25 Days of Manga, Day 9 of 25 – Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition Vol. 1 (Review)

Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)

Author/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi

Translator: Matt Treyvaud

Letterer/Touch-up: Inori Fukuka Trant

Editor: Nancy Thistlethwaite

Design: Alice Lewis

Genre: Drama, Romance

Rating: T (Teen/13+)

Release Date: 11/17/2020

MSRB: US $24.99 / CAN $33.99 / UK £19.99

Reviewer’s Note: I purchased this copy of Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition Vol.d using my own personal funds. No review copy was proved. All manga reviews are spoiler-free and image-free unless noted in the review. Opinions are my own.

Maison Ikkoku Vol. 1 follows Yusaku Godai, a ronin trying to get into college. Try as he may, it’s just not happening, especially in asharehouse full of eccentric, noisy tennats that are making it hard to buckle down and reach his lofty, collegic goals! It’s enough to drive him to declare that he’s going to leave for the umpteenth time… that is until a beautiful woman named Kyoko Otonashi moves in and becomes the new resident manager. Now, Godai can barely hit the books!

Maison Ikkoku is a title I’ve wanted to leave for a long time. Really… it’s a title I’ve wanted to read since my early twenties. I think there’s something about it that appeals more when you’re close to the leads ages than not. Once I heard it was getting a nice, french flap omnibus release, I was all on board, and now that I’ve finally got time to read it, I was eager to dive in. After all, a slow burn, m/f rom-com kind of seemed right up my alley, especially in a year like 2020.

But does it hold up to expectations? Well… yes and no.

Here’s the thing.

Some of the comedy is very… 19080s: it’s a lot of peeping at women, ogling women, occasionally groping the new manager… you get it, right?  I think, to some degree, that has to be forgiven: Rumiko Takahashi was writing under an entirely different era of social rules. This manga started serialization in 1987, which was thirty-three years ago: that’s plenty of time for social mores and tastes to evolve, which they have.

I’m willing to let a lot of those jokes off the hook due to dissonance and time, though like… I’m not necessarily thrilled that they’re as frequent as they are in initial chapters. It hampers a lot of the plot, especially since this volume can, at times, feel like it’s not progressing towards anything bigger in the plot.

Still, keeping all that in mind, Maison Ikkoku Vol. 1 is still a perfectly pleasant read. When the characters are just themselves, they’re actually quite enjoyable: they’re all eccentrics who somehow, ended up under the same roof. They’re got a lot of charm, and hopefully, will continue to grow on me in volume two. 

I do have one character that I’m worried just… won’t grow on me, and unfortunately, he’s the main character. Yusaku Godai is… very much so a “boys will be boys” kind of character, even when you can see that Rumiko Takahashi’s trying to make him grow. I feel like he gets hampered by the pervy gags and foibles too much to grow beyond “that one ronin that can’t get into university and is blatantly in love with the hot new manager”. I have this hope that in volume two, I’ll see a bit more… depth out of him, but right now? I’m not so sure.

In the end, it’s actually quite refreshing to read a fiction -but not fiction-fantasy- work by Rumiko Takahashi. She’s one of the greats for a reason, and that really does shine through here a good amount of the time, even if some of the jokes land flat in 2020. 

I’m glad I read Maison Ikkoku Vol. 1, even if it’s not an instant favorite in my book. Truth be told, I know there’s a lot of people who love this series dearly: I know there’s millions of fans. I’m glad that this exists for them. But I’m… still on the fence. This first volume isn’t bad, but… it’s not necessarily good. 

Still, I’ll definitely be picking up Maison Ikkoku Vol. 2. I think I wanna give the series a fair chance. Hopefully, the slightly pervy gags will start to diminish and give way to the charm that’s made this series such a classic amongst fans in and out of Japan. I’d really like to come to understand why people treasure this series so much.

TL;DR: Maison Ikkoku Vol. 1 has a lot of potential, but often gets caught up in pervy gags and comedy instead of letting its characters’ personalities shine through. While it’s a beloved title, it’s hard for me to understand that: I personally couldn’t find a lot of the “jokes” funny. Godai isn’t the most… likable protagonist, though I look forward to seeing him grow into a more full-formed character and adult. Ultimately, I plan on picking up volume two so I can give this internationally beloved series a fair try.

Read If You Like…
* M/F Romance
* Slow Burn series
* Retro Comedy
* Retro/Classic Manga
* Stories about community
* Quirky ensemble casts

Rating: 🟊🟊🟊½ / 3.5 out of 5 stars

Bingo Card: Christmas Tree

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