Nagata Kabi is the queen of relatable manga. Her autobiographical manga My Solo Exchange Diary and My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness are written with such simple honesty that it’s easy to understand the introverted artist’s thoughts and feelings as she tries to navigate the world.
Kabi’s cartoon avatar is back after her exploits in the first volume of My Solo Exchange Diary, and by now she’s struck out to live solo in her own apartment. At the same time, she looks inward to her troubled relationship with her parents and stresses over the overwhelming experience of becoming a best-selling manga author. She also juggles a newly burgeoning social life as a young adult, finding and making friends and learning to love herself—things that seem like monumental tasks to her.
Living on your own is hard, and so is just about everything else that comes with being an adult. Few artists are better able to translate the exquisite pain of wanting to spend time with other people but feeling too scared or awkward to do it, and she deftly weaves a story that keeps readers turning the pages in a fever to see what’ll happen to her next. The story isn’t action packed, yet it’s hard to peel oneself away from a narrative this raw, tender, and honest. Not many people are able to share deep, unadulterated feelings with their closest friends the way Kabi does with the entire world.
Throughout, Kabi is growing into a much stronger person than she was when she began her autobiographical manga, with a little help and understanding from those around her. It’s a beautiful moment when she realizes all she needs to do to mend her strained relationship with her parents is to reach out to them and tell them how she feels. It’s painful to share the depths of despair she falls into when she accepts that she needs the help her parents have suggested for her to get better. For readers who have been through similar situations, seeing another person put them down on the page feels therapeutic. From missing her parents while in the hospital to returning to her parents’ home despite their fractured relationship, if you’ve ever dealt with depression or an intense sadness like Nagata Kabi has, you can immediately empathize.
The pink-hued pages of My Solo Exchange Diary are comforting, like slipping into a fuzzy bathrobe after a hot shower. This volume shifts the focus away from the romantic dalliances and sexual self-discovery at the center of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, weaving a more complete story of Kabi and her ongoing journey to “become a warm, compassionate person.” Little does she know, she’s already there. Recommended.
publisher: Seven Seas
story and art: Nagata Kabi