Mangaka: Inio Asano
Discontent with the office job she got just out of college, Meiko Inoue decided to quit her job and live off her savings while she tries to figure out where she fits in the world and what she wants to do with her life. Her boyfriend, Naruo Taneda, is currently living with her and dealing with similar issues. Or rather, he knows exactly what he wants to do–play in a band with his friends–but it’s not that easy to make a living in the music industry. Taneda has been doing part-time graphic design work and generally avoiding the subject of a full-time commitment when an evening out drinking with their old group of friends re-lights the spark for their band. In spite of the uncertainties, they decide to record a demo CD and at least try to debut their band. Not technically part of the band, Meiko still stands firmly alongside them in support of their efforts . . . all the while still trying to decide what to do herself.
Solanin is the first Inio Asano manga that I’ve read, and with it, the mangaka is definitely going on my list of favorites. This manga deals with the challenges–and precious victories–of life at the difficult transitional period between the end of college and being established in a career. Asano-sensei truly captures the feelings, the confusion, the apathy and lack of direction that bombard people. The story is brought about richly through a small group of brilliantly realized characters. Meiko and her friends are the sort of people you might meet on the street, in the office, at the bar . . . just ordinary young adults. I think that’s what makes them seem so real. And for all they’re ordinariness, they are interesting people. The emotions, relationships, and choices they go through don’t point like a guiding light to show the path we should go . . . but they do touch the heart in a precious way. Asano-sensei’s art adds to the sense of poignant realism with pictures that are sensitive, expressive, realistic, and beautiful. Solanin is a highly recommended manga for audiences in their late teens and older (just do be aware that it’s 16+ for language, sex, etc.).