Thursday, January 19, 2012

I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow Vol. 1-2 (2010)

Japanese Slacker(s)
by Silence Do_nothing

     Despite not being keen on the horror genre, I will acknowledge that it has the advantage of only needing to get across a fraction of its characters' feelings to strongly move the audience emotionally. The most important criteria I look for in a creative work is that it makes me feel something (although I'm usually not seeking the sensation of revulsion). I don't know if it was intentional, but manga author Shunju Aono's dramedy I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow transfers its slacker characters' apathy to the reader.
     Forty year old single father Shizuo Oguro abruptly gives up his middle management career to "find himself." Much to the chagrin of his father Shiro, he finds himself only motivated to indulge in Playstation, comic books, and rubber costumed superhero shows. Upon taking a part time job at fast food establishment H Burgers, he befriends co-worker Ichinosawa, a twenty-something fellow slacker who hasn't found a passion for anything. Shiro isn't placated when his "D" in art class son decides to pursue manga professionally.
     Lacking plot, the story consists of Shizuo enduring ridicule over his perceived loser persona, but his situation is sympathetic enough (at least to one of similarly little ambition like myself) to undercut this. His biggest failing is not gutting out one more year at his office job to provide a secure income all the way up to his daughter's high school graduation, but he still presumably provided for her adequately the previous seventeen years. His reduction in earning power didn't deprive her of any necessities.
     His manga aspirations are mocked as childish and irresponsible, but given that he was able to secure multiple meetings with an editor from a major publishing house to critique his submissions, it shouldn't seem so harebrained. It's equally likely that he has a talent that was going to waste at his "real" job.
     Videogames and comic books aren't considered the most respectable fare for adults (I won't defend the rubber costumed superhero shows, unless, of course, it's the awesome Specterman), but they're harmless leisure pursuits. Admittedly, he also frequents a pub, but it's not as if he's an alcoholic, and, as appearances go, it wouldn't matter if he were, because it's much more socially acceptable for an adult to take part in destructive drinking than video games and comics (much to my annoyance).
     Shizuo and Ichinosawa's fast food employment is presented as an embarrassment, but I'll defend it on a couple grounds, the first being that, as someone who has worked fast food and other menial near minimum wage jobs, I agree with the belief that there is no shame in honest work. Shizuo working at H Burger while pursuing a creative vocation is no different than aspiring actors taking low paying day jobs to pay the bills as they try to make it in Hollywood.
     Scorn for this occupation doesn't serve the vast number of people who patronize these kinds of restaurants. It does no good to attach shame outside of actions we don't want done. I don't see how promoting someone's job as a joke helps instill a sense of pride (not that the uniforms help, either) or motivates him to provide better service. I would support the addition of a fast food employee to the faces of Mount Rushmore if it increased the chances of getting my order right.
     Even if Shizuo's actions aren't as defensible as I make them out to be, there's a part of me that thinks people are entitled to take it easy one year out of every forty-one. The only problem with that is that it will be all the way to at least the year 2700 before I can expunge my slacking debt.
     Shizuo is largely immune to people's disapproval of his lifestyle, nor do his actions cause others any great harm, so there isn't much dramatic impact to the story. It's lighthearted, but not very engaging. It wasn't until the last fourth of volume two that I felt anything for the characters, and that involved flashbacks of Ichinosawa and Shizuo dealing with a death in the family. The characters weren't entertaining enough on their own to do without noteworthy events surrounding them (a better take on apathetic characters would be the the 80s film River's Edge).
     Aonos's crude drawing style lends itself to humor, but it didn't live up to its potential. The gags weren't stupid or lame. It's just that their usual effect was to make me think "Oh, that's nice" rather than laugh. It was never as funny as the premise had made me hope.
     There were parts of I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow I would have liked to have seen expanded. Shizuo's manga-within-the-manga, featuring his own unathletic image as the hero, was kind of funny. It had potential as parody of the medium. The H Burgers setting was my favorite. I've wondered if the clips I've seen of super cheerful and smiling fast food workers in Japan, a contrast to the sullen atmosphere we expect at our fast food eateries (regardless of how unrealistically commercials portray them), were just for the camera, or if it is typical. I would like to see how the Japanese obsession with details combines with fast food culture. If there were an H Burgers spinoff, I'd give it a chance.
     I can't say the manga was bad, or boring. The lackadaisical atmosphere had a charm to it. But there wasn't enough to leave a strong impression of any kind.
     Maybe the real problem is that I've been engulfed in the slacker lifestyle too long to feel Shizuo's antics as sad or ridiculous. Oh well.

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