Monday, October 19, 2009

Manga Mondays - Solanin

Normally, I don't read slice-of-life stories because I tend to find the whole genre a little boring. That said, there will occasionally be a slice-of-life book that catches my attention for one reason or another. Solanin was a slice-of-life manga that I was hearing a lot of positive buzz about and, since I was looking for some new manga to try out, I gave it a look. Hit the jump for my review and see what I though of Solanin.

Written by Inio Asano
Art by Inio Asano
Adaptation by JN Productions

Solanin is about Meiko Inoue and Naruo Taneda and their dissatisfaction and unhappiness with their lives. Meiko, the main character in the book, is an office worker in Tokyo who is unhappy about where her life is and, specifically, her job. She decides to quit her job, which freaks out her befriend, Taneda, who only has a part time job and doesn't make enough to afford his own place. After adjusting to their new situation, Taneda decides to restart the band that he had in college and try to make it successful.

Although an important plot line for the story involves Taneda's attempt to make his band successful, the story itself centers mostly on Meiko, though the supporting characters get a chapter or two devoted to them as well. It is mostly about Meiko's journey and how it effects the people around her.

The story is paced nicely with some nice spotlights on the supporting characters as well as some of the most effective use of flashbacks that I have seen in a while. My favourite would be the second to last chapter, which is entirely a flashback to the first time Meiko and Taneda met, and is really the beginning of the story.

Asano does manage to keep the story interesting with both some nice surprises throughout the story as well as with the fantastic characters. In fact, there is a really big twist about halfway through the story that really changes the dynamic of the book while still keeping the same tone and focus as the first half of the book, as contradictory as that may sound. The story is enjoyable and engaging while supporting the real focus of the book - the characters.

Solanin is very much a character driven story since it is about Meiko, Taneda, and the supporting characters trying to, if not find their place in the world, figuring out how they are going to be happy and content in it. Asano does a wonderful job with the characters, which is what really makes the story work.

All of the characters are fully fleshed out with proper motivations and complex personalities. They also feel and act like regular people, not like people in a story. The characters also have some depth to them which makes them all the more compelling and engaging. They also grow throughout the story, which helps to create a satisfying conclusion even though Meiko's situation end's up being similar to what it was at the beginning of the book, but, as the saying goes, it's the journey, not the destination. Meiko's journey as a character, and her impact on the supporting characters, is the important part of the story and she is a different person at the end of the book than she was at the beginning, which is what makes the whole thing work.

 I also enjoyed the art a lot as well. It's a mostly realistic style with some cartoon elements, which are mostly used with the characters faces. He is also able to convey a lot with his work, which helps to re-enforce and support the story. Asano can make the character incredibly emotive at times as well. He is also a great storyteller and his page layouts are effective. One technique that he uses that I was particularly fond of was that he would leave some panels blank and just have text and no art. Simple, but effective.

Verdict - Must Read. A thoroughly engaging and enthralling story with plenty of depth about a wonderful cast of characters trying to find their way in the world.

Like this review? Interested in Solanin? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis.

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