Does anyone need a quick breather? We'll close out the 80s on a rather lovely note, a romantic comedy series called Maison Ikkoku.
A series spanning close to ten years, starting in November 1980, and ending April 1987, it has over 25 million volumes are in circulation, making it one of the most successful romantic-comedy manga series of the 1980s. In fact, it went on to receive 3 live-action adaptions (one movie in 1986, and a two-part tv special, with part 1 airing in May 2007, and part 2 airing approximately one year later in July of 2008), entire musical albums, a few video games, and a radio show dedicated to the series. In fact, it's been claimed that it’s the author's best work! (Although not nearly as notable as probably some others, as we'll get to here in a bit).
"Well, who's the author?" you might be asking. And to be honest, that's a solid question! The author in question is none other than Rumiko Takahashi,
whose work also includes both Ranma ½ and Inuyasha. Before working on Ranma (1989) and Inuyasha (1996), she wrote Maison Ikkoku. Her inspiration was to create a series that was to imitate what could happen in the real world versus a story involving the supernatural or aliens (as seen in the Ranma and Inuyasha series for example). The original inspiration for Maison came from a rather exciting place, too: a worn-down apartment complex, which sat right behind her own apartment complex while in college. Using that inspiration, she chose to write a series about a romantic development that could happen anywhere at any time, alongside the worn-down apartment complex. she soon began to brainstorm about how a romantic relationship could blossom given an environment like the worn-down apartments. Interestingly, since it contains the French word Maison (meaning house), the title translates to The House of One Moment. This makes sense considering Takahashi's goal of expressing that it only takes one moment for romance to blossom.
After doing some research on the series, one of the many things that interest me about the series is the actual pacing of the story. The story itself spans a six-year period, which given the publication period of roughly seven years, Takahashi paced the story really well! I find that interesting because of how hit or miss (personal opinion here) the pacing of most manga series can be: either series can be really drawn out or rushed. So, the fact that she paced the story so well throughout publication is something to behold!
During its initial run, the series saw 161 chapters and 15 volumes. Due to its popularity, it did see a few rereleases- seeing a 10-volume rerelease (effectively in graphic novel form) spanning 2 years between 1992 and 1993, an American comic book format also in 1993, and 14 graphic novels. Viz also released the series across 15 volumes across 3 years between 2003 through 2006, and finally, a collector's edition of the series is out as well, with volume one being released back in 2020.
We've talked about the success of the series and who the author is, but you might be asking yourself still: what is the exact plot? Well, glad you asked! The story revolves around the old boarding house (the same one that Takahashi was inspired by) and a 20yr old college student, named Yusaki Godai.
He's a rather unlucky boy who is often taken advantage of by the other dwellers of the house. Down on his luck, he was on his way to moving out of the boarding house until he met the new owner: Kyoko Otonashi. Instantly, he falls for her and thus begins many shenanigans throughout the series.
Bit of a spoiler though, but she does ultimately fall for him as well (shocker!), and that mutual feeling for one another grows throughout the series. Another spoiler here, but they both get married at the end of the series, with the couple even having a daughter together!
It really is a heartwarming story, with many misadventures and shenanigans. How it balances the slice of life genre with the romantic-comedy, I would recommend checking it out! So many people thought the same when it came out, thus spurring many different types of media for the series.
Speaking on that topic of media- as I had mentioned earlier: the series had an anime adaptation, an (albeit one episode) radio drama, 3 live-action films, and lastly, served as musical inspirations. So, let's take a quick look at all these different forms of media:
The radio drama was a one-episode broadcast and served effectively as an interview about the series. The show was part of NHK's (Japan's national broadcasting station) radio comics program, which helped expose people to various series!
An anime series also did reasonably well: a 96-episode series, done by Studio Deen and running from 1986 to 1988. It was later licensed in the states by Viz in 1994; however, it only ran for 36 episodes. Viz ultimately released the entire series as an 8 series of boxsets, running from 2003 to 2006
The first movie adaptation of the series was released in October of 1986, released under Toei. In fact, you can watch the trailer here: Maison Ikkoku: Apartment Fantasy Trailer. It currently holds a 68% on IMDB.com, although personally, I rank it higher if you're into a slice of life/romance films.
The second and third live-action adaptations came in the shape of tv specials, first premiering on Asahi in May of 2007. The finale came roughly a year later, in July of 2008. While IMDB also seems to rate this series even more harshly with a 55%, I would recommend giving the series a try as well!
Lastly is the musical inspirations. This is an exciting area, as most of the music developed were theme songs, incidental music, character albums, and music calendars. Of course, being the 1980s, it was all on LP, cassettes, CDs, and VHS's (pretty tubular!), all produced by a company called: Kitty Records. One notably exciting note is that a sound theater series was released beginning in 1986 and continuing through 1994. It contained 48 discs of soundtracks and all 96 episodes as audio dramas.
A few video game adaptations were also conceived for the series: Maison Ikkoku: Omoide no Photograph in 1986, and Maison Ikkoku Kanketsuhen: Sayonara, Soshite...... in 1988. While most likely just cash grabs of the series, the fact that the series was popular enough to warrant video games, especially in the 1980s, is something to definitely take note of!
As you can see, there is no shortage of media for the work of Maison Ikkoku! While the supporting media outside of the source manga material itself was decently successful (for the most part), the leading franchise has received numerous accolades over the decades. In fact, in 2005, the series was ranked within the top 100 best anime lists, being at number 80 and again being voted as Takahashi's third-best work (outside of Ranma and Inuyasha). Decades later, after it was released, many people are still giving it praise for being as delightful yet relatable. Most people really seem to resonate with the simple plot, relatable characters, and proper pacing.
Quite a lovely ending overall, really, if you think about it. We started out of this world with Goku, fought our way through the world of Dragon Ball, the Mad Max dystopia of Fist of the North Star, and ended up falling in love with the slice of life series that is Maison Ikkoku. The 80's really set the bar of what popular anime can be and the stories the medium can tell. However, as we head into the 90s, we'll really dig into shows that not only continued to keep great storytelling alive but really built on the hype that anime would soon see as it made its way to the west. So, keep your eyes towards the stars, specifically towards the moon (not a star, I know, but that direction), as we begin the 90s with the series Sailor Moon!