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Maison Ikkoku Collection 1 Anime DVD Review

8 min read
A sweet and silly tale.

A sweet and silly tale.

What They Say
Because Home Is Where The Heart Lives!
One of the most beloved manga series of all time, Maison Ikkoku is a love story which takes place in Japan…but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen anywhere. You’ll fall in love with the wacky inhabitants of the run-down boarding house Maison Ikkoku as they try to alternately help and hinder the blossoming romance between a bumbling college student and his lovely, young apartment manager.

Contains episodes 1-12!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo and the English language dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. When it comes to culturally tinged shows like this, I consider the original language even more important for capturing some of the nuace, though I do enjoy a lot of aspects of the dub for this series. The Japanese track is a very basic mono mix while the English track is in stereo. Dialogue is nice and clear and we noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either language track.

Video:
Originally airing back in 1986, this TV series is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. While age is certainly a factor, Maison Ikkoku manages to look fantastic with this release. It certainly won’t compare with the glossy nature of most of today’s shows but this transfer has me practically giddy. Working from the Japanese source materials for their DVD release at the time, it’s much cleaner looking with its animation than expected with more accurate colors and a much more solid transfer. There is still some jitter in various scenes, a common occurrence in shows of this vintage, as well as a fair amount of aliasing in the more detailed shots. I won’t necessarily say I go easier on older shows, but there are just some differences between then and now that causes me to judge them differently. In the end, I’m extremely pleased with how this looks, especially based on my initial expectations from the VHS run.

Packaging:
The first box set in the series, it contains three keepcases with each holding four episodes. The individual keepcase covers look like the VHS release covers but with some sidebar binding to give it a new feel (that works). Instead of the old puns we’d get with each volume on the VHS, the volumes here are simply numbered on the front and spine while the back cover provides individual episode listings complete with episode number and title. There’s a little premise summary here as well, but the bulk of the text here is the individual episode descriptions. Basic production information and technical listings are nicely placed at the bottom. The insert has the front cover artwork on one side while the reverse lists each episode with the artwork from the back cover as well as the chapter stops.

The box itself is of the nice thick soft variety. The main panel has a nice shot of the entire cast outside their residence with the background image stretching around to the back panel. The back panel is surprising bare – not even a summary, so that anyone looking at this release won’t really know what it’s about unless they look at the keepcases – inside the box! The box does have an obi on it that provides most of the basic technical information and a very brief premise summary, but not as much as they could have done with that full back panel to promote it.

Menu:
Each menu is the same across these three volumes, with a shot of Ikkoku. The background changes from dark to daylight and inside each of the windows of the residence, there are different animations that play along as the time of day changes. This is a really nice looking menu that plays to the strengths of the show. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is pretty standard. My only main gripe is that you can’t stop the menu, forcing you to go into the show to put things on stop.

Extras:
The third volume contains the only extras, a textless opening and ending sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Maison Ikkoku, this set contains the first twelve episodes of the ninety-six episode series. The original manga began in 1980 and wrapped up in 1987 with fifteen volumes as serialized in Big Comic Spirits. Viz Media brought the manga out here and has new editions coming up in 2020 that got me to come back to the anime. The story of Maison Ikkoku is one that, having read it in full, is the kind that I wish Takahashi had been able to do more of with her other popular series. While it’s not as long as Ranma, Urusei Yatsura, or Inu Yasha, it’s a series that has a definite start, middle and end. And not an end where you sit there and go, “That’s it?!”, but rather an end where you view all that the characters go through and realize just how much they’ve grown and change. So for me, going back to the beginning with what I know, this is even more of a treat.

The story centers around the residents of a small apartment complex named Maison Ikkoku. The previous manager had just given up and headed off the countryside after informing the landlord. Before the landlord can really make a decision what to do with it, he finds himself sending a young woman named Kyoko Otonashi there as the new manager. She’s an attractive woman who has a great big slobbery dog named Soichiro. She’s a bit quiet, but can certainly be loud when the need arises, and she’s also the type who takes everything she does as something to seriously attend to.

This is a stark contrast to the residents of Maison Ikkoku. On the first floor, you’ve got Mrs. Ichinose and her young son Kentaro. Ichinose is something of the traditional loud brash Japanese wife and mother who doesn’t mind embarrassing her son. When she parties, she’s as hardcore about it as the young women about it. This of course causes her son endless shame. Her husband is a very hard worker, so hard that we don’t even see him and even the other residents are surprised to find out he’s alive when she mentions him one time.

On the second floor, you have the enigmatic and mysterious Mr. Yotsuya. He goes to work but nobody knows where, his hours are definitely strange and he’s just the kind of person that makes you wonder how they survive. That is, until you see him continually mooching off of everyone else and taking advantage in the most subtle of ways. With him being usually dressed in a snappy suit or his yukata, he always looks good and has a way with words that disarms others.

At the other end of the hall is Akemi, a young redheaded woman who has a lust for liquor and lingerie. She’s definitely a party girl, which she pays for by looking half dead and hung over during the daytime. Of course, her attire when at home is a see through nightie (and we mean see-through!) while she does dress up a bit better for her waitressing job at a local bar. She parties as hard as the best of the men.

In between those two rooms is our other central figure, Yusaku Godai. Godai is what they call a ronin at this stage in life, as he’s failed most of his college entrance exams and has spent time studying and studying and studying more. He’s a good guy who just has a hard time studying. But that’s not surprising since everyone always uses his room to have their nightly parties in since he’s often the cleanest and has the space. And in their minds, the parties give him an excuse for his continual failings.

The shows early premise is having Godai ready to leave the building forever since he can’t stand the trouble the others all get him in. But when he starts to leave and Kyoko walks into the entrance, he’s instantly smitten and changes his mind. Kyoko becomes his reason for staying, for doing better and for becoming more of a man. Of course, he’s got obstacles every step of the way and continually runs into problems with others in the building or just life in general.

One of the key things to this series is that it really did set the stage for future shows that play the same thing. For instance, you can watch Chobits after this and you will see entire scenes that are practically, well, homaged. The storyline also avoids the pitfalls others have fallen into. One of the things I dislike about a lot of current shows that try to use this formula is that they don’t actually progress. The characters don’t really grow or change or move on from their situation. Here, it’s all about growth as Takahashi has a very definite story to tell with an ending in mind. This is a great journey through a romance that takes time to really properly blossom but also has some really fun rivals and pitfalls along the way.

In Summary:
I don’t think I can properly explain my passion for this show. It’s one that I’ve loved in one form for quite some time and made me appreciate Rumiko Takahashi’s abilities even more since it proved (to me at least) that she could tell a complete story without the “bad” endings of things like Ranma. The beginning of this series is witty, fun and definitely gets the romance elements moving nicely. Maison Ikkoku is one of those series I don’t think I’d like to live without and continue to hope that it can find its way back into the marketplace proper again one day.

Features
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening and Closing

Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: July 1st, 2003
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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