The Walking Man by Jiro Taniguchi: A

From the inner flap:
Who takes the time these days to climb a tree in bare feet to rescue a child’s toy? To stop and observe the birds? To play in the puddles after a storm? To go down to the sea to put back a shell? The Walking Man does as he strolls at random through urban Japan—often silent, often alone—with his vivid dreams that let time stand still.

There are eighteen walks in this collection and some similarities among them. Many feature encounters with the elements and with neighborhood animals, for example, a few are entirely wordless, and some involve running into the same people multiple times in the course of a stroll.

The art is the real star of The Walking Man, though by his actions, the nameless protagonist proves himself to be gentle, thoughtful, and kind. One of my favorite panels occurs in “Around Town,” when the walking man is looking at a fairly busy part of town. The page, and his view, is suddenly interrupted by a narrow panel of a train whizzing past. Sometimes, as in “A Nice Hot Bath,” you’ll get chapters with pouring rain in practically every panel. I also love “A Shattered Landscape,” in which the walking man’s glasses get broken, and Taniguchi draws fractured images (if he has them on) or blurry ones (if he takes them off). The best part about that chapter is when his wife also tries them on at the end.

Taniguchi also excels at visual storytelling. The Walking Man is probably the best example you could find on showing the readers something rather than simply telling them. Early on, the family dog, Snowy, who is the only creature whose name is revealed, unearths a seashell in the garden. Later, in the story called “Down to the Sea Again,” the walking man and his wife take a trip out to the coast to return the shell. By the way the wife walks and explores, and how she hops up on a concrete barrier to walk along, one can see how well-suited she and her husband are. In the chapter “Lost and Found,” Taniguchi uses clues like a panting dog and the removal of the walking man’s coat to indicate how hot it is outside.

The stories cited above are among my favorites, but I also quite like “The Long Trail,” in which the walking man and an older fellow keep passing each other on a trail, but end up walking together by the end. Really, there are no bad parts, though I didn’t like the final chapter, entitled “Ten Years Later,” as much as the others. It’s the only one to feature narration of the walking man’s thoughts as he walks, and I found I liked it better without.

The Walking Man is sure to appeal to anyone who has ever enjoyed taking life slowly and simply admiring their surroundings.

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  1. Great review, the story with the fractured glasses was one of my favourites as well. I thought I’d let you know; the very last story (the one you didn’t like) was actually drawn 10 years after The Walking Man was first released in Japan, so it probably symbolizes Taniguchi himself reflecting on the stories.

  2. Thanks! I figured something like that was the case with “Ten Years After,” since the fine print in the beginning of the book mentioned that all of the other stories were licensed through Kodansha, but the agreement to publish the final one was made with someone else.

  3. Yes, I love this Graphic novel. Someone recently gave it to me as a gift. Anyone know if similar graphic novels, I mean in the sense of the gentle and kind nature of the novel.

    • Hi, Oliver! You know, the first recommendation that comes to mind is actually another series by Jiro Taniguchi called A Distant Neighborhood. It’s about a middle-aged guy who gets to go back to his youth and this time really relish it. There’s not as much simply walking around and enjoying scenery, but there is a lot of nostalgia, et cetera.

      A Distant Neighborhood is published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon and both volumes are now available.

      • That’s great, thank you so much. I will check it out. Yes, I loved the contemplative nature of “The Walking Man” so much.

        Great website! Thanks Michelle.


        • Thank you!

          I just thought of another series you might enjoy: Aqua/Aria by Kozue Amano.

          This story was initially serialized as Aqua (two volumes, both available from TOKYOPOP) but changed its name to Aria when it changed magazines in Japan. Aria is complete in twelve volumes, but only five are available so far (also from TOKYOPOP). It’s got a lot of the “admiring the scenery” aspects of The Walking Man, but that scenery just so happens to be in a pseudo-Venice on Mars! 🙂

          Connie at Slightly Biased Manga has nice reviews of both Aqua and Aria.


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