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What a Wonderful World!, Vol. 1 Paperback – October 20, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Asano's beautifully drawn anthology follows up his Harvey and Eisner–nominated Solanin with more short stories about sullen teenagers and 20-somethings. If anything, the short story format makes Asano's mopey protagonists far more sympathetic. Some of the characters are more likable than others; in two related shorts, appealing punk rocker Horita gives up his dreams of becoming a rock star to put on a suit and tie, only to recant later in the book. In A Town of Many Hills, a bullied teen believes a talking crow is a death god encouraging her to commit suicide. Like many of the book's protagonists, the girl overcomes her death wish, but hers is the most triumphant victory in the volume. Asano's artwork is very attractive, frequently interspersing all-black panels with the characters' inner thoughts in white text. His teens' navel-gazing thoughts are prone to platitudes, but much less so here than in Solanin. What a Wonderful World! is titled ironically, but its message to aimless and depressed young people is a positive one, told without preaching, and the artwork and strong storytelling make this another standout. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

An aimless young woman is forced to find focus. A bullied middle-school student changes her social status through a desperate act. A middle-aged manga artist tries to hold onto what family he has as his assistant lets love slip through his fingers. A high-school girl’s part-time job selling her body puts her in the path of an unusual thief. These stories and more make up the first volume of Asano’s two-part manga anthology. Each tale is loosely connected with the next, sometimes obviously, sometimes so subtly that the connection is only spotted in the images between chapters. Grades 10-12. --Snow Wildsmith

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Product Details

  • Series: What a Wonderful World (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: VIZ Media LLC (October 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421532212
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421532219
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.7 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By ChibiNeko VINE VOICE on November 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
This manga only has one thing wrong with it- that it is in danger of getting passed over because it isn't as slick or flashy as the other stuff out there right now. While readers of Asano's other works such as 'Solanin' will be used to his understated yet powerful manga, those who haven't yet discovered his work might not notice it because it doesn't have a ninja or busty young woman on the cover.

The stories in this first volume are varied, yet all interact in some format. The same picture might be seen by two different people in different places. A location frequented by one character may be visited by another. Very few of the characters actually meet one another but the stories are all entwined in their own special ways. The first story of the volume features a young tomboyish woman who wishes her life was a shojo manga as she aimlessly wanders through her life. Other stories include a schoolgirl who is bullied not only by her peers but also by a mysterious black bird & a tale about a trio of teen boys who each wonder if they'll ever get the chance to realize their dreams.

I really enjoyed this manga, but then I knew I would. Asano's work is incredibly powerful. His artwork isn't the typical "big eyes, small mouth & panty shots" style that is so prevalent in today's manga, which is why most of his stories work so well. The art is pretty lifelike & as a result the characters are all more believable for it.

I also liked how his characters interact with each other. There's no huge moral, no super character that saves the day & no happy go lucky girl who succeeds without really trying. People hurt & get hurt in these stories. Not every story has a gung-ho happy ending. But every story is satisfying, even when the stories may not end as you hoped that they would.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dan on May 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Inio Asano has created an incredible work of art with this two book compilation. An interwoven series of short stories, we are taken through the unique experiences of many different people. From a story of a little girl dealing with suicidal thoughts, to an old man approaching the end of a fulfilled life, each story has the ability to invoke a strong cord with the reader. Each character is entirely human in their motivations and it is never difficult to sympathize (or in many cases empathize) with their struggles.

Make no mistake, this is a mature book for mature readers. Unlike other "mature" material, though, there is little violence and only pg-13 nudity. The maturity stems from the very real, uncompromising analysis of humanity. Themes of suicide, disillusionment, heartbreak, ennui, and death are all prevalent in this manga. Depending on a person's mindset, this could end up becoming a very depressing book. On the other hand, there is a solid theme of finding a place in society and learning to be happy even when reality doesn't match the dream.

I cannot recommend this book for everybody. I think that the storytelling style is one that would resonate strongly with some and be utterly repugnant to others. It is difficult for me to pinpoint who would enjoy this book, but here it goes:
If you love bitter-sweet stories, anti-heroes, slice of life, philosophical musings, and/or non-stereotypical characters then you should buy this book.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Erik Ketzan on March 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
I recently finished Inia Asano's Solanin and, impressed, checked out What a Wonderful World!, one of his earliest professional works. This volume contains nine loosely related but more or less self-contained chapters.

In short, although Solanin was completed just a few years later, it is more impressive, accomplished, important, and mature than Wonderful World by orders of magnitude.

The art in Wonderful World is fine and on par with Asano's high standard. The story and characters are the problem. The protagonists -- angsty teens, runaways, yakuza, and others -- strike me as the same kind of Tarantino residue, indie film aping that many young, talented artists who don't yet know what they want to say come up with. Unlike in the masterful Solanin, Asano here says little about real life; these characters are plucked from fantasy, seemingly from an author struggling to find characters dramatic enough to write about. They don't seem real. Which is fine, but Asano is at his best when portraying believable characters, and by wandering this middle ground between fantasy and reality, the dramatic climaxes feel unrealistic and unearned. Asano displays his familiar attention to slice-of-life details (characters changing haircuts, outfits, jobs, relationships), but they aren't developed or convincing enough.

This would be best for young adult readers or people in their early 20s. Older audiences will and should expect more from a book. Having read Solanin and being familiar with Asano's voice, it's interesting to see him find and carve out that voice in this earlier work. But I have a hard time recommending Wonderful World in and of itself. Check out Solanin to really see Asano shine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By greenranger2005 on August 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
The book is based around several people and their stories about their life. From the girl who dropped out of college to a guy who doesn't know what to do with his life. To a guy holding a girl hostage while he wears a giant bear head. Odd and lovely. Art is something the artist doesn't go with cutesy art(not saying cutesy art is a bad thing I like those as well) its good for sixteen to anyone. I like it and I will be getting the next volume in the future. And will probably get something else by this author. Great book. You'll read it in one sitting.
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