Bringing the series to the halfway mark, Maison Ikkoku hits more of the episodic romantic comedy moments while also slowly but surely progressing the relationships forward.
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 fourth 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.
Maison Ikkoku continues to be in a range of shows that while I’m watching it I can’t help but smile. It’s one of those shows that you watch and you think “They don’t make them like this anymore” and you almost wonder why you still watch newer shows because of that fact. In this fourth box set of twelve episodes, the series hits up to episode forty-eight, the halfway mark, and is even cruel by ending on one of those perfect episodes where things crystallize nicely.
For some viewers, I’m sure that much of this show is rather repetitive in its way and can turn them away easily. After all, how many times do we need to see the residents ganging up in Godai’s room and drinking heavily into the wee hours of the morning only to cause Godai some problem that will screw up his day and thereby his chances, once more, with Kyoko. Even when they do shift the locale out of his room and into the Chachamaru or other establishments, you just know it’s always going to come back to haunt Godai and his relationships. The same thing with each time that Mitaka shows up for a trip that they all go on. The bulk of it will be spent with him and Godai trying to stop each other from gaining Kyoko’s attention and generally causing each other problems.
Even with that, there is just a certain charm with these characters that manages to really shine through and make this work and succeed. During a skating rink episode where the group travels there to spend the day, Mitaka and Godai both end up being laughable since neither one can skate. Mitaka since he talked the talked and Godai for just not being very good at all. The two of them spend much of the time trying to get Kyoko to teach them how to skate but the end up fighting with each other more than anything else. But the little charms in this episode such as the kids getting to know each other better or the way Ichinose takes advantage of the situation is good solid romantic comedy material.
The continuing closeness between Kyoko and Godai is the strongest point of all with this series and this arc of episodes has a number of pieces that really work this well. A lot of it really starts to gel during the incident where Godai saves Kyoko from falling off the roof where she’s doing some repairs only to fall himself afterwards and break his leg. This keeps him in the hospital for awhile and Kyoko feels so guilty about it that she does practically everything that she can for him. Naturally, there needs to be a foil to all of this and Mitaka ends up with a broken leg as well and is kept in the same room. With Kyoko and Ichinose as the caregivers during this, it’s amusing to see the boys react with fear and love almost within the same heartbeat.
Godai’s schooling also brings the two of them closer since Godai is getting close to graduating. She starts to take an interest in ensuring that he passes his classes and does her best to keep the rest of the residents away from him while he’s going through his finals and other exams. Sometimes things do backfire on her though and the gang ends up partying in her room and she gets fairly well plastered once again and causes even more problems for Godai in that he may not even graduate for another year. The way that the two interact over the problem, with Godai accepting his fate and Kyoko upset and unsure how to console him since it’s her fault, brings them closer together.
Even the simple learning from others such as when Mr. Ichinose starts to recount how he first found and started dating his wife brings some new perspective to the current relationship problems. Since he’s usually being kicked down over and over by the other residents, the few small words from the working man brings a new light on things for him and sets the stage for some of the best moments of the volume in the last episode. Of course, all of this really good character material is also set balanced by the usual comedy moments.
One of the best episodes here is the one where everyone tries to figure out what Yotsuya’s real job by following him around all day. Of course, Yotsuya’s onto them from the start so he gets to mess with them but it ties in well with the initial bit where Kentaro finds an album in the attic of Ikkoku where the pictures give the impression that Yotsuya has been alive for over a hundred years and doesn’t seem to be aging at all. Yotsuya episodes tend to be amusing in general since he keeps such an air of mystery about him and this one was no exception.
With this batch of twelve episodes, we’re in an area where the dub is being newly produced after being on hiatus for a number of years. Some new actors have taken on some of the roles due to the way people move onto other things over time so there’s definitely some differences in how the dub flows, but I’ve never been all that into this dub from the beginning so I’ll leave those differences to be haggled out elsewhere. For the most part, I think it’s just a situation where after a few more episodes most of them will get into the groove since their characters for the most part aren’t key in each and every episode.
I’m an unabashed Maison Ikkoku fan and have stated as much several times over the years so I’m still pretty tickled to be seeing this show once again. Maison Ikkoku is simply one of those great classic romantic comedies out there and an important piece in the Takahashi library of shows that really needs to be seen to show that she does have the ability to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles
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: July 1st, 2007
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.