Maison Ikkoku is an old boarding house in the town of Clock Hill. It is relatively comfortable to live in, but unfortunately, it doesn’t provide its tenants with the excitement and modernity that normal college students prefer. So... they improvise.
One of the students is 20-year-old Yusaku Godai, a calm and good-natured young man, who is doing his best to make friends and enjoy life. But being a typical introvert, he is often teased and taken advantage of by his other, more assertive roommates. Too stressed to continue living this way, he makes a decision to move out to a more peaceful residence. However, just as he is about to leave the house, he bumps into the beautiful Kyoko Otonashi, who introduces herself as the new manager. For Godai, this is love at first sight, and even though he was set on finding a new place, her charm allows him to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
However, despite her youth and kind nature, Kyoko is actually a widow who lost her husband in a tragic accident. This has left her scarred and very vulnerable, and even though she does her best to be positive, it is evident that depression is taking over her. Godai and Kyoko quickly become very close, and he makes it his ultimate goal in life to make her happy, no matter what.
Rumiko Takahashi's Maison Ikkoku. Never have I seen anything as human as this. It was summer, a couple of years ago, when I stumbled upon an anime that seemed like it was an ancient artifact, a blast from the past. Because of how it looked (the quality's very worn-out), I almost dismissed it. Just like most of the people who do not give old anime a chance. I was fortunate enough because I decided to stick with the show for 96 episodes. After I watched it, I felt as though I just watched one of the best things that ever happened to anime.
The story revolves
around the old apartment Maison Ikkoku (even the apartment is old. Laughs). Yusaku Godai, room five's resident, together with Yotsuya, Akemi, and the Ichinose family, lives in it. The plot opens just as the old manager left the building. Suddenly, a beautiful middle-aged woman named Kyoko Otonashi (along with her dog) arrives, and tells them that she's their new manager.
Yusaku Godai is not your typical perfect main character. He's a ronin, someone who can't pass college entrance exams. He lives on instant noodles, he has a lot (and I mean a lot) of pornographic magazines, his room has a big, annoying hole, and that said room is in a god-forsaken apartment. Heck, he doesn't even have money to buy underwears and he's also blessed with a couple of bumbling bozos for co-tenants. Don't get me wrong, though. He's a good guy, maybe the sanest one on the Ikkoku apartment (but he's not totally sane, he daydreams, and those daydreams he has are way crazy). But, there's no hiding it. He's the stereotype loser. If not for Kyoko, he probably wouldn't go to his entrance exams for the nth time.
Ah, the manager, Kyoko. Since it's Maison Ikkoku we're talking about, it would not be complete without Kyoko. She's arguably the most complex character of the story. At first, she was a hot, steamy manager (according to Godai), looking as though she doesn't have anything hidden deep within her. But as soon as she starts talking to her dog, Souichiro, we are given hints that she's not just what meets the eye. She's a strong, independent woman, but she's a little on the indecisive side. Anyway, she's one character you can't help but love.
I could go on and on for hours discussing about the supporting cast. You'd feel as though Rumiko Takahashi had spent much effort in putting life to her characters. Akemi is a scantily-clad woman who parades in the apartment with her seducing voice. She's a deep character too, but not as well-explored as Godai or Kyoko. Mrs. Ichinose is your all-nosy loud-mouthed neighbor, complete with Japanese fans. And Yotsuya.. I still don't know how to describe him. He's one of the supporting cast that I really liked, with all his mysteriousness and weirdness. Really, if you have watched this (or would watch this), you would know why. He's EPIC. Then, there's Coach Mitaka, Kyoko's other suitor, who defies the "stupid other love interest" stereotype. He's the complete, perfect foil to the spineless Godai. Later in the show, you'd see more. Grandma Godai will come, then Kozue, then Yagami, then Kyoko's family. And they're all worth mentioning. Each one affected the story in a way or another. Even the dog has its merits. The dub was well-done for all of them too. That's how splendid the characters of Maison Ikkoku are.
