Manga Review: Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition Volume One

Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition Volume One collects the first 16 chapters of the series into one volume. It appears from this release that VIZ Media is breaking down the volumes the same way the Japanese 10-volume version of the series did, instead of the Japanese 15-volume release of Maison Ikkoku.

Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition Volume One
Written by: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: September 15, 2020

A 22-year-old widow named Kyoko Otonashi becomes the new manager for a broken-down boarding house called Maison Ikkoku. She is a sweet and polite woman, but she also has a frightening side that emerges when she’s jealous or has to deal with her parents. She has a dog named Soichiro, whom she has named after her late husband.

Yusaku Godai is a 20-year-old ronin student and resident of Maison Ikkoku, who is studying for his college entrance exams after failing in the first year. He’s a nice and handsome guy, but he can also be rather indecisive. Yusaku falls in love with Kyoko at first sight, but he has trouble telling her how he feels. It doesn’t help that Kyoko’s 12-year-old niece, Ikuko, develops a crush on Yusaku and wants him to tutor her. Ikuko doesn’t care that Yusaku keeps failing his entrance exams, she just wants an excuse to spend time with him. And later in the volume, a girl who used to work with Yusaku at one of his jobs comes into the picture and appears to be interested in him.

The other tenants of Maison Ikkoku are a thorn in Yusaku’s side and tend to cause misunderstandings between Kyoko and Yusaku.  Yotsuya is Yusaku’s mysterious neighbor, who is usually dressed in a business suit. However, no one knows what he does outside of Maison Ikkoku.  Yotsuya enjoys mooching off others, likes peeping on Akemi, and tormenting Yusaku.

Akemi Roppongi is a bar hostess. Between working the late-night shift and spending the rest of her night drinking, she often has a sleepy look on her face.  Like Yotsuya, she also enjoys tormenting Yusaku.

Hanae Ichinose is a short, middle-aged woman, who also seems to spend quite a bit of her time drinking. She’s a gossip and enjoys helping the tenants torment Yusaku. Her son, Kentaro Ichinose, is a bratty grade schooler. However, he is rather fond of Kyoko, because he sees her as the only other sane person (besides himself, of course). As we see later in the volume, Kentaro seems to develop a little crush on Ikuko.

By the end of this volume, Yusaku manages to succeed at passing a college entrance exam and starts attending school. And just when it seems like a relationship could potentially happen between him and Kyoko, Hanae convinces Kyoko to join the neighborhood housewives tennis team. Their coach is a handsome man named Shun Mitaka,, who has a reputation as a ladies’ man. Shun starts courting Kyoko, which begins a rivalry between him and Yusaku.

Having familiarity with other manga by Rumiko Takahashi, such as Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha, I can definitely see some of the characteristics that I know from these other titles. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of similarity in the art style, since they were all drawn by the same mangaka. However, I also see a pattern of a complicated relationship web being developed here, which are also prevalent in works like Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha. However, I think the similarities are a little more noticeable between Maison Ikkoku and Ranma 1/2, since both of these titles are set in the real world. While Inuyasha has the occasional scene set in modern day Japan, that title is more a “feudal fairy tale” than the others. For readers who are already familiar with Takahashi’s other works should be able to get into Maison Ikkoku rather quickly.

As I read this volume, I kept rooting for Yusaku and Kyoko to get together, in much the same way that I found myself rooting for Ranma and Akane in Ranma 1/2. While a lot of the tenants at Maison Ikkoku are rather annoying, they need to be this way in order for the story to work. The fact that the reader can find them just as annoying as Yusaku does means that Takahashi has done a great job with their characterization.

After reading this first volume of Maison Ikkoku, I can see why it’s considered one of Takahashi’s signature works. I hope to get an opportunity to read more volumes of this series so I can experience more of this classic manga series. This is a series I’ve wanted to read for a while now, and I was happy when VIZ Media announced that they would be reissuing the series in these Collector’s Editions.

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