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Maison Ikkoku Review

The mark of a great deal of my favourite anime, I think, isn’t necessarily that it has perfect direction, perfect writing or perfect animation (although most Ghibli films and the first season of Honey and Clover came very close). But there are plenty of anime that do not satisfy these requirements, yet will become a favourite just as easily as those which don’t. And that’s because there is simply some element of likability which, in the end, leaves a greater mark in a viewer’s mind. If you become hopelessly attached with the characters, their interactions and growth, and perhaps the setting as a whole, then you will ignore the fact that the story may stall in some places, or that it has too much filler episodes.

This describes Maison Ikkoku very well, in my opinion. It does not have spectacular animation (it was in production before I was born, as I have mentioned before, so that is to be expected). It does not have the perfect pacing and writing that Honey and Clover did. Nor does it have the unequaled skill of direction that you will find in the works of Studio Ghibli. But there is an element of sincerity, likability and humanness that is common for all three of these series (and more). And that core quality is the most important because it seems to end up equalizing the perceived “value” of a story. Because regardless of what I said above, I couldn’t say that one of theses series/films is better than the other. They are all productions which I have grown equally fond of.

So, let’s begin the actual review with what makes Maison Ikkoku as good as it is – characters. The show is a comedy-romance, so the lead two characters are the ones who make the deepest mark and therefore will make or break a series of this nature. If a series has a shallow or unlikable main character, chances are I will not bother to stick around for it. The two lead characters, Godai and Kyoko, are neither shallow nor unlikeable. Godai is childish at times and Kyoko has some negative traits which pop up occasionally, but they are essentially good and likable characters and you have no qualms about rooting for them. Furthermore, the growth of these characters is excellent. Godai begins the series with the mind of a teenager and we are able to watch his progression through his transition to an adult. Kyoko is older than him and is a widow and it is wonderful to watch Godai’s slow understanding of what this difference actually means. In the beginning of the series, he has little more than a childish crush on an older woman, and it is watching this relationship evolve that is so satisfying.

Now, I suppose I have to mention what I didn’t like about the series. When you become as attached to a series as I have with Maison Ikkoku, it’s hard to criticize it, but I suppose I will grit my teeth and go on. I suppose my main complaint about the show was that there were too many misunderstandings. The “Misunderstanding™) is a common device in a lot of romance series to create drama. Sometimes it is done poorly, in a very shallow way to extend drama at the expense of character growth, but other times it can be used effectively as a plot device to strengthen relationships. Maison Ikkoku usually did it the good way, but when it popped up towards the later half of the series, I just felt it was a bit much. I typically enjoy very optimistic and idealistic romance series which focus on character development. I typically hate shallow soap-opera type shows. It would have been perfect if Maison Ikkoku could have steered clear of the latter completely, but a few of the “misunderstandings” went a bit too close for comfort. But enough of that.

One other topic of discussion is the Maison Ikkoku anime versus the manga. I know that in any field, the book is always better than the media adaptation. So people always say that manga versions are better than anime versions (yes, I know that manga are not exactly comparable to books). I actually prefer the anime version of Maison Ikkoku. I think there are subtle differences in characterizations which I preferred. I know that there is one scene in Maison Ikkoku where there is a tense moment between Godai and Kyoko, but in the manga this tense moment becomes a very loud exchange between them and I found that very strange.

This is a long series. It is nearly 100 episodes. Not all of the episodes are packed with emotional content. This is a romance-comedy and major plot developments do not happen every few episodes. Part of the charm of the series is the fact that it’s length certainly contributes to the bond that is formed with the characters, but I can understand how people may be wary of approaching such a lengthy story. That was the reason it took so long for me to watch it myself. All I can say in this regard is that it is genuinely one of the most satisfying series I have seen and has become a favourite.

P.S. I invite people to visit my youtube account (Theowne) and listen to my piano arrangement of the Maison Ikkoku theme. It is a song I have fallen in love with and listen to at least once every day. I have grown fond of the juxtaposition of bittersweet emotion with optimism. I have also done an orchestral arrangement of one of the background music tracks, also available on this site.

23 responses so far

All comments welcome. Don't mind the age of the post.

