Inio Asano, Solanin

SolaninSolanin by Inio Asano

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Essentially a YA or NA (i.e. “new adult”) story of a group of friends attempting to transition from college to adult life while holding on to their ideals and ambitions. While it is often platitudinous (“It’s tough for anyone to live their life,” “And as time passes, your options definitely narrow,” “Life is so difficult,” etc.), the grace of Asano’s storytelling, his ability to conjure character in precise and evocative lines while hastening the reader through the panels, combined with his evidently total unconcern to avoid cliche, make Solanin irresistibly charming. Solanin in all its levity and clarity and earnest energy might work best, oddly, as a companion piece to Asano’s relentlessly bleak and puzzle-like Nijigahara Holograph; the two books share themes—the porosity of identity and gender; the redemption to be found losing oneself in the eternities of art and dreaming—but their moods and generic affiliations could not be more different. While Solanin is not, in general, my cup of tea, I found in it further evidence, after having read the utterly different Nijigahara Holograph, of Asano’s mastery of his medium. And thematically speaking, Solanin should be credited for avoiding the banal antinomianism of so much pop culture, depicting instead the pleasures of discipline and commitment, not to advocate selling out but to counsel the patience needed to achieve anything in art and love: “I wonder if the demon that whispered ‘Why not be free?’ was Freedom itself.”

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