Maison Ikkoku is a work with lots of genres all in one. It has romance (and a good, mature romance at that), comedy (OH, THANK YOU YOTSUYA FOR BLESSING THE WORLD OF ANIME), coming-of-age, and it deals with things such as finding jobs, moving on, and the importance of communication (misunderstanding is a vital part of the anime, most of the time funny, sometimes serious, and there's a lot of it. You'd drown yourself in misunderstandings). 96 episodes did justice to it.
We get to be spectators as Godai tries to be a man for Kyoko. How he learns things are not as easy as they seem. We see how Kyoko contemplates with her past, how she grows, and how she develops her feelings. I wouldn't spoil you with the story. Watch it yourself, their bittersweet, sometimes crazy, always heartwarming love story. It's not an easy road, and sometimes you have to take the long way. All those complaints about the outdated art? You'd forget them when you see the tenants drink and have their merriment. And to tell you the truth, I kind of liked how it looked: it represents the times when you don't have much technology around but still feel as though life's good. I really felt I wanted to drink booze with them, to dance with Mrs. Ichinose, and to personally see Yotsuya balance sake bottles on his mouth. The music was well-done too (scored by genius Kenji Kawai). Talk about timeless perfection. The ending will make you feel complete, and could make you teary-eyed too.
I couldn't sing enough praises for Maison Ikkoku. If you'd ask me to enumerate its most memorable moments, I'd probably never stop. Maison Ikkoku takes us to the most memorable days of our lives, where we fall, get up, and love selflessly. It made me want to live in the 80s. It will make you root for Godai and Kyoko as they make their way to happiness.
This is perfection. This is Rumiko Takahashi's masterpiece.
First, I want to make a note that the ratings for Art and Sound are somewhat tough to call for this particular series; it is definitely showing its age, the color is washed out, the animations are far from pristine by todays standards, but all of that given, there are inspired flourishes that, at times, challenge the stuff you see coming out of computer-aided studios today.
When considering whether you are interested in watching this series, you should look elsewhere if you cannot answer "yes" to these two questions: "Am I patient?" and "Do I enjoy romance?". If you made it past that, you may
find yourself enjoying this gem from the 80s.
Maison Ikkoku primarily revolves around Godai, a spineless loser, who falls for the new manager of his apartment, Kyoko. Unfortunately for him, within the first handful of episodes, it is made clear (I won't say how), that Kyoko's heart is currently out-of-reach. Aside from the overarching romance, it is also a story about everyday life struggles: paying rent, working, going to school, making grades, etc. What it is most of all is the story of a young man getting beat down by life because he won't stand up for himself... and its downright hilarious.
Constantly dancing on the line of poverty, Godai is surrounded by devilish, meddlesome neighbors, love rivals, and good-for-nothing friends. Even when he manages to avoid their pitfalls, his own indecisiveness usually foils his attempts at getting ahead in life.
When he needs to study for exams, his neighbors invite themselves in for an all-night party, disregarding his pleas for privacy. When he is low on cash, his maybe-unemployed neighbor Yotsuya slithers in from a hole in the wall and steals his food. When he makes strides in his love life, rivals arrive to plunder his achievements. When all else fails, the electricity goes out, he arrives late for exams, or gets kicked out of his apartment.
But to make things even better, despite the seeming maliciousness of all these characters, you'll find redeeming qualities abound, and often a hint of goodwill hidden underneath their malicious deeds. Take excellent situational comedy, hilarious and cunning characters, and pair them with the best veteran voice actors of the decade (check them out, you've heard them in some of your favorite shows), and you have a show thats hard to disagree with on an episode-by-episode basis.
So its perfect then? Absolutely not. Despite all the praise you may want to award it, the show is long, tedious, and occasionally repetitive. Kyoko's inflexibility controls the pace of the show, and makes for some dramatic scenes, but you may find yourself shaking your fist in frustration over it more than a couple of times. Godai's inability to clarify even the most basic of misunderstandings is a source of humor, but again, will inspire no shortage of annoyance, and when Godai's two would-be girlfriends arrive and generate entire new dimensions of misfortune for Godai, you may nearly lose your patience with the series.
