Sun, 7 October 2007
Manga Review for Maison Ikkoku Volume 14: Welcome Home by Rumiko Takahashi. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Gerard Jones. This is for the first American edition printed in May 2000 by Viz in a flipped and slightly larger trade paperback size which sold for $16.95 which is out of print but still readily available used. The Maison Ikkoku series was reprinted unflipped in the now standard tankoban format by Viz with the addition of a fifteenth volume due to the differences in the page counts of the two editions.
Rumiko Takahashi is known for letting the relationships between her romantic leads drag on for years or even decades without them ever evolving or being consummated (see Inuyasha), but as the last and concluding volume of Maison Ikkoku opens, Godai and Kyoko enter a love hotel. Godai should be in heaven, right? I mean, this is what he's always wished for. But things become a bit awkward when Kyoko says that she is thinking about Soichiro. Godai thinks she's talking about her dead husband, but Kyoko corrects him and says she meant her dog, which happens to have the same name. Is that the truth? Suffice it to say, Godai suffers from impotence at the moment of truth. Things get even more complicated when his ex-girlfriend, Kozue shows up wanting to talk about their relationship. She had already told him a guy proposed to her but she didn't want to say yes because she didn't want to hurt Godai's feelings. On top of all this Godai is going to find out how he did on the teacher certification exams. The only way he can ask Kyoko to marry him is if he passed, so there's a lot riding on the results.
I have been reading this series off and on for a little over two years now and I have to admit I got a little misty eyed when I came to certain sections of this last volume. Simply because you never wish good things to come to an end. I used to have that experience a lot with anime and manga series, but it has become rarer lately, probably because there is so much product coming out that you don't have time to lament the end of one before you start another. Instead of just centering a review on this one volume, I'll just make some comments about the series as a whole because in terms of quality they were all about the same. The central conflict of the manga that lasted through the first to most of the last volume was the lack of courage Godai had to make Kyoko his. He bumbled his way through a relationship with Kozue and some childish competition with Mitaka the tennis coach but he was just never aggressive enough to pursue Kyoko with a single-minded determination. He was too wishy-washy. Kyoko too suffered a lot because she wanted to be pursued, hunted, and caught by an alpha male. While this kind of thing makes for a lot of heartache and tragedy in real-life, in the manga world it's the perfect tried and true setup for comedy. And boy was Maison Ikkoku funny! One of the best comedies I've ever read. I've still never figured out how Takahashi was able to make such a masterpiece from such simple materials and operating mainly with character interaction rather than plot. To me, that's the hardest story to write. Making the lives of everyday people interesting and fun. It's also great to experience a relatively long manga series that has true resolution and ends on an upbeat and happy note. A great manga work.
My Grade: A+