Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Manga Spotlight - Solanin

Now, I know that I don't usually do posts exclusively about manga, but I felt that I had to talk about this one in particular. 

I had bought a physical copy of this work about two weeks ago on amazon because I'm quite a fan of the author, and also because I really wanted to own some actual copies of manga. I have to tell you that even though it was a spur of the moment decision, I'm really glad I bought it.

I had been planning on reading this and one of the author's other works, Subarashii Sekai (known as What a Wonderful World! in English) , but whenever I went online to read them I just had this feeling of "no.."
As I browsed amazon for the usual video game sales and whatever, I had the idea in my head "If I actually buy a copy of the work I'll definitely read it!" And low and behold, after buying a copy and reading the whole thing, it's become one of my favorite manga.

The synopsis is as such:
After graduating from college, Meiko went straight to work as an office lady, but she can't help feeling there should be something more to life. Determined to find a worthier goal, she quits work, but can she actually make her neubulous dreams come true- and how will her sudden decision affect her relationship with her boyfriend Taneda?

Sounds like a pretty general slice of life story, right?

It is indeed a slice of life story, but it manages to be realistic, and at the same time, unpredictable. The characters really feel like real people. Like, I feel like if I looked around town, I might find people exactly like these characters. Each of the most prominent characters, aside from the ever so hilarious Kato, are somewhat recent college graduates that are managing in their generic office jobs.

Each of the characters have the same general thoughts:
"Am I happy?"
"Shouldn't there be more to life than this?"

So our protagonist, Meiko Inoue, after having such thoughts quits her job, and spends her days loitering
around her and her boyfriend's apartment and exploring town.
She is basking in the freedom of not having a daily routine, but it all feels empty. She still wants to do something, and she's trying to figure out what.

Now, of course, things aren't going to go perfect after making such a decision. There are going to be fights, you're going to have to face criticism, you're an adult, you're supposed to know how to deal with these things. Still, when you're young, you're optimistic, you have big dreams, but don't know how to fulfill them. You don't want to have a boring job in an office, you want so much more out of life.

Eventually, Meiko's boyfriend, Naruo Taneda, begins to have thoughts similar to Meiko's. He doesn't like his job, he wants more out of life! So he decides to quit his job too! They're tight on money, they can't keep up with their bills with no source of income!

As the story progresses, music gets more and more involved in the story. It goes from being a hobby, to a potential way to make a living. This is probably where I got the most interested in the story. They're putting effort in their practice, they have a song written, they're excited, but they have doubts.

As I read this I felt like "shit..this could be me in 5-6 years." I'm still young, I'm optimistic, but at the same time, I have doubts about whether I can accomplish my dreams. I mean, how many bestselling authors do you know? How many hit screenplay writers do you know? Chances are you don't know any. Maybe one if you're lucky. That's why my backup plan is, well, a generic office job. But that's acting more as self-punishment than a backup plan.

I also want to talk more about the characters, particularly the protagonist, Meiko.

Meiko has to be one of the most relatable protagonists in any story I've ever read or seen. Meiko is pretty much the embodiment of the young adult. That phase where you're not quite a kid anymore, but you're not exactly a complete grown-up either. Her decisions are reckless, yet understandable. But as the story progresses she begins to realize more and more that hey, you're an adult now. You have responsibilities, whether you like them or not. Unexpected things happen, and she grows up because of it. She begins to settle, she's still a dreamer, she's still trying out different things, but she gets back to work. She is perceived as mature by her younger coworker, but she doesn't feel she's quite there yet.

That's pretty much how I see myself, and a lot of my friends, as we get to that phase of life. The fact that I'm getting close to that point scares me a bit.

Of course, I'm not going to stop without talking about the rest of the most prominent characters.

Kato's that one guy who stayed back at college. He didn't stop after four years, but his classmates treat him as a graduate. He's still very much immature, he has many moments where he fools around in a childish manner, which were definitely some of the funnier moments of the story. But he also grows up, he cleans up (and hates it), and applies for jobs.

Ai is Kato's girlfriend who was charmed by is persistence after rejecting him numerous times. She's probably the most mature one in the group. She maintains her job, and her relationship much like an adult woman would. But, yet, you find her going out with probably the most immature member of the group. You can see how the two of them balance each other out.

And last, but not least, we have "Rip" (whose real name is Jiro). Rip is a bit of a balance between mature and immature. Sometimes he displays childish behavior, but he does show his grown up side throughout the story. He thinks realistically, but he still treats his musician dream as a hobby. He's also very funny at times, and to be honest, I would very much like to be friends with a guy like him.

Throughout reading this I saw my friends in these people, I saw them being in states similar to these characters. I saw us having the same thoughts, hell, I know people who already have such thoughts and they're not even out of high school yet.

I can't state enough how real this characters felt.

This was more than just a really good manga I read. It was a learning experience, it really was. It gave me the realization that I might not like the way I live when I'm older, and I'll have to deal with it. I can still have my dreams, but I can't count on them for a steady future.

And that, my friends, is a life lesson.

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