Cover of Neighborhood Story first volume as published by Shueisha featuring Mikako Kouda
|Written by||Ai Yazawa|
|Original run||February 1995 – October 1997|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Atsutoshi Umezawa|
|Original run||September 10, 1995 – September 1, 1996|
|Directed by||Atsuji Shimizu|
|Released||March 2, 1996|
Neighborhood Story (ご近所物語 Gokinjo Monogatari ) is a manga by Ai Yazawa. It was published by Shueisha from 1995 to 1998 in the magazine Ribon. It was adapted by Toei Animation as a 50-episode anime series which aired on TV Asahi from September 10, 1995 to September 1, 1996, with merchandise created by Bandai. There was a movie made in 1996, and a drama CD and soundtrack were also produced. Starting on September 19, 2005, Gokinjo Monogatari began being republished in a deluxe edition. Paradise Kiss takes place afterward and has some of Gokinjo's characters return in it.
Mikako Kōda and Tsutomu Yamaguchi are students that attend Yazawa Geijyutsu Gakuen, a special high school for the arts in Tokyo (named after the author, who makes a cameo appearance as the school's principal) and reside in the same apartment building as neighbors where they have built a long-standing friendship since infancy. However, as has been humorously pointed out by their apartment manager, Mikako and Tsutomu's feelings have undergone an unmistakable metamorphosis. Mikako and Tsutomu's friends inside and outside of the Akindo club also detect this metamorphosis and wonder one thing: will Mikako and Tsutomu embrace what is already community discourse or will they deteriorate into leading very bitter adult lives of not-at-all-significant brevity and dysphoria?
- Mikako Kouda (幸田実果子 Kōda Mikako )
Voiced by: Rumi Shishido
- The protagonist of the story, Mikako is driven by her dream of becoming a fashion designer and having all the stores sell her handiwork under the brand name "Happy Berry". Mikako is at her most conspicuous when she is inspired or in a stormy mood for one reason or another. The former earns her the admiration of her classmates while the latter incenses her teacher Ms. Hamada who thinks nothing of keeping her after school to revise her clumsy handiwork. Mikako has a ferocious rivalry with Mariko who she fears will wield Tsutomu to his detriment along with unrealistic expectations of Tsutomu that leads to a very vivacious and adversarial divergent concourse that often inflames matters on many occasions.
- Tsutomu Yamaguchi (山口ツトム Yamaguchi Tsutomu )
Voiced by: Kappei Yamaguchi
- Unlike his fiery friend and next-door neighbor Mikako, Tsutomu is somewhat equivocal in regards what he wishes to do with his life as he synthesizes abstract art from odds and ends that he has found here and there but not his feelings about Mikako as his prologue is rife with instances where he has interceded on her behalf or otherwise come to her rescue. Tsutomu follows Mikako's lead in forming the street market club Akindo while seeming to operate according to the proverb »Keep moving forward by doing your best in the moment«. Unfortunately, as much of a chivalrous knight as he has been that has long embraced being in love with Mikako, Tsutomu is not perfect. Tsutomu's eerie corporeal similarity to the Manbou lead singer Ken Nakagawa from "Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai” has caused several fangirls mistaking him for the musician and fanatically accosting him for an autograph, being given a love letter, or being chased around all over the place. In addition to being frightened of Mikako forcing him to forego the world and the rest of his life, Tsutomu also has a very accommodating »aim to please« personality that affords easy coercion/manipulation (or in Mariko's case, seduction). Tsutomu's chaotic conduct often frustrates Mikako into prosecuting a fierce adversarial divergent concourse that has led to several impulsive comments about which neither adolescent is really sincere.
- Mikako’s best female friend, Risa comes from Hokkaido and her dream is to design children’s clothes. She lives with her boyfriend Takeshi, a guitarist for a local band, and is Mikako’s biggest supporter as well as (later in the series) the mother of Arashi whose best friend is George from Paradise Kiss.
- Voiced by: Shiho Niiyama
- Also known as P-Chan, she is a friend of Mikako and Risa’s. Mai wears Lolita-style clothing and always carries her stuffed animal Pucci Francois with her. She makes stuffed animals to sell at Akindo and falls for Seiji.
- Voiced by: Wakana Yamazaki
- Has purple hair and always wears sunglasses, though Mikako gets to see his eyes during the last volume of the manga. He is close friends with Tsutomu and Yuusuke and is a computer programmer that creates various computer games.
- Voiced by: Kyosei Tsukui
- Tsutomu’s best friend, Yuusuke studies painting at Yazagaku (although half-heartedly) and has feelings for Mariko. He’s very gruff, but has a good heart and rides a motorcycle.
- Voiced by: Toshiyuki Morikawa
- Ms. Hamada is the strict teacher of the fashion design and sewing lab classes at Yazagaku that has no qualms about detaining a student after school for inattentive or clumsy handiwork -- a trap that Mikako often instigates when she is upset for one reason or another. Strangely enough, Mikako is not sent packing by Ms. Hamada's abrasive personality or having her handiwork harshly appraised and even goes so far as to identify clumsy textile handiwork that would instigate an after-school detention at Ms. Hamada's hands. She was also the professor for Seiji and the cast of Paradise Kiss.
