Solanin 4 — Mom pt. 2

Taneda is in such an awkward pose here…


Continued from last time… Meiko kicked Taneda out of the apartment because Meiko’s mom (Momko) came over.

Taneda took Kato’s keys, planning on sleeping over at Kato’s place for the night. However, he runs into Meiko, who’s walking around outside after having yelled at Momko. They go back home and see that Momko has left, leaving a note on the table saying that she knows Taneda lives there. As Meiko and Taneda have sex, Taneda reveals that he’s very distant with his workaholic parents, and is jealous of Meiko’s relationship with her mom.

The next day, Meiko and Taneda meet up with Momko at some fancy restaurant, and they have an extremely awkward conversation. Meiko can’t stand it and leaves for a bit, and Momko tells Taneda:

A long time ago, I graduated from a college here and worked in the city. The times being what they were, I ended up back in Akita. She probably doesn’t realize it, but Meiko sees me as someone to avoid becoming. And that’s probably why she doesn’t want to come home.

There are times when I wonder what might have happened if I’d done things differently, but… am I happy? Yes, I’m very happy.

Anyway, I think the two of you should be free to do whatever you want right now. When you’re young, you think the only way to happiness is the hard road… but it’s actually much simpler than that.

Mr. Taneda, please take care of Meiko for me.

Meiko walks in as Momko bows to Taneda, and then they leave, etc.


I included Momko’s entire monologue up in the summary because aside from Taneda talking about his parents, this is the only part that really matters in the chapter. Momko’s advice is basically Asano’s advice – this is the first instance where any character really tries to answer the central question: “what does it mean to be happy?”

Momko’s answer: to be content is to be happy.

It’s a really… mature response that directly contradicts how Meiko and Taneda are leading their lives. Whereas Momko has found happiness in her family, Meiko and Taneda think that chasing and achieving their dreams is the key to happiness. Yet Momko doesn’t rule out this “hard road” — she says that Meiko and Taneda need not take such a path, but she still wonders what could have been.

It’s a really vague answer to a really vague question, but Momko’s monologue really succinctly and effectively gets the point across. The line about the hard road in particular is worded so well:

When you’re young, you think the only way to happiness is the hard road… but it’s actually much simpler than that.

It’s such a different take on happiness than what Western media (or maybe popular media) typically puts out. Motivational quotes based on “chasing your dreams” permeates everything we do. It’s the topic of shows like American Idol, the popular interpretation of the road not taken, and goes down to #yolo. It’s not just about trying to be different, but about trying to live life to the fullest and to die without any regrets.

Yet in this chapter, Momko presents a decidedly different view — one that represents older generations, and perhaps more Japanese? (I know almost nothing about the #yolo culture in Japan, so I’m not going to say anymore about this.) It’s so refreshing, yet elicited such an immediate, knee-jerk response in me. Maybe that’s Asano’s whole point. It’s hard to tell only four chapters in whether or not Asano is trying to preach Momko’s solution of contentment, or promote Meiko’s solution of chasing dreams.

At least he got me thinking.


Not much hair this chapter, because it’s a continuation from chapter 3. Meiko’s hair in bed is drawn pretty well, but nothing too interesting.

Of course, Momko sports a youthful, colorful hairdo with highlights, but that seems almost entirely for comedic effect, contrasting with the heavy stuff Momko says about life and happiness.

Asano always does this – whenever something serious pops up, he lays on the comedy to make it more light-hearted. It works sometimes and fails a lot. It’s most jarring in another one of his works called Oyasumi Punpun, where the main character and his family is not drawn in human form at all. Because of this, Asano puts all of his craziest ideas into this story. You could call it symbolic, and it does give the series something unique, but it’s distracting most of the time… just like this sexual predator/flasher below who I neglected to show in my chapter 2 post…

It’s like a rotten easter egg for the chapter — while funny, it detracts heavily from the scene. Momko’s hair, on the other hand, is a lot more subtle and effective.

Vive la momko hair!

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