But if you make it through that, if you can enjoy the humor, and patiently wait for the romance to work itself out, you will be rewarded greatly. Watching Godai grow as a character is hugely rewarding by itself, combining that with the resolution of certain issues on Kyoko's side, the conclusion of the series proves quite poignant with a lot less of the melodrama you'll get from today's romance anime.
Jealousy, pettiness and spite have never been more beautiful.
*Major Maison Ikkoku spoilers* (Also, WARNING! This review is over 4900 words long!)
Maison Ikkoku is just one of many classic anime series I’ve had in the corner of my eyes for years now. Despite being a loyal, long time fan of Ranma, another of Rumiko Takahashi’s best-known works, I never got around to perusing through any of her other adapted manga, such as Ikkoku. As I got older and became at least slightly more familiar with what I hope for in an anime series, I began developing a hunch that perhaps I was putting off a masterpiece. Of course, it’s dangerous to have high
expectations when going into any work, but I must admit that I can’t help craving to see something extraordinary and special in just about everything I come across. And it’s indeed fortunate when I do make such a discovery for myself.
Maison Ikkoku is actually the name of the boarding house which a majority of the series’ circumstances surround. Our male lead and willpower non-extraordinaire Yuusaku Godai has finally reached his tolerance limit with his terribly distracting neighbors, each of which seems hellbent on sabotaging his likelihood of passing his college exams. He finally puts his foot down and endeavors to leave his personal hell. But as if on cue, Kyoko Otonashi, the new building manager, makes her entrance, and Godai immediately falls in love. Though Godai falls victim to the “love at first sight” phenomenon, the next few episodes are occupied with him becoming more and more certain of his feelings towards the woman, such as how Kyoko encourages and motivates him to succeed in his studies, something he is otherwise not used to getting from anyone. The series concentrates on their journey together, with the central narrative being Godai’s romantic pursuit of his building manager.
Now, a major portion of this review will be focused on the show’s main cast and my thoughts of them individually, so let’s get right into it.
Godai (Room 5) is a loser of perhaps the highest order. He and Kyoko are pretty much as perfect by design as rom-com leads get, according to my book:
1.) A lame guy with some ambition that seems beyond what those around seem as capable of (not just the girl).
2.) A kind girl is more high maintenance but has some issues, perhaps due to her past, be it her upbringing or a specific tragic event.
In Kyoko’s case, it’s the latter, which spawns an additional impediment for their relationship’s progression. And it really was a surprise for me, having gone in blind. I had not read a synopsis, beforehand. With this, Godai and I are inevitably misdirected about six episodes in. Yuusaku departs with Kyoko and who he assumes to be her father, suspecting that he is merely getting in on some everyday family action, possibly earning some brownie points with his crush’s parent along the way. However, things get awkward when he realizes that he is joining them in visiting the grave of Mrs. Otonashi’s dead husband.
Kyoko is still in noticeably low spirits over this loss, which causes the pair’s uphill climb to be more strenuous and time-consuming. Though she tries to not let this facet of her life define her mood every minute of it, her quiet suffering does break through in a handful of situations, especially early on in the series. With this in mind, Godai has to figure out how to take things slowly with her. Kyoko is even aware of his pursuit, which is refreshing for a romance series. I’m used to seeing characters that are so frustratingly airheaded and oblivious, so it really pleases me to be able to watch such honest ones instead.
Kyoko periodically speaks with another building resident, Mrs. Ichinose, who often presses the manager about her feelings towards Godai, to which she typically either states her reservations, or else transparently feigns ignorance, but in a way the audience can easily understand that she’s hiding what she’s really thinking. Kyoko’s not just saying, “Godai likes me? That’s silly. Don’t try and fool me now.” There’s a clear relationship between what she actually says and what you can discern that she actually means. She’s just apprehensive to let Godai on, though her developing affection for him becomes pretty visible and adorable as a bonus. Like how she becomes jealous just thirteen episodes in, having to answer calls from girls asking for Godai. In this show, he is the main pursuer, but Kyoko has her moments as well that show the equally interesting other half of this relationship’s motion. That attention to character progression makes her a lot of fun to watch.
