Solanin

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.

16 Comments

  1. Lily says:
    It’s a shame that the first (I take it this was the first) Asano Inio work you read left such a bad impression. I never read Solanin, but the works of him that I did read I ended up really liking, such as A Girl on the Shore (jp. Umibe no Onnanoko) and Dead Dead Demon’s Destruction (a manga about two highschool girls in an alien dystopia). If you were to give Inio another chance I highly recommend the latter, though it is an on-going series and currently has forty chapters out so it’s not something you can read in an hour.
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  2. Socordya says:

    So it’s American Beauty meets gender-swapped Fuuka?

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    1. Act says:

      Based on this, I’m glad I don’t know what either of those are.

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      1. The Thin White Duke says:
        You don’t know what American Beauty is? I’m sorry. I don’t wanna sound like a hipster. It’s just that the movie is so well-known that I’m surprised. It’s a lot of people’s favorite movie and it won an Academy Award for Best Picture. 

        As for the review itself, yeah, they’re assholes. I don’t remember the whole manga, but I remember thinking that they sometimes felt remorse for what they were doing, and I found that relatable. I think that, when the girl quits the job, his boyfriend tells her something similar to “you’re crazy. You shouldn’t be doing this,” so I didn’t think the author regarded that behaviour very well. 

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        1. Act says:

          I don’t really watch movies, and I 100% don’t care about Hollywoo and award shows and stuff.

          If it wasn’t on MST3K at some point, I probs haven’t seen it.

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  3. Roarke says:

    Haha, wow.

    What were people even praising this for, again?

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    1. Act says:

      Fuck even knows. Here’s a review that makes some of the same complaints as I do (“twenty-somethings Meiko and Naruo can seem like whiney navel gazers”) but still manages to give it five stars, presumably because $$$. 

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      1. Roarke says:

        Right, well on that note, I remembered something important:

        I forgot to give you the standard warning re: Oregairu: You are going to hate the characters, especially the protagonist, in the beginning.

        This is intentional. Trust.

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        1. Act says:

          :P Now that I know it’s a satire I’d expect as much.

          It’s actually interesting how authors can make it subtlely clear whether you’re supposed to hate annoying characters or not. I spite-finished Solanin, partially fueled by anger, partially by bleak hope that the whole thing would get turned on its head, but it’s clear straight-out the author doesn’t see anything wrong with the characters. It’s actually hard to articulate how all the little tonal bits that add up to the sense that the characters are never going to be able to do any wrong. It would be interested to compare this more in-depth to something like Re:Zero, where from the start there’s indications that Subaru isn’t making the right choices.

           

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          1. Roarke says:

            The whole deal with Subaru is really interesting because like, his superpower is to load a save state and save the day by making the right decisions. By design, that implies that the hero is going to do something wrong, then go back and fix it. But the author introduces this pitfall where even though Subaru resolves immediate situations, he’s putting off or even causing long-term problems by ignoring his surroundings.

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            1. illhousen says:

              Well, yes and no. While the presence of time travel does imply that something is going to go wrong, it doesn’t automatically mean that the protagonist is the one who’s going to fuck up.

              I mean, the first loop revolved around Subaru figuring things out, his only issue at the time was that he didn’t think the world around him was that dangerous. Likewise, there are time travel stories where the conflict is generated by antagonists rather than hero’s fuck ups.

              Plus, just look at Undertale: the time travel is here to frame the moral questions, not to resolve them, and the game actually goes out of its way to disalow the protagonist from going back in time and fix everything if you go too far.

              Basically, I think Re:Zero deserves more credit for focusing on protagonist-centered morality, it’s not a simple consequence of a power set.

              I do like that the protagonist has no power over where the current save point is set and can fuck up in a way that’s going to stick with him, though that ties with my main complain about the anime where consequences caused by the most spectacular fuck up are actually mostly fixed by the end in a way that left me somewhat disappointed.

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            2. Roarke says:

              I’m not really talking about that. I’m talking about the tendency for time-travel pieces to have self-contained crises that get resolved through trial-and-error on the part of the protagonist, with no lasting effects from the “correct” choices.

              Re:Zero deserves credit for Subaru’s protag-morality, yes, but also, to my mind, for looking past the usual, commonly-known mechanics of time-travel and exploring the lesser-known ones – like how much it hurts to have your relationships reset, and how resolving issues in a manner specific to the short-term urgency of a time-loop can cause long-term problems.

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            3. SpoonyViking says:

              Re:Zero deserves credit for Subaru’s protag-morality, yes, but also, to my mind, for looking past the usual, commonly-known mechanics of time-travel and exploring the lesser-known ones […]

              Oh, if you like that sort of thing, I recommend the movie “Groundhog Day”, starring Bill Murray. I mean, it’s a fairly famous movie so you may have already seen it, but if not, I strongly recommend it.

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  4. GeniusLemur says:
    The “Slice of Life” bit where we follow some mopey, uninteresting loser as he naval-gazes his way through a few hours is very popular with the arty types at the moment. I’ve heard it on Selected Shorts more times than I can remember, one of the many reasons I don’t listen to Selected Shorts anymore.
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  5. Nerem says:
    There’s a slice of life manga I’ve been rereading a lot recently, kind of upset that the scanslations stopped, because it’s really funny and charming despite its very simple premise.

     

    Dekoboko Girlish. One character is a tall, handsome girl who is always mistaken for a boy, and a short girl who is mistaken for someone younger. In reality they’re about equally girlish and have a very sweet friendship. Like the time the shorter girl made a really bad-tasting cake once, and the shorter one couldn’t finish it at all, but noticed that despite her friend’s complaints about its taste, she still finished it all, and was really touched.

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