Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rumiko Takahashi Week (Part One): Maison Ikkoku

Last week, I (finally) finished Mermaid Saga and Ranma 1/2, so to celebrate, I have decided to do Takahashi-themed reveiws this week, in which I will discuss these two series,  as well as Maison Ikkoku, her best known Seinen series, and also her best series (sorry, InuYasha fans), as well as some other goodies. For those not in the know about Takahashi, go wiki it because I am a reviewer, not a historian, sorry. Today, we will begin with...

Maison Ikkoku By Rumiko Takahashi. Originally published as めぞん一刻 (Mezon Ikkoku). 15 volumes.
"I, Yusaku Godai... am IN LOVE with Kyoko Otonashi!!"
Maison Ikkoku is the story of Godai, a luckless college student (or, well, he's TRYING to get into college) living at the titular run-down apartment. The other, boozier tenants bug him constantly ("Hey, Flunkout!"), but this is the last thing on his mind, for Godai has fallen for the beautiful apartment manager Kyoko Otonashi. However there are many complications. Kyoko is mourning her dead husband, Soichiro. Godai feels/is incompetent. Another man, Mitaka, is vying for Kyoko's affections. Godai has somehow picked up a girlfriend, and does not have the heart to break up with her. The list goes on and on. Can Godai overcome his many obstacles and live a happy life with Kyoko?

OK, opinion time! Rumiko Takahashi has done a lot for the Shonen/Seinen Romantic Comedy genre, from Urusei Yatsura (the first harem manga) to Ranma 1/2 (which introduced gender-bender humor to Shonen), but Maison Ikkoku is very unusual creature, for though it begins as a very over-the-top comedy (and a fantastic one at that), it slowly transitions into a genuine drama, and at around volume 10, the story becomes (nearly) no laughing matter. This may be hyperbole, but when I first read Ikkoku I believed human emotion had never been so fully realized in cartoon form.

 Like the story, the art also evolves and matures through the series' 7-year run, from the exaggerated anatomy that defined Takahashi's early works, to a strong, human look that may be the high-point of her entire artistic career. The lack of fanservice is also a nice change of pace.

 I recently convinced (well, forced) my dad to read Maison Ikkoku, and is now almost done volume nine. He says he enjoys the silly nature of the series. I look forward to his reaction to volume 10.

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