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What a Wonderful World! 1 and 2 by Inio Asano (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

January 5, 2010 by  



Asano explores the cruelty of childhood and the delusion of adulthood in his two volume manga series “What a Wonderful World!”   He explores it with detail and showing that life is seen differently from the eyes of others.  Some who see life as precious, those who see it as terrible, those who celebrate life and those who waste it.  This manga series may not be for everyone…but the fact that this manga series is outside of the norm makes it quite unique and refreshing.  Definitely recommended!

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Image courtesy of © 2003 Inio Asano. All Rights Reserved.

MANGA TITLE: What a Wonderful World! 1 and 2

STORY AND ART BY: Inio Asano

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: 2003

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Viz Siganture Edition/Viz Media

RATED: Rated T for Older Teen

A dream recaptured.

A life on a new track.

The absurdity of death.

Laugh in the face of reality.

With this series of intersecting vignettes, Inio Asano explores the ways in which modern life can be ridiculous and sublime, terrible and precious, wasted and celebrated.

For many Americans who read the manga “Solanin” (released in the US via Viz Media in 2008 and in Japan back in 2005), one can’t help but appreciate Asano’s art and writing style.  Realistic, deep and emotional, “Solanin” was a very rare manga to see stateside.

With a total of seven manga works in Japan, Viz Media has now released both volumes of “What a Wonderful World” in which Inio Asano explores modern life and the various challenges young people face in life.

Again, he manages to write storylines that are deep, emotional, happy, sad and depressing through several vignettes

In “What a Wonderful World! 1”, the first volume features a total of nine tracks (chapters).  Here is a spoilerless summary of each track:

  • 1st Track – Quick Like a Bunny – A 25-year-old girl named Toga quits school and her band and reflects on her life.
  • 2nd Track – A Town of Many Hills – A teenage girl takes part in a dangerous racing ritual to determine who will be the class king at her school.
  • 3rd Track – The Bear from the Forest – A young teenage girl is held hostage by a man dressed up like a bear.
  • 4th Track – Wandervogel – A young man who once was in a rock band reflects on his past now that he has transition to become a businessman.
  • 5th Track – White Star, Black Star – Two friends reflect on their lives of fighting and living.
  • 6th Track – Sunday People – A manga artist tries to take time off for the day to see his ex-wife and young daughter.
  • 7th Track – mini grammar – A young woman thinks about her ex-boyfriend.
  • 8th Track – Untitled – A young woman reflects on her useless boyfriend.
  • 9th Track – Syrup – Two guys reflect on a guy they met named Syrup and their transitioning from youth to becoming an adult.

In “What a Wonderful World! 2”, the first volume features a total of nine tracks (chapters).  Here is a spoilerless summary of each track:

  • 10th Track: Bird Week – A young genius reflects on his father (who was the same when he was young) and why he dislikes him.
  • 11th Track: After the Rain – A young woman leaves her home to spend time with her ex-boyfriend while her older siblings wonder if she will return home.
  • 12th Track: Sandcastle – A teenage girl confronts her old friend who used to be teased a lot when they were younger, but now as they are older, her friend has become popular and how they no longer hang out with each other.
  • 13th Track: Good Night – An editor learns from his old boss about not spending enough time with family.
  • 14th Track: The Moon & Fish Cakes – Two estranged brothers reunite decades later.
  • 15th Track: Whiskey Bonbon – A woman reflects on life with her younger boyfriend.
  • 16th Track: What a Wonderful World – A young man sees his ex-girlfriend and how she has moved forward and he hasn’t.
  • 17th Track: Blue Sky – A man wonders why he is stuck with shinigami.
  • 18th Track: Spring Breeze – We see all the previous characters featured in previous tracks featured once again.
  • Last Track: Cherry Blossom Season – A young man tries to care for his girlfriend who has succumbed to an epidemic.

I have to admit that when I first started reading “What a Wonderful World!”, I have to admit that the storyline got a bit confusing at times.  Although each chapter features vignettes of youth and their approach on life, we see people from previous tracks show up in different storylines and the fact that some characters look very close to other characters made things a wee bit confusing but the main premise of the manga is about life and the choices that people make.  Somehow there is a connection to why people behave a certain way.  May it be from bullying, friendship, broken relationships, work…everyone has their own problems but its how one deals with them.

“What a Wonderful World!” is not your typical manga.  It’s about taking a voyeuristic view at the lives of people and seeing them deal with certain emotions about their lives.  Some happy, some carefree and some that are just darn right sad.

While there are chapters that are more realistic, there are some that become quite fantasy-based but the premise of the storyline is possibly Asano’s way of showing how people can be affected.  The cruelty of childhood.  The delusion of adulthood.   He explores it with detail and showing that life is seen differently from the eyes of others.  Some who see life as precious, those who see it as terrible, those who celebrate life and those who waste it.

It’s a manga series about life of several individuals in two manga volumes.  It may not seem all that fun but if anything, the fact that Asano did focus on a short manga series that is different from the norm, then you know that you found something unique.

“What a Wonderful World!” may not be for everyone but if you are looking for something different, then definitely give this series a try!

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