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 seventh 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.
As the series gets closer to actually being done, with only one more box set left after this which is scary considering how long all of this has really taken, the pacing of the show is picking up considerably as there’s a lot to get through before the end arrives. So much has come before and we’ve seen so many ups and downs that there must be a few more before we get to a resolution. This set, containing episodes seventy-three through eighty-four, has quite a lot of good material and puts Godai through the paces.
The return of Yagami in the previous set has a lot of spillover here and she’s pretty much a regular for most of this set and is fairly instrumental at times due to her relationship with her father who as we saw previously was giving Godai a chance for a job via an interview. That we know went horribly wrong and it continues to spiral out of control for Godai who even when he does get some good luck in being recommended for a job with one of the sub companies, he has to deal with the fact that he’s out of a job before it even begins due to a domino effect crash of businesses. Godai’s luck is the thing of legend in this series be it money, women or jobs and this of course can be no exception. Watching as all of this goes all over the place for Godai is almost gut wrenching since he hits the highs and lows almost within the same breath sometimes.
The love triangle goes through a number of similar moments across the three volumes as well and of course Kyoko doesn’t help much at all by continually putting things off. By this point it’s actually clear that as much as she likes Shun that she’s not in love with him but he does provide something of a sense of security and stability. In comparison to Godai just from that he’s an obvious choice by Kyoko is most definitely a woman ruled by emotions and that’s what keeps here from making any real decision over this. She puts in deadlines that she breaks easily and sets a new one this time around for the two guys, essentially trying to give Godai more of a chance to prove himself by getting a job after graduation.
Shun spends a good deal of his time working through his fear of dogs and by doing so ends up spending more time with Asuna. From his point of view he’s made it clear that he has no real interest in the woman but the more time he spends there the more that Asuna falls for him since she’s like an extreme version of Kyoko with her emotions. Shun does continue to keep his presence in front of Kyoko, so you have the occasional date, including the one that reveals one of Godai’s jobs, but he also takes things too far such as when Kyoko’s mother conspires with him to arrange a marriage meeting without Kyoko knowing about it and getting them all there. It’s not so much that Shun plays dirty but rather that he wants Kyoko to really understand what she’s got in front of her and to not miss it. I’m still not sure that Shun really loves her though but rather through all of this pursuit and struggle he’s more in the mindset that he simply must acquire her at this point. He’s not the essence of 80’s materialism but he represents that side of it to some extent.
Godai’s run during this volume is very hectic as he spends a lot of his time pounding the pavement as well as working at the school doing part time stuff. His job situation is quite literally all over the map and when he ends up working in the cabaret it just puts him in a place where he’s completely out of place but survives in an amusing manner. Not only is he good at his job there but he finds another avenue to something more interesting that he’s been showing just how good he is for awhile now – dealing with kids. While he’s always had issues with Kentaro since he lives with him in the same building, the two have worked a good relationship. Seeing Godai working at the school and then the babysitting side of the cabaret really reinforces it so that it makes sense when he starts looking at working his teaching skills into a job. Sometimes it’s strange who becomes a teacher and I’ve known people who I never thought would be a good one turn out to be fantastic at it. Having Godai go down this path is one of the best parts of the series and even though it’s subtle sometimes and out of the blue it’s my favorite aspect.
As the series gets closer to the end, the storylines continue to follow strongly with the manga though there are plenty of smaller differences that are worked in to handle the flow that can be handled in other ways in the manga. Everything is moving forward to a point where decisions must be made and the choices are getting clearer as everyone is staking out what they want to do and Kyoko will find herself in an unusual place. The growth of the characters isn’t quite as visible as the previous set of episodes since it’s more frantic this time around but the paths they’re taking are far clearer and the characters are recognizing them now. This continues to be one of the best of the romantic comedies out there as even as it revels in the ups and downs of relationships it makes significant strides forward in actually moving them somewhere and growing with them. Very highly 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: 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.