This was my second read of this series and it lived up to my happy memories as a piece of escapism. Is Kichijoji the Only Place to Live? is about two sisters who run a small real estate agency in Tokyo’s popular Kichijoji neighborhood. Whenever someone comes in and says that they want to find a new place in Kichijoji, the sisters end up dragging them to a different neighborhood that better meets their needs and is more in their price range. Each chapter tells the story of another person being caught off guard by the eccentric real estate agents, wondering if they’re being kidnapped, then being treated to a nice day out and finding an apartment that they love. It’s a comforting pattern and you learn a ton about different neighborhoods and stores in Tokyo. The author went to all of the different locations, and each chapter ends with a page of photos and descriptions of the actual places.
I think why I like this manga so much is that it’s a straight forward pattern that has a lot of flexibility in terms of characters who can be introduced, with a new client per chapter. It’s also nicely illustrated, with some very beautiful splash pages and scenes of parks or sunsets. The main characters are happily eccentric and outside of the mainstream, into metal and horror movies, and with one having a tattoo (still pretty countercultural in Japan, as it’s associated with organized crime and means you can’t go to most public baths or onsen). The only issue I have with it is the constant remarking on their bodies and how they’re often reduced to more of a spectacle, but they never really try to lose weight during the series and keep on cheerfully showing people delicious restaurants, so there was an attempt at some diet culture counter-programming there, even if it’s a bit weak at times.
If you’re interested in a more granular look at Tokyo, told in an engaging style with interesting characters and a bit of a plot, this is for you! Every time I read it I end up wanting to move to Tokyo even though I have no reason to.
No huge warnings beyond previous pet and family death, one person is stalked (but nothing bad happens), body judging/discussion.