*Solanin — Recommended

Solanin has little in common with how many readers think about manga. It’s a self-contained volume, slightly larger in size than the usual manga digest and much thicker. More important is the content, a story about young adults seeking to find themselves and their directions in life. If the book was described to me, I would be more likely to guess Top Shelf or Drawn & Quarterly instead of Viz. I welcome seeing this diversity from them as part of their Signature line.

Meiko graduated from college and took an office job while waiting for her “epiphany”, when she figures out what she wants to do. Her boyfriend, a freelance artist, moved in with her, but she’s tired of him, just like she’s tired of everything else. She knows what she hates, but she doesn’t know what she loves.

Her days are defined by boredom, especially after she quits the job to figure things out. She thinks she’s getting the freedom she needs, but she wastes her time hanging out at home, too apathetic to try any of her dreams or fancies. Her boyfriend’s also part of a band that doesn’t do anything but rehearse, and most of the other members have similar reactions to things. They claim “depression” because they’re too sensitive to deal with daily life.

Simple faces with detailed emotion convey every feeling in a way the reader can easily relate to. And most will have gone through this or known those who have. When I first heard about this story, my jaded side thought “why do I want to read this when I lived it?” But I found myself caught up in their uncertainty about life. I enjoyed the book more, having survived it and come out the other side. It gave me perspective that made the story richer as the characters discuss various philosophies and purposes.

The question of “what is happiness” is something everyone has to determine for themselves, and Meiko’s mom seems to have the right idea, saying it can be simple if you don’t make it hard for yourself. Bandmate Rip finds his own kind of contentment, while Meiko struggles for the strength to forge a new direction.

At first, she piles her drive into her boyfriend, encouraging him to pursue the music he loves, but that’s not a long-term solution for her, and fate makes that clear. That particular event was the most disappointing part of the book for me, because I got the feeling it was going to happen before it did, and I found it a little heavy-handed and cliched. But the point is to more fully develop Meiko. She tried to break out of routine, of settling for what she had, but while she had enough determination to make that choice, she didn’t have enough to keep pushing through to the next step. She too easily settled back into a new routine. It took shock and the removal of the guy she was clinging to to really make her change stick.

While Meiko is often aimless, the book is not. If you like Honey & Clover, try this for a more realistic, less wacky take on sometimes similar happenings. And be sure to linger over the outstanding art capturing the band’s stage performance. It captures music and energy wordlessly.

Here are a few more reviews:

  • “like Scott Pilgrim but without the video game realism, and twice as much of the drama” — Christopher Butcher
  • “a classy, beautiful book and at over 400 pages, a bargain to boot” — Greg McElhatton
  • “exactly the kind of book that fans of manga who want to read mature, adult work have been hoping for” — Matthew J. Brady

Another Inio Asano work, What a Wonderful World!, has just been offered for order through the Previews catalog. Two volumes, 210 pages/$12.99 each, JUL09 1105 and JUL09 1106. They’re due out in October. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)

Similar Posts: *High School Debut Book 3 — Recommended § *Happy Mania Book 1 — Recommended § Vote for Rising Stars of Manga § Strobe Edge Book 3 § *Tail of the Moon Book 11 — Recommended

11 Comments

  1. [...] Solanin, a single-volume telling of how a group of young adult friends make key life decisions. [...]

  2. My current position in life seems depressingly similar to this (or at least from what has been described in this review) so I don’t think I need to be reminded of it in black ‘n white panels. I feel that manga, more than the domestic contemporaries, has a high capacity for emotion. I’m talking about blunt, on the sleeve, cracks-in-the-dam portrayals of human emotion that usually does away with subtlety and often teeters on the edge of maudlin sentimentality.

    It’s the difference between this and perhaps an Adrian Tomine story.

  3. I wouldn’t call this maudlin or sentimental at all. I found it quite skilled and yes, subtle at times, in what it showed and what it left for the reader.

