Through excellent exposition, Nagata bares her soul and elicits empathy and laughter from readers.
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An Honest Telling
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Content Warning: This article contains discussions of mental illness and mentions of eating-disordered behavior and self-harm within MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that adulthood is hard. The pressure from our families to follow in their traditional footsteps, and from society to conform to its standards, make adult life even harder. Enter MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS, an autobiographical manga written and illustrated by Kabi Nagata and published in the US in 2017 by Seven Seas Entertainment. In it, Nagata explores her entry into adulthood, her history with depression and anxiety, and the events that lead to her buying an escort.

While many people feel the need to hide their dirty laundry, Nagata airs hers out. MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS is an emotional journey toward self-acceptance. Her struggle to understand her own queerness is something that will resonate with readers everywhere. The manga’s LGBT themes make it the perfect manga to dive into this Pride Month.

Status: It’s Complicated

MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS seamlessly spans a ten-year period of Nagata’s life as she reflects on her youth and her struggles with mental illness. Post-high school, Nagata found difficulty performing normal tasks such as attending college or keeping a part-time job due to her depression and concurrent eating disorder. Then one day, Nagata interviews at an osteopath clinic. The interviewer asks Nagata about her dream job and she reveals her desire to be a mangaka, subsequently failing her interview. As Nagata leaves, the interviewer wishes her luck with her manga. This inspires Nagata, as if the interviewer gave her permission to be her true self. Though, as she soon discovers, winning a manga debut contest isn’t the solution to her problems or her mother’s nagging.

It does, however, lead her on a path to self-discovery. After reading a book on child abuse victims, she recognizes her own behavior in their experience, such as excessively clinging to her mother, watching her mother change, and wanting to touch her mother’s chest. She relates these desires to wanting the “concept of a mother,” someone to hold her and accept all her desires unconditionally. This forces her to confront her attraction to women.

Despite being marketed as a yuri, or “women’s love,” manga, I wouldn’t quite call it that. Yes, Nagata does spend the night with an escort and the manga shows their encounter. But to call it a yuri manga would be like saying MY HERO ACADEMIA is most known for its comedy. While these elements exist and play a large role in the overall story, they are just one aspect of it. Nagata experiments with the same sex, but this does not make the story yuri. Her queerness is simply the result of years of introspection.

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An Uphill Battle

There isn’t anything in MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS that isn’t relatable to some extent. Whether you’ve struggled with mental illness, identify as queer, have experienced both, or neither, Nagata’s words depict honesty in its rawest form. They are equal parts heart-wrenching and humorous. And while I can’t say that I wholly understand what the author has gone through, Nagata tells her story in a way that is easy to grasp.

Nagata offers simple, but complex panels. | Image: Seven Seas Entertainment

Perhaps the most important thing Nagata aims to portray is that there is no easy explanation for her actions. Rather than explain herself, Nagata aims to tell readers how she landed in the love hotel and the time thereafter. This, in my opinion, is a frequently forgotten method of storytelling. When writers approach a story, they often feel the need to justify their characters’ actions, even if that character is themselves. Mental illness, however, offers no such justification. With MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS, Nagata is left with two options: sugar-coat her life or bare her soul.

The exposition in this manga is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Nagata takes care in walking readers through her thought process. While not always rational, these thoughts offer a window into her psyche. This allows the quick switches between deep introspection and child-like panic to feel extremely natural. Moreover, it furthers the idea that Nagata’s general anxieties are not strictly her own, but a part of the collective human experience.

A Slow Journey

As Nagata discovers, understanding her own sexuality isn’t as easy as deciding to be lesbian. After realizing her complicated feelings towards her mother, Nagata takes the time to unpack her emotions. She wasn’t attracted to her mother, rather the affection given specifically by mothers. This makes her desire to be held by a woman overwhelming. Her own cluelessness of anything related to sex, however, doesn’t make her situation better. She orders an escort online to remedy her inexperience. For the first time, she feels certain in her decision (even if it takes her two tries to do so). And yet, Nagata is half-frozen in fear when she’s with the escort.

