My name is Marisa. I am a fiction writer, a blogger, and a freelance journalist.
Published March 14th 2019
A story about loneliness and self-doubt and learning to love
Nagata Kabi. Seven Seas Entertainment.
My Solo Exchange Diary 2 is the third instalment in Nagata Kabi's bestselling autobiographical manga series about loneliness. Nagata Kabi is the Japanese manga artist and storyteller behind the hugely popular comic, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness.
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness was published in 2016 and was well received by readers and critics. The manga chronicled Nagata's personal experiences with combating mental illness, her feelings of loneliness, coming to terms with her sexuality, her strained relationship with her family and her struggle to find a job. It won a number of awards and reached the top of several bestseller lists and was labelled a "must read" book for women and members of the LBGTI community.
Nagata followed up My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness with a sequel, My Solo Exchange Diary, in June 2018. My Solo Exchange Diary was written as a series of letters to Nagata by Nagata. Nagata writes about feeling overwhelmed by the success of her first book and her anxiety over her parent's reaction about her sexuality and what she wrote about her mental illness. Nagata also touches on moving out of home for the first time and her efforts to try and be independent.
My Solo Exchange Diary 2 is written in the same format as My Solo Exchange Diary. Nagata speaks directly to the reader, but also addresses her future self, her past self and her present self as she examines her life and her problems. Nagata has just released her second book and is still living on her own but is finding living apart from her parents harder than she thought it would be. This is the third book of Nagata's that I have read. I love how honest Nagata is about herself and how she doesn't shy away from her own feelings or lowering or glorifying herself. I also really like how she paints sex workers in a positive light and demonstrates how they can really help people like herself have the sexual experience that they desire.
As a reader, I get a little frustrated with her at times like when she can't maintain relationships or appreciate her own success. There is even a scene in My Solo Exchange Diary 2 where she opens a box filled with copies of her book and punches them until her hand bleeds because she is still hurting from her parent's reaction to them. I have to remind myself sometimes that Nagata is a real person and not a fictional character. I can't just make her do what I want. In reality building relationships is difficult and the fight against depression and to find happiness is a never-ending battle. Nagata is doing the best that she can and is fighting every day to make it to the future. But it is going to be a long, hard road for her and that is what these books are about. Nagata has always said her books were never meant to titillate people about her lesbian experiences. They were always about loneliness.
In this book, Nagata takes some positive steps in combating her mental illness and creating and cultivating new relationships. Her first big decision is to move back in with her parents after she comes to the realisation that she is not in the right mental space to be living on her own at the moment. Moving back home makes her realise that she has been far too critical of her mother in the past and she starts taking steps to repair their relationship. Nagata also decides to spend some time in hospital to get some help with her depression.
I really hope Nagata Kabi continues this series. She has a unique voice and a unique art style and has touched many people with her honest critique of her life. Now that she has had a stint in hospital and has a new look on life, I'm curious to see where she will go from here. You can make it to the future, Nagata. You've got this.