  4. Yeah, Solanin is good stuff. :) I’d recommend it for anyone looking for more josei and/or seinen manga.

    Meanwhile, I just noticed something that reminded me of IGN’s problem a while back. Someone else already knew somewhat better in 1913 about who can get into the so-called “geek” hobbies:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/3691

    Little Wars : (A Game for Boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books) By H. G. Wells

    “‘LITTLE WARS’ is the game of kings–for players in an inferior social position. It can be played by boys of every age from twelve to one hundred and fifty–and even later if the limbs remain sufficiently supple–by girls of the better sort, and by a few rare and gifted women. This is to be a full History of Little Wars from its recorded and authenticated beginning until the present time, an account of how to make little warfare, and hints of the most priceless sort for the recumbent strategist…”

  5. [...] Biased Manga) Connie on vol. 5 of Slam Dunk (Slightly Biased Manga) Johanna Draper Carlson on Solanin (Comics Worth Reading) Shojo Flash on vol. 20 of The Wallflower (Shojo Flash) Lorena on vol. 1 of [...]

  6. Strangely, I just finished my second read-through of Solanin recently.

    I had bought it originally because it was quite large for it’s price tag and didn’t have a volume number on the side (it’s so hard to find a manga that ISN’T part of a series) and was just floored with what I found inside. Beautiful, simple story and perfectly detailed art. One of my favorite manga of all time.

  7. Arsnof Says:

    “I had bought it originally because it was quite large for it’s price tag and didn’t have a volume number on the side (it’s so hard to find a manga that ISN’T part of a series) and was just floored with what I found inside.”

    Speaking of manga (and manhwa and manhua) that aren’t part of series, I’d also highly recommend:

    Orange by Benjamin
    Love Song by Nishi Keiko
    Domu : A Child’s Dream by Otomo Katsuhiro
    Too Long by Park Hee Jung
    Nothing but Loving You by Sakurazawa Erica
    Walking Man by Taniguchi Jiro
    9 Faces of Love by Wann
    Déjà-Vu : Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter written by Youn In-Wan and drawn by several people

    Here are some other single-volume manga and manhwa I’ve read:

    X2 by Akira Shouko
    SOS by Ashihara Hinako
    Mijeong by Byun Byung-Jun
    The One I Love by CLAMP
    Samurai Legend written by Furuyama Kan and drawn by Taniguchi Jiro
    A,A’ by Hagio Moto
    Devil in the Water by Hatsu Akiko
    Line by Kotegawa Yua
    Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms by Kouno Fumiyo
    Beautiful People by Mihara Mitsukazu
    Sweat & Honey by Okazaki Mari and Hiratsuka Motoaki
    Calling You written by Otsuichi and drawn by Tsuzuki Setsuri
    The Missing White Dragon by Park Young Ha
    Between the Sheets by Sakurazawa Erica
    The Rules of Love by Sakurazawa Erica
    Hotel Harbour View written by Sekikawa Natsuo and drawn by Taniguchi Jiro
    The Voices of a Distant Star by Shinkai Mokoto
    Aquarium by Tanuguchi Tomoko
    Miss Me? by Taniguchi Tomoko
    Kinderbook by Takahama Kan
    Wild Com. by Tamura Yumi
    The Push Man and Other Stories by Tatsumi Yoshihiro

  8. [...] enjoying Solanin, I was curious about Inio Asano’s next translated work. The two-volume What a Wonderful [...]

  9. i felt every emotion.
    left me feeling really raw and contemplative about the character’s lives.
    i’ve always knew about this manga, but never finished it because i was more into shoujo manga.
    this one really gave me some perspective.
    i finally finished it. in a day.
    asano is brilliant

  10. [...] for a long while, this is a pretty good place to pause. While waiting, readers may want to try Solanin for its treatment of a similar storyline. [...]

  11. […] Inio Asano isn’t new to U.S. readers; his previous works Solanin and What a Wonderful World! were released by Viz four years ago. Nijigahara Holograph has the same […]

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