HIMAWARI SHARE by Harmony Becker
It's still early in the comic's run, but what is there is fun and heartwarming. HIMAWARI SHARE demonstrates perfectly why everyone (if they can) should try to learn a new language.
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An International Adventure

HIMAWARI SHARE by Harmony Becker is a gem: it helps illuminate the struggles of being a student studying abroad in a new country in a light-hearted and earnest way. It takes a human approach to something that often gets overlooked when talking about cultural exchange and is a must-read for anyone considering studying abroad.

But before we dive into this amazing webcomic from , I must confess: I suck at learning languages. I took Spanish for over six years in school and never once gained one iota of competence in the language. So to me, seeing the characters in HIMAWARI SHARE bravely travel to a far-away country in hopes of mastering Japanese is mind-boggling. What if they mess up? What if they never do as well as their other classmates? Despite all these fears, the characters of HIMAWARI SHARE give it they’re all.

Thrown Into the Thick of It in HIMAWARI SHARE

The story begins with Nao talking about how, when she was younger, she lived in Japan. However, her family moved to the United States when she was still fairly young, and thus she forgot Japanese almost entirely. Now as a young adult, she’s traveled back to Japan to live in a group home — Himawari Share — while she takes classes in Japanese.

While there, she meets Hyejung and Tina who are from Korea and Singapore, respectively. Hyejung appears as a cool, snarky girl who still supports the others in their schooling. Tina is bright and bubbly and seems to try her hardest even if she’s uncomfortable in a situation. They too want to learn the language. As the comic goes on, readers see how each of them struggle with the language in their own way.

Image courtesy of Harmony Becker.

The chemistry between the three main girls felt completely natural. While each of them come from vastly different places, their shared camaraderie from wanting to learn Japanese makes complete sense. They’re all fish out of water, each of them struggling to get acclimated to a new country. Because of this shared experience, they become fast friends. A true benefit of learning something new is how close you become to those learning beside you.

I appreciate how the comic does show that positive aspect of this experience. Unfortunately, due to various learning complications, I haven’t had the opportunity to truly learn a new language and experience a culture in that way. Though, I’ve heard from my friends who have taken the opportunity to study abroad find that their experience of using a new language in a different culture parallels none. They always seem to have amazing stories from this time, never regretting this decision for a second.

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The Struggle of Learning a Language

Becker does an amazing job not only showing the characters speaking Japanese but Korean and English. When a character doesn’t understand something, the words get blurry and hard to read, simulating their confusion. It really shows off that even though one can study a language for years, it takes a long time to truly master. Despite this struggle, the comic never suggests they shouldn’t learn Japanese.

The best thing about HIMAWARI SHARE is how it shows why languages are important: they connect people. They help Nao connect with her history, being part Japanese and all. For the other girls in the dorm house, they only meet one another because they are learning the language. It also gives them a chance to experience Japanese culture first hand.

Image courtesy of Harmony Becker.

At one point, they get to go to a Japanese festival. One of the characters mentions how the festival they went to subverted the expectations they had based on the comics and shows they’d seen. This realization shows how cultures can get muddled by inaccurate information. Only by going abroad and studying did these girls truly learn what it meant to partake in this kind of festival. That’s why learning languages and embracing new cultures is so important. For, by doing this, it helps people learn more about the world around them.

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A New Country

Becker’s art style perfectly fits the calm tone of the comic. When she shows off images of the Japanese countryside, there’s this magical feel to it. Granted, a large part of that has to do with Noa’s perspective as the memories of her past largely color her impression of the country. It works with the whole, “building one’s image of a place and now getting a chance to live in it”‘ perspective of the students. The characters look adorable as well. They all are drawn in a way that shows their unique personalities. Noa moves in a bit more reserved manner and tends to slink back more when she feels uncomfortable. This contrasts beautifully with someone like Tina who tries to put herself out there and get a job with varying results.

HIMAWARI SHARE is a brilliant example of a comic trying to show the challenges of language visually. Getting to see the characters struggle to speak the language as you yourself can’t decipher the words adds a level of empathy that not all comics have. It’s an ongoing web series with four chapters released as of writing. Going forward, I hope Becker expands more on the other two characters. As it stands, Noa has been the main focus for the last few chapters. Still, there’s no better time than now to start reading it on Tapas.

Looking to start a new webcomic? You can access HIMAWARI SHARE here!

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