A Distant Neighborhood Volume One was published in a “flipped” format. According to a note in the back of the book, the choice of “western reading sense” was made with Taniguchi’s consent.
A Distant Neighborhood Volume One
Written by: Jiro Taniguchi
English Publisher: Fanfare / Ponent Mon
Release Date: September 15, 2009
The volume opens with a 48-year-old businessman named Hiroshi Nakahara heading on his way home from a business trip. He doesn’t feel his best, and he manages to get onto the wrong train. However, the train is heading to his hometown, which he hasn’t visited in quite a while. As he realizes he’s heading to his hometown, he also realizes that he is the same age that his mother was when she died.
After getting off the train, Hiroshi goes by his old house, and then goes to visit his mother’s grave. When he’s by the grave, he hears a sudden noise and goes unconscious. When Hiroshi awakes, he discovers that he’s 14-years-old again; however, he retains his knowledge of the future. Not only that, his hometown is exactly the same as it was when he was that age. He tries to find a way to return to his time, but to no avail. As time goes on and he spends more time here, events are not happening the same way that he remembers them. Hiroshi begins to wonder if his future will end up changing because of the changes happening to him now. By the end of this first volume, Hiroshi learns some information about his family that he had not known previously.
Taniguchi’s art is stunning, and he has quite a talent for being able to draw effective facial expressions to show his characters’ emotions. However, I noticed that some of his character designs do look rather similar. For Hiroshi and his father, this is completely understandable, due to genetics. However, Hiroshi’s mother and his wife look uncannily similar, and even one of Hiroshi’s daughters looks a lot like his younger sister when she was a child. I don’t know if this is due to Taniguichi’s ability for character design, or if this may be a relevant plot point later in the story.
The story itself is very fascinating and rather well done, especially for a story that is dealing with the concept of time travel. I also appreciate that Hiroshi wonders how the changes happening to him in the past will have an effect on his future. As a reader, I felt invested in Hiroshi’s story and I wanted to know what happened next. By the end of the first volume, I wanted to find the next volume to learn how the story progresses.
Personally, I would recommend A Distant Neighborhood for manga readers who are in their mid-to-late teens and older.