Maison Ikkoku eps 1 & 2

Routinely cited as one of the greatest anime series of all time (by old people) and the second series by the most profilic comic artist in the world, Rumiko Takahashi, Maison Ikkoku is a love story about a desperate, almost totally useless not-quite college student and his pretty but prissy house manager.

Godai is the student, trying to study for his exams but constantly undermined by his neighbors who throw loud parties seemingly with the specific intent of ruining Godai’s concentration – by mutual assent, the parties always end up in his room. There are three neighbors –

The sexy lush next door, Akemi, who wander around in a see-through neglige. mid 80s Japanese TV had no problem, apparently, with the occasional nipple, so she doesn’t have the severe burn victim look that other naked TV anime ladies exhibit.

Yostuya, a mysterious businessman who is also a pervert – he gets into Godai’s room through a hole in the wall, and has had another one opened in Akemi’s, so he can spy on her while she sleeps. That’s the joke.

Hanae Ichniose and her brat, Kentaro. She loud, fat, brassy, often drunk. Her kid just sucks.

This trio conspire to keep Godai in the doghouse, and their antics have caused the apartment manager to abandon the building and run off to its owners. They have a daughter in need of work, so she is sent to take over for these misfits.

Godai meets her as she just arrives, while he’s screaming that he’s leaving forever. Enter cute girl, Godai forgets his distress. It’s a sitcom set-up, and the jokes are sitcom jokes. There’s nearly nothing to the story of the first episode other than the setup, and a few decent gags.

The second episode is just as light on content, though it has some better gags. Godai has decided, because he’s kind of stupid, that a big romantic present will get Kyoko to instantly fall in love with him, so he spends rent and food money on a ring, but can’t sum up the courage to give it to her. He finally gets a chance when she’s on the roof, fixing it before a storm, and subsequently falls asleep.

Why waking her up while she’s on the roof seems like a good idea is unclear, but again, Godai is stupid. She wakes up, doesn’t know where she is, panics, and Godai saves her from falling, but in grabbing her, he GRABs her.

I would think a quick cheap feel is ample repayment for a fella saving you from a broken neck, but Kyoko has less of the spirit of giving than I can evince, and she slaps poor Godai. Unfair.

That’s an okay gag. Better is the entire apartment’s relationship to Kyoko’s dog, Shintaro. They’ve all given him different names, all feed him things that are bad for him, and the dog responds to all of it, much to Kyoko’s distress. Shintaro is a very important name to her, and she’s damned if she’ll let the dog be happy being called anything else.

This important name figures into the larger story that is slowly being unfolded here. Kyoko’s got a past, and some secret sorrow. When Godai finds her on the roof, while sleeping, tears well up in her eyes, and she says the name, “Shintaro.” It’s not a lot to go on, but Maison Ikkoku is clearly happy to take its time establishing its characters and premise. It’s amusing, occaisonally. Not hilarious. Godai is a hard protagonist to really get behind, since he’s ineffectual and kind of a simp, all at once. He needs a spine, and a little less stupidity. And Kyoko’s a nice Japanese lady, but also a little bland.

Why is this considered one of the great classic anime series? That has yet to reveal itself. Maybe as the series unfolds, the secrets of its reputation will be revealed. As it stands… s’all right.

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