Her apprehensiveness obviously contrasts quite much with Godai’s, whose nature permits him to be more blunt with how he addresses others. That is until he gets into a situation where he is in dire need of expressing his perspective. He’s very sincere and likable, but like in many romance anime, Godai is yet another protagonist who just can’t seem to explain himself when the moment of truth arrives. I strongly believe that you will spend a portion of Maison Ikkoku muttering under your breath, disappointed at your incapability to give the simplest of instructions to Godai, but sorry. He’s just going to stand there, confused at which action to take, at least until his chance is gone. That’s just something you’ll have to get accustomed to. Sometimes he does things that are a little too Costanza-ish for comfort, but Godai is supposed to be kind of cringy at times, and the writers had to take risks to keep people on the edge of their seats, so it’s excusable for me. What's hard to excuse is how Godai is so awful at explaining even the littlest of things that Kyoko has to be put in a position where she feels terrible guilt for misjudging him. She's having to apologize when all Godai had to say in some cases was a mere sentence. Kyoko's genuinely at fault sometimes though, cause a lot of the times when she tells Godai that she's willing to listen, her ability to do so wanes immediately after five words. Again, this is fine enough since she's in turmoil over her feelings for him, but god, some of these misunderstandings can reasonably feel absurd. Thankfully, the conflict resolutions are always believable and plausible, from what I remember. It’s there that I can take a break from stretching my imagination.
This show has something over Ranma ½‘s romance, and that's a more balanced sharing of faults. Ranma could be a huge douche, and he's rude enough to Akane in that you'd believe he would have to be screwing up on a constant basis. However, by some miracle it just so happened that any time Akane was angry at him in the show, he was somehow never condemnable, no matter which angle you viewed things from. That was a big issue in the long run because it made things uneven. Conversely, Godai is far less toxic. He's considerate of others to such a high degree that it results in him somehow gathering an extra pair of love interests before the series reaches its conclusion. I fail to register how he didn’t manage to reveal to Kozue his romantic disinterest in her. Especially considering he had several years to determine how the best method of going about that might be. Regardless, it was pretty funny to witness, if I’m being honest.
Now, the misunderstanding is one of the most vital tools at one’s disposal when they are writing romantic fiction, so I doubt anyone is foreign to this experience, but let’s dig a little deeper for a minute. For a scene with any misconception to work, the writer has to allow the character who is misreading the situation to say a line that conveys that firsthand. After that, they are tasked with removing that character from the setting quickly and reasonably, all without allowing anyone else time to explain the comprehensive truth to them. This can be difficult, and I won’t pretend that Maison Ikkoku hits it out of the park every time. Godai is kind of dim-witted and childish at times. But that’s something I really like about him. He’s really persevering to make something of himself in this series, and I just can’t help but root for his irrational pursuit. The stakes are so stacked against him. For those of you who haven’t seen this series, you may even laugh at how fatally unlucky this guy is. Some, he is actually responsible for, unlike the always innocent Ranma, but Godai’s always stumbling his way into and through predicament after predicament, some of those being quite uncomfortable to watch due to the cringe factor.
Alright, I’ve spent enough time meandering about our humorous leading couple as it is, so bear with me as I move along to examine the other faces that surround them as they mature together. I’ll endeavor to only discuss the characters who appear most often since they are the ones who make the biggest impression on the narrative. For starters, Godai’s neighbors are ridiculous. They constantly prey on Godai’s lack of ability to stick up for himself, stealing his belongings, forcing him to pay their tab at the bar, and even more. Kyoko agrees as well:
“He’s got no willpower. Why can’t he just say no?” - Kyoko Otonashi, ep. 72
I’ll have to remember to count the total parties that Godai’s neighbors hold throughout the series since I think that may outnumber the amount of actual episodes. That’s an aspect of this show that does frustrate me quite a bit. The Ikkoku tenants were designed to be a riotous bunch, but seeing them in action can really weigh me down over time, getting quite agonizing episode to episode. The times where they seem helpful can also be few and far between, so it’s hard to overlook it.