23 Responses to “Maison Ikkoku Review”

  1. maxon Nov 1st 2008

    Yes, Maison Ikkoku is one of the best romanic comedy serie ever!

  2. bluespikeon Nov 29th 2008

    Honestly, your review is quite amazing and true to the feel of the show.

    I find it difficult to find another show that has quite the same appeal as Ikkoku. Please do watch Kimagure Orange Road. Especially the movie. Another good old school anime.

    Do you know any other romantic comedy which is as good as Maison ikkoku ? I’d love to watch seomething refreshing.

  3. bluespikeon Nov 29th 2008

    Sorry..I didn’t notice that you’d already seen Kimagure 🙂

  4. adminon Nov 29th 2008

    As for other romance comedies, my favourite series by far is “Honey and Clover”, which is more of a slice-of-life but romance is important as well. It’s a great series in every way.

    A lot of people like “Touch” which is another classic anime series, but I have never seen it. It is a romance comedy but also about baseball.

  5. Rekamalon Apr 2nd 2009

    I love Maison Ikkoku and I can’t stop watching it again and again .

    all of Rumiko Takahashi’s work is worth to watch.

    If you love Maison Ikkoku I recommend this list :

    1- Ranma 1/2 (after Maison Ikkoku this is my #2 fav anime )
    2- Urusei Yatsura ( first of Takahashi’s works )
    3- InuYasha ( I was a little disappointed )

  6. Shay Guyon Apr 19th 2009

    I don’t know that I have the patience to watch 96 episodes of an anime (32 hours assuming a 20-minute episode, which it works out to roughly if I skip the OP and ED for most episodes), even though I understand some of the “older crowd” of anime fans considered it a rite of passage, whereas I can get through a tankobon in 30-40 minutes (10 hours max) and I don’t have to be at my laptop. There’s an irony in here somewhere — the TV series requires MORE patience. Most anime adaptations of manga seem to, really. Of course, I can’t seem to actually FIND the manga.

    Also, to add on to what Rekamal said, in three days Takahashi’s new series RIN-NE starts. And it’s running SIMULTANEOUSLY in Japanese and English. Keep your eye on therumicworld.com.

  7. adminon Apr 19th 2009

    I’m probably too young to be considered the “older crowd” but I still think it’s a must-watch. Of course, there are episodes that are skippable to bring down the total episode count.

    The thing with the manga is that although it is of course the original, there are certain changes to characterization that I preferred in the anime, even though others may disagree. For that reason I prefer the anime, but for others, I suppose there really isn`t a reason not to get through the manga instead.

  8. aleste81on Jul 3rd 2009

    Maison Ikkoku (anime) is the most powerful story I have ever seen.
    I am 36yo, I have just seen the entire 96 ep in one month (for the third time IMAL), I fell sucked in immediately got hooked and moved, embarrassed, thrilled, I cried to tears, I felt depressed and torn to shreds and relived from the Depth as Kyoko & Godai move back and forth from their dance of Torments…
    The happy end had no effect on me. I felt shortcome of my daily drug of high emotional despair.
    Because of MI, I am redefining my views on relationships, I am forced into it by the sense of guilt MI put in me.
    This is the most bizarre evolution of myself ever !

    Nothing comes close to the depth of Maison Ikkoku, author & anime Team are genius, case closed.

  9. CaptainTweedleon Sep 14th 2009

    Whagt episodes would you recommend skipping for Maison Ikkoku? It sounds excellent, but the downside is that – given a 96 episode length – is that filler creepys in like an unwanted mould.

    Which of these episodes were the most filler-tastic

  10. UnitedWeSinon Oct 21st 2009

    If you can, please don’t skip any episodes. Sure, 96 episodes is quite a lot, yet each one has its own story to tell, and its own impact on the characters. A few of the filler episodes were my absolute favorites.

    Really, in my opinion, this anime if just fantastic, and it can really teach us a lot of things about life in that we all want to find that one person whom we can love no matter what, forever. It’s a series that shows what real love should look like, the fact that Godai thinks of nothing but Kyoko throughout the entire anime. It’s a great thing.

    Also, at many points, this serious is hilarious. I was in stitches more often than not. Most of the time, the filler episodes are the most funny.

