Solanin follows the main character, Meiko Inoue, and her group of friends who are just coming out of college. Meiko Inoue has just graduated and works in an office, which she hates, but has to because of rent. Her boyfriend is always crashing at her apartment because his work as a freelance illustrator doesn’t pay very well and he can’t afford his own place. Meiko struggles with the feeling that she isn’t cut out for the real world, a feeling that anyone who has been twenty-something will be familiar with. Meiko yearns for an escape from her mundane life, but at the same time feels lost.
This is a story of finding yourself and your place in modern society, but as always it comes with restrictions and nothing is ever easy.
The first thing that catches your eye when it comes to Inio Asano’s Solanin is the cover art. It’s simple, but still pleasing to the eye, and that continues within the pages of the manga. The style isn’t massively different to other manga, but it’s just different enough to be a refreshing change. The characters all look and act like normal people, and are therefore easy to relate to. The characters are charming, with their rounded faces and clear expressions, and there are lots of little details that you don’t notice on the first read. Asano puts in details where they are needed and add to the scene, such as the concert scene, without making the pages feel over-crowded. Physically the book is larger and thicker than most manga, but this seems to just add to what makes Solanin unique. It looks and feels substantial and as if you are holding something really special.
Solanin is also a well written and emotional manga, it’s something that you don’t often find on Western bookshelves which are mostly seem to be crammed with magical girls, ninjas and vampires at the moment. The story has moments of sweet romance, tearful setbacks and heart-wrenching moments of disappointment and defeat. There is nothing fancy or over the top about Solanin. It’s real.
Overall I would definitely recommend Solanin to any readers who enjoy a simple slice of life story. But for those who are put off by that sort of genre, bear in mind that Solanin isn’t particularly frivolous. There are many moments with the manga where you pause to consider what has happened or what has been said, and that doesn’t tend to happen very often in manga. The everyday drama keeps you turning the pages, but there are some key moments within the plot that really hit you. Plus with a cast of characters who are incredibly hard to dislike, it’s impossible not to get attached as you watch them struggle to fit into the adult world.
Solanin is the perfect manga for anyone who feels like they don’t know quite where they fit in society. It is a wonderful, subtle and bitter-sweet manga.