Yotsuya (Room 4) is a strange gentleman whose articulation and Shakespearean delivery makes for some funny one liners. Though that exists only in the dub, that’s what I watched both times, so I can’t help but define his character by that. The decision for his character to speak in that manner also likely influenced the even more hilarious Tatewaki Kuno later on in Ranma, the Takahashi work that followed. Unfortunately, his likeability is otherwise partially damaged. Yotsuya often steals alcohol from Godai, bribes him in order to keep his secrets, and even has torn a large hole in the poor guy’s wall to allow him easier entry to his plaything’s room to further abuse him. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to call the cops on this freak.
Thankfully the promiscuous redhead bar hostess Akemi (Room 6) doesn’t instigate quite as much. She kind of just follows along with the other neighbors, and her mannerisms would have you believe that she’s inebriated round the clock. I’ve known many similar people throughout my life, so I can relate to having someone like her around. Akemi doesn't seem to get on Godai’s nerves with the same heightened frequency as others, which is a plus for her character. She also shows some surprising maturity which increases her value in Godai and Kyoko’s story. Near the end of Maison Ikkoku, there’s a part where Godai and Akemi are seen leaving a love hotel. This information travels to Kyoko, who becomes infuriated. Akemi lectures Kyoko after witnessing her failing to give Godai even a minute to speak his mind. She both sticks up for Godai and calls Kyoko out on her failure to control her emotions, which is more than I could say for Yotsuya.
Mrs. Ichinose can sometimes compete with Yotsuya for being the most annoying neighbor. She’s the main villain initiating the parties, which makes her a healthy reason to keep aspirin nearby while watching. Like I mentioned earlier, she’s the one who usually ends up confronting Kyoko about her feelings towards Godai, so her usefulness in pushing the two of them together is unquestionable, considering she’s even willing to call the manager out when she neglects something. It’s knowledge of this which stops me from wanting to break my forehead with a hammer every time I see her hop into a scene. A number of conflicts between the couple might have taken several months longer to resolve, had she not been a present figure in the story.
I mentioned earlier that Godai was more blunt and straightforward, but he doesn’t even begin to register once Coach Mitaka enters the picture. Early on in the series, Mrs. Ichinose advises Kyoko to find a hobby, so as to not have to stick around Maison Ikkoku all day. She even suggests Kyoko play some tennis. It’s there she first encounters Shun Mitaka, who coaches a bunch of girls in town. Evidently, his shiny ass teeth are what qualifies him to do so. Falling in love with Kyoko as well, he becomes Godai’s rival and the second suitor candidate. Godai takes it slowly since he’s considerate regarding her dead spouse, but Mitaka presses Kyoko more often, unsettling Godai. Kyoko has reservations, so Godai’s not in a lot of danger here, but that doesn’t give him that much extra comfort when he sees the two of them spending time together. Mitaka undoubtedly has an advantage, being better off financially, as well as being older and more mature than his rival who doesn’t even match Kyoko’s years (she’s two years older than Godai). It’s also amusing how the two spite each other, but in certain situations they still manage to get along. Two men fighting over a girl isn’t always entertaining to watch, but sometimes they even have to cooperate. Facts such as this assist their chemistry in never growing stale.
Not only does Godai have a rival, but Kyoko has one as well (It never ends!). Kozue is introduced as a past workmate and becomes yet another obstacle for the two of them. Whereas any of Kyoko’s obliviousness towards Godai’s advances was mere evasion, Kozue is actually fairly clueless. I find her naivety very charming. Not to mention that when she wouldn’t be present for more than five episodes at a time, I would really begin to miss her. She comes off as perhaps religiously raised, maybe a bit sheltered.
