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[ a parent's guide to anime ]

[ rated pg ] Maison Ikkoku

A Parent's Guide to Anime
Rated: PG
Parental Guidance Advised

Series ran from 1986 to 1988

Review by Charles Peklenk:

Maison Ikkoku (MI) is a manga (comics) story by the famed Rumiko TAKAHASHI which was made into a 96-episode TV series and a couple of movies. This review concerns the TV series, which in the USA is slowly being released by Viz.

MI is a comedic soap opera that revolves around the inhabitants of an old, tiny apartment house in a suburb of Tokyo. The key players are Yuusaku Godai, a very weak-willed failing student ("ronin") who attends a third-rate college and is therefore locked out of the fast track of corporate life; and Kyoko Otonashi, the apartment manager ("kanrinin") who is a young widow. Each shows some interest in the other, but Kyoko is not at all ready for another relationship, while Godai is nearly paralyzed by his easygoing nature. To complicate matters, Godai has other girls interested in him, and Kyoko has attracted the attention of a wealthy, dashing tennis coach. Beyond that are more friends, potential mates, and families with ideas and agendas of their own. (The prospective viewer with a poor memory for names is advised to keep a diagram handy.)

As if that were not enough, the other apartment tenants (Ichinose the drunken housewife, Akemi the sexy barmaid, and mystery man Yotsuya) take advantage of Godai at every turn, partying in his room, spying on him, and teasing him mercilessly with uninvited comments and general discouragement. In fact, the entire series consists of endless ambiguous sentences misunderstood, friendly gestures interpreted as infidelity by the rumor mill, and assumptions made about meaning and intent which get Godai and others in trouble in every episode.

If this sounds unpleasant to watch, truthfully, it can be. With just a word or two at the appropriate time, the painful situations would be avoided; the hearts not broken; the mischievous schemes derailed. Each time, the explanation comes too late, or Godai is too timid to open his mouth, and havoc ensues. It helps to understand that the Japanese traditionally do not speak in direct terms. By avoiding confrontations, the Japanese speaker may help the listener avoid unpleasant obligations, prevent hateful words from being thrown about, and may spare the listener or other parties the embarrassment of exposure. When a character in MI finally speaks his or her mind, it is a welcome relief to the tension. The show is bearable because it is often cute, sometimes hilarious, and because the painful situations in question benefit from Ms. Takahashi's legendary comic timing.

The characters seem like pre-molded caricatures at first, but the principals do grow and mature. Endlessly goaded by his "friends," Godai becomes steadier and more responsible, while Kyoko is drawn in to defend him against their barbs. But will he always be so timid, so spineless? Will her heart ever overcome the loss of her first love? Ever so slowly their temper is revealed... not perfect people, but folk like us, and therein lies the appeal of MI: cheering for Godai as he gets untangled from each situation; fearing for Kyoko that she may never decide whether Godai is worth the trouble.

Approach: Fun through endless anguish and frustration.

Review by Eric Karnes:

Maison Ikkoku tells the story of young Yusaku Godai, a ronin at the boarding house Maison Ikkoku. The plot revolves around the relationship between Godai and the boarding house's manager, Kyoko Otonashi. The other tenants do whatever they can to interfere with Godai's daily life. Mr. Yotsuya, who inhabits the room adjacent to Godai, has gone so far as to pound a hole in the wall big enough for him to fit through.

As if poor Yusaku didn't have enough to worry about,enter Shun Mitaka. Mitaka is a rival for Kyoko's affections, as well as her tennis coach. To top that off, He's rich, handsome, and self confident-evrything Godai isn't.

Yusaku's troubles don't end there - he's got to deal with Kozue Nanao as well. She's a former co-worker who has something of an imagined relationship with Godai-and he can't bring himself to break it off with her.

This is really a heartwarming romantic comedy. At times it's just drop-dead funny, other times it's truely romantic. It manages to mantain a good balance of both.

I watched the dub from Viz Video, and I thought it was quite well done. Some of the voices seem a little strange, but the characters themselves are strange, so they go together.

It is the brainchild of Rumiko Takahashi, the creator of Ranma 1/2 and Urusei Yatsua. If you like these then it's definately worh checking out. There's also a wonderful manga series that's also a good choice (and a little less expensive).

This series could start discussions on the differences between American and japanese school systems, as Godai is a ronin. A ronin is someone who didn't pass the college entrance exams and has to spend the next year preparing to take them again.