    One misunderstanding after another can be quite amusing, yet I agree that towards the end, especially in the last 15 or so episodes, it really does get out of hand.

    Great review.

  11. Red16on Oct 22nd 2009

    By: arsenehollis on July 27, 2009 at 3:09 pmarseneholis,What does money exist for? ,

  12. VideoHeroon Nov 7th 2009

    I’m surprised at the timeliness of this posting.

    Maison Ikkoku and Kimagure Orange Road would be way more comparable than MI and Love Hina. The reason being MI is not a harem anime whereas Love Hina is. If I would say Love Hina was based off anything it would be Tenchi Muyo.

    Nevertheless I agree with the point of this review, Maison Ikkoku is a great slice of life romantic comedy. I have some issues with the plot of the story, which the author of this review mentioned. With animes as long as Maison Ikkoku is you run into repetition. The misunderstandings being one of them, the other being the meddling and purposeful misleadings of the other characters.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Maison Ikkoku, I just finished watching it for the first time and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I read the manga first and I was so pleased at how close they kept it to the original story.

    To those who complain about the 96 episode running time, what about the people who sat down weekly to watch the new episodes of Dragon Ball Z to come out? Action series have a worse habit of drawing out a story unnecessarily and take what could be a 26 episode season and turn it into a 200+ episode saga. I understand that the manga and TV series is usually coming out simultaneously.

    As a last note my only real beef with this series was Mitaka’s relationship with Asuna. While he was not necessarily the most likable guy I felt that the misunderstanding around Asuna’s dog was one of those plot devices an author throws in because they don’t know how to end a series. For instance EVERYTHING ever produced by CLAMP. Great stories, awful endings.

    All in all what a good anime is all about.

  13. Ashishon Mar 12th 2012

    This is the best anime that I have ever seen . But I seriously think that manga did a better job than the anime. I can give a good example for that . In episode 93 of anime, Yusaku says sorry to kyoko, in anime you will not understand why, but I manga it is explored fully.
    I also feel that the length of Maison Ikkoku is short. I like big animes as it allows time for character development . In daily life plot development does not happen everyday. A relationship takes time. That is why I think the length is ok.
    I would like some advice on other animes like this, if there are any.
    Also the ending is just……..perfect. Nothing can be added to it. I rank it as the best work of Rumiko Takahashi , but unfortunately it also has the shortest anime adaptation.
    I LOVE KYOKO AND YUSAKU. (Kyoko more than yusaku because she is beautiful and has a great character even after the hardships she faced so early in her life.)

  14. Ashishon Mar 12th 2012

    One more thing to add , Kyoko is also the most mature character in the series, so its difficult not to feel sorry for her. You should do google search for Kyoko Otonashi and read a great article on her by Kirin. It would be 1st or 2nd result on google search.
    You can download the manga and anime from bakabt.com.

  15. yegenekon May 28th 2012

    If you liked Maison Ikkoku i suggest Miyuki by Mitsuru Adachi, even if it’s targeted for a younger community, it captures the same mood in Maison Ikkoku. Also Adachi and Takahashi admire each others works.

  16. gon Oct 30th 2012

    it’s rumiko’s best love story!
    I am a Ranma x Akane fan as well
    but I hate the Inuyasha romance! Kagome is annoying and yes I’ve read the manga she’s still annoying there

  17. KVLon Feb 25th 2015

    I have only watched a few episodes of the anime, so I can’t give an informed opinion, but it seems the anime was more comic than the manga. I did read all the manga, and it’s a favorite of mine, despite the much-too-frequent silly comic scenes. But when it’s good, it’s very, very good! IMHO, the author has poor luck with her anime adaptations and I think the manga version is always better.

    I didn’t see any mention of “As the Blossoming Cherry Trees of a Cyclical Spring” and the OVA that has excerpts of the anime – both must-sees.

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  19. futennotoraon May 10th 2016

    Theowne-san, seeing how you appreciate Maison Ikkoku, Touch, Ghibli and slice-of-life goodness from Japan, I would urge you to check a series from the 80s called Kita no Kuni Kara (From a Northern Country)

    Its what Isao Takahata or Mitsuru Adaichi would’ve made if working in the live action medium.

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