I received a preview of Jiro Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood Vol 1, and it totally blew me away. The concept is so simple and so compelling. What if you were given the opportunity to relive your life? What would you do differently, and what would you keep the same? Hiroshi Nakahara gets swept into the past, keeping his forty-something years of memories and experiences while transported back in time to his 14 year old body. Is it possible to change the path of his life? Will he even want to?
I loved the way Taniguchi sets up this story. Nakahara is exhausted from an out of town meeting, and he finds himself on the wrong train. He’s not headed to Tokyo, but to Kurayoshi, the town he grew up in. On the way there, he realizes that his mother died at the same age he is now, and that sets the melancholy tone for the tale. He heads off to visit his mother’s grave, and there, in the most unlikely of circumstances, finds himself propelled back in time. He’s 14 again, and when he gets over the shock of being in his younger body, he heads to his childhood home. At the house where he grew up, he sees his mother, alive, and he’s so overcome with emotion that he begins to cry. This is such a touching scene, as he struggles to keep his feelings in check, and his family thinks, because of his odd behavior, that he must be ill.
The story really pushed emotional buttons for me. Like Nakahara, I am forty-something, and I wonder – have I followed the right path in my life? Have I lived my life to the fullest? If it ended today, would I be content with all that I have accomplished? It’s a journey of self-discovery, of getting a chance to hit re-set and do things all over again. Or is it? I am very curious to see if Nakahara does get the opportunity, with his life experiences firmly in place, to change the outcome of his life. Or will he just be buffeted by the same unseen forces that shaped his life initially?
A Distant Neighborhood Vol 1 will be in stores June 30.