Manga of the Month: Solanin

Solanin (ソラニン) by Inio Asano

Solanin is the type of story that sticks with you long after you’ve read it. It has a personal feeling to it and grounds itself quickly as true to life.

I would call Solanin a coming-of-age, the kind that comes when you are in your 20’s and transition from college student to working adult. “Real life” hasn’t quite kicked in yet for our characters; they aren’t sure where exactly to go next creating a sort of holding pattern. The journey that occurs, that journey that you can no longer avoid, doesn’t happen at the same time for everyone. Solanin is about that road that you follow without knowing where it will lead.

The story follows Meiko in her early 20’s who up and quits her boring job, then instead of finding a new one spends the next couple of months deciding just what she wants out of life. A part of this journey is her long-term musician boyfriend Taneda and her collection of college friends all at various stages in the same road. It touches quite poignantly on Japanese youth culture and a difficult economy, which also makes it quite relevant to today’s American 20-somethings, too. Music and friendship dovetail wonderfully to create a hopeful story spurred on by tragedy.

I recognized these people, the relationships, and their questions; it will certainly resonate for anyone out of college. The emotions, reactions, and thoughts seen through the characters of Solanin are utterly genuine and honest. Plus, the ending felt right without grasping for a concrete conclusion to lives that have only just begun.

Ongoing Investigations: Case #106

I picked up Solanin on a whim really but I had a good feeling about it. I want to call it a coming of age tale, but have to state it’s the coming of age that occurs in your 20’s after you leave college and are thrust into the “real world.” The story follows Meiko who quits her boring job and spends the next couple of months deciding just what she wants out of life. In the middle of all this is her long-term relationship with musician Taneda and her many college friends who are going through all these questions, too. Each character is in a bit of holding pattern; knowing who you are and what you want to do with your life doesn’t happen at the same time for everyone and Solanin shows what a road it can be. I have to say that I recognized these people, the relationships, and their questions about where to go. It also touches on Japanese youth culture and the difficult economy of find a job, making it all the more relevant to American 20-somethings these days, too. The art has a bit of an indie-feel to it giving it even more duality. While I did find the climax to be a little too melodramatic, convenient for the story, it doesn’t take away from the truth found in these pages. The emotions, reactions, and thoughts seen through the characters of Solanin are utterly genuine and honest. Plus, the ending felt quite right without a concrete conclusion but still a step forward. It just might be one of the best things I’ve read all year.

hisuiconIf there is one thing I know too well it is the feeling of doing just well enough that you are not in deadly peril but light years away from happy. The first half of this book should resonate with anyone who has felt trapped in their own life with plenty of ambition but no real plans. The quiet desperation of being lost is powerful and probably familiar to anyone over 20 today. But the book is not all dark emotions and hopelessness. There are moments of happiness and progress with everyone moving at their own pace, some people doing better than others. But everyone is changing if not always growing and it is sort of amazing to watch. Half way through the book there is an event that comes off a bit like a plot point in an otherwise seemingly organic story. This can be noticeable to some people but I don’t think anyone should let it detract the from the powerful effect it has on the story and themes. This is a beautiful story that really needs more people to read it. I think this is a book that will resonate with many older manga fans and can even be given to people who don’t read manga at all. It is a universal story that reaches beyond the medium.

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