Art is something to live for. In the world of Inio Asano, life is never-ending suffering, and the things we pursue are what make it worth living. This comes through during the concerts in Ozanari-kun, where music fans from all generations scream "I'm so happy to be alive!"
The characters in this story constantly face miseries, and yet it's their work that makes other people face their miseries. As small a thing as one's favorite band getting back together can justify an entire troubled existence.
Ozanari-kun is a rare manga that utilizes color. Not full color drawings, but tints akin to playing Pokemon Red on a Game Boy Color. This mixing of color and media in general (photographic backgrounds are used sometimes) makes the reader aware of the bigger world outside of the page, while giving the reader the impression that this is a manga. It's not coloring the objects in the story - it's coloring the way we receive them. Green does not mean that a thing is green - just that we see green. I don't mean that I see deeper meanings in the color choices of the story, just that they merely exist for our amusement and not as a descriptor of the world of the story.
Because Ozanari-kun is not a story with its own world to be explored and understood. Music, white-collar work, suicide, these things exist in real people's worlds and lives. It voices the real in the form of the mocked. It shows you the fake world of gag manga while constantly reminding you of the real one.
What I get out of this is a sharp depiction of the fleeting nature of our various emotions. The joy of music. The sadness of having your gift rejected. The fact you don't need to be happy to move on. With its sharp dialogue and remarkable aesthetic, the way Ozanari-kun communicates these ideas is truly iconic.
What will stay with me in this series is the characters. Not that Yabusaka or Ozanari are truly vivid people who will stick with me as inspirations throughout my life. Rather, what they represent, they do excellently. The burdens that the chief carries through his life are communicated with great gravity and respect. Ozanari's wackiness is a great asset, but so is his presence as the perpetually bitter kid who everyone inexplicably likes. The characters hold the dialogue, and are thus the gateway to this story's themes. As such, they're totally excellent.
My main criticisms would be the pacing and presentation. Chapters have no regular length, and priorities can vary. This is not a simple elegant sequence of events, but rather a fusion of gag manga and dramatic priorities. While the aesthetic is remarkable, this is by no means a dense work. In the beginning, that this manga exists at all is the main thing it has going for it - truly unique, but repetitive. But the final act Ozanari Extreme does elevate it.
If you like the works of Inio Asano, Ozanari-kun is a must-read. If you like experimental work, this may be the most experimental thing he has done. If you don't like FLCL, you probably won't like Ozanari-kun.