Friday, June 30, 2006

Maison Ikkoku

Rumiko Takahashi
Fiction, Manga, Romantic Comedy

Maison Ikkoku is the name of an apartment house in a suburb of Tokyo. The story begins when a new manager appears; she is young and beautiful, and the student (okay, he's studying to get in to college) Yusaku Godai falls for her, hard. Their romance, and its various pitfalls and complications, continues for seven years and fourteen volumes of collected manga (old style; they are being re-released in a new format which restores several chapters and is read in the original right-to-left.)

Takahashi is one of the contemporary masters of manga in Japan today, and this series, one of her earliest, shows why. Her characters are not only extremely expressive and distinct, but her humor translates well to English, partly because she does not eschew physical comedy. (Many new readers of manga are often baffled by certain conventions that do not translate. While there are certain Japanese customs apparent in Takahashi's work, they are often clear to American readers through their context, instead of merely being baffling.) Americans can sympathize with her characters and their shyness without having to know that, for example, circumlocution is more common in Japan, or that a kiss is considered far more serious and intimate.

For people who want to introduce people to manga, and to let them know that this isn't just a kids' medium, Maison Ikkoku is a good entry point. It deals well with the difficulties involved with loving someone who might not love you back, and for whom you feel inadequate, and how it might just work out in spite of it all. And it does it with people you might know yourself - though if you know someone like Yotsuya, I am sincerely sorry.


No comments: