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Title: Subarashii Sekai
Author: Asano Inio
Number of Volumes: 2
My Rating: 3/5

Summary: A series of loosely connected shorts about life.

Review: Published in the US as What a Wonderful World, this is Asano's first series, and honestly, reading it after reading his more recent stuff is kind of a disappointment. It's good, and the art is nice, but I wasn't wowed by either. I am super in love with his art and storytelling in his other works, but this is just a pale shadow of that. It's especially jarring to read at the same time as I'm reading his current series, Umibe no Onna no Ko (which I'm translating for Kotonoha, by the way, and definitely recommend).

One problem I really had with this is that his characters all look the same. And like, sometimes they are the same people, because these shorts all take place in the same town and usually the main character of each story will be someone who appeared briefly in the story before, or something like that. >_<

Anyway, I would recommend this to anyone who likes his other works, but to anyone else, I would say go read Solanin or Nijigahara Holograph or Sekai no Owari to Yoakemae first (or the aforementioned Umibe no Onna no Ko), since those are all much better.
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Title: Solanin
Author: Asano Inio
My Rating: 5/5

Meiko and her friends are out of college (except Kato, who's in his 6th year and seems destined to be a student forever), but can't seem to make the transition to being "adults". When she quits her job, it puts a strain on her relationship with her boyfriend Taneda, which she tries to fix by urging him to pursue his dream of becoming a musician, but the band can't seem to catch a break and things get worse and worse between them.

Asano Inio is fast becoming one of my favorite mangaka. His artwork is just beautiful. I could look at it forever. And I love the way he writes young people. I may be a decade older than these characters, but I still have that feeling of not really being a grown-up and just sort of drifting through life.

Originally a two-volume manga in Japan, this has been released in the US as one massive volume.

Title: Nijigahara Holograph
Author: Asano Inio
My Rating: 5/5

This is one of those stories that's impossible to summarise because it's so twisty. The chapters alternate between the present and the events of ten years ago, revealing the links between seemingly unrelated people and events in a small town. It's...amazing. I got to the end and then immediately read it again (all 300 pages) and noticed a few things I hadn't the first time around (stuff I'd not understood the significance of until after reading the whole thing). I still don't think I got everything, even after reading a couple thorough reviews, but wow, it's just really, really amazing. It's also like nothing else of his I've read. Very dark and fucked up, with a bit of supernatural stuff going on.

This has not been released officially in English, though hopefully it will eventually. There is a scanlation of it, but I have no idea of the quality.
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Title: Sekai no Owari to Yoakemae
Author: Asano Inio
My Rating: 5/5

This is a collection of ten short stories by the author of What a Wonderful World and Solanin. The art is just beautiful. I could really just look at his art all day.

I really enjoyed all the stories. He does such a great job of showing these little everyday moments. For example, "A Day in the Melancholy Life of A-ko the Daydreamer" is just what it says, a day in the life of Eiko, a girl who works part-time in a little shop in a train station. "Sunday, 6:30 PM" is the same Sunday evening told from three different POVs on the day Katsuhiko and Wakana discover their father is missing (each of their POVs, as well as their father's). "Before Dawn" is another one that highlights how things are linked in ways we don't notice, as it follows a bunch of people through the hours before dawn. "Tokyo" is about a manga author who goes back to the town he grew up in for a casual reunion with his old elementary school classmates. None of the stories are anything huge or exciting, just ordinary little moments. I love it.

I translated this for Kotonoha and the scanlation can be downloaded here.

Title: Hakase no Ai Shita Suushiki
Author: Kurita Riku & Ogawa Yoko
My Rating: 3/5

Based on the book of the same name, this is the story of a single mother who becomes the housekeeper to a math genius known only as "the professor" who has virtually no short-term memory after an accident. All the previous housekeepers have quit because he's so difficult, but over time the narrator and her son form a bond with the professor through math and baseball.

This was interesting and I enjoyed it, but while the professor is well-characterised (more than you usually get from this type of story, I think), it still definitely falls into the "what can disabled people teach us?" genre.

The manga is Japanese only, but the book is available in English.

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