Solanin Manga: Living The Musicial Life [Review]
Written By Writer Who Sits In The Back
“You don’t give much thought to growing up. You either accept it, or fight it to the end. I wonder if that’s what determines how a person’s life will turn out.” – Meiko Inoue
A while ago, on a warmer than normal winter’s day, in a usually crowded corporate bookstore, I stumbled upon an out-of-place book shuffled around the nooks of a well organized manga section. The book was titled Solanin and the peculiar name piqued my interests. Like many others, I sat down and silently skimmed through pages of the manga and the back cover summary.
It would be weeks later that I finally had the courage to buy it (at a hefty $21.00 Canadian plus tax!) and fully digest its content. The experience wasn’t life changing nor sentimental, but very reflective of what myself and so many others face in our society. It left more questions than answers.
Above: Meiko Inoue
Solanin follows a young 20-something woman named Meiko Inoue who quits her daytime office job after becoming dissatisfied with the environment. She has a boyfriend named Naruo Taneda who’s currently crashing at her place and working part time as an illustrator. He doesn’t like his job either, but with Meiko’s encouragement, eventually quits and resurrects his lifelong dream of starting a band. Just as the good times roll, tragedy strikes and Meiko must ask herself questions of identity, worth, and a sense of belonging in a society pushing her out.
From left to right: Meiko, Kato, Yamada (AKA Rip), Ai, Taneda
The story doesn’t shy away from the bleak realities of life while simultaneously offering an optimistic hope for the future. This balance is the manga’s main strength and the one question that it asks its reader is: What do you want to do?
Taneda (left) and Meiko (right)
From that question, Solanin is very much a coming-of-age story that departs from the usual cutesy slice-of-life formula often perpetuated by anime today. Author and artist Inio Asano knows his target audience and in an afterward states that Solanin was a product of his own uncertainty for the future after graduating college. This is important to think about, considering I and many others are afraid of our futures. We don’t know if we’ll be financially stable and we’re not sure if we like the things we are doing right now. Should we choose the thing that gives us money or pursue something we genuinely love?
Passion is another important theme in the story and is certainly present in the artwork. At times, you’ll see some very subtle scenes and facial expressions on characters. They’re not over exaggerated and perfectly portray what each character is feeling at any given moment. You’ll see some manga/anime quirks here and there, but the art keeps itself fairly grounded and realistic.
It is at the emotional scenes where Asano’s art shines best. You somehow notice the detail put into every tear that’s been shed and every sweat broken. Examples include some feels inducing cries and a passionate musical scene towards the end. At times, it feels cinematic and Asano effectively omits dialogue and depict the emotions of his cast through their actions.
Solanin overall does not read like a typical manga. It’s all available in one book, so it’d be like reading a graphic novel if anything else. Its detail to realism is admirable and while it may have its sombre moments, it balances itself with an optimistic message. What Meiko takes into her life and how she develops into a more independant woman can be applied to all of us. Find Solanin at your nearest bookstore and give it a good read.