Slowly but surely the relationships start to change as the characters become even more familiar with each other and build new memories along the way.
What They Say
Godai has the best intentions in the world–and the worst luck. Although he’s now a student at a teacher’s college, he’s permanently broke and so busy daydreaming about Kyoko, the pretty manager of his broken-down rooming house, he walks into telephone poles. Not that the other tenants of Maison Ikoku are any less eccentric. Mrs. Ichinose drinks and gossips; her son Kentaro is a pest; the mysterious Mr. Yotsuya snoops; Akemi lounges around the building in skimpy negligees. But one quality they all share is a neverending delight in teasing poor Godai, and his unflagging ineptitude affords them plenty of opportunities.
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 nuances, 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.
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.
The second 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 (and numbered for this box set starting with one again as opposed to the overall volume numbering, a mistake in my opinion) 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.
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.
The third volume plays up the ‘easter egg’ concept in an amusing fashion with three rows of eggs lined up and the Piyo Piyo chicks behind them. Several of them can be highlighted at which point they play various small Maison Ikkoku related previews (in English). I didn’t make it through all of them but I believe one of them had a trailer for the fourth box set release.
The third box set of Maison Ikkoku brings us up to the endpoint where Viz originally stopped dubbing the series and essentially put the show into moratorium until the DVD release sparked life into it again. Having read the manga as it came out and the way Takahashi’s works are carried over very faithfully, there’s a pleasant sense of déjà vu in watching this. It’s been a few years since I finished reading it so there’s some space in there from when I started with the anime. But during that time Viz has brought out the manga again in an unflipped and unedited form, so I’m revisiting the manga once more and finding that they’re paralleling the anime release pretty close.
As these episodes progress, the relationships between the characters continues to grow nicely, though not without it’s chaotic moments and misunderstandings. Everyone along the way is finding out what they really want from life, such as Kyoko being told by both guys that they’ll wait for her and she starts thinking about which one will be better timed for providing her with children. Or moments where Godai starts to realize what he needs to do to be right for Kyoko in the future when he’s done with classes and has to provide for himself and potentially her as well. The weight of adult life starts to become more obvious to all of them in varying forms.
What’s amusing is that the misunderstanding storylines are the ones that really cement where things are going. In this set, there’s one where everyone suddenly learns that Kyoko has apparently said yes to Mitaka and is marrying him, as she’s looking for a church and dealing with other wedding related details. Of course, rather than ask her what’s going on, partially due to Mrs. Ichinose’s involvement, everyone assumes the worst and it plays out in that way. The revelations hit Godai hard enough that he realizes he’s lost to Mitaka and decides to not fight it out. Instead, he hits up the rental agency and finds a new apartment near the station above a Pachinko parlor. This doesn’t work out well though since the previous occupants, an attractive slightly older woman and her gambling husband haven’t become previous yet and are still living there. They all end up living together for some time and the situation has a lot of laughs in how Godai handles it.
Kyoko doesn’t handle that part well when she finds out what happened and what was said about her and she tries to get Godai to come back. Since she arrives and finds only the sexy wife in just a top there, she has her own misunderstanding of Godai’s situation and tells him that they’re all filled at Ikkoku now and there are no rooms for him. That only makes him feel worse since learning the truth about the marriage and it all keeps spiraling until one of them really makes the effort. This one went over a couple of episodes and it played out nicely in letting the two get some separation to realize how much they’ve gotten used to each others presence. There’s some bits from the original manga story missing but this just plays out in a much more streamlined form.
An element that keeps the series firmly rooted at times is the one that brings the human Soichiro into play. This happens a few times in this set, starting with an episode where Kentaro accidentally loses Soichiro while taking him for a walk. While the guys are out looking for the mangy mutt, Kyoko reflects back to when she and the real Soichiro were together in their relationship and how the dog basically forced his way into it with his affections for his human master. There aren’t a lot of scenes with Kyoko actually with her husband, but plenty of good warming scenes where she looks upon his shadowy figure that shows how she feels about him. Another comes much later in the set where Soichiro’s father sends over with Godai her late husbands diary. Since he’s figured she’s got enough distance she can read it now. This brings back a lot of memories as well (especially of food!) for Kyoko but also concerns and depresses Godai since he sees it as another opportunity for Kyoko to wallow in her memories and make it harder for him to make new memories with her.
There’s plenty of comedy along the way, such as the introduction of Kentaro’s father and his own problems with work and family and a really amusing episode where Yotsuya plants an egg on Godai in his sleep and they all go on wondering and caring for the egg while trying to figure out what evil Yotsuya really has in store for them with it. One of my favorite episodes on this set is when Godai’s grandmother comes to visit and she meddles in the relationships like only family can, from going out with Godai and Kozue to making fun comments to Kyoko. She also parties well with the other tenants and gives them plenty of ammunition to use against Godai. But even the comedy is nicely balanced with the somber, and the set ends on a really great episode that gives Akemi something of a show focused just on her and the way she lives her life. This set really covers all the bases across all of these episodes.
It’s not surprising that Maison Ikkoku continues to be one of my favorite series. Takahashi’s change from a lengthy episodic series to one where there is a real definite beginning, middle and end with relationships is something that I’ve always been drawn to and she has it mastered with this storyline. The anime version takes all the best of her stories and it only gets better with the vocal performances and music, adding even more heart to it. This is great material and I can’t wait to dig into more of it. Very highly recommended.
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: N/A
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: April 6th, 2004
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.