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Shortcomings (Optic Nerve #9-11)

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  6,923 ratings  ·  708 reviews
In his longest narrative to date, Adrian Tomine tells the story of Ben and Miko, and their relationship problems as Miko moves temporarily to live and study in New York. Left behind in Berkeley, Ben, a confused, obsessive, thirty-year-old theatre manager, finds himself desperately trying to answer the big question. But aided only by his promiscuous friend Alice, and spendi ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published April 2009 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published September 20th 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Summer
Adrian Tomine is a good artist who writes a genuine narrative. Unfortunately, as is the case with a lot of "indie" cartoonists, the narrative is boring and irritating. Whiny, irresponsible hipsters go about their horrible and overwrought lives in an authentic way, but who really cares? Reading this is like being cornered in a coffee shop by a vague acquaintance who has an unpleasantly high opinion of himself that he unsuccessfully masks with phony self-deprecation, and all the time you're trying ...more
Bobby
Haven't I been introduced to these characters before? The brooding film geek, the discontented, underappreciated girlfriend, the shock-you punk rock girl, the brash, gay friend. At times, I fear that any writer falling between the ages of 30 & 40 feels obligated to write the same, semi-autobiographical story about their struggles with identity in overly urbanized and superficial social circles. Because so many of my generation, myself included, have somehow been taught to idealize these scen ...more
Paul
Everyone loves this one but I instead loved Summer Blonde and only liked Shortcomings a lot. 3.5 on the Richter scale.

Even fans will have to agree that Ben Tanaka, the non-hero, is a thoroughly depressed and depressing person, the sad dark centre around which swirl various much more engaging characters so I was all – come on, Tomine, let’s go with her or her, let’s ditch this dweeb, purlease. But no, we got the close focus on the dweeb. Also – now, I don’t know if this is a little politically in
...more
Grant Faulkner
I've never been a comic book guy. Perhaps I was brainwashed by trappings of "high culture," the elite traditions of an English major, or perhaps I just never trusted anything that wasn't so dense with words that it had to provide deeper meaning.

When I was waiting tables way back in the early '90s, a scrubby cook who looked as if he'd walked straight out of a comic book—bushy red hair, skin and bones, a hopeless music nerd—gave me a wadded-up copy of some stuff by Adrian Tomine (jeepers, he must
...more
Trane
Mar 19, 2008 Trane rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: comic lovers, people who like autobio comics, just about anyone
Shelves: manga-and-comics
The last piece of Adrian Tomine's work that I read before moving to Japan was issue nine of Optic Nerve, the issue that began the serialization of the work that would later be collected as Shortcomings. While that was a fine issue on its own, it didn't work quite as well on its own as some of Tomine's other single-issue stories. However, Shortcomings as a whole is one of Tomine's best works, and it's far more complex and subtle than it may appear on the surface. The story deals with Ben Tanaka, ...more
Dan
This is the story about a japanese-american couple who break up. Both the man and the woman are not very nice.

Adrian Tomine's writing and art cannot really be criticized to much. He is definitely a master of the alternative comics style. I just really can't get into his subject matter that much. I know people have problems and it is important to try to understand human problems and all that, but Tomine's subjects are just such relentless losers and scewed up people it can be kind of depressing t
...more
Todd N
I wanted to like this book way more than I actually did.

(Come to think of it, most graphic novels disappoint me more than a little bit -- Blankets, Gemma Bovary, David Boring, It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken. But I don't want to be too negative so I need to point out some that I loved and would recommend -- Buddha (technically a manga, I think), Watchmen, Ghost Town, and the classic Hercules Amongst The North Americans.)

Anyway, back to Shortcomings. The main character is a 30-year-old Japan
...more
James
Nerds used to exist on mainstream society’s periphery. With the advent of the Internet and its related technologies as well as the growing popularity and legitimacy of Graphic Novels, Nerds have emerged from their mother’s basement to share their own foibles and insecurities with the Rest Of Us. See Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them.

Luckily for Us, there are many, many graphic novels that are Good Entertainment. Shortcomings is no different and very much in the vein of other conte
...more
Edan
Last night I went to see Tomine speak, and afterwards I devoured his book. It took me about 20 minutes to read what took him 5 years to draw and write--I had no idea the process of making a comic (graphic novel) was so painstaking! This book relies only on pictures and dialogue to convey conflict and emotion, giving it a spare, cinematic quality. Still, it manages to convey quite a lot, and the story is absorbing and moving. During the event, some questions concerned main character Ben's unsympa ...more
Jamie
Apr 06, 2008 Jamie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes gns
Recommended to Jamie by: love Tomine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jonathan
Wow, what a great graphic novel.

