Astro Note – Episode 1

By: Caitlin Moore April 7, 20240 Comments
Takumi and Mira eat dorayaki on the street

What’s it about? Miyasaka Takumi, an unemployed professional chef, goes to a building called Astro-sou in search of a job. But instead of the restaurant he was expecting based on the job listing, he finds a boarding house full of quirky residents. Turns out the new manager, Gotokuji Mira, is a terrible cook, and they need someone to make them breakfast. It’s not much for a culinary school graduate like Takumi but he takes it for one reason: to get to know Mira better. But as charming as she is, there’s something odd about Mira…

Hello everyone, the resident Maison Ikkoku evangelist has logged on to tell you about Astro Note. Now, you may not know it, what with US anime fandom’s extremely short memory and tendency toward recency bias, but Maison Ikkoku is an extremely beloved and influential series. It’s also the greatest love story ever told and one of my favorite manga ever, which is why I can state with absolute confidence that Astro Note is heavy with undeniable, deliberate homage to its predecessor. But will it stand on its own, or will Takahashi Rumiko’s classic romance cast too long a shadow?

Takumi standing in a doorway with the number 5 over his head
The noise I made when I noticed the room number

To be clear, I am not imagining or stretching for this comparison. There are plenty of anime and manga set in share houses that probably have some Maison Ikkoku in their DNA but no direct references. Astro Note has so much homage that it can’t possibly be happenstance, from Mira falling off her ladder, to Takumi moving into room five, to the ending twist that I won’t spoil, but I will say there is no coincidence in the world big enough to convince me that it wasn’t intentional.

But therein lies the rub: as charmed as I was by all the references and homages, they also kind of made me wish I was watching Maison Ikkoku. And friends, Astro Note is not Maison Ikkoku. What I adore about Takahashi’s series is the raw humanity of the characters, even with all the goofy comedy and misunderstandings. Godai is no bland shounen rom-com protagonist, nor is Kyoko an angelic ideal. They’re young and messy and damaged, in a hurry to fall in love when they haven’t even finished growing up. Whatever resemblance Takumi and Mira may have to their predecessors, the rough edges appear to have been smoothed out, making for two good kids… Wait, Takumi is 25 years old, so not really a kid by any stretch… Two nice people who are surrounded by weirdos.

Takumi cooking
Plus he has a job! A skilled trade!

But that’s okay, because it’s not Maison Ikkoku! It opens up with a space battle, and I haven’t seen any version of Maison Ikkoku like that. (Maybe the live action movie? I haven’t seen that…) But it does remain to be seen whether or not Mira will develop a personality beyond the idealized figure we’ve been presented with so far. She’s the kind of love interest who doesn’t have much in the way of flaws other than being quirky, naive, and a bad cook, but in an appealing way. And besides, her quirky naivete has more to do with that twist I mentioned than an actual fault. Beyond that, she’s just sweet as can be, and I’d love for her to become an interesting character in her own right.

As is the ensemble romantic comedy tradition, the secondary characters have much more promise than the leads. My personal favorite so far is Teruko, an indie idol who spends her days off slumming around the apartment in a white tank top and coke bottle lenses. These weirdos promise to keep things lively, even if Takumi and Mira fail to develop personalities beyond “nice.” Their face game is also excellent, with plenty of comically exaggerated expressions. The show may be worth watching just to spend time with them.

Teruko in her idol costume making a snake-like face. Subtitles: Just so you know, I'll sue if you upload anything about me on social media.
She’s just like me fr

I don’t know if Astro Note has true staying power, but in a weak season, there are worse ways to spend my time. This one gets the five-episode test.

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