So it looks like I’m going to be bringing these back. The only difference is that I’m only doing the reviews on series related to art and Jfashion. This one is an old one but a very good one. Especially if you’re a fan of Ai Yazawa-sensei and art.
Gokinjo Monogatari (ご近所物語) or Neighborhood Story is an anime and manga series from the 90s created by the amazing Ai Yazawa (creator of Paradise Kiss and Nana). It’s the story of a boy and a girl that have been friends since childhood and have always been neighbors. The series takes place while they are 16 and in an art high school which happens to be named after the creator.
Mikako is studying to be a clothing designer with her brand “Happy Berry” and Tsutomu recycles random objects he finds into art. While Tsutomu has both of his parents, Mikako only has her mom who is a famous shoujo mangaka. But she has two very close best friends – P-chan and Risa who are also artists. P-chan is a Lolita who makes plushies and Risa wants to make a children’s punk clothing line.
Eventually the group of friends gets bigger with Jiro (computer programmer), Yusuke (painter/illustrator), Body-ko aka Mariko, Mariko’s little brother Shintarou (sculptor) and Ayumi (3D sculptor).
They eventually form the Flea Market group AKINDO. All the while trying to deal with school, life, love and growing up.
Now I would just like to note that the plot is the same for both the manga and the anime. But as the story progresses for both, each adds its own little touch that the other doesn’t have. If you want more of a more fun and not full on drama story, it’s best to stick with the anime. But if you would like more drama, the manga has it all.
Ai Yazawa-sensei is known for creating stories involving art students and fashion in many different ways. This series is about a group of high school kids (yes I was surprised to learn how young they were too) going to art school as well as going through the dreaded process of growing up and learning more about each other. It starts off like any other slice of life where it’s just about school and being with friends. But later on, real life happens for each of the characters. It deals with relationships, heartbreak, finding oneself and even issues with family. Most of all, it deals with emotions and how sometimes it’s not easy.
This mangaka has a very specific style to her characters. It is one of those that you can immediately say “Oh, that’s Ai Yazawa’s!”. The series is from the 90s so if you watch the anime, you’ll notice it’s hand-drawn. It’s not so 3D like it is today but rather how anime used to be. This is my favorite style and it’s one of those series I would watch (or read) again and again. Because the characters go through a wide range of emotions, you can really see it in their expressions. And that’s one of the design aspects they really tried to focus on.
Each character of the group, while all in the same age, have different personalities. There are supporting characters of all ages as well but sadly a lot of them are forgotten or just used to move the plot along. I would have loved to find out more about certain characters like the apartment manager Noriji or even the three students that worked with Mikako for the final project. I loved that none of the characters were perfect and every one had flaws. But I wish that the story spent a little less time on showing how immature Mikako could be and more on the rest of the characters.
Opening Theme : “He.Ro.I.Ne” by Rumi Shishido
01: “Don’t You Know?!” by Rumi Shishido (eps 1-28)
02: “NG!” by Rumi Shishido (eps 29-50)
I’m not even going to sugarcoat it. I did not like any of the op and end songs. They matched well to the anime and themes but they were not my favorite. Most of the soundtracks for the anime are just instrumental and add to the feelings of the different scenes. But there’s nothing memorable in my opinion.
Final Score: 8.75
Would I Recommend?
Definitely! Doesn’t matter if you’re into art or fashion or not. There are so many themes and scenarios that lots of people can relate to. It’s a great series to have experienced as both an anime and manga.
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