MANGA REVIEW | "My Solo Exchange Diary" - Volume One
She may not realize it, but manga author Nagata Kabi is a voice for this generation. Her previous work My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness was an eye-opening look at how she dealt with the empty feeling in her gut via contacting an escort service. Mixing humor and drama to tell her tale, the end result was a relatable story that hit a core not just to the gay & lesbian community, but to every person who picked it up. How fortunate for us that Kabi still has a lot more to tell us, in her new series My Solo Exchange Diary.
Picking up where My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness ended, My Solo Exchange Diary has Kabi writing back to her past self about her struggles and small accomplishments. From moving out of her home to dealing with the success of the first book, Kabi bares all in her fight to be independent and seek something to fill the hole that's in her heart. Through her struggles, she comes to realize that every person in life is a victim of some sorts, especially when she looks at how her own mother is treated by other parts of the family. However, it takes a big, loud wake-up call for her to motivate her to doing the right thing for herself, even if it means abandoning someone else who may be in distress.
What makes the first volume of My Solo Exchange Diary stand out is its means of presenting Kabi's personal engagements. There's this sort of cute coating that's splattered throughout every panel of this manga, acting as a means of grabbing the attention of some unexpected onlooker. Although one may call the art style a tad bit amateurish, it actually instead compliments the stories that Kabi is telling about herself. In a way, the adorable nature of the manga helps to soften the blows from the punches of the author's reality.
And man, can reality be one harsh mistress. Even thinking back to what I've read, I'm often taking long deep breaths as I'm comparing my struggles with hers, and it's quite scary when some of Kabi's moments are mirroring my own. The motions of moving out, dealing with heartbreak and loneliness, and even taking praise with a grain of salt are just a few of the things that I also recently went through. But to see it all in print and through the eyes of somebody else, it's invigorating to know that a lot of people struggle with the same stuff on a daily basis.
Very rarely do I encounter autobiographical works that don't sugarcoat the stressful parts of life. Kabi not only puts the rough patches into the spotlight, but emphasizes their importance when it comes to growing into a better individual. Even when she sees how many people love her stories, it doesn't do anything to mend what's truly broken inside of her. Thankfully, chapters involving her going on a date with someone she met online is building her up towards a more hopeful future, one where she'll be both capable of loving and experience knowing what true love feels like.
Still, My Solo Exchange Diary wants to let its readers know the true ins and outs of who Nagata Kabi is, and what she goes through. Sometimes it's funny, other times it's heart-wrenching, but its self-awareness keeps its author from derailing herself into an inescapable downward spiral. In a way, that self-awareness will also aid the readers in their quest for a sliver of happiness in their lives, be it on the path of love, career, or something within the forks in the road that this world often delivers. Trust me when I say that reading this first volume will open your eyes to some of life's harshest moments, giving way to the faintest of lights to peek through the darkness that clouds just about every living person on this planet of ours.
Whether you're gay, straight, bisexual, handicapped, Autistic, Japanese, American, or some other kind of person, My Solo Exchange Diary will no doubt resonate in your heart. Its first volume may feel like a long epilogue to My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, but Kabi's continuing struggles and accomplishments help to make this new chapter in her story feel more hopeful towards a better outcome in her life. Then again, good and bad moments happen in a flash, so whatever is on Kabi's horizon is known to no one, including herself. Laugh and cry as you read through My Solo Exchange Diary, as it shines a beacon on your very soul that signals a path towards a better state-of-mind.
Promotional consideration provided by Lianne Sentar of Seven Seas Entertainment