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.
This set of episodes, which covers episodes sixty-one through seventy-two, aren’t exactly world changers when it comes to the overall events of the series. A lot of it is pretty small in terms of what it does but with the way this series is laid out, it allows for the characters to grow slowly. For example, Mitaka has been spending his time away from Kyoko by being with a little dog and building up his ability to deal with them. Most series would have to rush this in the space of one or two episodes but here it’s done overall much more than that which gives it a more realistic feel. The way that Kyoko and Godai change across these episodes is much the same as the events that do go on slowly change how they feel not only about each other but about themselves.
The catalysts for these changes occur in two different areas. The first is that Yagami worms her way back into Godai’s life and continues her pursuit of him. She played pretty hardcore the first time around when Godai was a student teacher and certainly caused him plenty of issues both at work and at home but she hasn’t let up much at all in the long run. She’s set things now for Godai to be her tutor at a time when he’s desperate for cash so it’s something that he can’t resist. Unlike before, she’s always at his apartment for the tutoring so everyone gets to see what they’re like together. Yagami also realizes by Kyoko’s actions, which are very much the kind that a jealous woman would have, that Kyoko really does have feelings for Godai. She doesn’t care about that though and intends to win over her true love and does whatever she can to achieve that.
The other arc that brings in changes is as the Yagami piece nears completion, Godai’s grandmother comes back for another summer visit. Her timing is amusing as Godai has just quit his job at the pre-school temporarily in order to pursue the full time big business career market. So with grandma there, he’s away a lot which leaves her time to spend with Kyoko and the others. Based on her past visits though this isn’t an issue as she’s quite a hoot and does her own bits to foster the relationships as she sees it. She’s not exactly subtle sometimes but at others she is. What’s best about her though is that she fits in so perfectly with the regular gang that she’s no different than the rest when the drinking starts up, something that probably digs at Godai a lot more than he lets on.
Similar to earlier arcs in the series, there’s a lot going on but at the same time it’s done in a very relaxed and mellow way. Godai spends pretty much the entire set looking for a job so it allows him to mix his time at home and other events while still keeping to the loser aspect that they want to push with him as he can’t quite land a job due to misfortune or other events. But just as it happens in life, there are key events that can make surprising changes in how things flow or make you realize just what a position you’re in. One of those is the episode where the Chachamaru bar owner gets a team together to take on the other shopkeepers in the area. Godai gets to go in as a pitcher and has some fun time against Mitaka but it’s when both Yagami and the long lost Kozue show up to root for him that he understands his situation.
Another event that pushes things more firmly for Kyoko comes from the simple misunderstanding gag that permeates so many shows and sitcoms. Godai stays with Sakamoto for a night after losing his rent money only to have Sakamoto attack him in his sleep and plant a huge hickey on his chest. Naturally, coincidence comes up again when he takes a job as a waiter at a pool which happens to be the place Mitaka is a member at and takes Kyoko and the others there. It’s easy to imagine where it goes but it’s just hilarious to watch Godai trying to defend his hickey as innocent and to see just how jealous and quick to judge Kyoko is. It’s always been her main issue but it’s very well counterbalanced in this set as we get to see her firm up more of her reason for being so cautious about entering a serious relationship with anyone.
The show continues to maintain the same animation style and overall design so there isn’t any noticeable drop-off in quality in my eyes here. The show’s never been a huge fast-moving animated piece but more of a dramatic slow mover but it has its moments and overall is a very solid production from its time. This set has a good mix of standalone episodes and parts of the larger storyline that fit into the overall picture. There are very few shows that I can sit and watch more than a volume of at a time so it’s something of a surprise that I got through all twelve episodes in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon. Maison Ikkoku is just plain good fun as a template many others should be using for romantic comedies. Maison Ikkoku continues to be one of the classics of anime TV series and each new set just reminds me of why I keep watching anime in general. 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.