Anime Meta-Review


Maison Ikkoku Manga


By Date




Title Info

  • seen: 1-14 of 14
  • type: manga
  • grade: worthy
  • genre: seinen
  • people: Takahashi
  • made: 1982
  • Review created: Recently, but I didn't record the date.
  • mod: none

I can't believe I got suckered into buying into another immense Takahashi epic, my wallet weeps. This series is deeply aggravating, containing soap opera, amazing coincidence and endless character misunderstandings and irritation. It's also one of the most brilliant manga series i've ever read, from a generally brilliant manga-ka and will firmly lodge itself in your memory.

The story seems simple, which is not suprising because the strength is all in the characters. A beautiful young widow moves in as manager of an old boarding house filled with very strange people. One of these, perhaps the most normal, is the young student Godai who is instantly attracted to her. The manager, Kyoko, is wonderfully complex and her character makes letting go memories of her husband near impossible. A host of other characters, with another seeker of Kyoko's affections to form the classic triangle, enter and complicate this very domestic romantic comedy.

But while it is a romantic comedy don't expect lots of shoujo flowery scenes. This manga is solidly rooted in reality, and a lot of the story comes from real life concerns. This is set during a Japanese depression, and Godai is no stellar student on the fast track to corporate success. Watching the characters grow to the point where a solution is possible, for all involved, is surely one of the joys of this series. This is doubly interesting for a Gaijin, who gets to see a part of Japan that is glossed over in most anime and manga. At the same time to keep readers interested there are moments of comedy (Mr Yotsuya is surely one of the greatest manga characters ever) and to keep the story boiling lots of coincidence and romantic confusion. This has the potential to irritate, but it does mean that there is a suprising amount of event and action in this book. The mixing of elements, drawing so much story out of such a small scale plot and being so entertaining about it keeps this manga out of genre's and from being a `serious' classic...but it does mean it is one of the most loved series. And to be honest the true reason cannot be expressed here. Takahashi is a master of character, expression and interaction and this series shows these skills in their purest form, with minimal distractions. Read the book, stay for a couple of volumes, and see if you don't see yourself alternately screaming at the characters to work it out, and then eagerly reaching for the next volume. Oh, and the conclusion (the final two novels) is complete and (very) satisfying.

The production initially seems basic. Takahashi's artwork has a simple and clean appearance, which is very much her own style. If you've read any of her other works you will know what to expect. However if you look closely you will find that a lot of the linework, while sparse, is very complex. There is an awful lot of skill, but very little flash, in this style. On the other hand the focus of her works is always character, and the representations of character and expression are almost always correct. Her ability to show emotion, especially subtle and unstated ones for the reader to determine, is nothing short of mastery. And this story gives perhaps the best chance to show this skill. This extends to the backgrounds, which are solidly drawn, observant, and strangely fitting to mood and character. I'd love a cultural guide to all the sites we see, which also leads to annoyance at Viz for dropping episodes and monkeying with the translation because of it being `too Japanese'. In addition her sense of pace, scene and interaction is great, and stronger here (in my opinion) than in the anime.

In essence, if you think you have any tolerance for this sort of thing check it out. Being so strongly character based, and having so many touching characters in the cast, it gets stronger with every reading. There is a Series Page at Viz.


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:21 WST 2009