Review by Rosalyn Hunter:

First I want to say that I have watched all 96 episodes of this series and I think that it is a beautiful piece of work. Maison Ikkoku is an unusual romance because the romantic leads do not make a good match at the beginning of the series. Kyoko Otonashi, the new manager of Maison Ikokku, is a 22 year old widow. Heart broken over the loss of her husband after a year she is fearful of new relationships and thinks that loving anyone else means that she did not really love her husband enough. Godai is an irresponsible college student who blames his failures on others, and tries to carry on a relationship with Kyoko while keeping a girlfriend (Kazue) on the side. The wonderful thing about this series, is that eventually Godai will get a spine, and Kyoko eventually will get over her husband. This is not a series for people who are unwilling to see it through to the end. Because of all of the troubles that the two go through, it is immensely satisfying to see them get together after 4 years of "lukewarm water" as one character puts it. I would recommend it for teenagers especially shy ones as most of the problems that the people get in to come from hiding their emotions from each other.

Except for the revealing negligees that the neighbor Akemi wears; and a hotspring bath episode where nothing really is revealed, I don't remember any nudity. Actually it becomes sort of a joke that after a while, no one even notices what Akemi is wearing. The violence is minimal. characters get slapped in key scenes, usually deservedly; and there is an accident where Godai breaks his leg. There is no sex.

The only warning is that people who object to drinking may not like to have their kids see people who drink every night. The three neighbors Ichinose, Yotsuya, and Akemi are definitely drunks and this is used for humor most of the time, although there is a very nice episode where they discuss the problem of drinking directly and Ms. Ichinose shocks her son by not drinking an entire day to be ready to participate in parents day at school.

I recommend this series to teenagers, because although the people do sometimes do things that we would not like our kids to do, there are always consequences to their actions. When Godai breaks a promise to Kyoko to come home early, and spends the entire night out drinking with his buddy Sakamoto, this puts his relationship with Kyoko in the deep freeze. One quickly realizes that Godai will never win Kyoko until he becomes more mature and learns to take responsibility for his actions.

Also the characters must make major life decisions. Should Godai continue to do the low paying daycare job that he loves? Or should he become a salaryman so that he can have money to support Kyoko decently? Kyoko must decide if she should accept a proposal from the rich Mitaka even though she doesn't really love him, or should she continue to wait for a relationship with Godai that may never come to be.

The three neighbors are essential to the plot, because the two main characters are so bad at expressing themselves openly. If Kyoko is thinking about marrying Mitaka, Godai is sure to hear all of the details that night. Also, when Godai loses his job at the daycare and is afraid to tell Kyoko that he is working at Cabaret Bunny, they force him to pay for their drinks every night until he finally confesses.

I think that this show gives parents an excellent spring board to talk about many complex issues such as: "What happens when people are not open and honest to each other about their feelings?" and "What are the consequences of breaking promises?" It shows how both actions and the failure to take action both have consequences. The character, Godai, takes the long hard road to maturity, but when he finally reaches it, we are proud of him.

About the dub. Although Viz makes a very good dub for Maison Ikkoku, please be warned that many of the cultural references have been changed or removed. If your child is interested in Japanese culture, please rent the subtitled version.

Parent's Guide Rating:

yellow (parental guidance advised)

The most prominent problem is that most characters drink during every single episode. The other apartment tenants get drunk continually, and we are encouraged to laugh at them and the trouble they cause. The more devastating consequences of this kind of life are hardly depicted at all - many such people would not be able to afford even the shabby lodgings of Ikkoku-kan, because they couldn't keep a steady job. To many in urban Japan, drinking is considered a necessary part of business and of life. Since Japanese etiquette often renders them unable to express themselves openly, the drunken state serves to loosen the tongue, enabling people to utter some of the things that should have been said all along. Since this effect promotes harmony in business circles, immoderation is socially acceptable in Japan in spite of its effects on families.

Overtly sexual situations are relatively rare, but innuendo is a regular feature, and Godai continually finds himself in awkward situations in which his character and fidelity are called into question. Part of the story involves a men's cabaret, which is depicted in a sanitized fashion. Cursing is mild, but fairly common. Nudity is rare and mostly implied, not shown, although Akemi is used to lure the male viewer in early episodes. As described above, some characters regularly put down Godai, and while they justify this in their own minds, their cruelty is a poor substitute for real friendship and is a bad example to kids. There are a handful of slaps to the face in the series, but no violence.

For More Information:

For more information:

Beware! Some materials, especially the encyclopedic Maison Ikkoku Guidebook, will heartlessly divulge plot details.

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