5 January 2014

Solanin: Review

Solanin by Inio Asano

Asano wrote Solanin when he had just graduated from college. It is a document of the transitional time between leaving education and entering the real world. Asano said he "was feeling a bit insecure about my ability to succeed as a manga artist and whether I would be able to continue to draw manga that were true to myself. In my anxiety and impatience, I felt that all I could do in my manga was try to get a true depiction of the times as experienced by my generation."

I remember this time well. I remember beginning my final year at university with a sense of dread. Since 5 years old, I had known what was coming next. Infant School, Junior School, Secondary School, College, University...but then what? For the first time in my life I did not know where I was going to be the following year, or what I was going to do.

This beautifully drawn manga depicts Tokyo and the lives of a group of friends in that very position. Existentially asking - what is my place in this world?

I enjoy graphic novels and the multifaceted interpretation of visuals and text in creating a rounded reading experience. Added to this, this book has to be read from the back to the front, and the panels from right to left. I am not sure if this is a deliberate attempt to focus us more clearly on the disjointed experience of the characters, or simply from the fact that it is work in translation. It does however, make you think about the direction our lives go - is life linear, do we have to progress forward in a way we expect or can we re-think the order of our reality? This novel is not disappointing in the creation of crisp artwork and great plot; Asano has crafted a setting and characters we can all relate to - wherever we are in the world - where there is a pull between the productive, what we have to do to survive in the world, with the creative, what we really want to do with our lives.