
The charm and general fun vibe the story has carries it when the chapters come across as fillerish. I was able to keep reading without needing breaks because of this. It can become a frustrating experience if you're the sort of person who doesn't like the idea of seeing the development of a relationship stretched to the limit for comedy purposes (I fall into this category myself), but it's undeniable that MI is incredibly fun to read. I think, somewhere deep inside us, we all have a part of us that wants to see two people fall in love and be happy together, and if the two in question can manage that after providing lots of laughter then all the better.
As for the art, it looks a little old by today’s standards, and Rumiko Takahashi (the author/artist) did become a little sloppy during the less important sections (like just about every manga artist tends to), but she was able to express the characters' emotions so well that I didn't care about the minor issues. For example, when Kyoko went into a jealous rage, giving Godai the 'evil eye' and stomping around, I felt her emotions reach out from the page and have an impact on me. It isn't often that black and white manga panels make me feel that way. Takahashi's loved as much as she is for good reason.
Now, I'm going to cover the characters. All my negative points are connected to the characters because MI is a character driven story with no real main plot thread - the characters push the plot forward rather than the plot forcing the characters onwards. That's not to say there are more negative points than positive ones - that's not true at all - but I'm going to focus on the negative since the flaws annoyed me.
Godai: Quite possibly the most spineless main character ever. I liked him for being a kind-hearted guy, just like I like other male rom-com leads, but he REALLY pissed me off. How on earth can a grown man take six years to get it on with a woman when he's lived with her for all that time, well aware of her feelings for him? All he needed to do was stop being such a wimp. It took another character upsetting Kyoko to FINALLY drive him to confessing all to her. If not for him being such a wimp/the author wanting more money, what happened in the last 20 chapters would've occurred around 62 chapters earlier, easily.
The worst thing about it all was that he did nothing even though he had a serious rival in the form of Mitaka. Instead of being a man, he let Mitaka drive around with and grope Kyoko, risking losing her because he couldn't bring himself to do anything. If not for Kyoko being unlucky and later not jumping at the chance to marry Mitaka, Godai would've lost Kyoko. How pathetic does a lead character have to be for him to win the battle for his love because his rival was forced to throw the towel in due to a misunderstanding!?
Still, I ended up feeling happy for Godai because he was a good person who had a lot go wrong for him. It was hard to hate him when, despite his lack of backbone, he truly loved Kyoko and wanted to make her happy. But I would've liked him a hell of a lot more if there had been less chapters and he'd been more of a man.
Kyoko: I'm not sure which of the two leads frustrated me more. Godai's hard to beat in the spineless rankings but Kyoko sure gave him a run for his money.
For six years she made two men fight over her. Of course, it was their choice to do so, but she never truly rejected either and was always quick to jump at the chance of going out when Mitaka called her. At first it was understandable because she was still in love with her deceased husband and didn't know either Godai or Mitaka very well, but as the years passed the logic behind her stringing both along became less and less respectable. The truth is, she was as spineless as Godai - they were made for each other.
What really got to me about her was how jealous she got over Godai seeing other girls. How could she act the way she did when she let Mitaka take her out and feel her up constantly? She was a complete hypocrite. I know human relationships and women don't always follow logic but, nonetheless, she still got to me with her mood swings. At least, in the end, she started to reject the advances of Mitaka...even if she did still let him drive her around and didn't ever completely reject him.
I must confess to feeling fond of her, despite what I said above. She's one of the few female characters I've seen in manga/anime that wasn't cheapened by being drawn wearing revealing clothes, and/or being shown throwing herself at men. She valued herself and wanted to remain faithful to her dead husband. I liked how Godai described her as a woman who burned with jealousy, yet was perfect in his eyes when she smiled.
Mitaka: the stud, the tennis coach, the rich guy and the rival for Kyoko's affections.
Since the story was told from Godai's perspective and, from start to finish, he was the underdog, I naturally felt some level of hostility towards him. That's what the author intended; that's why he was made so perfect. But I didn't truly dislike him. At heart he was a good guy and, in the end, he was toyed with for six years by Kyoko before circumstances forced him out of the race for her. He put his love life on hold for her and suffered because Kyoko wasn't able to be honest about her feelings - I couldn't help but feel at least a little bit sorry for him.
If there's one good thing that Mitaka injected into MI it was humour. His irrational fear of dogs got the most laughs out of me, sometimes even making me laugh out loud. The image of him, a well-built guy, looking around a corner in fear at a puppy, which he'd bought in an attempt to free himself of his fear, will stay with me for a long time. I never thought something so simple could make me laugh so much.
Putting aside my feelings for the three most important characters, my main criticism lies with the heart of the supporting cast, or rather how the author wasted those three characters. Yotsuya, the snake-like voyeur who sneaks into Godai's room via a hole in the wall, stealing food most of the time, was my favourite character until he began to fade as the series went on; Akemi, the bar hostess/prostitute who enjoys walking around MI in a see-through top and no bra (the sluttish character every harem type needs) and Ichinose, the nosey, fat older woman who gets drunk on a regular basis and dances. I don't have any problem with the characters actual personalities - I feel they all added to the comedy - but the author never fleshed out any of them, never giving any chapters that fully explained their history and took them above the level of humourous plot devices. I would've loved to discover more about Yotsuya and what he did for a living, but instead I was forced to read many chapters that added nothing to the series in any way, shape or form.
