By Jason S. Yadao
From the Pile is a regular feature in which we profile something at random from our large pile of yet-to-be-reviewed anime and manga. Well, okay, it was supposed to be regular, but tag-team partner in otakudom Wilma J. and I have been busy. Sorry. But we’ve been in this game for several years now and have had only limited space in the print edition of the Star-Bulletin to share all our thoughts, so there’s quite a bit of catch-up work to do on our backlog. So without further ado …
Today’s profile: A Distant Neighborhood vol. 1
Publisher: Fanfare/Ponent Mon
Age rating: N/A
I must confess that I’m behind the curve in terms of reviewing A Distant Neighborhood. So behind the times, in fact, that there are already reviews of the second (and final) volume of this series, while I, having just bought my copy of volume 1 a few weeks ago, am now looking for someone who has volume 2 in stock.
I’m failing. Miserably. It makes me think Fanfare/Ponent Mon has a print run of five copies per book in English, four of which are promptly snapped up by eager manga bloggers.
The lack of an easily accessible second volume normally wouldn’t be too much of an issue with me. It’s just that Jiro Taniguchi’s story is so compelling, I’d love to just plow through it all in one sitting. The story hinges on one premise: If you had a chance to live part of your life again knowing what you already do about the future, what would you change … and how would that affect the future?
Volume 1 addresses the first half of that question. Middle-aged businessman Hiroshi Nakahara suddenly feels compelled to return to the hometown of his youth, a place he hasn’t visited in years. While there, he visits his mother’s grave site, and — one “KRRR!!” a shot of a near-full moon and a butterfly fluttering through a page of manga panels later — Hiroshi is 14 again, but with all his 48-year-old memories intact. All of the tragedies he has known in life — his father disappearing, his mother and friend dying, his childhood home erased — have seemingly disappeared, ready to be replaced by whatever he chooses to make of his second chance at life.
This time, he’s determined to change things for the better … and aside from one sequence, where he drinks like he’s 48 and suffers for it, he manages to do just that. But while he does take steps toward fixing the past (and captures the heart of the cutest girl in school, to boot), I can’t help but think of the Back to the Future movies, which repeatedly emphasized the message, “Every past action has ramifications for the future.” (Those movies also taught me that hoverboards are super-omega cool, and there really ought to be some of those in production by now. Where are my hoverboards, people? But I digress.)
Taniguchi, who also did artwork for gift-guide-recommended The Summit of the Gods, is rapidly becoming one of my favorite manga creators. His art, as usual, features intricately detailed backgrounds and distinct character models. His story has a way of instilling feelings of nostalgia and sympathy for all the players involved — it’s a given to root for a better life for Hiroshi, of course, but at the same time there’s a sense of concern for what will happen to his wife and children in the future. We get a glimpse of them in one of Hiroshi’s dreams, but I can only presume there will be more about their fates in the second volume.
Now, then … finding that volume. Hmmm.
(Update 12/11, 8:30 a.m.: Found a copy of vol. 2! <3 Second review to come.)