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 fifth 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 I think works nicely. 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 an image of Kyoko and Soichiro while Kyoko has a thought bubble with an image of super-deformed versions of Mitaka and Godai going at it set outside their residence with the background image stretching around to the back panel. The back panel is surprisingly 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 fifth box set of Maison Ikkoku brings us another twelve episodes, this time from episode forty-nine through sixty. Across these three discs we get three distinct arcs here and very little in the way of standalone filler episodes. While the relationships of the main characters don’t change much as each of them sort of has time to themselves, the characters do change along the way and their positions in life begin to evolve some more but mostly in small ways.
The opening arc is a cute one that brings a very cheerful new resident to Maison Ikkoku. He doesn’t reveal much about himself but he’s almost always smiling and fits into the place well as his breadth of experience in life makes him amiable to a wide variety of people including Yotsuya, someone he manages to befriend rather early on. While we get to know the new tenant a bit, the entire area is all a buzz about the rumors that Maison Ikkoku is going to be torn down which leads to some amusing panicked moments as the residents try to figure out exactly what’s going on. The overall relationships play little into this arc since the focus is on everyone trying to figure out what’s going on but they do bring in the possibility of Godai losing Kyoko due to something like this.
One of my favorite arcs of the series is in this set and that brings the spunky and overly energetic Yagami into the game. With Godai’s focus on education, he’s been sent to be a student-teacher for two weeks at one of the area schools. It’s just his luck that it’s the same all-girls school that Kyoko went to and the same age group as Kyoko was when she fell in love with her own student teacher. The parallels are meant to be quite obvious and it’s little surprise that Yagami, the class president of the one he takes over for teaching Literature to, ends up falling hard for him after a brief bout of finding him to be too soft and wishy-washy. Apparently she does this a lot as her friends chide her for it but she goes to the extremes to prove herself to Godai.
Some of the incidents at school are amusing but also things that go to far, such as when she corners him in the equipment room and takes off her shirt so that just her bra is exposed only to have the principal and Kyoko come by at the time and discover what’s going on. It’s obvious that Godai is being pursued but he’s so unable to properly stave her off that it seems like he’s buckling under her constant pressure and “attacks.” Yagami continues to come up with plans to get Godai to fall for her, which also include using the manager to her advantage since she sees her both as a rival to be removed as well as someone that can help since Kyoko certainly must understand how she feels having gone through the same thing. Yagami is just a fun little character who is eagerness personified.
One nice change that does happen is that once Godai’s two weeks are done at the school, he manages to luck out from a connection and heads off to teach at pre-school, which in my mind is a far worse fate but just as rewarding. His time there means he’s spending many hours between that and his own classes so he’s not home much and it’s working to his disadvantage because Mitaka finds himself in a position where he has to force the issue with Kyoko. Mitaka’s being brought into meeting a girl in an arranged marriage meeting and he uses it as a chance to try and get Kyoko to really state her feelings since he suspects that she’s just waiting for Godai to graduate from school and get a job before declaring her feelings. This could be the opportunity to push her into his arms earlier or even just get it settled once and for all.
Mitaka also lucks out a bit in a sense in that the woman he meets, Asuna, has something about her that will keep him far away from her. While she’s a very attractive young woman with refined sensibilities and basically the embodiment of a perfect Japanese wife, she has many brothers she keeps with her which are actually her numerous dogs. Yes, that’s right, dogs. Mitaka’s fear of the beasts continues to control a large chunk of his life and it keeps him from being terribly involved with Asuna. Of course, things work against him as his uncle keeps pushing him into dates with Asuna and Asuna always brings her dogs with her or at least keeps them near. This arc is a lot of fun since it has all of them putting things not necessarily on the table but they’re at least looking at the cards in their hand more instead of just ignoring them.
Twelve episodes never seem to go by as fast as this series does and the box set was done and over with much quicker than I ever expected it to be. The show continues to be a highly enjoyable piece of basic shonen romance with the right amount of comedy to it. The characters are still very much alive to me and their reasons for what they do, while sometimes goofy, are pretty much the kinds of things you’d expect real people to do to a good extent. This continues to be my favorite of Takahashi’s series due to its actual progression of a storyline and romance and these episodes show them growing nicely here and building upon what’s come before. It’s something that when I finish each episode I feel all warm and fuzzy inside and retain a smile for quite awhile. Very recommended.
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: May 17th, 2005
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.