A year has passed since Kyoko moved into the Maison Ikkoku as the tenement’s manager, and in some ways, much has changed: Godai is attending college, Kyoko has a better grasp on her work and the tenants, and there’s a comfort level between her and the others in which she can express all sides of herself more fully. But in other ways, life is still the same: romantic relationships haven’t appeared to progress, the Maison Ikkoku residents cause as much trouble as ever, and Godai is as unable to tell Kyoko of his feelings as she is able to move on from her late husband.
However, there’s a subtlety beneath the veneer of repetition. The chapters in volume two of Viz’s Maison Ikkoku release, rebranded as “Collector’s Edition,” are connected by a theme of maturity. While Godai is still driven by his hormones, and isn’t particularly more responsible than he was as a ronin, he’s making wiser choices in his approach to Kyoko. It’s rather heartwarming to see that after the zaniness that comes from, say, a chapter about his rivalry with Mitaka, that Godai will look to Kyoko’s best interest first rather than his own.
Meanwhile, the plot is also maturing. While the two main devices that keep the central characters from dating remain—Kyoko’s continued attachment to her former husband and the love rivals for both she and Godai—they’re used in compelling ways in this volume, especially the former as Kyoko considers whether she wants to or even can move on, especially as others pressure her to do so. Mitaka and Kozue, meanwhile, double down in their efforts to land Kyoko and Godai, respectively, not only as dating partners but life partners as well. Again, pressure is being applied to Kyoko and Godai; they can’t remain in their situations. A year has passed, after all, and relationships must move in one direction or another.
Largely because of these developments, Maison Ikkoku is beginning to hit it’s stride in volume two. Rumiko Takahashi settles down in these chapters into just the right blend of comedy, romance, and a bit of drama. Kyoko and Godai take center stage more than ever as subtle facets of their personalities are revealed. Their journeys become more prominent, and the series is better because of it.
These little changes—a deeper dive into the leads; a movement away from repeated gags and fanservice, but a continued emphasis on outlandish humor; and subtle development of themes, romance, and character—help define why Maison Ikkoku has become a classic and beloved series. And as it moves from “good” to “great” through this volume, it’s a reminder that older manga can be just as entertaining and compelling as modern, and perhaps a challenge, too, for romantic comedies in this current landscape to likewise excel in each part of the genre—both romance and comedy—without sacrificing one or the other.
A review copy of Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition, Vol. 2 was provided by Viz.