Review: Sangen Tonari no Tooi Hito

I stumbled upon this manga, like many times before, with rather low expectations. To my surprise this turned out to be the first of a series of great findings, really different to my previous reads, by the pen of Suzuki Tsuta.

The Guy Three Doors Down is the main story that revolves around a stoic and disconcertingly frank man, Mitsuya Kishimoto. Aside from the fact that Mitsuya is an adult, and has learned to smile more, things haven’t changed that much for him in the last ten years; every relationship has been a failure that has only granted him the coldhearted tag, and he doesn’t seem to care about anyone or anything in particular. Well, what nobody really knows is that Mitsuya is stuck, feelings-wise, on his teen days; the time when a stupid action drove away the only person that he has really loved, Noboru. After spending all this time regretting it, and selecting girls that look a lot like Noboru, Mitsuya has reached a point where he thinks that he is never going to be able to get over that old mistake. As to be expected from this objective and blunt person, he comes up with the logical conclusion, better give up and live with it, lacking love forever. Nevertheless, just when Mitsuya comes to this realization, he is faced again with the source of all his love problems, Noboru.

On an important note, what makes this manga outstanding is not the plot that is pretty common in the genre, but the characters and feeling of it, working together to give the sensation that “this could actually happen” or “this is such a normal story”. Suzuki Tsuta worked with common feelings like, the difficulties that come with the first impossible crush, the regret and shame about the stupid things you do when you are too young, and the inability to move on without a proper closure for those situations. They are conveyed to the reader from Mitsuya’s point of view. Everything is painted with his thoughts and his peculiar reasoning, until you feel that you are on his mind, traveling with him, and feeling with him.

This image defines their interaction

There is no major drama here, no society or infidelity problems, it could almost be considered lacking in the romance department, and the sex scenes are close to zero. After all, the focus of the story is Mitsuya’s inner development, so much that everything turns out to be a journey for the reader to have a proper understanding about every painful detail that made him the way he is. It’s like thoroughly building up the perfect setting, to make the turning point of the story completely intense, to a point that you find yourself wholeheartedly feeling every complex emotion that runs into the character’s mind. It may feel like a light story, with bits of humor and silliness, but, when you come to realize it, the depths and details of it are ingrained in your mind, making everything work out perfectly at the end.

The Dream Seen from Upon the Sea is an extra story (one-shot), with a supernatural touch to it. Nagumo, a writer, decided to retreat to an inn near the ocean, in hopes of getting new ideas with the change of environment. He starts experiencing really strange events at night and, when he discovers that those are somehow related to the owner’s son, Atsuhi, he tries to get close to the boy and unravel the mystery. This shonen-ai focuses on the concept of acceptance of the loved people, just as they are, even if their understanding of happiness is totally different from what is expected by everyone.

Can you see the mystery in his eyes?

About the art, it’s so simple that it turns out to be completely beautiful, yes, it might sound weird but that’s it, and I ended up loving it. It’s one that enhances the feeling of the story, draws you in even more. Although there are several details, like the pointing noses, that look weird at first, the art style just grows on you like the perfect fit to the story, besides, like sensei says: “one can never go wrong with suits and gakuran”.

This is a manga that focuses on a theme that doesn’t necessarily apply to BL, strongly recommended to those who look for an interesting and different story. One offers us a view of the characters like a short window to a real person’s mind, another leaves a heartwarming feeling behind. My only complaint is about the lenght of the story, I really wish there was more, especially about Noboru, since we see little of him, but also about their relationship in the future and about the older brother; it seems there is a new manga featuring the weird sempai that was always hunting gossips,though–I am eager for reading it. In the end Tsuta manages to impress without a complex arrangement of events, and it’s exactly that smooth way of presenting something so common what makes this a great read!

Original art and story by Suzuki Tsuta. Fan art by [info]anjichan. Published in Japan by Tokuma Shoten.

Buy the Japanese book in Amazon: 3軒隣の遠い人