Dec 3, 2008
Solanin (Manga) add (All reviews)
Beatnik (All reviews)
Asano Inio's Solanin captures people in a pivotal moment in their lives. The early twenties. That awful precipitous moment of our lives when we are suddenly hit by pangs of self-doubt and uncertainty about our future, our path in life, all the more pangy because we've already been forced to study subjects we may or may not give a shit about and passed college and university and have been pushed into the wide world so there's no going back.

But there is going sideways. Speaking of sideways, Asano's stories feature elements that are so out of left-field it prevents his manga from falling into cliché, which is so easy to do because of the subject matter. The early twenties. That awfully awkward moment of our lives when we start consuming counter-culture entertainment like The Matrix and Fight Club endlessly reciting every bit of dialogue, reading Haruki Murakami, writing embarrasing poetry, dabbling in hobbies that could reap lots of fame and riches if we were to seriously pursue them but we don’t because it’s just a hobby that we're mediocre at. You couldn’t possibly make it to the big-time...right?

The character of Meiko is an office lady in this manga and she's at this stage of her life where she's sick of routine so she takes a leap into unknown waters and quits her job. An act that is more courageous in Japan than it is elsewhere, being that the country has such a rigid social order about it. Her losing her job puts pressure and a burden on her part-timer boyfriend who's dabbling in music with two college buddies. Could he pursue his hobby and make it big thus saving the both of them from impending poverty?

Her act of quitting sets in motion a collage of choices and events that propels the two through unknown waters, and although it’s scary it’s still life-affirming as in this century it takes courage to confront your own identity and purpose in life and ask yourself outright: am I happy? Can I change my life?

Asano's stories would drip with cliché and hackneyed nonsense in another author's hands; they are so ripe for rolling your eyes at. But Solanin is fresh, adult, funny, compelling and emotional. It manages to roll up those moments of our early twenties into two volumes of heart-felt drama presented in what is now a typically Asano fashion.

The humour is random and inspired, the dialogue is witty and honest, the story is realistic in scope and execution, the art is fantastic and full of memorable imagery that, again, avoids the easy and lazy route other authors would walk.

Asano's route is straight to your heart and his purpose is to make it sing Solanin. Read the manga with Shugo Tokumaru’s ‘Exit’ album playing and sing out loud.