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Shortcomings (Optic Nerve #9-11)

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  9,574 Ratings  ·  912 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)
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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
Jan Philipzig
Annoying Protagonist, Annoying Book?

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 trivializes Ben's attitudes and behaviors, yet manages to spark the reader's voyeuristic interest in his gradual fall from grace si
Jan 21, 2009 Bobby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels, nyc
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 Bryant
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
Mar 19, 2008 Trane rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Grant Faulkner
Feb 15, 2008 Grant Faulkner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Andrés Santiago
Jul 25, 2011 Andrés Santiago rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics
This was amazing, one of the best stories about the disintegration of a relationship I've ever read. Who said you have to like the characters to enjoy a story? I loved the observations about asian american stereotypes and the fact that all the characters seem real, vulnerable and somehow lost. The drawing couldn't be more beautiful and what a perfect ending! This is vintage Tomine.
Questo Tomine è decisamente superiore all’altro che ho letto (Scene da un matrimonio imminente), qui posso capire il motivo della sua fama.

Ma non tirerei in ballo Carver: lo si scomoda troppo di frequente, e quasi sempre senza motivo, appena c’è qualcosa di bizzarro ecco che si nomina Kafka (atmosfera kafkiana), l’adolescenza e subito si fa apparire Salinger-Holden, la memoria e vai con Proust, il racconto asciutto del quotidiano, una storia di antiero
Glenn Sumi
Feb 02, 2015 Glenn Sumi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-books
Adrian Tomine has been compared to filmmaker Eric Rohmer, but in Shortcomings he seems more like Woody Allen - that is, if Allen were Asian, 30-something and had started out on the West Coast instead of the East. Tomine's a funny/serious chronicler of urban relationships, and this is his Annie Hall.

Ben Tanaka is a judgmental, slightly insecure schlub working in a Berkeley movie theatre. When his girlfriend, Miko, moves to New York for an internship, he's stuck hanging out with his promiscuous dy
Spesso Tomine viene paragonato a Carver per lo stile essenziale, per l'assenza di orpelli e per i piani prospettici puliti, aggiungerei che un altro aspetto che li accomuna sono i dialoghi. Si rende manifesto un linguaggio autoreferenziale in cui i personaggi non riescono a comunicare tra loro. Le parole perdono di contenuto non appena sono state pronunciate, solo il lettore è testimone di quanto "non riescano" a dirsi le persone. Il "non detto" in Tomine ha la morfologia di facciate, strade bui ...more
Apr 01, 2016 Lauren rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 10, 2008 Dan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Xian Xian
Jan 14, 2016 Xian Xian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just found out that Adrian Tomine started off as one of those self-published comic artists? And so almost all of his books are actually collections of the comics he has written before. Maybe there's a new touch to them, maybe they're remasters? I hope so. Because I honestly never knew he wrote exclusively short story collections. I think Shortcomings is the only one that has been collected into one arc, making it one story. If that makes sense.

I'm not entirely unfamiliar with Tomine, I will ad
Todd N
Nov 26, 2008 Todd N rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
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
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
Pan Radek
Feb 26, 2017 Pan Radek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Woody Allen had a Japanese-American twin, that would be Adrian Tomine.

It's just as good as Annie Hall or Manhattan, maybe with a little bit less humor and more melancholy scenes.

All in all the power of this novel is in the characters, the dialogues and the awkwardness you can find only in dates, post movie talks and phone conversations.

the drawings are clean simple and elegant, mainly close ups of the characters talking

I don't think I'll ever read that one again, but it was really fun so g
Sep 02, 2014 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novel
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
Patrick Sherriff
Oct 30, 2016 Patrick Sherriff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels, japan
A thoughtful look at relationships ending and others beginning among Asian-American lovers in their 20s and 30s. I liked the stark black and white ink-work. I liked the issues explored, particularly of the politics and hangups of inter-racial dating, and exploring same-sex relationships too. All interesting stuff. Protagonist Ben comes off as a self-centred hypocritical boob, but by the end, you are left wondering if that isn't just an honest portrayal of the condition of all us humans, whatever ...more
Andrea Goldston
Oct 25, 2016 Andrea Goldston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A smart book about the tension between societal ideals of what is desirable, and what people find desirable.
Mar 24, 2017 Tressa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novel, 2017
Shortcomings is about a discontented Asian American twentysomething man living in Berkely, CA, who seems to have it pretty good managing a movie theater and living with his cute, ambitious, artistic Japanese girlfriend and hanging around with his lesbian college friend. But he's anything but happy. He's depressed, bitter, angry, and bored with the current PC culture, his girlfriend's Asiancentric lifestyle, and his job. He thinks the grass will be greener with the objects of his desire: white bl ...more
Aug 26, 2011 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed-by-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
Mar 01, 2008 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt Graupman
Oct 26, 2015 Matt Graupman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adrian Tomine's "Shortcomings" is a deft, subtle examination of self-loathing and alienation from the master of deft, subtle examinations of self-loathing and alienation. The so-called protagonist (the character we're supposed to root for, mind you) is Ben Tanaka, a misanthropic, sarcastic theater manager with zero career ambitions and profound relationship problems. Sounds like a real gem, right? And yet I found myself engaged by his plight, a factor that - based on the other reviews - seems es ...more
Jul 02, 2015 Tays rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Purely realistic. That's basically everything that I could say for Shortcomings.

The thing about it is that this is how real as your daily life and love and well, shortcomings in it could ever get to. It tells a tale about Ben Tanaka, a self obsessed asian that sort of hates being an asian and is almost always ready to criticize everything out there. It follows his relationship with friends, his girlfriend, and a bunch of other white girls that's somewhat his fantasy dreamgirl. As the story devel
Nov 04, 2007 Edan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 06, 2008 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
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
Laura D
Feb 06, 2017 Laura D rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphic-novels
The main character is such a dick and I vehemently disliked him. Tomine's art saved it.
Jan 01, 2008 Marie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
pierlapo  quimby
Sep 18, 2012 pierlapo quimby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fumetti
No, non c'è nessuna lieve imperfezione in queste pagine, è tutto meravigliosamente in ordine, proprio come deve essere.
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ADRIAN TOMINE was born in 1974 in Sacramento, California. He began self-publishing his comic book series Optic Nerve. His comics have been anthologized in publications such as McSweeney’s, Best American Comics, and Best American Nonrequired Reading, and his graphic novel "Shortcomings" was a New York Times Notable Book of 2007. His next release, "Killing and Dying" will be published by Drawn and Q ...more
More about Adrian Tomine...

Other Books in the Series

Optic Nerve (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • Optic Nerve #1
  • Optic Nerve #2
  • Optic Nerve #3
  • Optic Nerve #4
  • Optic Nerve #5
  • Optic Nerve #6
  • Optic Nerve #7
  • Optic Nerve #8
  • Optic Nerve #9
  • Optic Nerve #10

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