Being an Adult Sucks and I Never Want to Grow Up (or at least graduate from college) Solanin is PAINFUL and I love it

Solanin beneath a bridge

I particularly like this panel from Solanin, it’s something random and commonplace in the manga — I don’t even remember from what chapter it came from. However, I think it represents my experience of the work. If I experience it from the eyes of clueless young adulthood, there is a myth of true adulthood and maturity — or at least it’s obscured from view. I can’t see what’s on top of the bridge.

If that bridge is what connects my youth to responsible adulthood, I don’t know what’s on it, who’s on it, and how fast they go. Instead I can see clearly the familiar world of my youth. I can still hang out in the old university haunts, where the most comfortable coffee shops are, where to best get cheap food, which part time jobs give the best pay for the least work. Places to survive, places to keep this life going, though it never really goes anywhere, does it? There are no real spoilers in this post.

I’m an adult. I’m 32 years old, but I still feel acutely the life that immediately followed graduation from university. It’s the time when one’s big dreams are introduced to the world where they’re supposed to become real. The comforting routines of university life still have a strong pull, yet one feels, expects things to start falling into place. I remember applying for my first job outside the university where I was a part time lecturer.

I wholly expected the manager to be blown away. I was an awesome student from a top tier university. He should be lucky to have the opportunity to have me (and my chest-length hair in a ponytail). I truly was rather put-off that I didn’t get the job (selling condominiums). To think that baldy manager would ask me to cut my hair! He can keep his crummy condominiums. I spit at the idea of selling something I couldn’t afford to get for myself. (Actually, I was pissed that I lost the opportunity to turn him down; ahhh the mistakes of youth).

Maybe I shouldn’t have quit teaching yet. But it’s too late. I’ve made my bed. This is how Solanin starts. Our protagonist Meiko quits her full-time OL job because he felt like it was headed nowhere. It ground and crushed her spirit, surviving the day to day life in Tokyo. The circumstances in my leaving the university are different, but I did feel this way when I did join corporate at some point. Having left her job, and having nothing to do with all her free time, Meiko discovers the emptiness and prison of freedom without a purpose.

I feel like her boyfriend, Taneda anticipated this when his band performed in their graduation concert. It was spectacular in its awkwardness. This isn’t Beck,vor Nana where young musicians are brimming with talent and it was just a matter of time when the world finds out about how awesome or appealing these musicians are. There is a power in the earnestness of the performance, despite the lack of talent. It could’ve been your band! It certainly felt like mine in a way.

Solanin 15 15-16

When you’re going to fail, do it this way. Turn a disaster into GAR spectacle. Turn your immature, cop-out whining into a strong statement. When you fail to remember your lyrics, deliver a speech scored by ROCK.

Solanin 15 17-18

Taneda’s spoken word freestyle/improv piece:

Are you ready? I’m going to say some heavy shit!

This is a time when planes crash into buildings, and was start a million miles away!

This is a me that feels disgusted that I slightly get excited about the whole thing!

We’ve got no light of hope in our future! Nothing is going to happen!

Our lives will be dull as rocks! Maybe it’s a life of boring happiness!

But I don’t want to be an adult who pretends to be satisfied with it!

Congrats for graduating into people, people!

But I… I… …I need more time.

Until I find an answer. Even if it’s dangerous, Even if it lasts untile the end of the Earth…

I need to walk my own path.

I imagine myself being in that concert, at 22 years old; and had this happened right in front of me, I would’ve been very moved. I feel like Solanin works best in the beginnings and ends of its two volumes. The middle can get confusing, in that it tempts me to think of it as an upbeat romantic comedy. It fills me with hope, in how these characters may actually becomse something big.

The endings, and especially the finale itself give me something very very familiar.

Not that very familiar in the experience of manga, but rather something very commonplace in life. An obscured view of what’s on top of the bridge, but a clear, detailed, and familiar view of the limited world beneath it.

Further Reading

WRL’s (informal) series of posts on cruel and painful works:

Fuzakenna’s post series on personallyRL influential works (digitalboy 2009/08/16)

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, Diary of an Anime Lived and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Being an Adult Sucks and I Never Want to Grow Up (or at least graduate from college) Solanin is PAINFUL and I love it

  1. digitalboy says:

    Good read, and I may be young, but I say fuck growing up anyway.

    My name is ’21st Century Digital Boy’. I picked up the name, like many names I’ve had on the internet, when I was addicted to a song, in this case the famous Bad Religion song. And I held onto the name because I truly felt it represented myself. I live in the 21st Century – I live in the presence with no concern for the past or the future. This is why on forums where I can’t use my full name, I go by ‘2009digitalboy’ and update my name yearly, so that you can see that I am always living in the current moment. The digital part is an obvious parable to my being ingrained in the digital age.