There were some other important characters - a school girl with a crush on Godai (Yagami), another girl blindly in love with Godai (Kozue), a girl who falls madly in love with Mitaka (Asuna), the son of the nosey woman mentioned above (Kentaro) and a simple minded late resident of Maison Ikkoku (Nikaido) - but very few of them did anything other than extend the story. While it was obvious she only existed to add to the chapter count, Yagami was a likeable enough character and her student-teacher relationship put Kyoko's past with her deceased husband into the spotlight, but she was the only worthwhile character out of the bunch. The author had a horrible habit of bringing characters into the picture and then forgetting about them. For example, Kentaro's strained relationship with his parents was never looked into again after around the halfway point, and his character only appeared in a few panels after that. And something similar occurred with Nikaido, a character that appeared for half of a volume, taking center stage, and then only appeared again in a few panels - I can fully understand why he never appeared in the anime. Simply put, the author created too many filler characters and didn't develop a large portion of the cast.
What MI did wrong in terms of character development and pacing has been corrected by others over the years. Love Hina is the most popular out of all the attempts at taking the rom-com crown away from it, and Love Hina fixed a lot of its problems. In Love Hina, all but one of the residents of Hinata House (Love Hina's very own Maison Ikkoku) had character development and a huge amount of the chapters were devoted to them and them alone - they weren't just there for comedy purposes. This meant that some of the supporting characters became as likeable as the main two. And Keitaro, the main character of Love Hina, actually changed as the story progressed - he didn't stay spineless like Godai. Also, instead of the exam side coming up at the start and then not being touched upon again like in MI, in Love Hina exam preparation and exams were used to add purpose to the story, preventing it from becoming a completely random series of chapters.
Of course, Love Hina also has flaws that MI doesn’t, and MI has plus points that Love Hina doesn't. Both are great in their own ways. Now that I've read both, MI will always be the original and Love Hina will be thought of by me as something of a remake by me. At the end of the day, all that mattered was my enjoyment, and I enjoyed both a lot.
So, to wrap this up, let me express how much enjoyment I got out of MI. No, it wasn't perfect, and the flaws did bother me at times, but it moved me emotionally like very little else has. For a fictional story that's been copied to death to make me go on a 60+ chapter marathon and make me feel happy because of a love story that was able to warm even my cold heart, it did a lot right.
I was torn at first as to how to rate it because of its flaws and age... however, after the outstanding final 20 or so chapters (once the fillerish material stopped), how on earth can I rate something so heart-warming less than 8.5-9/10?
Rating: 8.5/10 read more
Oct 12, 2010
A lot of people will complain on how the series drags in the middle, and this is probably true. This series could have been about 100 chapters shorter and still had been as good. But at the same time this series could have been 100 chapters longer and still been as good. This is the charm of Rumiko. You might get angry at the countless number of misunderstandings that happen for no reason, but by the end of the chapter you will feel incredibly satisfied. She is able to make everything in this manga serve a purpose, and when looking back at that, it's truly astounding. And to her credit, the length of this series was prefect. It made the ending of this manga powerful. And I will be damned if this isn't the best conclusion to a romantic story that I have ever come across. Honestly the end is definitely the past part of this series, no doubt in that, but it would not have been nearly as powerful if she did not put the effort into her characters and making you actually care for them as she did.
Which brings me next to the next part, the characters. People love to fly off about how bad the characters are because of their indecisiveness. But the thing they fail to see, is that these are the characters. There is development, and it's powerful. But one of Rumiko's powers is her power over characterization. She lays out who these characters are and that's it. There is no seemingly huge event that changes them, it's just little things that add to growth. But at the end of the day these characters are who they are, and that is people. Never before have I read something to where each character was so believable as themselves. Kyoko is just a widow who is deafly afraid of being alone, and Godai is just an average guy who lacks self confidence. That's it, these are who they are. And at the end, even when they finally come to accept it, it's still who they are. And that's what makes them so powerful. The story is their struggle to accept their faults and try to move on, and at the end they do accept them. But at the same time those faults are still with them, because at the end of the day that is who they are.And Rumiko does a great job of getting this off to the reader, letting us know that these are people just like everyone else.
If there was one thing that could take away from this otherwise wonderful manga it would be the art style. Don't get me wrong the characters and character expressions are done really well. In fact the character expressions are done so flawless that they actually manage to add another layer to the emotional depth of this manga. But the background images of this manga are just really poor. The sky a lot of the time is this really weird dark smudge that just takes away from the experience. In fact I had to laugh at one point, Kyoko was walking outside and said "What a beautiful day" but because of the way the sky was drawn it looked like it was about to storm. The art isn't a major set-back, and it can be dealt with. In fact you will be looking at the characters expressions so much that you won't notice a lot. But there are times when it will come out and strike the reader and it was enough for me to count this as a flaw against a seemingly flawless read.
Overall Maison Ikkoku is a great read. One of the best things I have ever come across. This manga is a roller-coaster of emotions. It will have you reaching for the tissues, your neighbors will yell at you for laughing too loudly, and events will transpire that will leave you speechless. All of it leading up to one of the most powerful endings ever. So if you are searching for a very above average romantic comedy then please look no further. Maison Ikkoku will take you on a journey of which you will never forget. read more