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(Optic Nerve #9-11)

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  12,830 ratings  ·  1,114 reviews
A witty and moving graphic novel, 'Shortcomings' is a painful, charming and illustrated look at the realities of modern relationships. ...more
Hardcover, 140 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Faber & Faber (first published October 2nd 2007)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,830 ratings  ·  1,114 reviews

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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
I am missing whatever others see in Shortcomings. Ben Tanaka is an incredibly unpleasant, immature, negative, shallow, humorless, and defensive main character. I hope he dates no one in the future, and I was happy for each of the three women who successfully exited stage right. On the other hand, I’d gladly read multiple novels featuring his lesbian best friend, although I haven’t the slightest notion what she’s sees in him. Pass on this one.
Greta G

A bit short, but great.

This was exactly how people behave in a relationship that's falling apart. Blaming, criticizing and demeaning each other. Ugly, but that is precisely what's going on behind closed doors.
And it only leads to bitterness in people's hearts.
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
Andrés Santiago
Jul 25, 2011 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. ...more
Jan 21, 2009 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 scenario ...more
Mar 19, 2008 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
Glenn Sumi
Feb 02, 2015 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
Grant Faulkner
Feb 15, 2008 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
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
Reading_ Tam_ Ishly
Love the art.

Love the realistic lines.

Enjoyed the unlikeable characters.

Maybe I am getting old enjoying stories like this.

I would have definitely DNFED such reads in a jiffy but adult life is quite mundane that way.

And I would not recommend this one for the beginners or anyone who wants to read a fun graphic novel. This is as adult boring boring AF.

*Nudity, sexist, racism and snobby characters in full swing
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Samir Rawas Sarayji
A rather linear story with a typical relationship breakdown pattern. The averageness of love and sex and the neurotic attitudes of the characters reminded me of Woody Allen movies. They too get really boring after a while, constantly recycling the same formula. There is nothing especially amazing in the artwork of this graphic novel and it is a very quick read.
Xian Xian
Jan 14, 2016 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
James DeSantis
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whoa this was...really good. Especially when the main character can be a complete dick.

So the story is about moving on with life. From one relationship to another, to learning who you are, if you're happy with your life, if you want to work at being better, and if you need to accept not everything will be your way. This is a story of Ben Tanaka who is really kind of a prick. Over critical of everyone, he also just kind of jackass, makes fun of his own race and such, and can't stand traditional
Hannah Garden
This is just fantastic storytelling, and sooooo good looking. Is it about a turd who is a pill and a dullard and a creep? Yes, but it’s incredibly well-told.
Jan 10, 2008 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
Pan Radek
Feb 26, 2017 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
Giulia Goldston
Oct 25, 2016 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.
Jan 01, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My second read by the author, had to look it up, but apparently I read the first one exactly a year ago. Both have made approximately the same impression. Somewhere in the middle of impressions. Entertaining enough, but overall underwhelming.
The author seems to specialize in a sort of very quiet slice of life scenarios, scenes from a life of a certain generation. Actually, I meant to figure it out online and didn’t, whatever that generation is, technically. Is it still Gen X? They seem very m
Eric T. Voigt
Paraphrasing what I told Colleen about the book: Ben is a piece of shit and everyone rightly treats him as such.
Todd N
Nov 26, 2008 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
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novel
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
Sep 02, 2014 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 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
Destinee Sutton
I believe this book is essentially about a man who is angry because he has a small penis.
Dioni (Bookie Mee)
Surprisingly honest portrayal of constant underlying racial and sexual issues that are often glossed over. Very impressed with Adrian Tomine.
Laura D
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
The main character is such a dick and I vehemently disliked him. Tomine's art saved it. ...more
Amanda Sie
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
was taking books off the shelves for work at the library, saw a cute pink cover, saw a story about Asians, got a story about an infuriating guy saying things that guys say and its like ok 2 real
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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

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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