    But the most important word in that title is ‘boy’. I’ll always be a boy at heart, and no amount of ‘you say that now’ is going to change my mind about anything. My whole life, my parents have tried to convince me that everything would change when I got older and I’d care about something else. They told me that I should take care of my teeth and body because once I was a teenager I would care about how I look, and you know what? I never did. I haven’t brushed my teeth in 7 years, I never got braces, my hair reaches my ass, and I wear pajama pants every single fucking day. Fuck growing up! That shit’s for old people!

    I’ll never be an old person in a mental sense. If I grow to be forty, I’ll still be telling people to ‘fuck off’ and I’ll still be laughing at the people who are concerned over little things. And if I don’t live that long, I’ll die in a raging fire of teen angst and self-destructive honesty rather than be smothered by the stifling death of adult lies.

    And if I ‘live long enough to become a villain’ than I’ll change my name. From ’21st Century Digital Boy’ to ’21st Century Schizoid Man’. And then I’ll burn all of my old life and commit suicide.

    • LMAO YOU SAY THAT NOW. You just have nothing interesting to live or die for. For me the biggest changes happened when I met this lady. I really got how how I was, the way I was then, ain’t gonna cut it. It just won’t do because she deserves more.

      My wife deserved me giving everything I got, nothing half-assed. To do otherwise is not only disrespectful to her, but to the idea of love itself. And it doesn’t end, because we’re going to be parents. And fuck you if you don’t think we’re going to give it our all, even if we keep failing at it.

      And if you don’t think giving something your very best, going beyond who you are at present doesn’t change you, you’re more of a dumbass than a guy who never brushes his teeth, wears his hair down his buttcrack peeping above the pajama pants he wears every fucking day.

      I love you, digiboy. Be a fucking man and take it.

      • digitalboy says:

        Hey man, i have all respect for you manning up for a woman and manning up for a child, but I don’t call that ‘growing up’. Not if you love it.

      • digitalboy says:

        …And you’re right, I don’t have anything interesting to live or die for, and believe me, I want it, and believe me, I know what I’d do to change if I found someone. But like I said, I don’t call that growing up. That’s just like anything else that you pursue because you want to. If I decided I wanted a perfect smile and started brushing my teeth every day, that wouldn’t be growing up. It’s when I do it that I feel like I have to, in spite of not wanting to, that I feel grown up.

        There’s nothing adult about love. Adults don’t know how to love, they know how to accept, and when they accept so hard that it comes around full circle to being love again, that’s when they’ve become a fucking sage.

    • lolikitsune says:

      Dude, you don’t brush your teeth? I feel pity for Baka-Raptor now…

  2. It’s good to see a post on such a great manga. I picked it up at random myself and was very glad that I did. It’s probably going to hit even closer to home soon for me soon, I only have one more year of grad school left. The familiarity of college life and how to go somewhere or start an entirely new venture is pretty daunting even when it hasn’t quire arrived in my case. My sister (who just graduated undergrad) and I were having a conversation after she moved to start ‘real life’ in another city and we both wondered at the same time “how do you meet people and make friends out of school?” But really what seems to be approaching us and the characters in Solanin is ‘how do you do anything in such a different phase of life?’ It’s all so open-ended, which is alternatingly energizing and terrifying.

    It all seems so different, though I’m optimistic that whatever I find ‘on top of the bridge’ as you put it, I can fashion into something I’ll be happy with. I liked your interpretation of that frame, btw. I guess that’s why I liked Solanin so much (as did the friend I passed my copy on to), that it felt so real, the drifting feeling deep down, unsettling, but that there’s always hope as long as you can gather up the will to shape the parts of your life you can control and create something worthwhile.

    I’m happy for you that you’ve come across the bridge and found the purpose you and the book spoke of.

    • Thanks for dropping by! You may also find our Macross Frontier blog post series relevant to your interests.

      I think ‘unsettling’ is a rather apt adjective you chose. I found Solanin oddly optimistic at times, and while there was no dramatic let-down, I felt that the inexorable settling of the waters the ‘unsettling’ part to a reader so used to being gratified with hope.

      There is noooo hope.

      There only is what is. Even Solanin understood this, and this is why to me, it feels real and believable. There is no hope, only a powerful need to believe in hope.

      That said, whatever you do, do your best to love it and you will get a considerable satisfaction from it, though gratification may elude you time and time again.

      • Marigold Ran says:

        Hope is an emotion. It comes and goes. Useful thing, sometimes, but there’s no particular reason to get too attached to it.

  3. Kiri says:

    Stop adding things to my to-read list! 😦

    But yes, growing up. I’m on that bridge right now and I don’t want to cross it. I don’t want to graduate in the spring. I don’t want to look for the job that I don’t want at all and will only pursue so I can be “independent” because my parents have my brothers’ college to pay for soon and I don’t want to be a burden. I’ve been doing the quarter-life crisis thing for the last three years.

