Review: The Walking Man

The Walking Man
I’ll go take a walk in the neighbourhood…

Jiro Taniguchi

1 Volume – Complete

Plot Summary

The story follows the exploits of an unnamed salaryman, who spends his spare time exploring and wandering around the suburbs in which he lives.  Accompanied at times by his wife or dog, it takes a gentle look at life – contemplating nature, talking to people he meets and finding simple pleasures in the things he finds on his travels. There is no plot to speak of – and very little dialogue – just a series of largely unconnected observational episodes.

Personal Opinion
Ah… I’ve struggled to come up with words to describe this… “lovely” was one, “nice” is another… yet, they both do it a grave injustice. There’s so much more to these stories than first meets the eye.

I’ve also been struggling to describe in words a story that is essentially about … well… nothing much really. The closest I can come is by comparing this to Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou… er… without the apocalypse… or the robots… or scooters. In fact, it also doesn’t even focus on mono no aware, but rather ikigai – which translates nicely as “joy and a sense of well-being from being alive.”

Left: Now here’s a guy who does stop to smell the roses…

That is a concept that this manga portrays beautifully – it is simply about enjoying life – taking time out from the hurly-burly of everyday life and taking the time to observe the little things around you.  There’s a sense of calm that radiates from each page that must have been manna to the soul of tired salarymen on their way home. (That sense of serenity might have overcome the mangaka too, seeing as it took him 8 years to produce 18 relatively short chapters.)

Each of the self-contained chapters simply revolves around our protagonist setting out to wander around his neighbourhood. Nothing dramatic happens, although on occasion he does help a child rescue a model plane from a tree and even sneaks into the public pool for a late night skinny-dip. Other than that, it’s simply about appreciating the things around you; acknowledging other people (one lovely chapter sums this up brilliantly – without using a single line of dialogue) and basking in the simple joy of being alive.

In a moment of weakness, I once described this as “tranquillity on a page” and yet, I can’t think of any other words that describe the message and feel of this unique little manga.

Personal Rating
9/10 (but only because I would appear to be too much of a fanboy, if I gave it a 10)

[Reviewer: Gerwyn Petty]


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