There's quite a lot of Maison Ikkoku I'm unfamiliar with, despite watching all 96 episodes of the TV series a few years ago. Obviously there's the original manga. Anime fans can then watch this movie ("The Final Chapter") and three OVAs, but there are also three live-action adaptations. The first is a 1986 film called Apartment Fantasy that I haven't managed to track down yet, while the other two are TV Asahi specials from 2007-8.
Maison Ikkoku is another long-running Rumiko Takahashi comedy, but it's nothing like Ranma, Inu-Yasha and Urusei Yatsura. It's set in the real world. You'll look in vain here for magic, aliens, time travellers and shapeshifting gender-switching martial artists. Takahashi's keeping herself on a much tighter rein here and the results are far sharper than all those other shows and far more emotionally rich than all of them except Inu-Yasha. This show regularly reduced me to a wreck. I'd be screaming at the screen and lunging for the pause button. It's brilliant, but its chosen medium is pain. The nearest Western analogue I can find is to liken it to a Japanese Fawlty Towers, but with less mental illness and an even higher embarrassment factor.
It's a series about an idiot called Godai who's in love with the manager of his boarding house, but also has evil housemates who love partying all night in his bedroom and ruining his life for laughs. The latter can get pretty extreme, but Godai's worst enemy of course is Godai himself.
As the title suggests, though, this film is set right at the end of the saga. It would be an exaggeration to say that Godai's grown up, but he's not quite as useless as he was at the beginning. It's set entirely within the boarding house and simply features most of the series regulars turning up to celebrate the impending marriage. There's no real plot as such and to be honest I wouldn't say there's much point in watching it if you're unfamiliar with the series. Mitaka and Asuna turning up is a beautiful scene, for instance, but only because we know their history. They had to be there. It would have been wrong for them to stay away, but someone unfamiliar with Maison Ikkoku would only see a couple of people turning up at the front door to give their best wishes, then leave without even coming in for a drink.
All things considered, perhaps the most impressive thing about this Final Chapter is how watchable it is despite the fact that almost nothing happens. Ichinose, Yotsuya and Akemi are appalling, of course. Occasionally they mean well (except for Yotsuya), but at other times I'd actually describe them as evil. Take the scene where they're holding on to Godai's legs to prevent him getting to the phone, after doing their best to make him think Kyoko's betraying him and thus get the wedding cancelled. Admittedly this is a Godai who's more experienced in their tricks, but even so they're trying very hard and come closer than you'd think.
There are two elements here that could be described as story. The main one from my point of view is Yagami. This girl is one of my favourite anime characters anywhere, although I can easily believe that there are people who detest her. Yagami loves Godai. So far, so straightforward. You expect that kind of thing in a romantic comedy. What's unusual about Yagami is the deranged combination of honesty and psychotic ingenuity with which she'd set about this goal. She'd tell everyone how she felt, obviously including Godai himself, and then try to entrap him in some kind of sexual situation or else move her things into his room and start living there. (She was still a schoolgirl throughout all this, by the way.) Even when Godai would insist repeatedly that she was wasting her time, she'd never give up on him. This is an astonishing character and my heart always went out to her, especially given the way she's obviously left high and dry at the end of the series.
Anyway, she's here too and she gets a grudging kind of resolution that I was pleased to see. She gets told the bad news. She reacts as you'd expect. However she comes to terms with it in her own way and even has a quiet talk with Kyoko, although this ends with her announcing that since she'll no longer be able to marry Godai, instead she'll be making her next goal an affair.
The other of those two story elements is simpler, in which Kyoko's waiting for a letter and everyone is wondering if it might be something terrible. You'd think Godai would know better, but... well, Godai. This plot thread is in no way consequential, but in the end it's rather charming.
There are a few continuity wrinkles. Strictly speaking it takes place within the 96th episode, but it's perhaps a bit of a stretch to say that it belongs in the same continuity in the first place. Nozomu Nikaido shows up, for a start. In the manga he lives in Maison Ikkoku with everyone else, but the anime ignored him. Saotome also shows up as if she'd never been away, despite the fact that the anime cut her out of one of the manga's later plotlines. Obviously it's also movie-quality animation rather than looking like the TV show, which is nice in its way even if it's something I've never got particularly excited about. I enjoyed seeing Yotsuya not just being called a snake but also eating and moving like one, though.
Mind you, I'd been worried that I wouldn't remember everyone, since it's a good few years since I watched the TV series. I was wrong. This didn't matter at all. With the important characters it was as if I'd never been away, while the film explains about the more obscure ones. "Who's that?" someone will whisper. I'd forgotten about the people from the puppet club, for instance, but this turned out not to be a problem.
This film was released as a double feature with Urusei Yatsura: Kanketsuhen, making a double bill of Rumiko Takahashi final chapters. To be honest, there's not a lot to say about this one. It's a lightweight piece, but we'd had more than enough emotional depth and pain in the main story of Maison Ikkoku and as a gentle farewell to the characters this works rather well. It's not the funniest instalment of the series, mind you. I laughed, but overall it's sweet rather than hilarious. It was amusing to see even the puppets being evil to Godai, though.