Shortcomings takes on so many different questions of identity. I think what I particularly liked was the sort of character development of Ben (I say sort of because it's up to debate if much has changed by the end of the worK). You're just left to kind of question WHY he has this fetish for white women, what it is about being Asian that frustrates him so much, and ultimately how he copes with the world around him (not world, people I guess) changing.

I'll read th
...more
Marie
I read a LOT of graphic novels and have been looking for something to add for my class, ETHNIC WRITING, which is a multi genre creative writing course. Wow, this is a gift from heaven. Amazing, understated art, drop-dead dialogue. I think my eye was first caught by this writer/artist in some freebie newspaper in NYC.
Jan
It looks like many reviewers dislike this book because they dislike its protagonist, which seems a bit unfair to me. Sure, Ben is snobbish, judgmental, dishonest, hypocritical, grumpy, sarcastic, offensive, neurotic, and the list goes on. But who says all protagonists have to be likable? Cartoonist Adrian Tomine never idealizes or even trivializes Ben's attitudes and behaviors, yet manages to spark the reader's voyeuristic interest in his gradual fall from grace simply by making him believable, ...more
Miguel Jiménez
Adrian Tomine, en esta obra larga, a diferencia de sus historias cortas, es mucho más observador, variado, bromista —hay un humor constante— y lo más apegado a la realidad de la vida diaria. Pues así como hay momentos tristes, en donde todo se nubla y no se sabe qué hacer en ciertos instantes de la vida también se da tiempo para estar de buen humor, hacer bromas y reírse. Tal como sucede de manera cotidiana. Asímismo, el dibujo humano es representado de forma verosímil, con detalles contundentes ...more
Kate
[spoiler alert]
In this sparse, elegantly drawn graphic novel, Adrian Tomine explores the psyche of Ben Tanaka, a 30-year-old Berkeley resident in a moody war with his identity. Having quit grad school, he manages a run-down movie theater, devoted to the ideals of "real" art it supposedly represents. But his deeper struggle is with racial identity--his own and that of others around him. An Oregon-born Japanese American, he has a longtime Japanese American girlfriend, Miko; yet he is obsessed wit
...more
doreen
This really should have gotten four stars, but the male character annoyed the fuck out of me, I wanted to just bite him. Still, the fact that he annoyed me so just goes to show how pitch-perfect Tomine's ability to craft a jerk-off character is, as well as creating a rocky relationship, friends, love interests, environments and anything worthwhile in this mundane world.

The story was engrossing--I read through it quite quickly, and when I had to stop and work on something else, I couldn't wait to
...more
Sarah
One of the tougher graphic reads I've ever gotten through, but also one of the most rewarding. Tomine's simple artwork allows the reader to easily step into his Pacific Northwest world; it's the characters who are more troubling. Never given the quirks or sweetness that often populate graphic work, Ben Tanaka and his friends are grappling with big issues of gender, sexuality, race and stereotype, just as they enter the whirlwind period of their twenties, where it is difficult to express anything ...more
Blue
Yes, you may not like the characters in Shortcomings. They may seem annoying, whining hipsters (is that what they are called in the bay area?) with racial hang-ups and immature college attitudes. But the dialogue and flow of the story is impeccable. Tomine has avoided some of the common mistakes in graphic novels today: Characters are not having unintentionally awkward and unbelievable conversations, neither are drawings seem unnaturally done to accommodate long monologues. In the end, you get a ...more
Jessica-Robyn
I'm having trouble articulating my thoughts on Shortcomings into a readable review. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the graphic novel and forming an opinion on what I've read. Turns out I really didn't enjoy this. I actually wrote a review where I did a reasonably good job at explaining my dislike for what's done here in contrast with what the book was trying to achieve, but then it got accidentally deleted, so here I am back at square one with no interest in explaining myself again. But ...more
Jeff
Dec 07, 2007 Jeff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: indie crowd
Ben Tanaka is a passive-aggressive, grad school drop out who manages a cinema in Berkeley, CA. His girlfriend, Miko Hayashi, is growing tired of his pessimistic rants and (multi)cultural cynicism, not to mention his sexual attraction to white grrrls with blue eyes and blonde hair. Ben's best friend, Alice, is a Korean-American lesbian with a fierce sense of humor and an unwillingness to settle into the banal rhythms of mediocrity. Over the course of a few months all three are forced to confront ...more
Scott
I read another review on Goodreads about this book falling into clichés and stereotypes. Which I think is kind of accurate. There is the Asian guy who is maybe trying to escape his own race by pursuing white women. There is his super-intellectual girlfriend. Snotty art punk. And raging, but hilarious, lesbian BFF. They are, to some extent, caricatures. But where I think he missed the point is in the poignancy. Agreed, it does get a little heavy-handed, a little Crash-y, when talking about race a ...more
Valerie
Shortcomings is a graphic novel that deals with racial identity and - to a certain degree - stereotypes. In this case, many questionable actions are perpetuated by its own main character, a young Japanese-American man named Ben Tanaka. Faced with upheaval in his life, he's suddenly forced to confront many of those issues, including his own.