Her character kind of appears less and less in the last third of the series as Yagami is introduced. Godai gets a temp job working as an instructor at an all girl’s school, where he meets this assertive, energetic student. Some people accuse her of being a second Kozue, which I guess would actually merit Kozue herself appearing less and less, but I think Yagami’s a whole different beast. She views Godai as a sort of tragic hero and begins a futile pursuit of him. She’s very straightforward and even forceful in her hunt for his heart. Yagami’s purpose in the series, aside from being yet another way to knock Godai off his feet, is meant to mirror Kyoko when she was a teenage girl herself. She went after a male teacher who would become her husband (before passing). The circumstances are different this time around since there’s competition, but it’s certainly significant to mention the similarity since it’s even mentioned a couple times by other characters. This whole part of the story allows that section of Kyoko’s backstory to be revealed this far into the show, just when you thought you knew everything about Kyoko. It’s a great way to insert some more color into her cloudy past. But back to the present, Yagami’s pursuit of Godai causes Kyoko to get perhaps her most aggressive, but she’s able to voice that aggression since she can mask it as being her concern for Godai’s privacy and safety. Her having initiated some of the most entertaining scenes of the second half of the series help Yagami to become easily one of my favorite characters in Maison Ikkoku.
Overall, this cast is really a blast to watch, despite none of them quite being an all time favorite. I might have implied that these characters are quite simple and not necessarily new ideas to the genre, but conventional can still be relatable and fun to watch. By the time of the finale, when I saw all the characters are gathered together in a room, I was surprised at how many characters the series had introduced me to as well as how many of them I had enjoyed watching over such a massive total of episodes.
And I mean massive. If you’re a guy like me, 96 episodes is a much taller mountain than you’re used to climbing. It feels a bit odd to have seen this show, both times in the span of under a month. I’d presume that it would be an even more gratifying experience to have spent over a year with them, watching episodes as they aired back in the 1980s instead of one after the other like I’m presently capable of doing.
However, since I was able to watch so many episodes in a short span of time, it sticks out a lot more to me when I come across a filler episode. Now, you’ll be happy to know that Ikkoku doesn’t suffer from as many filler episodes as one would expect a show of its size to possess. Plus the ones that can be classified as such aren’t typically a bore to watch either. This story was supposed to take place over more than four years, so I can’t expect every episode to be a milestone or hold heavy weight on Godai and Kyoko’s overarching narrative. I’m fine with having the cast just spend time together now and then, trying on old school and nurse uniforms while role-playing and various other fun things. It's not filler as we know it in modern anime, where the characters go to the beach and ogle each other. It's filler as in there isn't a big dramatic moment occurring, which makes it hard for me to even consider it as such.
The only episodes I found which shouldn’t have even hit production were episodes 29 and 32. The first of these two is just an excuse to cram every pivotal character in a fake well for various reasons, most of them nonsensical. Not only did this mean naught to the overarching narrative (which I said before I could forgive), but it was aggravating to watch. Episode 32 gave me even more frustration. It’s just a bunch of the characters trying to protect an egg from harm for god knows why. I finished the show twice and I could barely pay attention each time this episode came on. Both of them could have been stuffed almost anywhere within the series, and they wouldn’t change a thing or feel out of place.
There exists a pair of semi-filler episodes in this series that had the potential to be useful to the story. There’s an episode where it seemed like the writers were going to give us a little slice of who Yotsuya is behind the curtains, which we were in dire need of. But the characters go on a wild goose chase and come up with nothing, rendering the episode purposeless in the grand scheme of things. There’s a running joke about the man throughout the show, that being the uncertainty of what he happens to do for a living, each time till now it being skirted over and the question being dismissed by Yotsuya himself. And by the end, it’s clear that the writers decided to not give that information to the audience in the slightest, so this episode does feel kind of like a tease.
Episode 36 is given to Akemi, and we get to see her by her lonesome for quite a portion of it. Instead of just seeing her alongside Godai, seeing how she affects his day to day life is a breath of fresh air in concept. However, I hardly got enough to be satisfied, since the episode failed to really give me any new understanding of her character.
The less satisfying episodes of Maison Ikkoku tend to be sporadically placed. I’ve been asked before if the show gets rough over time, but there isn’t really a noticeable decline nor temporary dip in quality for any segment of the show’s run. From start to finish, the show excels at creating a consistent dramatic pace to where it never feels like your time is being wasted from episode to episode. And it does really feel like you have followed the lives of these characters for multiple years, which is a long time for a show to take place over. There was already a month-long time-skip between the first two episodes. Few time skips will be jarring though, so worry not about losing track of things. It’s a smooth ride to the finish, especially in the final third of the show.
