Yusaku Godai, also known as Ronin in the Maison Ikkoku boarding house, didn’t pass his college exams. Blaming his eccentric tenants for his struggles, he aims to move out — until a beautiful woman named Kyoko Otonashi arrives. She says she’s the new manager, and that prompts Yusaku to change his tune.
However, Kyoko will now learn that these residents have some quirks to them…a lot of quirks actually.
The first 1/3 of the Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition essentially eases us into the cast of characters and their personalities, but with Rumiko Takahashi’s creative trademark humor. Yusaku’s your typical college student that acts overly dramatic at times; Mr. Yotsuya somehow says everything, dirty or not, in the most understated manner possible; Akemi Roppongi is free-spirited in her words and what she wears in the building; and Mrs. Ichinose knows all and yet manages to start many misunderstandings in this first volume. All in all, factor in their names (there’s an amusing translation note about the names of the characters) and how they act, it’s a cast of tenants whose routines get shaken up now that Kyoko and her dog Soichiro are here.
And obviously Yusaku’s routine will change since he’s the main male romantic lead in this romcom.
There are aspects that show its age, but between its pace and great art style, Takahashi’s humor still works. The moments where everyone was talking on the stairwell despite the obvious “Quiet in the stairwell” sign was highly amusing. Could be wrong, but something tells me some key moments in this series happen on that stairwell. The jokes that involve a bit of Yusaku’s ronin status or his sordid dreams, whenever anyone interacts with the dog — this will eventually include one of Yusaku’s rivals later on, and that rival is not a dog fan — and Mrs. Ichinose’s son (yes, to be a real man you have to have a big house before marrying a woman), they’re quite hilarious. It’s all somehow simple, yet for the characters, it’s all complex.
While humor is its calling card, one of Maison Ikkoku’s storylines is Kyoko’s past, and how Yusaku handles it. From naming the dog Soichiro (and her insistence that the dog remember this, one time to amusing effect) to what she would say to certain characters, it becomes clear she’s dealing with a significant loss and needs time to heal. Whether that’s managing clashing personalities and handling responsibilities as expected of a manager, the manga offers a reasonable take on dealing with what she’s going through. From there, while we see how she recovers from it, it’ll next come down to how Yusaku handles it. I don’t know if he handles it well at the start, but as you can figure, he’ll get to learn.
Many events pop up in this volume, starting from Kyoko’s introduction to Yusaku getting his exam results back (with his grandma also showing up) to a number of girls calling the house (and Kyoko becoming displeased!), so there’s a lot to find funny throughout the read. I was very much looking forward to checking this particular Takahashi manga out, and I’m glad to say I didn’t come close to being disappointed. If you’ve been wanting to give one of her many works a try, Maison Ikkoku — and in this nice collector’s edition — is definitely worth checking out.