Hey guys, since there is a significant number of Anime Fans here, I figured I would make a Topic about what were watching.
Ill go first,
Im watching Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight at the moment. Really cute Slice of Life/Comedy Anime I recommend to everyone.
What are you watching???
(This topic is mainly for anime that finished airing. There should be a topic up for the current season)
So this post is going to be about Maison Ikkoku which is an ancient anime 96 episodes long that I've finally finished. This is very old anime, and even if you have no interest in watching old school anime, I think it's important that anyone who's watched a romantic comedy of any sort in anime form should know about this.
As you can see from the links above, this is a very high rating show, and in fact the most common rating (the mode) in ANN is 10/10 which is a spectacular rating.
This show dates back to a bygone era of anime, dating 1986-1988 and is a landmark show that pretty much defined the whole romantic comedy genre as we know it today in manga, anime and light novel form. This is the show you need to be grateful for, and curse, for everything there is you like and hate in today's romantic comedies. It inspired other classics such as Love Hina where the manga author clearly gives a nod to the show in both reproducing some of its original opening ideas, and using names from Maison Ikkoku in his works (such as Negima.) The story involves a college failure lodger falling in love with the lodge manager, 2 years his senior, who is actually a widow.
From the outset, this is a LONG show. It comes from an era where there was very little rush in telling a story, the anime series were planned way in advance and lasted for many seasons. A far cry from today's shows which may come from spectacular original sources (light novels, manga, VNs) and yet only get funding for one season, lasting 12 episodes and doing a terrible job of conveying the original source material. It takes the time to set scenes, draw backdrops, show characters simply walking and pondering in thought at times. It also spans 5 years in story line from start to finish, allowing a generous amount of character development, maturity and meaningful relationship resolution. What this also means is that by today's sensibilities, this show is SLOW. I was 16 when this show first aired and I can tell you now, if it was available at the time I would have been religiously glued to the screen for 3 years watching this show without feeling it was slow in any way shape or form. However with what we're used to today, it is actually difficult to watch a show at this pace for this many episodes and not feel it's a waste of time. The artform has changed an awful lot. That said, it was an investment for me that I'd been meaning to do for over a decade because I knew how important it was in anime history. The animation quality is very good for its time, with bluray releases that are higher resolution than the TV broadcast and consistent right to the end. The music is decent for its era but nothing special.
What you get as a basic plot in this show is the classic post high school failing to get into college that falls in love with a woman, lives in a lodge shared with lots of other unique characters, ridiculous high jinx all leading to an obvious, if extremely drawn out, happy ending.
This is the show that started all the tropes we've come to love and hate. Hesitation when speaking, inconvenient interruptions, dogs jumping in at inopportune moments, trains passing to make critical words inaudible, payphones running out of money at the wrong time, people abruptly finishing a discussion before the other person gets to answer/finish what they're saying, walking in on people bathing at the wrong time, missed opportunities for sickness, failing to make appointments or meet deadlines conveniently for story purposes, love rivals, complicated love polygons, arranged marriage, beach episodes, onsen episodes, blackmail, big friendly dogs, butt monkeys, knowledgeable barkeepers, first name basis issues, fanservice, ojou-samas, high school crushes, tutors... even a zettai ryouiki and so on. You name it, almost every trope is executed in this story. The difference here is that a lot of this stuff had never actually been in a romance before and was introduced by the manga and anime that this belongs to.
Now having said that this show invented a lot of the tropes, that doesn't mean that it's perfect in its execution of them. Some jokes fall flat, the repeated tropes get irritating, and the pace of execution of them often becomes problematic for a modern day viewer. This is a show where the relationship tensions introduced by misunderstandings are innumerable. There is no end to the how often a miscommunication or misunderstanding will lead to a plot device in its own right, and if you watch it thinking you'll get relief from it at some stage, you need to be seriously patient as these don't stop happening till almost the end of the monster. They're frustrating in the extreme and get tiring after so many episodes. That said, the nice part is that the love rival is also not immune from these issues and these jokes actually work extremely well. Additionally, there is no doubt that the more frustration you feel during a story, the more satisfying the resolution to the story will be, and this is absolutely true here. At least the misunderstandings generally didn't last more than 2 episodes at most, usually less.
