Growing up, I read a lot of manga. CLAMP, Yuu Watase, Hisaya Nakajo, Fuyumi Soryo, just to name a few. They were basically all high school romance stories, sometimes with magical elements, and after grade school I found them to not be my taste anymore. I didn’t read manga for years, but then I happened upon this book in college.
Solanin is the book that got me back into manga. The book that was close enough to familiar that it didn’t put me off, and far enough from what I was used to that I was intrigued. The art wasn’t a style I was used to seeing, and the plot of the story wasn’t an infuriating love triangle (or square, as is so often the case in shoujo). This story felt real – it felt true. It was one of the first comics I read that dealt with the tougher realities of life like unemployment, depression, and suicide. It uses music as a coping mechanism for the main character. It made me cry my goddamn eyes out.
Inio Asano crafts a gut-wrenching story about college graduates struggling to make it in modern-day Tokyo. I worry that it’s one of those “time in your life” comics that are only super poignant and become important to you because of the point in your life that you read it, but I think there’s something for everyone to appreciate in this book. The art is beautiful, the story is moving, and the narrative is a perfect representation of a young generation both lost and rebellious.
From the first pages of the book: “I’m still young and dissatisfied. Constantly disgruntled by society and adults. I have no idea what to do with myself. And while I wait for my epiphany, I feel the toxins collecting in my body. On days like this, I’m filled with a burning hatred for everyone I see… and I spend the commute to work wishing death on the people around me.”
You and me both, girl.