ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Maison Ikkoku: Collector’s Edition,’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Maison Ikkoku

My first introduction to the 2018 Eisner Hall of Fame inductee Rumiko Takahashi was with Inuyasha in the 2000s. I was happy to see Viz Media begin to rerelease her beloved older works since many are out of print and difficult for newer fans to get a hold of. While my exposure to Takahashi’s work has been predominantly her supernatural fantasy, I was excited to read the first volume of her romantic comedy Maison Ikkoku. The Collector’s Edition features a new translation by Matt Treyvaud, and touch-up art and lettering by Inori Fukuda Trant.

The story focuses on the daily antics of the residents of the Maison Ikkoku boarding house. There’s Yusaku Godai, a rōnin, or a student who has failed to pass the exams to get into the next level of education (in Godai’s case: university); Yotsuya, a man who would prefer to bust through walls instead of using a door; Akemi Roppongi, a woman who lounges around in her lingerie, much to the dismay of other residents; and finally gossipy Mrs. Ichinose and her grade-school age son.

The manga opens with Godai struggling to pass his college entrance exams, due to his eccentric neighbors messing with him. He is about to move out when Kyoko Otonashi moves in as the new building manager. Godai is immediately smitten and thus begins the residents tormenting Godai as he attempts to woo Otonashi.

This first volume relies heavily on a more episodic structure, with a lot of slapstick comedy. This helps introduce all the main players, and give readers a feel for how they will all interact. There is a sense that this might turn into a found family story, and I’ll be curious to see if that vibe persists in later volumes. The romantic comedy elements hit the nail on the head. Everything is miscommunicated, misunderstood, and the story is a delightful comedy of errors. Amid the slapstick, there is tenderness. Otonashi is coping with grief and loss. Godai briefly bonds with young Kentaro about classism in schools. The last chapter of this volume ended on such a sweet note that I was sad I had to wait for the second.

Unfortunately, amid all these joys, there are flaws. This is a manga series from the 80s, and certain elements have not aged well. Sexual harassment makes up a fair amount of the slapstick comedy (think Miroku from Inuyasha). Characters grope and peep, and Yusaku often falls into the lecherous man trope. Usually, the perpetrators get slapped in the face, but not always, and it is still played more for comedic effect. It is a shame, especially when the series features Akemi, who is refreshingly confident in her sexuality. Aside from that, Godai can come off as a bit entitled to Otonashi’s attention and makes her grieving process more about him than I’d like. However, the story doesn’t completely let him off. Characters call Godai out for being a deadbeat, and he sets a goal to become a more responsible person worthy of Otonashi.

Takahashi’s character designs and paneling add to the comedy. All the characters have rounded faces, expressive eyebrows, and laugh with their teeth on full display. Sound effects are practically a character on their own (huge props to Fukuda Trant’s lettering work). Art tends to be strictly contained in their respective panels, keeping the pace going in the slapstick moments. Readers won’t be pausing to take in a full-page spread.

While a lot of Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition Volume 1 is laying the cards on the table; it is fun when they do get put into play. I can see the beginnings of what makes this series endearing to so many. I look forward to growing with the characters.

Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition Volume 1 will be available on September 15th, 2020 wherever books are sold.

Maison Ikkoku Collector's Edition, Volume 1
3.5

TL;DR

While a lot of Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition Volume 1 is laying the cards on the table; it is fun when they do get put into play. I can see the beginnings of what makes this series endearing to so many. I look forward to growing with the characters.