Her frigidity shouldn’t be mistaken for an incorrect choice. Just because she struggles to engage doesn’t mean that she’s actually straight. The lesson learned from MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS is that sexuality is fluid. Though she identified as straight for most of her adult life, her attraction to women isn’t any less valid. And while she accepts her attraction, it doesn’t mean that she can comfortably perform the same actions as those who have been openly gay for some time. Even during her second night with an escort months later, she’s still not quite there.

Nagata finds women more attractive than men. P. 56
“He sure is naked.” | Image: Seven Seas Entertainment

Another takeaway from this manga is that people need to go at their own pace. While with the escort, Nagata pictures scenes from boy’s love manga. She realizes, however, that real life is nothing like the manga she’s read. Luckily, the escort she shares her first time with is understanding and doesn’t force her into anything she is uncomfortable with. Had Nagata rushed or forced herself to act like the characters in her manga, it would have spelled a disaster for her mental health.

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Unique Artistry

Unlike typical manga, MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS uses the color pink to fill in white spaces. The manga itself is fairly simple as well, using as little detail as possible. Nagata places the focus on herself, giving other characters mirroring features. To balance this, Nagata’s character is highly expressive. Even at her lowest, Nagata utilizes her full body to tell the whole story while her face offers the same empty look for multiple panels.

Nagata attacked by words detailing her fear. P. 115
A solid example of Nagata’s art. | Image: Seven Seas Entertainment

With its simple design, MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS’ panels allow Nagata’s truth to come forward. As her time with the escort begins, Nagata reflects on the things she can no longer hide, such as the scars that mar her arms, her unnatural thinness, and her bald spot. It gives emphasis to these details. Even if it makes readers uncomfortable, it shows them that they are inexplicably part of her being. The manga’s simplicity also lets Nagata’s humor stand out. When she goes into a panic, the panels are exaggerated, utilizing text in place of background design. But by utilizing text as art, Nagata gives emphasis to the overwhelming emotions she feels.

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MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS is as complex as it is funny. Through sharp humor, unique style, and excellent exposition, Kabi Nagata delivers a poignant story that evokes empathy from those who read it. There’s good reason to why this manga placed third in the “For Women” category of Kono Manga Ga Sugoi!, an annual list published by Takarajimasha to honor the best manga published in a given year. It also won “Manga of the Year” in the second annual Crunchyroll Anime Awards last February. And if you thought that wasn’t enough, Teen Vogue listed it as one of their “Best Queer Books to Celebrate Pride 2017.” Do you really need any more reasons to pick this manga up?

If you’ve read MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS and loved it, don’t forget to check out its sequel, MY SOLO EXCHANGE DIARY Vol. 1, which released earlier this month, and Vol. 2, which publishes early next year.

Featured image courtesy of Seven Seas Entertainment.


  1. Kris

    July 10, 2018 at 6:13 am

    My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness is honestly one of my favorite manga series that deals with LGBTQ content. There’s just something so real about the way that Nagata lays the story out that I’ve never seen before in any other manga. It’s really refreshing to see this kind of content coming out, especially since it has realistic queer representation. Nagata’s struggles are also very similar to my own, so I found myself really being able to get into this manga because of that.
    It seems like a lot of really well written and interesting LGBTQ manga series have started popping up recently though. One that I’ve really been into lately is Two Birds in Spring. It’s the first manga that I’ve seen that deals with bi characters and also has a pretty realistic setting. I also love that we get to see the romance between the main characters build up instead of it being forced on us like what happens in most romance series. If you’re looking for a good series that focuses on bi women, I definitely recommend trying it out!


    • Celeste Paed

      July 13, 2018 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Kris, thank you for your suggestion! I’ve been on an LGBTQ manga binge lately and I’m always looking for more. I’ll have to add Two Birds in Spring to my list!


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