    • Ach yes. That first job can break people. I do think it’s worth doing your best at whatever you do. It’ll build sinew of ability on the bones of principle.

      I say this because I faaaailed, a lot. I’ve been a whiner and a quitter in a few of the jobs I held. I don’t enjoy looking back at my behavior then. While I’ve no real regrets, after all I’m very happy now; I do want to be able to look back at the times when others relied on me, and say that I gave them the best that I’ve got. I’m only 32 and will be starting new and exciting things, so there’s much for me to do still and it’s a good good thing.

  4. moritheil says:

    I have to agree with that 100%. Unexpected events occur (“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”)

    Sometimes what matters isn’t success in the literal sense. Sometimes your success or failure is in how you take things. If you’re going to fail, fail with style.

  5. asher says:

    There will be a lot more bridges to see and cross. Just when you think you know enough, things happen that hits you on the back like a sledgehammer to remind you that there’s a lot more to learn out there. Schools can only do so much, part of the real lessons is when you’re thrown in the real world, where other people depend on you.

    I haven’t read this yet but the crossroad of whether to quit a job or not was a turning point for me. At 20, I felt the pressure of doing a real job where I have to be responsible for the welfare of everyone, all of which were older than me. Epic fail arcs were not rarities either. There were moments where I had to examine what was more important in terms of what I want and should be doing. Bottom line is, things that happen to you, as you allow it, changes you as you grow up.

    I say, the Peter Pan Syndrome is nice to hold on to every once in a while but somehow I think it’s inherent in us that when it’s time to “grow up”, we actually try our best to do so. As expected of us.

    • So there really is a syndrome? I thought it was just a convenient fiction to explain away immature characters.

      Shoulds… imperatives…

      These are the triggers for growth ne?

      Part of the reason I left the academe is that teaching at university felt like cheating in a way. I felt like I never left! After all I knew of terminal students (Magnas: ‘magna-nine years in university’ and sumas: ‘suma-sampung taon na’) so the 6 total years I spent there didn’t feel that long (undergrad, grad school/lecturer). I still hung out at the pebble-washed plaza (gone now) from time to time, and since I always hung out in the philo and lit departments, and the fire exits in that silly building with that wretched elevator (did they ever fix this?), very little actually changed: only that my teachers are now my colleagues.

      Since you still teach and study at our beloved alma mater, you must have been there what? 13-14 years now! Does it ever feel like ‘cheating’?

      • asher says:

        No, I don’t think there is such an official name as such. At least it’s not in the diagnostic manual for mental disorders (not that it’s a disorder) and I’ve never really read about the term in human development readings that I took. I’m inclined to think that it’s a metaphor or maybe a label for those who don’t want to grow up and it just happened to sound “psychological”.

        As for the triggers of growth, we call it “turning points” and it’s usually associated with human agency (one’s capability of being an agent of change to oneself). That’s why I added “allowed”. There’s really a lot of factors, both internal and external and a discussion of it will render this reply as OT.

        Yes, said elevator has been fixed. It’s still small but the controls are digital and it stops in most floors now, compared to just 3rd and 6th before.

        Er, I’ve only been teaching there for 7 years, plus the 3 years as undergrad. And no, I don’t feel like it’s cheating probably because I noticed the change when I went back and worked in school. The industry is very different obviously and I felt more at home bullyi–, er, building rapport and challenging students. The demands are different from undergrad–where publication and research is the game (and I like, like, like research). Also, it’s kind of cool to be colleagues with my former profs but there’s pressure in my performance since they know how I work. Of course, the fact that I don’t follow an 8-5 schedule suits me very well so, I’m good.

        In short, for me, there was change although not in a physical, contextual sense. This time, I’m at the other end of courts and it’s fun seeing the kids go through the same things I did and whine along the way. I can’t help but smile and say to myself, “you guys have seen nothing yet.” : )

        • It stops in ‘most’ meaning there are still floors the elevator won’t go to? (7th lol European Studies hahaha!)

          So okay, human development resists a simplistic explanation. That also relates to the urge to use constructs like ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ to legitimize some behavior as a medical or scientific get-out-of-jail-free card.

  6. lolikitsune says:

    You can see what’s on top of the bridge: a streetlamp, there to guide your way.


  7. bluemist says:

    Damn, ghostlightning. This is the story of my life now, as in RIGHT NOW. It hurt reading this because I know with full consciousness, line by line, this will be about me. I am below that bridge.

    The hard part is, I already had multiple attempts to try crossing that bridge (figuratively of course), only to fall down multiple times. I feel like I’m really back where I started. Also, this compounds to having multiple levels of bridges, meaning one can never be satisfied with life even as he/she achieves one thing after another. We are always of a hungry existence, wanting the next big thing in our lives.

