The library is a great place for readers to discover comics, and it’s a great place for comics readers to check out things that they want to try without spending their hard-earned cash. I’m looking at comics that I find in the New York Public Library system.
Let’s start with an admission: I’d like to read more manga. I really would. It’s become such an inescapable part of the comics dialogue, a hugely important part of how future generations of cartoonists are going to approach comics, that I really feel we here at Newsarama should give it more bandwidth. It’s just that, for me personally, it’s really hard to commit to sticking to an 18 or 26 or 46-volume series. Most of my manga experiences have been a good start, followed by some thematic repetition, which leads to me inevitably taking the series for granted and spending my limited dollars elsewhere. (And lest you think the flaw is with manga, I’m the same with long-running American series – see my unfinished runs on Transmet, 100 Bullets, Y, etc.)
So a friend recommended Solanin, and he thankfully mentioned that this particular manga volume is self-contained, one-and-done, a stand-alone chunk of teen ennui and struggles with the inevitability of adulthood. Thankfully, because Solanin is really, really good comics. I can totally see why the kids love the manga when I read a book like this (actually, I can totally see why kids love the manga in general).
Writer and artist Inio Asano does a superb job exploring the mindset of five young adults, fresh out of school (well, four of them are), as they try to figure out where their dreams, relationships and ambitions fit into the “real world” of bills, rent and 9-to-5. With one couple as the central focus, and three other characters each getting a fair share of the narrative focus, Asano provides plenty of perspectives on the slippery quality of “the rest of your life.” Jobs, relationships and hobbies all seem to intersect in confusing jumbles that leave the characters indecisive about which string to pursue.
Using understated tragedy and spirited triumphs, Asano keeps the story moving quickly and prevents the daily turmoil from becoming turgid. The characters’ voices are all crafted strongly and clearly, and the art is striking and clear. For manga fans of readers looking to familiarize themselves with manga, finding a copy of Solanin at the local library is likely to be a treasure.