Solanin by Inio Asano
Serialized in Shounen Sunday
Published by Kodansha and Viz.
There are times when we just want the world to stop.
There are times when we try to ask the meaning of our lives.
There are times when we wish to find these dreams filled with meanings.
There are times when we find the strength to find these dreams… only to see life take its chances away from us.
Solanin is a manga about the hopes and dreams of couple in want of a particular change in their life. This is perhaps a life we once dreamed of. This is also the manga that reminds us what is real.
Living the dream
I remember a friend of mine used to say that at some point, we live in a quarter-life crisis. It’s that point where we brashly decide on what it is that we want to do with little thought of its consequences. It was at this point that Meiko decided to quit her job and live a carefree life that she wanted after hearing an encouraging word from her boyfriend.
Life suddenly looked up and lazy mornings, warm afternoons, and lively evenings became Meiko’s lifestyle of choice. All of this geared towards not only her dream’s but also her boyfriend’s.
I read through the early pages with great optimism, amused that there is a story of a couple like this, surrounded by friends just as eager as them. It wasn’t a hippie culture but they were tight-knit and the support they have given each other is moving, to say the least.
There is something about its art, their pudgy faces and the scenery that draws me into their laid-back life, as if I’m feeling the breeze through every panel. It’s a laidback read but it was not boring. In fact, this bit of hope draws you in every panel.
Like them, you too want to live your days like this. You too want to be carefree. You too wish to live the dream.
Living a life is not living a dream
What astounds me with this manga is how it reminds me of the difficulties that come with putting your life to a halt to live your dream. This isn’t the first manga that has done it but perhaps, in this day and age, this is the most poignant and perhaps the most real and relevant.
It’s not the kind of manga that reminds us of our dream. In fact it’s a reminder of the possible painful consequences of trying to live the dream. If we fantasized for a rock and roll life, there’s Beck and Detroit Metal City for that. In fact, this manga is hardly about the music but really living one’s life the way we should live it. No dreams come without the cost. Dreams may also not be worth in the end. Living does not also entail living the dream. There are things worth living for outside our dreams. Answers are all within reach and while it’s a tough battle to get there… giving everything that we got might help us. We shouldn’t stop our life just because it’s starting to suck. We have to move forward with a brave smile.
What I had not expected was how real this story can get. I have read this a few years back but didn’t exactly follow through the second volume. I honestly thought that it was just one of those modern day love stories where love just ends in tragedy. Had I pushed to follow the manga, I would have realized that it was more than love. It was greater than love. It was love, hate, anger, frustration, sadness, melancholy, all combined into one ball that rolled along: life.
It’s a manga that’s always close to my heart but I must admit reading this is emotional for me while I’m going through tough times. In a way it still feels ideal even if the story holds quite a number of real emotions. Meiko may have ended up being herself but she doesn’t feel alone. Finding friends like hers is one in a million and she’s quite fortunate to have them. People do get by with the help of friends. If you don’t have friends to support you, then getting that push to move along becomes hard.
It deserves every acclaim for how real it can get in capturing emotions of lost and found youth. If there’s a book that captures the quarter-life crisis best, then it’s this one.
This review is dedicated to my seinen buddy, Paolo Miguel. He reminded me to give this story another look and it was worth it.