Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Distant Neighhborhood, Vol. 2 by Jiro Taniguchi

Hiroshi is still stuck in his middle-school self as the second half of this story begins -- he was a salaryman in his mid-forties, as the first book set up, who accidentally went to his childhood home on the wrong train and fell asleep on his mother's grave -- but he's mostly learned to act like a normal young man and to stop telling people about the future.

A Distant Neighborhood is a quiet story, for all of the time-slip fantasy behind it: the story of one man getting a chance to see his young parents through adult eyes, and finally understanding them because of that. Taniguchi presents that story deliberately and naturalistically; Hiroshi gets worried and upset by the coming day when he knows his father will disappear forever, but Taniguchi uses that to drive Hiroshi's inner narrative and feelings, not to motivate external action. This is a story that takes place primarily within Hiroshi -- the story of how he learned things and re-evaluated a pivotal time in his young teen years.

Taniguchi ends this precise story the only way he can, balancing the beginning exactly with the end. Hiroshi can only take back memories and realizations -- but that's more than enough. A Distant Neighborhood is a manga mostly about children in middle-school and one boy's family, but it's vastly different from most of the manga on those themes that get translated here: this is a book with adult concerns and ideas, thoughtful and still and lucid as a deep pool.

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