Speaking of the finish, some would consider it a shame that by the end of the show, Yagami doesn't get her resolution. However, I’m not bothered quite as much. Some people consider it a loose end left untied by the series at least, but the only ones of those that really offend me are the ones which are evidently forgotten. But thankfully, Yagami was present near the show's conclusion, so clearly the intent was to demonstrate that she had not yet matured like Kozue, and that meant she would need to find the time to do that on her own in the future. Not everyone reaches their happy ending simultaneously.
On the other hand, Kozue's ending did seem kind of rushed. Her situation with her other partner who finally replaces Godai didn't get as much attention. It felt kind of awkward, her accepting his proposal. I wasn't sure if she was happy at first, but I was proud of how well she took Godai's explanation eventually. Kozue was never an emotional trainwreck of a character, and she was even more diplomatic and understanding than Kyoko at times.
Speaking of unhappy endings, I can't tell if Mitaka was sincerely pleased or not in the end. His character served as a fantastic rival to Godai for dozens of episodes. He had a big advantage, yet in the end he was coming off wrong and failed to open up Kyoko’s heart like Godai could. One of the most powerful sequences of the series takes place around ten episodes from the finale, I believe. At first I was kind of disturbed by how Mitaka was being so creepy around Kyoko, but I eventually concluded that he had merely resorted to desperation. He became increasingly aware that he was fighting an uphill battle, running out of chances to get the woman he loved to respond to him. After all these years, he was beginning to sense that Godai was more of what Kyoko was looking for in a partner, after having been so confident prior to this. I think he just wanted a final shot with the manager.
And then, when it’s all over, we’re treated to a scene where it’s hard to not to pity Mitaka. Kyoko rides home, alone in a taxi. Apparently he had accepted the loss and could no longer look upon her. Kyoko is also frustrated because she feels like she’s torturing the two of them, and she’s at a loss for how she should handle things while all she wanted was for Godai to tell her what she hoped to hear. For him to confess to her after she had finally felt she had become ready. Instead of stuffing our brains with a shitload of information in the dialogue, we are allowed to let the entire series up until this point sink in, and we are capable of discerning ourselves how the situations are settling with each character.
All that aside, the finale for Ikkoku is something I think anyone will find remarkably satisfying. Obviously the cliffhangers were gone, so I felt like relaxation was my reward. The suspense really halts after episode 94, so the last two serve to congratulate the audience for coming this far.
Really the moment in Ikkoku where its impact became clear was when Godai and Kyoko visit the grave of her husband. Kyoko says farewell to him, and their two magnificent, year-spanning arcs come to a close. We never even get to see Soichiro’s face. The memory of him remains tethered to Kyoko alone. Godai does see his face in the end, but it’s off-camera.
Despite the existence of plenty of little flaws, peppered throughout this classic rom-com, emotional captivation always mattered to me more than mechanical success. The two do often go hand in hand, but one does not determine the other.
Let’s begin talking about the technical aspects of this series. Yes, they’re important too.
The art in Maison Ikkoku pretty closely adapts that of the original manga series. Out of mangaka Rumiko Takahashi’s major works, Maison Ikkoku boasts some of her most appealing designs. So many of them are distinct and immediately recognizable. The art can be undetailed at times, it being an old series, but it’s never to an insulting degree. If anything, the simplicity complements the show’s quaint, pleasant essence. It’s a pretty classic show, so obviously it’s not going to require the most meticulous animation out there. Characters may be drawn inconsistently. Just watch the first episode and you’ll notice Kyoko appearing differently at different moments within the same 22 minutes. But thankfully, there aren’t too many times within the show where I had to forgive silly errors.
Generally the sound in Ikkoku is of good quality. Not much to point out in that department. I guess I could use this moment to mention that in a lot of anime, or perhaps even a majority of them, it’s people that end up emulating the sounds for dogs and cats mainly. As a result, it’s kind of an eye roll moment each time Soichiro barks in the show, though I’m kind of nitpicking here.
