Review: Solanin

Title: Solanin
Writer: Inio Asano
Artist: Inio Asano
Publisher: VIZ Media
Published: 2008

Review by Derek Halliday

What is it about?

A close knit group of friends deal with the awkward transition from their carefree highschool life into responsible adulthood in Tokyo, experiencing the triumph, tragedy, and compromise of growing up.

Why is it good?

The one aspect of manga that I’ve always struggled with is its accessiblity. A lot of manga requires a bit of cultural shorthand or being ‘in the know’ as it were, and this is fine; in fact it’s part of the mystique and allure of manga, but to the uninitiated it can be daunting, and as a retailer trying to sell a potential new reader on an unfamiliar medium, it’s sometimes a tough sell.

The strength of Solanin is that it’s a recognizable and univeral story that deals with that awkward transition twenty somethings go through as the world pressures them to grow up; even moreso in Japan, were the expectations are even greater, and the pressure to get a job and start contributing to society immense. There is precious little time to pursue a dream before coming to the sad conclusion that you may have missed your chance.

Solanin, coming in at a hefty 425 pages (which is big even for manga), follows a close knit group of friends as they make a last ditch effort to ‘make it’ before finally giving up on their dreams of Rock and Roll stardom. The pressure mounts as a self-imposed deadline looms; the point at which their money runs out and adulthood becomes a necessity that can no longer be put off.

Gorgeously illustrated, loose, lively, characters dance through uncommonly lush, detailed, backgrounds and widescreen, cinematic, storytelling that inspires awe and tugs at the heartstrings, it is not an exaggeration to call Solanin an impressive first work from Asano-Sensei, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite mangaka. His humor ranges from wry to absurd, and he knows how to provoke an emotional response, making you swell with his characters triumphes, and weep at their tragedies.

An impressive and accessible standalone work, I’d recommend Solanin to anyone that hasn’t read manga before as a good introduction.

You can find Solanin in store at The Beguiling, or you can buy it online at beguiling.com.

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