- Noriji Sunami
Voiced by: Takeshi Aono
- Noriji is the old-fashioned but well-intentioned manager of the apartment complex where Mikako and Tsutomu live. It is his good-natured teasing that inspires the epiphany as to the metamorphosis in their mutual feelings that Mikako and Tsutomu undergo throughout the series. Noriji also has a bit of a crush on Ruriko and demonstrates an almost paternal concern when Mikako's status is unknown.
- Miwako Sakurada
- Miwako is spawned as a result of her parents finally seeing the light in regards to their childish conduct and how it adversely affects Mikako. Unfortunately, little Miwako does not get to begin her postnatal life until Paradise Kiss whose inception is several years after "Neighborhood Story".
- Ruriko Kouda
Voiced by: Yōko Kawanami
- Although she is Mikako's mother, Ruriko often acts more like a co-dependent elder sister than a mother whose irresponsibility forces Mikako to maintain their home life by herself. Ruriko is often seen sleeping the morning away after all-night readings of shoujo manga that typically involve sad and painful love stories.
- Hirohiko Sakurada
- Considering the conduct he demonstrates with his daughter and the sometimes erratic hours photographers like him are required to keep, Hirohiko's divorce from Ruriko when Mikako was young was probably caused by both Hirohiko and Ruriko growing apart because they failed to do the work necessary to maintain their marriage. Fortunately, Hirohiko comes back onto the scene and does the work alongside Ruriko necessary for the two eventually reconcile and remarry. Hirohiko is also a crucial force for Tsutomu deciding what to do with his life.
- Nicknamed “Body Ko” for her usual, sultry appearance. She is popular at school and has had many boyfriends, but admits she's tired of dating men who only want her for sex. She is in love with her childhood friend from Yokohama, Shuuichi. After going out with Tsutomu for a short amount of time, she begin a volatile relationship with Yuusuke which lasts for almost the whole length of the series.
She later marries her Shuuichi, and has a son.
- Voiced by: Yumi Toma
- Body Ko’s little brother, he sculpts dolls and sports dreadlocks (much to Mariko's chagrin). He studies ceramics and gives his sister advice, though she doesn't want to hear it most of the time.
- Voiced by: Chizu Yonemoto
- Tsutomu’s classmate, owns the shed where the group creates Akindo’s headquarters. She likes Yuusuke and admires his paintings, but is jealous of his relationship with Mariko. She creates large, abstract 3-D sculptures.
She later marries Yuusuke and is last seen pregnant with his child.
- Voiced by: Yuko Minaguchi
- Owns a bar which is frequented by the characters who live in Mikako’s apartment complex. Father of (later in the series) Hiroyuki Tokumori from Paradise Kiss.
Initially considered an 'older-brother' type figure to Miwako, his role is late replaced by Seiji.
- Voiced by: Hideyuki Tanaka
- A “sparkling foreigner” who applies for the job of manga assistant for Mikako’s mother. He is saving up money to study abroad. He used to go to Yazagaku for fashion, but dropped out when he realized that his passion was in hairstyling. He becomes a close friend of Mikako’s and appears in Paradise Kiss.
- Mariko's childhood friend from Yokohama. Has a girlfriend when first introduced. He later breaks up with her and the series ends with Mariko and he married, with a son.
Ai Yazawa inserts many characters from previous works, and even herself into the manga. Ai Yazawa herself is the flashy principal of Yazagaku. One of the most prominent cameos is Ken Nakagawa, a character from her previous manga Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai. He looks almost exactly like Tsutomu, Ken's lyrics are often found in the chapters and many times Tsutomu has to run from crowds who think that he is Ken.
Midori and Akira (also from Ten Nai) are the first to buy Mikako's creations at the flea market – further proving both series apparently take place in the same universe, but approximately 4 years apart (Akira reveals Midori's age to be 20 during their cameo). Takigawa appears as a tutor in the junior high flashback section and Mamirin appears in the background when Mikako is in London. Tonko and Kayo also appear in the background in the Blue Parrot in the first volume.
Because in the United States, her later series Paradise Kiss is far more popular than Gokinjo Monogatari (primarily because both the manga and anime remain unlicensed) many people only think of Gokinjo as a prequel to ParaKiss, especially since many of the characters are the same. Miwako, Mikako's younger sister is one of the main characters, as is Arashi, Risa's son and Hiroyuki, Tokumori's son. Seiji-san works at Yazagaku by the time ParaKiss takes place, and Hamada-sensei is still a teacher there.
Mikako still plays a role in the manga and anime, giving Yukari the big break in modelling by having her model for Happy Berry; Tsutomu is the photographer. Shimamoto-san becomes a famous model and eventually founds the modelling agency that Yukari works with.
The Gokinjo Monogatari anime, produced by Toei Animation, ran for 50 episodes from September 10, 1995 through September 1, 1996. Recently, a boxset was released containing all 50 episodes which sells for around $500USD.
- Opening Theme
- "He.Ro.I.Ne" by Rumi Shishido
- Ending Theme
- "Don't You Know?!" by Rumi Shishido (Eps. 1-28)
- "NG!" by Rumi Shishido (Eps. 29-50)
The animated Gokinjo Monogatari movie had a 30-minute runtime and was released on March 2, 1996. It is an alternate retelling of the beginning of the series.