Based on: Complete Manga
Publisher: Viz Communications
Light hearted romantic comedy drama from the woman who wrote Ranma ½. If that statement makes you think of a Tenchi Muyo style series then you are going to be surprised.
Maison Ikkoku is absolutely fantastic. No ifs, no buts, just fantastic. Yusaku Godai is probably a first for Rumiko Takahashi – a likeable, kind hearted and above all normal male character. When put up against her other male leads, for example Ranma ½’s arrogant Ranma Saotome or Urusei Yatsura’s lecherous Ataru Moroboshi, it is obvious what a change this is. Most of the characters are very well thought out, especially the object of Yusaku’s affections - widowed apartment manager Kyoko Otanashi – and his principal rival, the playboy tennis coach Shun Mitaka. Even the comic relief (the main three other tenants of Maison Ikkoku – mildly alcoholic housewife Mrs Ichinose, mysterious voyeur Yotsuya and exhibitionist waitress Akemi) are not too over the top – in fact Yotsuya is probably my favourite character.
Maison Ikkoku is a mature and engrossing love story which effectively confronts many difficult issues – in particular Kyoko’s reluctance to commit to another relationship following the pain she felt at the death of her husband – but still maintains Takahashi’s flair for comedy and characterisation. Her writing is excellent as always and some of the conversations in Maison Ikkoku (in particular Mitaka’s explanation of the fear of commitment to Kozue and Yusaku’s monologue at Kyoko’s husband’s grave) are inspired.
I found this story moving, funny and extremely satisfying and the final volume is probably my favourite manga book of all time.
There are flaws though, a couple of characters are a bit pointless and others disappear for volumes at a time. Rumiko Takahashi also lets the misunderstandings between the characters go on slightly too long, nearly (but not quite) to the point where it gets unbelievable and occasionally it leans towards Ranma style comedy which generally doesn’t fit. However, these are small problems when put in the context of the entire story and they do not affect the flow of it at all.
So, whilst not the perfect love story, it is the closest you will get in nearly any media and it’s a must read for any self respecting fan of Japanese literature. You would have to have a heart of stone not to enjoy this.
Best Bit: The whole of volume 14.
Worst Bit: The arrival of Nozomu Nikaido.