By Aiko Komai / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterThey are neither victims of violence nor poverty-stricken. Yet they feel lonely and hopelessly stifled.
Manga artist Kabi Nagata is one such person. She depicted her thoughts and experiences in the manga “Sabishisugite Rezu Fuzoku ni Ikimashita Repo” (A report on using an adult entertainment service for lesbians because I was so lonely). The manga, published by East Press, has become a bestseller, and many people empathize with the author.
An English translation of the manga will be published under the title “My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness” by Seven Seas Entertainment in June 2017.
Despite the word “fuzoku” (adult entertainment service) in the original title, the sex industry does not play a key part in this manga. Instead, it portrays how the author suffers from being unable to find her place in society.
Nagata, 29, dropped out of university after six months because she felt she did not fit in, and started to work part-time. But that did not pan out well either, and she developed an eating disorder. On top of all this, her relationship with her parents was awkward.
Finally, she succeeded in becoming a manga artist after winning a prize in a manga contest when she was 25. “But I ran into difficulties creating fictional manga,” she recalled.
She was upset because nothing she did went well. She never dated anyone, and was not even sure whether she liked men or women. She longed to be held tightly by someone.
Nagata eventually decided to use an adult entertainment services for lesbians. “I thought that could be a catalyst for me to break free,” she said.
Didn’t she have any qualms about drawing a work about herself in this way?
“For one thing, I felt I had my back against the wall as a manga artist,” she said. “I thought I might be able to break loose by doing something people don’t normally do.”
The manga describes how she felt uneasy and tense before making a reservation with the service, how she felt her world had opened up on the following day, and her experience at a hotel when she used the service. In one moving scene, she bursts into laughter, as if she had gotten over something, after leaving the hotel and returning home.
The manga was initially posted — with a different title: “Onna ga Onna to Arekore Dekiru Omise e Itta Hanashi” (A story about going to a place where a woman can do this and that with another woman) — on an illustration sharing site. It received many messages from readers, with one message reading, “I was moved by how you confronted yourself.” Nagata revised the work, added new pages and published it in June under the current title.
Some bookshops refused to stock the manga, mistakenly believing it was sexually provocative because of the title.
But the title attracted many readers. The manga has been printed seven times, and by the end of November 85,000 copies had been published. Its online version has been downloaded 60,000 times. It is rare for the number of copies sold in book form and online copies to be so close: Normally, the number of downloads is less than 10 percent that of copies purchased in book form.
“She [Nagata] portrayed ambiguous feelings we normally deal with quietly, and she neither glorified them nor put herself down for having them,” said Urara Ishii of East Press. “Readers can reach their own conclusions, but this work will surely lead to an understanding about diversity and show us that people like this exist out there.”
The manga’s sequel, “Hitori Kokan Nikki” (Solitary diary exchange), was published by Shogakukan earlier this month. Its protagonist attempts to live apart from her family. She also finds herself at a loss after a woman falls in love with her for the first time. She faces each problem sincerely, which will make readers want to cheer for her.
Nagata now happily lives on her own. She said she wants to depict her eating disorder someday, a problem she refers to briefly in “Sabishisugite. ”
“I’ve been struggling with that since I was 19, and finally I’m coming to terms with it,” she said. “I want to convey feelings that only people [with this problem] understand. I want to draw works that support people in distress.”Speech