By Nagata Kabi
Nagata Kabi’s My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness makes a loudly profound statement on an affliction that millions of people silently suffer from – depression. She tackles many subjects related to depression, from the physical symptoms like chronic pains, to binge-eating, to constant tiredness. When reading what she went through, it can be hard to turn the pages, but that’s what makes it so important. For someone whose been depressed, it opens your eyes to the fact that you’re not alone in what you’re going through, and it’s as painful looking upon depression from the outside as it is experiencing it. Kabi nakedly lays her history with depression bare for all to see, and in doing so attempt to teach us how to not repeat the same mistakes in our own lives. What she learned through ten years of heartbreaking trial and error is densely and beautifully communicated in this 140 page manga.
Kabi remarks how we’re all chasing after some “sweet nectar,” a source of pleasure that stuffs us full of happiness. It differs for everyone, and the form it takes may change, but it reflects upon an individual sense of belonging, self-worth, and reason to live. Kabi lost her sweet nectar after graduating high school and not knowing what she wanted to do with her life, unable to compromise the expectations she thought she had to live up to with the reality of what she really wanted to do. Her story preaches that trying to appease family or community isn’t a true desire nor a source of real happiness. Rather, like Kabi and drawing manga, finding the “light behind your eyes,” and making an effort to pursue it, even if it means defying what your family or community demands. When Kabi is given a simple word of encouragement that leads her down the path of a mangaka, it dramatically changes her life for the healthier, even though it takes a long time for her to find real success. By doing something she loves to do she starts loving herself more. That change in perspective gives her a clearer mind to figure more things about herself and explore them, including exploring her sexuality.
There’s a lot to unpack about what formulates her ideas of sex: how she shunned sexual thoughts in an attempt to retain a purse wholesome image in front of her parents while harboring an Oedipus complex, spurred on for the desire of having a motherly figure that could comfort her both emotionally and sexually; how she read BL manga because she contextualized it as different from sex she could ever experience herself, and how that would later damage her conception of what the act entailed. Her self-aware Freudian psychoanalysis of her sexual desires provides a candid insight into how many people’s sexual inclinations can be influenced and distorted. Her story demonstrates it’s important receive a proper sexual education at an early age to combat feelings of shame and confusion that can stunt emotional growth and hinder the development of healthy, emotionally and sexually fulfilling relationships in adulthood. Through her story of hooking up with a lesbian escort for her awkward, disastrous, and hilarious first sexual experience, Kabi relates an embarrassing part of her life in an endearing way that has an emphatic message behind it. It’s okay to desire sex, and it’s okay to explore the boundaries sexuality, and it’s healthier to express those feelings and act on it rather than letting it distract and feed self-doubts and depression. Even though Kabi was mortified by how bad her first time was, she was later able to acquiesce most of her frustrations by simply having done it, knowing what it’s like, and thinking about how to do better next time. Sex is not something to be ashamed of, and neither is a bad sexual experience. It’s a part of identities as human beings, learning from the experiences we have with it, and embracing that helps us more emotionally well-rounded. This is a message about sex that is rarely espoused even in sex-positive media, making Lesbian Experience an especially meaningful work for men and women of all sexualities struggling with expressing their sexual identities.
Kabi’s super-deformed art is instantly endearing. While soft on detail, it communicates potent expressiveness, and the simplicity of the art only enhances the universality of the story’s appeal. The strengths of the art can be pinpointed to one moment where Kabi breaks the SD style and portrays her character with more realistic proportions to emphasize the transcendent moment of her first kiss. This simple moment communicates through one simple image so much about how much that moment meant to her and how she felt the moment finally trusted her into adulthood, that no words could convey nearly as well. That same is true for all the art in the book. Though Kabi’s words are meaningful and important, each of her drawings is so precise and identifiable that it’d be possible to absorb this story entirely through the images alone. It’s a mark of a great comic when the art is strong enough to tell the story without the narration accompanying it, and Kabi’s deceptively simple art passes the test with honors.
If you’re depressed, suicidal, sexually confused or all three, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is a book you need to read. Nagata Kabi’s heartbreakingly honest memoir of her experiences with depression speaks important truths about how people who hate themselves and feel alone in the world think and what’s needed to do to escape that self-destructive mindset. As someone who recently spent eight weeks of his life undergoing daily outpatient therapy to try and learn the same lessons Kabi teaches in her manga, I’d definitely recommend buying this book first to see if it inspires a self-reflexive epiphany before blowing off thousands of dollars. Kabi’s book hits uncomfortably close to home, but with that discomfort comes a hopeful and inspiring message of self-improvement: you don’t have to be lonely, and the first step is to start loving yourself.