Solanin

This is a review of Solanin, a manga series by Inio Asano.

For many of us, comics are a childish hobby. I haven’t read much manga, but the ones I have were thrillers- Death Note and Monster. The closest I’ve seen to romance is probably the Archie comics that I used to read over the school holidays. But Solanin is very much a romance, and couldn’t be more different from the romcom antics of Betty and Veronica. It’s a slow paced coming-of-age story that’s definitely targeted at the twenty-something crowd.

It reminded me that manga isn’t limited to teenaged geeks, it’s just a different medium of entertainment. One that I am beginning to appreciate more and more. There’s no hiding a weak plot with big budget special effects. A lack of character development isn’t compensated for with clever wordplay. It’s just dialogue and pencil sketches, and that makes good pacing and a tight plot essential.

Solanin is about a young couple, Meiko and Taneda, who have recently graduated from college and set out to build lives for themselves in the big bad city. While Meiko is frustrated with her dead-end job as an office assistant, Taneda’s low paying job is keeping him from his true passion, music. In a low moment, Meiko quits her job and decides to pursue her true calling- but she’s not sure what it is. With her savings dwindling, Taneda finds himself under pressure. Inevitably, their relationship becomes strained. Book I sets the scene and ends in a twist that reminds the reader that life does not wait for one to get one’s shit together.

Book II was relatively disappointing and ventured into Hollywood cliché territory. Still, weak plot resolutions and character development can be forgiven in a story this short.

One of the reasons I liked this is that the quarter-life crisis is very relatable. It’s not so much a crisis as a vague feeling of discontent- a distinction that’s emphasized by the very real crisis that demarcates part I and part II. And maybe the author has tried to trivialize Meiko and Taneda’s quarter-life crises, but it does make people take very real risks sometimes; I’ve experienced it first-hand, as have several of my close friends.

Secondly, there are some minor plot points that are very realistic as well. Meiko’s friends are skeptical about Taneda’s financial dependence, Meiko’s mother doesn’t know about their living arrangements, and Taneda’s band struggles with the burden of mediocrity. After all, it’s the little troubles that make one’s twenties so trying- we don’t have mortgages or kids, but that doesn’t mean our lives are simple.

Read this if you have a couple of hours and don’t mind emotional stories. 3.5/5

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