Solanin 2 — a step backPosted: November 8, 2015
The first scene has Meiko and Taneda making some small talk in the morning… again. Then Taneda goes off to work, and Meiko goes down to the river outside her house, cracks open a beer, and exclaims… “Ahh… the freedom!” She goes on to list all the cool things she can do with her massive amount of free time:
I can go for a leisurely walk whenever I want. I can do the wash when the weather’s good. I suck at cooking, but now I’ve got the time to try something fancy. And… And… It only took me a week of drifting through the days with no purpose to realize that aimless freedom is absolutely boring.
At night, Meiko goes to the recording studio that Taneda and their college pals frequent. Her friend Ai asks Meiko about her future, and Meiko has a brief flashback showing Taneda’s surprised reaction to her quitting her job. Meiko and Ai walk up to the recording room where Taneda and his best friends Rip and Kato are playing some dumb music (pic above), while Ai mentions how good it is to have the college gang back together again.
During the afterparty at a nearby bar (izakaya), Kato and Rip fool around talking about their futures while Taneda sits quietly. While they all talk about not “slaving for the man,” Rip has taken over his family’s pharmacy and Kato is in his 6th year in college. After they leave, Taneda confesses to Meiko that he’s really worried about their future (while puking), and Meiko promises to stop lazing around.
The next day, Taneda buys himself a plain diary and Meiko a flashy one, and Meiko remarks, “He really knows me well.”
A pretty straightforward chapter, and a nice introduction to the rest of the cast. It’s obvious that they’re all very good friends – almost enviously so. Meiko and Ai really open up to each other, Rip and Kato fool around literally on top of each other, and the guys can all let go and sing about dicks.
The character designs are impressively different. Last time, I wrote about Meiko’s hair as dynamic: Many manga and anime series have hair as the defining characteristic that differentiates characters, but here Meiko changes her hairstyle yet stays clearly distinguishable from the other characters. In this chapter, we’re introduced to Ai, the other main female character. Her hair is short and dyed, and her eyes are small — physically, she can’t get any more different from Meiko.
The male characters are no different. Taneda has dyed hair, but otherwise looks pretty normal. Kato is fat, has messy hair, and has a really wide face. Rip is the biker drummer dude with a beard, and looks much older than the others. Just like with Meiko, they all have enough traits unique to themselves that changing one thing won’t destroy their identity. (whereas if you took Goku’s hair away… who is he??)
Maybe this lack of defining characteristic is what defines a well-drawn manga. Eyeshield 21 does this well too, but character designs for Hiruma and Kurita are just so unrealistic and exaggerated that I can’t compare them to Meiko and Taneda… but it works in that universe. I guess the exaggeration aspect is missing for Solanin. Yes, Rip’s character is exaggeratedly “cool” and Kato looks little more than your stereotypical failure ronin, but at least they still look like human beings.
tl;dr It’s really impressive that Asano can give his characters so many identifying features while drawing them realistically.
Something to note, though — Meiko and Taneda are by far the most normal of the bunch, in looks, personality, and everything. It’s supposed to make me relate to them more, I guess?
But going back to Meiko’s hair…
I think this is going to be a recurring topic, so I’m making a section specifically about Meiko’s hair. It’s just so cool how much it changes, and how often. I think she’s the only one who changes her hairstyle in the entire series (except for one notable exception in chapter 19…), and how Meiko wears her hair reflects the themes of each chapter so well that it’s worth talking about.
In this chapter, Meiko has pigtails (twintails??). It’s about as childish a haircut I can think of, and it really emphasizes Meiko’s desire to escape the adult world. This is made even more obvious when Ai is introduced. With a short, neat, and professional hairstyle, Ai just looks so much more mature and adult than Meiko and her pigtails.
P.S.: Rip is called Billy in the scanlation, but it’s supposed to be a pun on how Billy (ビりー) sounds like an onomatopoeia for ripping.