Merry Wanderer of the Night + novel


Have you ever felt like no one liked you but you were obviously right about everything? Yeah, I think we've all been there. Ban Tanaka, the main character of Adrian Tomine's Shortcomings seems to be a little stuck in his beliefs. This short graphic novel chronicles his life through three, or possibly two and a half, relationships. First, his girlfriend Miko, an intelligent Japanese woman with a great interest in film. Miko feels a little competitive though when the young Autumn starts working at the movie theatre that Ben manages. She is young, white, and punk, which is apparently Ben's type. She takes the opportunity to leave California where she and Ben live and take an internship in New York. The two have been fighting a lot and the leave on bad terms. While Ben is lonely in California he has a few failed romances and crushes, even though he and Miko are technically still dating.

The best character in the novel, however, is Ben's best lesbian friend Alice Kim. Alice is a grad student for life who is basically just staying in school for all the hot young girls. From week to week she bounces around from girl to girl, and maybe gets some homework done in between. All the while she is pretending to still be straight (at 29) so her religious Korean family will remain mildly calm. Ben and Alice's relationship is what Will and Grace could have been. They eat at a diner while Ben gripes about his girl problems and Alice pokes fun at him, but her jokes always say a lot more about Ben than he says about himself.

The story moves quickly, but is so believable. I have never seen drawing like this before. The frames are so lifelike I felt like I was watching a movie. The dialogue is also beautiful, saying more in what isn't said than what is written. It's amazing how simple black and white drawing with speech bubbles can say so much about race, love, heartache, egotism, and friendship. And those are just the things that come off the top of my head. Ben's character is similar to what you might find in a Nick Hornby novel (which is a compliment). He is annoying and self obsessive, but you kind of love him because you know you are the exact same way. The storyline is simple, but that is what makes this graphic novel work. This is definitely a must read in my opinion.

This graphic novel earned an A.

Sidenote: This novel appears to have been published with different colors of covers. The image I have is brown, but my actual copy is green. I think I have also seen a lavender one?

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Shortcomings + novel