Monday, January 24, 2011

Manga Monday: Will Young Godai manage to accomplish EITHER of his goals?

Slice of life romances, along with comedies, are also a staple of manga in Japan. Honey and Clover is one that has made a big hit in the US, but they've been around for years. We can even travel back over 30 years to one of the founders of modern manga and take a look at Rumiko Takahashi's Maison Ikkoku.

Godai-kun, a ronin trying once more to get into university, is finally fed up with the way his housemates have been treating him. He's decided to leave, but on his way out the door he runs into Kiyoko-san, the new manager of the building. Although she's slightly older than he, it's love at first sight and he resolves to stay at Maison Ikkoku.

What follows is a fairly standard, 1980s style manga. The tenants are a bit on the bizarre side by real life standards, though fairly tame in the manga world. In room 1 we have the Ichinose family, with a lush of a mother, an absent salaryman father and a young son. In room 4 we have Yotsuya-san, who has broken a hole in to Godai's room to swipe food and drink, as well as spy on room 6. Room 6 hosts Akemi-san, a hostess at a local bar who is also quite good at 'acquiring' drink from the people around her, and is perpetually either drunk or hung over, and is often not properly dressed.

The majority of the manga revolves around poor Godai trying rather unsuccessfully to get closer to Kiyoko-san and study for university entrance exams. The former is quite hard, considering the fact that Kiyoko-san is a recent widow, even though she's so young, and has decided not to remarry. The latter is a problem mainly due to the other tenants of Maison Ikkoku having decided that Godai's room is where the parties are going to be held, and keeping him up with drunken revelry most of the night, which is quite hard to study during.

The series itself is a very traditional manga of the time. Even when the humor gets bawdy, it stays within about the same limits as Ranma ½ or any other Rumiko Takahashi manga. It may need a Teen or Older Teen rating within the US, but it's nothing that ought to offend an early high school student, or even really an advanced middle school student with lenient parents.

Highs: A sweet, almost-love-story

Lows: The older style of the manga may be off-putting to the new generation of readers

Verdict: A good, light read that helped found the genre

Further Reading: Ranma ½, Emma: A Victorian Romance

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