Next, I’ll be honest with you guys. I watched this show dubbed both times. From what I gather, Ikkoku’s dub is looked at with some disdain. Though obviously, being one who has only seen this show dubbed, I approve of it. Trying my best to hold back my bias, I still think it’s hardly the failure that some label it as. Godai sounds as lame and hopeless as his character is written. And I’ll bet you didn’t even notice the voice actor change partway through. For fun, I won’t even state where it is. Kyoko sounds a bit older than she should be. However, her being older than Godai is at least a big aspect of the relationship, so it doesn’t really cause my eyebrow to raise much. However, sometimes she has to talk to a character like Mrs. Ichinose, who is supposed to be like twice Kyoko’s age, so it can be off-putting to some. It’s also worth mentioning that Kyoko’s voice actress progressively sets into the performance over time. Kyoko’s teary and aggressive moments are some of the best parts of the series. Another interesting dub idea was the decision for Mr. Yotsuya to be played with an English accent. Obviously the idea of giving an eccentric character a foreign accent doesn’t begin and end with Maison Ikkoku, but it does create yet another distinguished presence within the show’s main cast. And yes, I found it pretty humorous.
The soundtrack for Maison Ikkoku is standard fare. Nothing really stood out to me while watching the show, and there weren’t too many moments where the music brought anything to the table that might be worth discussing at great length. However, it would be a travesty if I brushed these openings off to the side. The first one remains an all-time favorite of mine, and it’s a very good, picturesque vision of how it feels to watch the show. The second creates a similar feeling, being a pleasant follow-up. It’s a shame it only plays for a single episode when it was so suitable for the show. “Suki sa,” the third opening, is pretty lovable too. However, the jump to a large scale pop ballad does feel a bit awkward to me. The grand nature of the track just seemed like it was too overblown as an opening for a simple romantic comedy, wonderful as it is. There are two more openings in the show that follow, but they’re sadly both generic and unmemorable in comparison.
If Maison Ikkoku is anything, it's memorable. No screaming matches. No fistfights in the pouring rain. Nobody trying to kill anybody. No breaking expensive possessions as revenge. You can bet that there's conflict, but it's far from extreme. The writers don't rely on astounding you in that fashion. I don't feel manipulated, watching this like I do for many romantic stories. Instead, I feel lighter than air.
I'm proud to have finally finished this show. Of course, it didn't take me that long, despite being 96 episodes in length. The show doesn't really leave me wanting more either. It just leaves me wanting it again, whether that means I would have to watch the show another time or find something that gives me an at least nearly matching level of satisfaction. Much praise to Takahashi for this masterpiece that tells a humble story of love during the peak of adolescence.
A lot of anime fans today don't seem to give series from the 80s a real shot, and that's really a shame. There's a lot of truly great storytelling from this era, and it seems to get dismissed because it "looks old".
Maison Ikkoku is one of those titles, and it's a crime that more people haven't seen this.
There's a real sense of humanity, tenderness, and subtlety in this series that really makes it stand out. It's a romantic comedy, but it's also so much more than that. It's a show about people, how we relate to each other,
and how we live our lives. It's about growing up into adulthood, moving on after great loss, and the peaks and valleys in getting together with the love of your life.
And the characters are wonderful - they are treated with such love and care by the series. Watching the last half of the series, particularly the last 12 episodes makes this abundantly clear- there is such subtlety and emotion in the character development in this show, that you want -all- of them to be sent off with hapy endings.
Admittedly it's perhaps not for everyone. There's no gimmicks or fanservice, and the wacky hijinks, while certainly there (especially in the guise of Godai's neighbors), are somewhat toned down by today's standards. Younger kids probably would have no interest in this kind of show. Some may consider the art and sound a little dated (I graded the art and sound a 7 based on the standards of anime at the time). And 96 episodes may be a little long for some people, but for me it's 100% worth it.
But if you want a show about people in their 20s and older (not kids or teenagers) finding love and growing up into adulthood, and want something a little less silly and a little more serious and mature in an anime series, Maison Ikkoku is the absolute perfect show for you.
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