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Review: Maison Ikkoku

The previous review was insufficient. It read as follows:

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This is one of the most massive series that I have yet viewed. Weighing in at 96 episodes, it is four full seasons’ worth. Seeing this through will be a project, as there is almost two full days’ worth of animation.

If you’ve ever seen the series <i>Ranma 1/2</i>, you’ll be familiar with the style. It is drawn with big eyes, exaggerated mouths, and block hair. Elderly people are drawn as approximately two feet tall, and there are even (very rare) moments of chibi. This series was created by the same author as <i>Ranma</i>, and it shows; the style is identical.

However, this series has one crucial element lacking in <i>Ranma</i>, an element that makes the difference between something fairly drab and an outstanding series. Whereas in <i>Ranma</i>, the world was fixed and there was never any real progress to the plot, in <i>Maison Ikkoku</i> the plot is continually evolving. The first episode shows the meeting of two people; the last shows their marriage, and hints strongly at their happy future. The intervening 94 episodes document the several years between those two times. The main male character, Godai-san, evolves from a ronin to a college graduate with a career job; the main female character, Kyoko-san, keeps the same job, but her feelings are constantly evolving. One interesting facet is the evolving behavior between Godai-san and Mitaka-san (who is the main rival for Kyoko-san’s affections).

Not all characters evolve much; Kozue-chan can be safely thought of as “the distraction” for the duration of the series, as can another female character introduced late. Some characters, such as the other tenants of the apartment, make a point of staying almost exactly the same through the duration of the series, providing a constant backdrop around which the rest of the action can take place. However, there are enough main characters that the lack of development in absolutely every character isn’t missed.

Another note is that this series was produced from 1986-1988, and seems to document a time somewhat before that. Whereas in contemporary Japan, cell phones are ubiquitous, in this series there is a single landline which the apartment shares, with the kanrinin having the luxury of a line of her own. Several episodes could have been resolved much more neatly (from the characters’ point of view) if the technology had been as common then as now. However, other than that and the styles (hair and clothing), there is very little sense of anachronism.

In the end, this is an excellent series telling a classic story. There are any number of plot twists along the way, enough so that only a very few episodes could be considered ‘wasted’ in the sense that skipping them won’t affect your understanding of the plot. It’ll take time to watch, but it ends up being worth it.

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Emotion: …it was a misunderstanding!
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The previous article was written with the goal of describing the series, without reviewing it. However, it does cover most of the main points.

The major point which the article didn’t address is that this series is just plain engaging. The story itself is nothing new, but the way it’s told makes this series magic. These characters are likeable, which is good: you spend a lot of time getting to know them.

This series is strongly within my Top 5 Anime Ever; it’s well worth seeing if you can spare the time.

BTFS: .98
(Beyond the Fifth Star ratings are normalized from 0 to 1)

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