    I will read this manga today, it’s short after all. Hopefully it hurts me too.

  8. anne says:

    I needed this post.

    Thanks for writing it.

  9. thekungfukid says:

    Wow, I can only hope to one day blog as epically as ghostlightning. I was going to post something but why bother now?=)

    I feel like I’m under that bride as well (yeah I know, poor me and my young, adolescent angst). It feels like everyone around me has already moved on up to the top but here I am, still worried that what’s up there might not be what I had in mind. And its fine to stop and take your time, but the lights changed…… and there’s oncoming traffic about to run over the dumbass still standing in the road. So I either have to move now, or get hit by that big metaphorical bus.

    • LOL. Thanks, but I’m also much older than you are and even most of the bloggers that I look up to. So I just enjoy an advantage of a few years more life experience and a lack of shame in sharing them. I’m not sure what’s going on with you, the things you allude to in our shared metaphor, perhaps it is worth doing a post on unless you feel like sharing them here.

  10. 2DT says:

    Seems you and I are having the same kind of thoughts. Life approaches, things end, we drift away and move on.

    I liked Solanin, but like a lot of manga series I put it away and forgot about it. There’s supposedly a real nice print copy available in English, so I think I’ll get my hands on that soon. Thanks for this post.

    • You’re welcome. Part of what I really like about blogging is that I remember what I enjoyed better. LOL I shouldn’t be that surprised about this since this blog is named the way it is.

      But really, I can see how after some time we can forget even the things we really enjoy so I made this place so we can remember love ^_^

  11. I hate growing up ;_; and to think that I’ll get older in just two weeks from now . . .pains me so ;____;

    anyway . . . I still haven’t tried out the manga that you featured that I got interested in . . . but now there’s an addition to my list again O_O . . . . why so many interesting manga . . . not that I’m complaining for so much epic stuff . . . . but oh I wish I have more time for these awesome manga *_*

    • Indeed. One of the things I saw while reading this manga in particular, is how unsightly it is, or even disgusting… to see people growing old, without ever growing up.

      Part of time moving forward is discovering more and more things you want to do (including reading interesting manga), and having less and less time to do them. It’s a mathematical certainty, as far as I’m concerned. Our time gets spent fulfilling responsibilities and obligations, and less on leisure.

  12. soulassassin says:

    For too long I’m under the shadow of what remained of my family, so what I would wanted to do 10 years ago still haven’t yet been fulfilled. Father tried to stall me by repeatedly insist that I follow what he wanted and I refused, preferring that I want to follow my heart.

    But in the 10 years I waited, hoping that something would happen. I wanted to break free, but I couldn’t because one of my worst enemies was red tape and paperwork that preventing me from obtaining legitimate employment.

    Then he passed away, and I found myself in the shadow of my sister, who had a tendency to be overprotective, insisting that her ideas are the best, even if some of these go against the grain of my beliefs.

    And so I am again waiting, wishing, wanting to be free, wanting a part of myself to grow up by self-reliance. At this age, however, it’s still not too late and though I still 22 in heart (still had that feeling I’m fresh out of college), I am also determined to see my emancipation from this drudgery of living under the shadow.

  13. Martin says:

    Late reply is late. Solanin struck such a chord with me that I still have trouble getting my thoughts on it into words (I’ve only just replied to the Opinion Prone post on it).

    Firstly, it matches my own time of life (unlike most other manga and anime, which seem to deal with adolescence most of the time). Secondly, the characters are so flawed and ordinary, it makes them even more real. I like that.

    I also love the details. That bridge could be anywhere in Tokyo, but then, the characters could be any of the directionless twenty-somethings who live there. Then the musical gear had me floored – I recognised that beat-up old guitar and the effects pedals that they use (I have a Blues Driver distortion box at home actually, and it sounds great). I realised that the author had such a detailed depiction of people, places and objects, he MUST be drawing from his own experiences, or those of people he knows, here. That was the clincher really. Not only is it true to life, to a certain degree it probably IS life to him. When a work is as personal as this, it really boosts the impact.

    The concert scene was great too. It almost felt like they were putting their old teenage dreams to rest so they could move on. I dug that from a music nerd level too, but it was still really powerful and moving in a more general sense.

    • What was astonishing about that bridge, is that it didn’t look so new and first-worldy (if that makes sense), so I felt that it could be somewhere in Manila too.. making it very relatable and making these characters 20something nobodies from any big city.

      What you said about the musical gear… wow. When I was playing back in high school and college I was a poor shit so all the effects I used were borrowed, and I was ashamed for it too! I don’t know anything at all about the author so I can’t comment; but I completely agree that the impact is quite strong.

      I remember being in a fail gig when things really went wrong. I just wish I had what Taneda did at the time.

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