My Solo Exchange Diary
My Solo Exchange Diary is the sequel to the much-awarded My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi. It’s a collection of short chapters — twelve, labeled as diary entries, each 10-14 pages — about living alone and becoming a comic creator as a career.
To start, I should reveal that I couldn’t make it through My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness. It’s not very visually interesting — mostly background-less sketchy figures — and I found the constant “my life is terrible and no one loves me” repetitive and emotionally overwhelming. I read a lot of that sort of thing in the 90s (only it was by guys and published as indie comics, not manga), so perhaps my tolerance for that kind of story has been exceeded. I can certainly understand why a more sympathetic reader, particularly one who perhaps also suffered from depression or binge behaviors, would find it more rewarding to share this experience with Nagata Kabi.
This one, for me, was worse. My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness at least had something of an arc: the autobiographical lead decides to find someone to be intimate with, hires someone, and goes through with it. This one… it’s redundant. She moves out, she moves back, she moves out.
The book covers a lot of the same material over and over, particularly in her descriptions of her feelings. I understand that may be realistic, but I had to force myself through it. Learning to live with depression isn’t necessarily a straightforward process. There are steps forward and setbacks. That doesn’t make it an enjoyable read, though. I found it exhausting. Perhaps if one read it in the original serialized form, where I think there was a month between installments, it wouldn’t seem so repetitive.
The parts I enjoyed were the practical elements — how does one find an apartment? how does one balance the economics of living alone? — while the emotional metaphors didn’t resonate with me. Her concerns about her parents finding out what she was doing in the first book could have been interesting, but they seem like monsters in the things they say to her. Again, perhaps that’s realistic, but I didn’t find it believable, and I didn’t have enough information to judge her honesty in their portrayal.
The art is better in this second book, though. While in the same sketchy style (which suits the diary concept), more scene-setting is done with background and other characters. Fans of the former book will likely enjoy this a lot more than I did, and they will likely be glad to know that there’s a My Solo Exchange Diary volume 2 coming in February. (The publisher provided a review copy.)