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Going through MI… again!

This is the 3rd time that I’m going through Maison Ikkoku, as well as the 4th time. My first time was when I was in uni, the second about a month back and I’ve started on the 3rd time with Sunshine. Today I bought the manga to start on the 4th round. Obsession? Sure looks like it.

During my 2nd round, I would stay up late at night watching the anime on my PDA, never mind that I had to work the next day. I would take the bus to work so that I had time to catch an extra episode. Some time during the 96 episodes I realised from reviews by other fans that certain scenes from the manga had been left out of the anime, which led me to uncover the online manga scans so I could see for myself. Other fans who were more obsessed (and more importantly, more talented) reviewed their favourite episodes and compiled their own performance of the various theme songs from the anime. I’m glad to know I’m not the only person who thinks this is one of the best romance stories ever.

Looking back at how I started on the first round, it was when Kyoko started playing tennis and Godai’s rival appeared to spice things up. That was when Godai started fighting back and started growing up and became more likeable. If I had started watching while he was a total loser in episode one, I doubt I would have continued watching this spineless, unmotivated and lecherous young man going crazy over a woman much better than he is. The proverbal toad lusting after swan flesh, and with no better chance of success. But he grows up with each challenge that he had to face, and I found myself wishing him success. And along the way, Kyoko’s attitude towards him changed from being merely courteous and cordial to being genuinely enjoying his company.

Sunshine is a fan of Hong Kong drama, and certain Korean dramas capture her attention quite well too. She had never been an anime fan, but this is one of the few anime that she enjoys watching. We have reached episode 40 now. If she can last this long, it must be pretty good.

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Maison Ikkoku – the unlikely romance

Maison Ikkoku is one of the first animes that I started watching, and ignited my love affair with Japanese cartoons. This unlikely romance between a weak student and the lovely female caretaker of his boarding house is surprisingly captivating when I don’t consider myself a big fan of love stories.

Godai Yuhsaku is a weak-willed college student who is aware of his own incompetence, and fear to confess his feelings for Kyoko, though it is plain to everyone that he is head over heels in love with her. Otonashi Kyoko is a young widow who cannot bear to let go of her feelings towards her dead husband Souichiro and so is unable to accept Godai’s feelings for her. Halfway through the story, her own feelings for Godai start to reveal themselves, though she denies them, unwilling to let another man take Souichiro’s place in her heart. To those around them, their growing familiarity with each other is very noticable, becoming, as other characters put it, domestic.

Living under the same roof, they had plenty of opportunity to interact, so 3 wacky tenants at the apartment were thrown into the story to mess up those opportunities. 6 years is a long time, and rivals for the affection of Godai and Kyoko were added to frustrate and test the depth of their feelings. The presence of these rivals push the 2 indecisive main characters to sort out their emotions and force them to move towards each other. They continue to get jealous of their rivals, though Godai would not admit it to Kyoko, and Kyoko would not admit it to even herself until much later.

That a good man like Coach Mitaka is Godai’s rival for Kyoko is entirely understandable, and it is amazing that he would lose to the incompetent Godai, whose only redeeming grace seem to be his kindness and dedication towards Kyoko. It is more amazing that Kyoko had to fight off 2 younger rivals for Godai, and had another 2 rivals who were so young that she did not take seriously. Somehow Godai has a tendency to attract young and simple girls. Perhaps Kyoko saw it the same way as Godai’s grandma, who once said to Godai something along the line of “Your grandpa was a wimp like you, but when I saw the desperation in his eyes, I knew he will love me forever.”

These obstacles and distractions drag on the story for 96 episodes. After all, Godai had to graduate and get a permanent job to be financially independent before he can propose to Kyoko. At about 20 minutes an episode, this comes to around 36 hours or 1 and a half day to watch. Not that I took it all at one go. I would have become numb and missed the fun of the show. Unlike much of Japanese manga and anime, the story actually gets somewhere and is more than just endless story arcs. It is a marathon story, but with a clear goal.

The whole point of watching is not to see how the story ends, but how the characters change along the way. I find these characters growing on me and I just can’t help but root for them. It was a delight to see signs along the way that Kyoko has more or less chosen Godai, and is waiting for him to be ready to marry her. Godai eventually graduated from college and found a job, 5 years into the story, and Kyoko realised after 4 years that she will eventually let go of Souichiro.

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