Meiko Inoue has been living her life as an office lady since she graduated from university. She goes to work everyday to see her annoying coworkers and boss and comes home to see her boyfriend who still doesn't have a proper job. Fed up with this schedule, Meiko quits work one day, figuring that she and her boyfriend Taneda can get by on her savings for at least a year. However, she learns that life with unrestrained freedom is incredibly boring and that finding direction in life is hard.
Solanin is a one-volume manga by Inio Asano about the life of average twenty-somethings, inspired by Asano's experience after leaving university. There isn't much of a plot and the characters aren't Big Damn Heroes or any kind of heroes really, but normal people. For this though Solanin is charming. It feels real.
There is a live-action movie, released in 2010. A digital-only follow-up, solanin: an epilogue, was released in June 2018.
This manga provides example of:
- Babies Ever After: The epilogue reveals in its last pages that Meiko is pregnant.
- The Band Minus the Face: Rip and Kato continue to play after Taneda dies, and Meiko becomes inspired to learn the guitar, eventually taking Taneda's place as Rotti's lead singer and guitarist.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Subverted. In a fit of rage, Meiko throws her TV against a glass partition in her apartment, shattering it and causing a cut on her cheek from the shrapnel. The bandage is in place for quite a while, but when it's eventually removed, the cut has healed completely.
- Break-Up Song: Meiko initially thinks that Taneda wrote "solanin" as one, but she later wonders if it was meant to represent him leaving behind who he used to be.
- Butt-Monkey: Taneda's dad. When he comes to visit Meiko after Taneda's death, a bird poops on his head as he's walking to the door, and a dog chases him down the street as he's leaving.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Rip isn't his real name, but a nickname he got saddled with as a kid after the seat of his pants ripped in front of his classmates. He's long past feeling any shame about it, although it does annoy him occasionally to think about.
- Face Doodling: Meiko to Taneda after he pisses her off. Later they have a very tender moment together, which is only made funnier by his crazy face doodles.
- Go Out with a Smile: Taneda spends his final moments thinking back on past events with a serene smile on his face.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Rip has had a crush on Meiko for pretty much the entire time he's known her but has never acted on it, even after Taneda's death, seeming to be content with having her around as a friend and bandmate.
- Japanese School Club: The college music club is a post-secondary example.
- Office Lady: Meiko is a (reluctant) one at the beginning of the book.
- Male Band, Female Singer: Rotti becomes this after Meiko joins. Near the end of the manga, a flashback to when Meiko was first meeting everyone reveals that she was apparently going to join the band as singer but decided to pass singing duties to Taneda and simply be a fan.
- Parent Never Came Back from the Store: A variant happens between Taneda and Meiko. Taneda says he's going for a walk but doesn't come home. Five days later, he calls and says he's coming back, but on the way he has an emotional breakdown, speeds into an intersection on his moped (implied to be intentionally), and has a fatal accident.
- Rock Trio: Rotti is one: Taneda (guitar/vocals), Kato (bass/vocals), Rip (drums).
- The Slacker: Meiko and all her friends display varying degrees of this attitude, although the interminable boredom of a carefree life eats at Meiko's nerves after a while.
- Slice of Life: The manga revolves around the various life struggles of the core cast of characters, with Meiko at the center and her relationship with Taneda, struggles with finding meaning in life, and the hijinks of Taneda's band forming the meat of the story.
- Snot Bubble: Both Rip and Kato are shown with these multiple times while sleeping. In one instance Rip's even dreaming about himself with one...and in the dream he's dreaming about having one, forming a Droste Image.
- Spoken Word in Music: An impromptu version happens when Taneda forgets the lyrics of a song during a live performance and decides to wing it with a rambling talk about exactly what's on his mind while the band continues playing the song.
- Waiting for a Break: Everyone in Rotti after they release their demo CD solanin; unfortunately, their one opportunity would mean becoming the backup band for an up-and-coming idol instead of being signed as Rotti and Meiko turns down the offer on their behalf.