About A Distant Neighborhood
A Distant Neighborhood, also known as Haruka na Machi e in its origin country, was a manga created by one of the legends in the world of Manga, Jiro Taniguchi.
The story was told through its 16 chapters which were originally published in two volumes by Shogakukan in 1998. For the English version, however, Ponent Mon published it in a two-in-one omnibus volume.
This is a Seinen manga that is built upon a science fiction foundation. It also utilizes a heavy element of drama and slice-of-life throughout.
There will also be affiliate links down below for those of you who wish to purchase this manga. If you buy it throught those links, I’ll get a small commission at no additional cost to you.
A glimpse into A Distant Neighborhood
Hiroshi wakes up with a mild headache. He is on a train bound for Kyoto. But the scenery seems a bit different than it is supposed to be. Can it be that he’s onboard the wrong train?
Yep, he is on the wrong train after all. What’s more, the destination of this train is his hometown. The town that he hasn’t visited in decades. How can he make such a stupid mistake? Is it because of all the alcohol last night?
But now that he’s arrived, it wouldn’t hurt to take a trip down memory lane, right? He walks and walks and walks. There are parts of the town that he distinctly remembers from his childhood. But there are also some new things that he’s never seen before.
The house where he and his sister grew up is no more. Ah, that’s right, he should visit his mother’s grave while he’s here. It’s supposed to be behind that temple, right?
There it is. Mom.
He kneeled and paid his respect. He is 48 years old. Now he is of the same age as his mother when she died. Suddenly he feels the earth-shaking. His head feels like it’s about to tear apart. And he collapsed.
He slowly opened up his eyes. His body seems lighter for some reason. He walks to the temple to wash his face. And there, the water reflects something odd. He is back to his 14 years old body now.
The story of A Distant Neighborhood
One of the most stand-out things about the story is the narration and the pace. There will always be the protagonist’s narration on the caption, telling us his thoughts and feelings amidst the silent panels.
It is a slow-paced story. The author prefers to tell his story through little moments which might cause some people to question what the purpose of the story really is. But it is certainly going somewhere, it simply takes its time to get there.
There are roughly two parts to the story. The first half is dedicated to the protagonist exploring his newfound youth. While it seems like a surface-level experience, his thoughts and worries bring a pleasant touch of reality to this science fiction story.
But in the second half of the story, things begin to take a serious tone. We get involved deeply in the family drama and suddenly, his anguish and anxiety would start to creep into our mind. This is where the story truly shines and the pace starts to pick up.
The combination of both parts is what is responsible for the character development of the protagonist.
At this point, the science fiction element has simply become a device for the author to present this profound slice of life story. This tool allowed him to bring a thrill and suspension to the seemingly aimless tale.
My only complaint would be the time jump. There are times where it is Monday on this page and suddenly Saturday on the next page. This makes it hard to keep up with the time, especially since the majority of the story is told from moment to moment.
That being said, if you really pay attention to everything, you should be able to properly follow the story and immerse yourself in it.
The art of A Distant Neighborhood
Just like the pace of the story, the art of this manga is also filled with still illustrations, rather than dynamic movements. Everything moves at a slow pace, which demands the art to be crystal clear.
Jiro Taniguchi drew every building and vehicle, every furniture and appliances, and every fold of the clothes, with sharp and crisp lines. The same thing could be said with the characters and their expression.
Contrary to the usual way people draw expressions in manga that are often filled with exaggeration to enhance the expression, this one goes in the opposite direction.
The movement and the expression of each character are often subtle and subdued to the point that you could even say they seem to be expressionless most of the time. Which is my only criticism for this manga.
But two things need to be said regarding these things.
First, if you look into other work from Jiro Taniguchi, you would find almost the exact same thing regarding the art, which means it is his personal style.
Second, it is a slow-paced story, so it’s only natural for the art to also reflect that, which means the story demands it.
Other than that, every single aspect of this manga was drawn with profound attention to detail. From the wide landscape shots to the close-up panels, all of it was created with the delicate touch of the artist. You could feel the care and hard work of the artist through every panel in this manga.
Where to buy A Distant Neighborhood
If you are interested to own A Distant Neighborhood, there are two places that I recommend you to check out.
First, as usual, is the store that sells nearly everything, Amazon. They have one of the best delivery systems in place, but they are also notorious for their rough handle on books. Here’s the link to the Amazon page.
The second option is the official publisher’s page. A Distant Neighborhood is published in English by Ponent Mon and they also sell directly from their official website. What’s more, the payment method is PayPal, which is great. Here’s the Ponent Mon page.
Manga similar to A Distant Neighborhood
1. A Journal of My Father by Jiro Taniguchi
Although A Journal of My Father was published earlier than A Distant neighborhood, as another work of Jiro Taniguchi, it shares lots of similar things with each other. Not only that, it is also a one-volume manga.
It tells the story of Yoichi when he finally comes to his hometown for his father’s funeral after 25 years of absence. He is never close with his father and doesn’t really have any deep feelings for him.
Yet when he met his family and they began to recount the moments of his childhood about his parents that he was not aware of at the time, his heart began to change.
As you can see, A Journal of My Father shares lots of familial and parental themes, just like A Distant Neighborhood. It might not have the science-fiction element of A Distant Neighborhood, but it sure has the same spirit and soul within it. Read more.
Here’s the Amazon link for this manga.
2. Erased by Kei Sanbe
For the time travel manga, I present you with Erased. Just like A Distant Neighborhood, it is also a story about a man who suddenly goes back into his past self. And with only 9 volumes, it is also quite compact.
When he witnessed the murder of his mother, Satoru suddenly goes back eighteen years into the past, to the time when he was still an elementary student. But although he lives in a child’s body now, he still retains his adult memory.
So begins the struggle to not only save his mother in the future but also to save a girl of his age that would be murder in the next few months.
Unlike A Distant Neighborhood, Erased truly fleshed out the time travel aspect of the story. Not only that, but it also is more of a thriller and mystery with twists and turns along the way. That’s why although it used the same concept, you would get a different reading experience with this one.
Here’s the link to the Amazon page.
3. Memories of Emanon by Shinji Kajio and Kenji Tsuruta
Last but not least is a slow-paced manga. Something that you could read while relaxing and lazing around. For this category, one of the best choices is a manga called The Memories of Emanon.
This manga is about a man who meets a mysterious girl when he’s traveling on a cruise ship. What began as an awkward interaction slowly evolved into a very meaningful conversation. Apparently, the girl holds the memory of six billion years from her previous life in her head.
This manga is all about the conversation between the man and woman about various things in various places on the cruise ship during the duration of their travels.
But despite the seemingly monotonous setting, I always enjoy reading Memories of Emanon and never feel bored by it. There’s something mesmerizing about the simplicity of it all.
Here’s the Amazon page for Memories of Emanon.
Reading this manga makes me wonder what would I do if similar things happened to me. Going back to my teenage years while knowing all the mistakes and all the missed opportunities in my life since then till now.
Would I simply try to live the same life while evading all the possible mistakes? Just to smooth things out. Or should I try living a different way of life altogether? Exploring another path for my future.
Frankly, I don’t know the answer to that question. Just like the protagonist, I would certainly worry about all kinds of things but for the most part, I would gladly accept this second chance.
On the other hand, there is also another part of me that dreads such a thing. I’ve been living my life as best as I could all these years and now I have to do it all again? Give me a break! Fuck that!
But I think it’s nice to think about this thing once in a while. A thought experiment, if you will. Just to recount my life experience and the lessons that I’ve learned along the way. To be grateful for the present and hopeful for the future.
Thank you Jiro Taniguchi for creating this wonderful story.