Primarily this is a comedy, and to be honest I didn't find myself laughing in every episode. There are long stretches where I watched, intrigued by the story, or compelled to get towards the end, and every few episodes I would have a right royal belly laugh when things were funny to me. It was never a show that made me "sleepy at night" because of the tension that would always be implied, and many episodes the whole romance component would be put aside for character building - which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Having said that, I was not really "glued" to it, finding a lot of it mundane and really not that amusing till much later on, by which time I'd fallen in love with (most of) the characters.
What is great about this show is the character development of the main characters. The protagonist actually starts out quite a loser and you feel sorry for him only at the start, but as time goes on he evolves into a much more amicable character and you can't help but root for him, hoping (knowing) he ends up with his one-sided love. The other characters too evolve in not necessarily expected ways and new characters are introduced until almost 3/4 of the way through the entire series, yet they work well since they get fleshed out and 1/4 of 96 episodes is still a heck of a lot. This, unfortunately, brings me to the lowest point of this series. Not all characters develop. There are 3 main characters that play the other tenants in Maison Ikkoku who are a major feature of the story, and, to put it bluntly, are a bunch of fucking annoying morons. They spend their entire time annoying, blackmailing, stealing, siphoning, interrupting, getting drunk and generally pissing off the main character and the audience. While this may have been funny 30 years ago when this anime first came out, it's plain shit now, and it's bad enough at the start of the series, yet it lasts right to the end of the story with virtually zero character development on their part. Sure they occasionally accidentally or otherwise help forward the story, but not enough to redeem how unrealistically annoying these lowlifes are. No sane person would put up with what they do to the protagonist. It's strange because the review at nihonreview gave character development in this series a glowing review but fails to mention these three characters in the light I saw them http://www.nihonreview.com/anime/maison-ikkoku/ (they gave it 9/10.)
An interesting point I noticed was the fanservice. One of the females in the series wears a see-through negligee through most of the series. Right from the very 1st episode you get nipple fanservice of her, which is a rarity in today's anime, especially one of this genre, though it's hardly arousing in such old school animation. This wasn't so much the interesting part as the fact that from the second season (after episode 24), her transparent negligee magically became opaque. Presumably at the time they decided it was too risqué for the target audience and toned it down (a bit late.)
The pace of this show is problematic by today's standards. Modern shows have 300-400 lines if dialogue. This has more like 200-250, which doesn't sound like much less, but it is when you've gotten used to high pace shows and for example something like No Game No Life wouldn't have lasted 12 episodes in this sort of series, but more like 50. I didn't mind it that much, but I have to admit I found a little workaround. Since I playback my videos with mpv (on linux) which can speed up playback without pitch change, I sped it up 10% to 1.1 speed and suddenly found it much more in tune with what I'd expect.
So there is one thing I have to mention on its own, and that's the ending. I freely admit to the fact I started watching this show because I knew it had a very happy ending. One thing about a 96 episode series that spans 5 years, unlike a modern romance anime of 12 episodes that spans maybe 3 months and ends with a confession 30 seconds before the final credits is that they had time to conclude this story slowly and completely. It's fair to say that the ending spans more than one episode (I won't say how many in the unlikely event someone watches this) and leaves absolutely no loose end. It completes every single storyline of every character we meet, and has the most satisfying and touching endings ever. I spent the last half of the last episode in tears and moments in previous episodes similarly. The ending was truly beautiful and I did not feel disappointed after having sat through 96 episodes. This show has THE absolute reference for happy endings.
Rating this show for me is hard because of its inconsistencies by today's standards. If I'd watched it 30 years ago I'd have given it a 10/10. But with the slow parts hovering around a 6/10, the good parts an 8/10 and the ending an absolutely solid 10/10, I have to balance things out and say it's an 8/10. If you're patient, up for a very old school anime, and have plenty of time and love romance and want to see how the current artform came to be I'd highly recommend it.