by Caitlin Moore,

Maison Ikkoku

Collector's Edition GN 2

Maison Ikkoku Collector's Edition GN 2
It's hard to believe, but a whole year has passed since Kyoko moved into Maison Ikkoku as manager. A few things have changed in that time, most significantly Godai getting into college, but most haven't – Godai still has a crush on Kyoko, Akemi still walks around in her see-through nightie, and Mrs. Ichinose is still drunk and a gossip. Kyoko is still grieving her dead husband, even as those around her try to convince her to move on and remarry, including her parents and in-laws.

For all my effusiveness in my review of Maison Ikkoku Collector's Edition volume 1, reading this release, which collects the third and fourth installments of the original volume, makes me realize just how far the characters and writing had to go. While those first chapters still had a lot of Urusei Yatsura-style slapstick, just in a more mundane setting, this second volume sees Takahashi settling more into the pace that Maison Ikkoku became known for: leisurely, with a growing emphasis on character development and drama alongside its comedy.

The shift carries heavy implications for how the characters are written even in episodic cases. Yotsuya and Akemi are more or less untouched in their characterization, still pretty much flat caricatures to drive comedy than anything else. Yotsuya's still an enigma who intrudes on Godai's personal space, and Akemi is pretty much a mostly-naked drunk at any and all times. Mrs. Ichinose, on the other hand, gets a bit more layering. It hasn't changed that she's an alcoholic busybody who thrives on chaos, but she slides a bit more into a role as a fierce maternal figure capable of protecting the people who are important to her.

We also get Godai at his best and worst here, with a great capacity for empathy while still sliding into puerility at times. He's vain enough that he extends his New Year's visit with his parents to avoid going home with a black eye, and spineless enough that he can't bring himself to break up with Kozue, who deserves better than to be kept on the hook like she has been.

One chapter, in which Kyoko, Godai, Mrs. Ichinose, Kentaro, and Ikuko go ice skating, is particularly rough; it's so bad that the original Viz release skipped over it entirely, making it the very last bit of the series to ever be translated into English. While I'm not in favor of cutting content from any release, I can't say I blame them for that decision. It's nothing but Godai and Mitaka having a metaphorical dick-waving contest at a sport neither one is good at, vying for an oblivious Kyoko's attention in the pettiest, most tedious way possible, and includes one of Godai's most juvenile tantrums in the entire series.

Yet, he starts showing signs of the man he will grow to be, the man he needs to be to deserve Kyoko's love. When her family, including even her father-in-law, begin pressuring her to move on and remarry, he's the only one who sticks up for her and tells everyone to back off. While Mitaka makes a proposal he knows she's not ready for, even if he says he's willing to wait, Godai gives her more space, letting her know that as long as she gives him time to grow, he'll return the favor. It's these moments of empathy and kindness, of his ability to put Kyoko's needs ahead of his desire for her, that make it possible to cheer for him as a protagonist despite his many, many, many poor choices.

Kyoko herself gets a lot of much-needed development as well, as she starts to come into her own as a full person and not just an object of desire for Godai and Mitaka. If you spent any time reading and wondering, “Why is she like that,” many of your questions will be answered when her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Chigusa, make their appearance. Both are just as stubborn as she is: Mr. Chigusa is a typical overprotective, possessive father figure, and her mother is willing to resort to underhanded means to force Kyoko to bend to her will.

More details about Kyoko's relationship with Sōichirō come to light, which unfortunately doesn't really hold up to modern standards. She tells Kozue a story from when they first met, when she was attending an all-girls high school and he was a part-time instructor. It's a pretty cute story, overall, but the ethics of their relationship would be completely unacceptable today, especially considering how quickly after she graduated they seem to have married if you think about the timeline. It's not much dwelled upon and doesn't come up again this volume, but people who are particularly sensitive to that kind of thing should take note.

Like Godai himself, Takahashi's artwork continues to mature. I particularly enjoyed the characters' facial expressions, which are essential to communicating their subtle moods and complex emotional range. Godai has a wide variety of pouts and sulks, enhanced by his thick, expressive eyebrows.

The second volume of Maison Ikkoku's Collector's Edition has some serious ups and downs. While it contains the unquestionably worst chapter of the entire series, it has some of my favorite moments as well. Watching Kyoko, Godai, and their compatriots grow and change as humans in all their messy weirdness is immensely gratifying, and I hope you'll stick with the journey. See you next time.

Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-

+ More insight into Kyoko's character; Godai shows a lot of growth; has content that original localization skipped over
That skipped content is easily the worst chapter in the whole series.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Rumiko Takahashi

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