Maison Ikkoku 1

April 25, 2009

So I spotted this in Half Price Books today for about five bucks.  And then someone was there and started twisting my arm and saying stuff like “This is definitely not a series you’ve been wanting ever since you first got into manga!  I know you aren’t in the mood for Takahashi, but you have to buy it anyway!  And then read it while you’re stuck in the traffic gridlock on the way home!”  So, you know, then I had to go through with it.  Who am I to deny the random and bizarre bounty the crappy manga selection at Half Price Books wanted to offer me?

It was exactly what I had been imagining all these years.  I used to read the product descriptions over and over and over again in the Viz catalog when I didn’t have any manga to read as a freshman in high school (while walking barefoot in the snow, ten miles uphill both ways), so I even knew the character names and what roles they had in the story.  It’s a romantic comedy with a cast of various weird people living under one roof meddling in the affairs of Yosaku Godai, a guy trying to study for his college entrance exams, and Kyoko Otonashi, the new landlord of Maison Ikkoku, the apartment complex where most of the story takes place.

This series is also sort of the prototype for a lot of series that came later, so it’s sort of unfortunate that there aren’t a whole lot of fresh jokes around since others ran them into the ground.  It’s got a lot of the types of humor where everyone blames Godai for being lecherous even though he really isn’t, over and over and over again.  Lots of misunderstandings about this between Yusaku and Kyoko.  Lots of jokes about how Yusaku likes Kyoko, or Kyoko doesn’t really like Yusaku… you know.  You just sort of have to accept it as part of the story.

If you go with the groove, it’s a pretty fun read, despite my badmouthing.  It’s hard not to like the characters, and there are still some good gags thrown in.  One was an excellent use of a pun in English (“class to pass” versus “what about your ass”), and another thing that cracked me up was Shun Mitaka’s sparkly white teeth.  It’s really hard not to laugh at a visual gag like that.  And it’s also hard not to appreciate the humor in people like the nosy, gossipy landlady, the really bizarre man next door that frequently bursts through the wall, and the little boy who is kind of a cute nuisance.

I was surprised to see some plot development in this volume, actually.  Yusaku’s exams do get somewhere, there’s an unexpected dark revelation about Mr. Soichiro, and Shun Mitaka coming in at the end as a rival was nice, too.  I know the series has an ending (I bought the last issue when it came out), but I think I might really get into it if there’s more continuity.  I think I had imagined it more like the open-ended random stories in Ranma 1/2 and Urusei Yatsura, so an ongoing plot would be an unexpected bonus for me.

I won’t be tracking down the rest of this anytime soon simply because I’ve got a lot on my plate (I would sooner read Please Save My Earth, I think), but an occasional indulgence can’t be a bad thing.