This is a compilation of a manga essay originally published on pixiv. It tells a personal story of the author, aspiring mangaka who had never had sex, or even allowed herself to think about sex outside of reading BL manga.
The author is a 28-year-old millennial who lives at home, a college dropout who's led an lonesome, unfulfilling life. She was on a path to self-destruction until she realized that she needed to live for herself and fill the voids in her heart.
One of those voids happens to be the loving embrace by a woman, i.e. her mother, so on the whim, she schedules a hotel date with a female sex worker.
My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness is a tragicomic autobiography. Kabi Nagata documents her unfinished journey towards adulthood. She experiences loneliness, mental illness, sexual confusion, and general angst about the state of her life. The frankness of Nagata's report is both appalling and amusing.
Nagata lays bare her deepest flaws and darkest thoughts without embarrassment. She doesn't blame other people, an amorphous "society", or bad luck for her personal struggles — she owns them. Other people are portrayed as genuinely helpful, even as Nagata's parents sometimes (inadvertently, comically) contradict her. Nagata's humble expression of personal autonomy is refreshing and sympathetic.
Nagata has a deadpan narration style. She
uses irony, caricature, visual metaphor, and other devices to create humour that lifts some of the emotional burden. She avoids flippancy by including some moments of sober reflection. Those moments are unexpected when they arrive, but powerful and necessary.
My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness offers much to be appreciated.
So much about this really hit home for me. It's kind of amazing how two people, brought up on opposite sides of the globe, could have an almost identical experience when it comes to identity, sexuality, and mental health... Having said that, I think even if you are straight and/or a man, there's still a lot of enjoyment to be taken from this humble little volume.
First and foremost: though I know many of you will find other means of reading this story (*wink*), I still feel it's worth mentioning for anyone contemplating buying the physical release that Seven Seas did a fantastic job with
this printing! It looks and feels good. Thick, quality paper, crisp and clear print, etc.
But back to my previous point.
Though I feel a good chunk of this manga's audience will be lesbian/bi women and those with mental health issues, I think it's a good read for anyone who fits neither category. The art style is adorable, full of expression and life and she does an excellent job at creating diverse-looking characters so the narrative never gets even mildly confusing! On top of that, it's a good look into many social aspects of Japanese life: how their society deals with mental health, of course, but also more broadly relateable topics such as the quest for love and understanding, the struggle of living up to your parents' expectations, finding a job and the general hardships of entering adulthood.
Another aspect I find deeply fascinating, is that her way of living during this period of her life could be defined as an almost hikikomori lifestyle. So I would say you also get some insight into that aspect of Japanese culture to some degree!
Really, despite its rather dark and dreary subject matter, Nagata does well to emphasize the importance of self love. This is definitely the story of a fighter and not a quitter, so you don't need to worry about coming out of it feeling worse than before! I've only owned this manga for a week and I've already read it twice, because it actually feels like a very uplifting read to me, despite being so uncomfortable (for me, it feels like a mirror is being held up in front of me at many points, haha).
There's still so much more I could say about this manga! Instead I'll end it here with a short summary: 10/10, and I hope and I pray that Seven Seas also decides to release her sequel manga!
(copied from my Goodreads review)
Coming in to this, my expectation was essentially "I'll like it, but it won't live up to the hype." Which turned out to be spot on. Even as a lesbian with depression and anxiety - and despite the title, the book deals with mental illness even more heavily than it does queerness - I didn't personally connect to the highly personal, specific story. I recognise, though, that it would be all the more powerful for someone who did have those connections. But it's odd because I've gone through a lot of the things Nagata talks about, like friendlessness and singleness and
shame over both, but for whatever reason I just didn't feel connected to her. I think I would have liked a little more on how she felt, as opposed to what she felt? Not sure.
This piece is a beautiful, non-fiction, autobiographical manga by a woman who must learn how to respect and care for herself, and leave her rut of self-loathing, poor eating habits, crippling anxiety and depression, self harm and suicidal thoughts. The crux of all these problems and how she must overcome them is an interaction with a lesbian prostitute.
Story - 9
This woman has lived one goddamned interesting life. While not for everyone - it's possibly the most subjective story I've ever read - it can be truly life-changing if you find yourself able to connect and relate to the writer and her struggles. It captures mental
health in a way rarely seen, and terrifically accurate from a victim's standpoint, and can be either a horrific view into the mind of a victim, or for a victim reader can be a life-changing explanation for the mess going on in one's mind. Viewing the author's growth as a person able to live a happy, healthy life is just as wonderful, being both deeply inspiring and a literary payoff for the suffering the reader sees her go through earlier. Overall, a fantastic insight to mental health and just a plain interesting biography.
Art - 8
While remarkably simple, the art is a joy to look at. The - albeit small - palette is very pleasing, and the chibi aesthetic the artist uses can really help the reader through some of the more emotionally taxing portions of this - admittedly short - series. My only real gripe is the overbearing use of text within drawings to convey meaning, though this is honestly little more than a nitpick. While a more realistic style may have fit this more, the chibi look is both visually pleasing and makes it a much less difficult read.
Characters - 10
While there aren't many characters, and none are really focused on outside of the author, this author is so beyond interesting that it more than makes up for the vagueness of her family's personalities, or the friends that are only mentioned and never shown. A completely verbatim telling of one person's mindset over a ten year period makes for something far greater than it might have been were side characters focused on more turning the protagonist into little more than "a depressed person."
Enjoyment - 7
Most of this is just plain depressing, if not more interesting than fun. There's some good humour, and endearing dialogue be it narration or actual conversation, but overall you will be much more enthralled by the psychological aspects than the humour.
Overall - 9
If this story or person sound at all relatable or interesting to you, I couldn't recommend this enough. I may have the bias of basically being an emotional clone of this author, but even when casting that bias aside this was a damned beautiful ride, and certainly short enough to not regret reading.