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MANGA REVIEW | "Neighborhood Story" - Volume Two

MANGA REVIEW | "Neighborhood Story" - Volume Two

Maybe it’s because I grew up in that era, but fashion peaked in the 1990s. The colors, the styles, the flair, everything felt so unique. It was the time when all cultures came to mesh together a new look that truly represented humanity at their most snazzy. Ai Yazawa’s Neighborhoood Story catches that era perfectly, and in its second volume, it goes to great lengths to show how both fashion and people evolved during that time.

A lot of this volume is focused on how Mikako grows. From how she is as a person to a fashion designer, these chapters showcase the highs (and some lows) of being a teenager in the ‘90s. From Happy Berry’s first flea market to some growth between Mikako and Tsutomu’s relationship, many of these moments help the girl to come out more of her shell. But even when all these great things are going on, there’s still a hole in Mikako’s heart that’s in need of filling.

That hole is the lack of a father figure. With her parents divorcing years back, Mikako’s dad has not been in the picture, both figuratively and literally. Nary a photo of him resides in any family books, with Mikako fearing that her mother might have thrown them all out. But then, a chance to see him arises, with Tsutomu discovering that he’s doing a gallery exhibit outside of the city. With worry in her heart, Mikako sets off to the exhibit, and maybe find the man who left her life.

There’s a plethora of strong emotion showcased throughout this volume of Neighborhood Story. From Mikako worrying about being a failure to an unexpected family emergency, these chapters demonstrate the power of the human spirit. Sometimes that spirit is joyful, like when Mikako makes her first sale. Other times, that spirit is on the verge of crumbling from sadness, like how Nakasu fears that Tashiro doesn’t truly care about her.

However, the most important aspect that keeps everyone together and sane is the power of friendship. Even with Mikako and Tsutomu now being lovers, their lifelong friendship is what keeps them in check. The same goes for the rest of the Happy Berry crew, and even if they don’t put fashion work ahead of everything else, the way each person cares for one another is what strengthens the bond of this crew.

Of course, it’s the big arc involving Mikako’s father that shines the brightest in this volume of Neighborhood Story. Not only is their reunion touching, but it opens the door to something that sounds almost fairy tale-like. Yes, the thought of divorced people remarrying sounds a little over-the-top, but it’s happened before! Nevertheless, it gives Mikako a sliver of hope that life will deliver rays of sunshine to her, her mother, and even her father.

But going back to the fashion aspect, it’s wild seeing these styles on display here. While Japanese and American fashion back then were fairly different, how it’s presented here feels very worldly. I can honestly imagine like likes of Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler wearing the clothing that Happy Berry wears; in fact, I’m certain I’ve seen them do such a thing in a movie or Aerosmith video! To be rekindled with that style again makes me hope that somewhere down the line, a fashion resurgence will happen!

Volume Two of Neighborhood Story is cute, sweet, funny, and styling. It has a couple of scares and plenty of drama, but that’s what life tends to dish out. Even when things are going great, there will be a bump in the road or two to keep you aware of one’s surroundings. Hopefully, as we've reached the halfway of Mikako’s story (which will then transition to the one in Paradise Kiss), that things will be as rosy as a fresh berry towards the end of Neighborhood Story.


Promotional consideration provided by Chantelle Sturt of VIZ Media.

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The J-POP king of America, Evan has been bringing the hottest sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun to the English-speaking public since his college radio days. He's also an expert in the gaming, anime, & manga realms, never afraid to get critical when the times call for it. Born & bred in Boston, he achieved his biggest dream yet by making the big move to Tokyo, Japan in Summer 2023! For personal inquiries, contact Evan at evan@b3crew.com. For press/band inquiries, write to us at thebastards@bostonbastardbrigade.com. (Drawing by AFLM of Wicked Anime)