Ben's relationship with his girlfriend, Miko, is floundering, and her belief that he's more interested in blond-haired, blue-eyed white women than her is a b
...more
Jason
This book is infuriating. All of the characters have blind racial leanings and are blissfully unaware of their contradictions. They steamroll rational arguments that point out their blindness and they go on self-righteous rants, villainizing the other and rationalizing their own tendencies. In short: you know these people.

It is through these infuriating characters that the topic of race, particularly of race advocacy and racial purity and inter-race relationships, is explored. The stereotypes ar
...more
Kristen Fiore
I really liked this book. I was surprised that people can actually think this way. Men to be exact. The story was about a man and woman who were going together and lived together. The man was starting to be interested in white woman, and his girlfriend caught on. She ended up going for an internship to New York. They would talk on the phone every night, but then she stopped calling because they had a fight. He tried to move on and started going out with a girl at his work. After awhile, he went ...more
Lars Guthrie
It's nice when you're sixty-one to occasionally feel like you've still got a modicum of hipness and are out there a little ahead of the curve. Like when the Billboard charts and mainstream rock stations trumpet M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes." Oh yeah, I was listening to her years ago and was listening to "Paper Planes" (a lot) over a year ago, when "Kala" first came out. And I was into Adrian Tomine well before his great covers for the New Yorker and all his illustrative work in mainstream media. I put ...more
Michael
Ben hat es wirklich schwer: Er ist egoistisch und unsensibel. Seine Unzufriedenheit mit Beruf und Privatleben machen ihn immer zynischer, und selbst wenn er wirklich will, kann er nicht mehr offen und positiv auf andere Menschen zugehen.
Und dann ist er auch noch untreu und verlogen. Diese negativen Eigenschaften projeziert er auf seine Freundin, die ihn aus verständlichen Gründen - zunächst nur auf Zeit - verlassen hat, um sich über einiges klar zu werden.
Seine einzige halbwegs funktionieren Bez
...more
Alice
Fourth generation Asian American Adrian Tomine writers a graphic novel commentary on white-asian race politics in relaitonships. What does race have to do with anything? Focus is on the Asian American male perspective. Fetishising, anger, subtle racism, generational conflict, pan-ethnic conlict - its all there in a story that lacks the moral driven/disempowered Asian American/Joy Luck Club cultural sell out morality that drives me crazy in popular Asian American literature.

I read one review tha
...more
Sagar Gupta
This is a really tedious and drab graphic novel that has been hoisted by the petard of providing a mundane Clowesian account of youth. I bought the book anticipating a genuine insight into Asian-Americans in America, this book gave a flippant account of hipsterdom and trivialised the cultural identity of a much maligned group. Ben Tanaka's fixation towards white women and the way he views the value of cross-cultural relationships is heavy handed and in parts incredibly anachronistic. I fear that ...more
Frank
I waited for months for this book at the library, and when it finally came I read it in less than an hour. But it was worth the wait. This is Tomine's newest, fullest, most nuanced work. The characters are mostly in their early thirties, unmarried, either in graduate school or drifting in a kind of pre-adult state. They are all flawed in interesting, believable ways, but none is so stubbornly self-unaware as the protagonist, Ben Tanaka, who's a mess of repressed desire, internalized inferiority, ...more
Paul Jensen
I feel like I need a shower after reading this. The characters here are truly ugly, cynical, and reprehensible. There is no redemption here. No moment of clarity for these disgusting people. It's filled with bickering and fighting, and when I finished it I was left with a feeling of "Why did I read this? What was the point?" Tomine is a gifted artist. I've been a fan of his for a while.. But this feels like the artist battling with some personal demons that I'd much rather not know about. In fac ...more
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a popular contemporary cartoonist, is best known for his ongoing comic book series Optic Nerve and his illustrations in The New Yorker.
More about Adrian Tomine...
Summer Blonde Sleepwalk and Other Stories 32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics Optic Nerve #1 Scenes from an Impending Marriage

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