Nothing happens. Nothing substantial, anyway.
I think it’s amazing that a manga like this can be so filled to the brim with nothing and still accomplish in making me feel like it’s something. A good majority of this manga is the central character looking at the sky for, like, six pages and making a melancholic gesture or remark. You would think I’m exaggerating, but the bulk of this manga is actually just that.
Yokohama is a story of exploration. It explores all sorts of different themes and subjects such as time, love, childhood, roles in society, and all that good stuff. It has a knack for making the reader feel immersed through realistic events that don’t overexaggerate themselves for the sake of entertainment. It’s easy to feel for these characters because they don’t fall under any sort of stereotype or expectations from the industry standard. They feel like real people, even though some of those people aren’t even human.
It dazzles the viewer with a calm setting and a carefree atmosphere. The events that occur feel normal and without any saturation of obligation. No storyline in Yokohama will wow the reader with its creativity. Most of the events that transpire include sleeping over at a friends’ house, talking with neighbors about the past, or growing up in a town with not a lot of people or things to do. It’s this down-to-Earth style of setting, plot progression, and overall tone that makes this a perfect Slice of Life narrative.
Keeping the previous two paragraphs in mind, it was really hard for me to read this manga at points. I found myself looking at the page count for each chapter more than I can remember. As I stated above, this is a story of exploration. It wants to focus on its world and the characters within it, giving a sense of wonderment and an incredulous innate curiosity for appreciating the open world and its possibilities. As someone whose passion and curiosity only comes in short bursts (depending on the subject), Yokohama’s attention to detail painted itself as somewhat dull. I grew tired of reading similar chapters of the main character taking in her surroundings and letting the mood and presumed heaviness of such a scene wash away my collective spirits. Perhaps it’s the fault of my own, seeing as I’ve never been especially curious about exploring and traveling, that left my impression of this type of storytelling a little underwhelming. That’s not to say that this story did a bad job at portraying the mood of a particular scene. I just wasn’t intrigued enough in the first place to look into it any deeper. And the repetition kinda hurts, too.
I most enjoyed Yokohama when it focused on its characters’ interactions. The central character is perhaps one of the best “central characters” I’ve read all throughout the Summer. She isn’t exactly the most interesting character, but her simple, yet profound personality makes for a perfect caricature for the reader to immerse themselves through. As the plot continues, if you want to call it that, her character becomes more and more aware of the inevitable handicap being held against her: she has the ability to outlive her friends. Y’see, the central character is a robot, and the world she’s a part of has established these robots into the human population, which is mysteriously scarce all throughout. As time goes by and the people around her age, she begins to feel more human than robot, developing more acute emotions and a growing desire to interact with those around her. Her transition is somewhat of a highlight for this manga, as with a few other characters, and it does a lot for the enjoyment of following along on her journey.
Despite all its attempts, Yokohama doesn’t always hit the mark when it tries to establish a mood. The constant still-shots of the environment and images of grandeur felt lost on me, for the most part. However, the one thing I believe is the best thing this story has to offer is its overall tone. It effortlessly uses the resource of time to establish transitions of mood and weight with the characters in place (though, not the environment). Over the course of the story, somewhere between fifteen to twenty-five years pass in almost the blink of an eye. Like the somber feeling of time passing by too quickly, Yokohama has a good sense of how to pace itself in that regard. I’m typically very cynical of stories that use time skips to transition the relationships between characters, but this manga doesn’t make it feel superficial. I genuinely felt pity for the central character’s situation and the things she would inevitably have to face. Along with the other characters who knew this all too well and struggled to face that fact to some degree.
Unfortunately, I do feel the ending was a tad rushed. It didn’t have as much impact on me as some of the previous chapters had, and they went a little nuts with that whole “time-skipping” business. It ended just as it started: life goes on.
One really impressive aspect of Yokohama was its design. This manga was first published in 1994, but it looks as if it could have been published a lot more recently. There’s a certain timelessness (derp) about its design that made the story a lot more enjoyable to read, had they not used a majority of it painting landscapes with Bob Ross approving from his grave. All of the characters looked distinct and their personalities reflected well with their personalities (in a non-stereotypical way). If anything saved this story from being any more boring, it would be the colored pages. There’s a dreary sense with the traditional black and white outlines that’s hard to miss, but when the story decided to show color, it was gorgeous to the eye. Even with green hair, the central character looked as natural as if she were actually in front of me. I know that’s going a little far, but I was overall really impressed with how simple, yet glamorous the entire manga was presented.
By around chapter eighty or so, I actually considered dropping this. It was bombarding me with chapter after chapter of next to nothing happening without really digging deeper into the context of the scene, but I never had any mind to do so. It was then that I realized that I was more fascinated with seeing the central character interact with those around her as she was. When she was alone, I felt almost disappointed. I guess it goes to show that the characters in this manga were the high point for me, without much regard for the world around them. Because of this, a lot of the manga felt like wasted opportunities to me. That’s to be expected when a story tries to focus on every aspect of a story, whether it be plot, characters, progression, etc., and the reader only cares about one of those things. This is most unfortunate because I know that Yokohama did a good job with everything it tried to do, but perhaps didn’t have enough heart to break from its passive passion for me to fully feel immersed in the world it was showing me.
But I’m a narcissist, so it’s the manga’s fault every time.
Personal Score: B-
Critical Score: B+