Today in, “Everyone loves this and everyone is horribly wrong…”
The amount of people churning out bullshit “slice-of-life” manga is truly despressing as someone who likes slice-of-life. I think there’s a similar thing going on here as with parody, where it looks easy because no one actually has any idea how it works, so people keep doing it — usually as an excuse to have random schoolgirls fawn over an otaku, which will always be big bucks.
Solanin, like most modern slice-of-life manga, has no plot. S-o-L (Satellite of Love?) does, in fact, have to have a story (see: Orange), or at least something to make it interesting and unique (see: Yotsubato!). Just regurgitating the boring-ass lives of everyday people isn’t a story. Sometimes you can use format or humor to compensate for a lack of plot (Azumanga Daioh), and sometimes you can use romance (Love My Life), but the point is there has to be something inherently entertaining there.
Solanin does not have anything inherently entertaining. It’s just a bunch of lazy-ass hipster twentysomethings whittling away their days without any particular wit or insight. Worse, all of the characters are miserable people. Inoue is a whiny brat, purportedly 24 years old but with the maturity of a particularly irritating teenager, who complains nonstop about things like having to follow procedure in an office, and how stupid the women around her are. She whines about the tons of free food her parents send her, about being able to afford to be out of work, about how attentive her boyfriend is, about enjoying fireworks, and basically everything that comes up. When she has a job, she complains about having to abide by rules; when she quits her job, she complains about the freedom. The only things she doesn’t whine about are the ones that actually matter — like her boss attempting to “make up” for disciplining her by taking her out on a date, which the manga thinks is just hilarious.
Her boyfriend Taneda, meanwhile, is a leeching manchild who sits in the house all day except when he goes to play ~totes deep~ music with his band. He’s everything the hipster basement-dweller stereotype is; he goes as far as to panic when Inoue quits her job because she’s his main source of income and what will he do now?! She has to get another job right away!!
Their friends are even worse. A line one of the degenerate dudebros actually thinks to himself in complete seriousness: “Quite the saucy little wench.” I s2g.
I also hated the art. Everyone has horrible duckface — they look like Futurama characters — and these creepy, elongated mouths. And, of course, the women all had creepy China-doll babyfaces while the men were purposefully drawn as typical unattractive otaku (wonder why) with varied body types and facial features. You’ll also find a lot of people praising the “detail” of the art, but the panels are actually just absurdly busy. I mean, the backgrounds are technically good, but they ridiculous amount of clutter is abysmal for storytelling. It’s hard to tell at any given moment what you’re supposed to be looking at. I just read a manga called “Blue” and while overall I found it to be really mediocre, the author had a profound grasp of contrast and negative space that informed every single panel. In Solanin, stuff is there just to be there, without any real reason. also all the goatees look like pubes
The biggest message the story has to offer is that it’s really important for men to enjoy life. It’s okay for your boyfriend to cheat on you with a teenager or go to brothels, because he’s just a young dude havin’ a good time. Inoue’s fucking awful boyfriend doesn’t need to get a real job and contribute to their lives like an adult, he needs to buckle down and pursue his band! The real problem is that Inoue doesn’t support him enough by doing nothing but supporting him. They have “fights” about things like how hard it is for him that she supports his dreams. After all, “you never know when chicks’ll stab you in the back”! In fact, she supports him so much she becomes a stifling witch and he pretends to leave her to teach her a lesson. Women! No sense of moderation, except when they have one which is also awful. You should emotionally abuse them.
And then of course, because these stories can only ever go in one direction, Loser Boyfriend gets killed off and this is the biggest tragedy to ever tragedy truly the world will miss him. I don’t feel bad for her because I hate her, and I don’t feel sorry for him because holy shit did I hate him, and their friends continue to be terrible people (yeah, slap the depression out of her man, I’m sure that will work), so I don’t give a fuck about how it effects them. Hell, I wish the rest of them would die, too.
(Incidentally, this is part of the problem with whiny, complainy characters — when they turn up the drama to 11 over nothing, it’s really hard to take them seriously about real things, since they’ve done nothing but irritate the audience with complaining. Twilight had this problem as well.)
Naturally, it turns out her purpose in life is to take his place in the band, play his guitar, and sing his songs so no one ever forgets him. If you cannot have the man, ladies, become the man. Subsume your being into his identity.
Basically, this is the fantasy of every loser dude who’s convinced if he’d just stuck with his high school band, they would totes have made it with their deep lyrics and passion + a fawning womanchild for hot chick points.
It was truly awful.