When Nagata Kabi’s My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness was released it quickly exploded in popularity. From there we continued to follow the authors life in the two-volume My Solo Exchange Diary, and now she returns once more with My Alcoholic Escape from Reality, which I’m here to review today.
The story picks up in October 2018, with Nagata Kabi being hospitalised for pancreatitis induced by alcohol consumption, along with a fatty liver. The downward spiral Nagata was falling into at the end of My Solo Exchange Diary has only continued to the point of putting her health at risk.
This entry in Nagata’s life is largely dedicated to recounting her stay in the hospital, as well as her battle to work on a new fictional manga. Despite the popularity of Nagata’s autobiographical manga, she has a lot of regrets about her honesty (especially in the first one), which has led to an increased drive to move into fiction instead.
Throughout this book, we see Nagata desperately struggle with the creative process and the fact she so forcibly shuts herself off from going down the usual autobiographical route. Even while in hospital she refused to keep a diary (something she later regrets). But as time goes on, she begins to realise that maybe it is okay to tell this story, while being more conscious of those she depicts in it.
All of these feelings come through not only in the dialogue but also through Nagata’s art, which is more detailed and focused than in My Solo Exchange Diary. This manga gives off an aura of confidence and the feeling that Nagata is far happier and more comfortable with it. I always felt a sense of hesitancy in the previous book, since it was obvious Nagata regretted things she wrote in My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness and was holding back her true feelings afterwards. That also came through in My Solo Exchange Diary’s artwork, which started losing detail and focus in the artwork and storytelling toward the end.
What’s most important here is that My Alcoholic Escape from Reality is both a story Nagata wanted to tell and one that marked a turning point in her life. Things might not be okay in her life, but she has a renewed determination to continue creating manga and sharing it with the world.
For anyone who has battled with alcohol addiction or has a lifetime illness of any kind, I’m sure the content of this book will be relatable. Nagata knows she needs to stop drinking to improve her health but she’s also so reliant on it to get her work done that quitting is by no means easy to accomplish. Coupled with her depression, self-doubts and inner turmoil there is a lot to take in here – emotionally speaking. It’s a difficult read, but if you’ve been following Nagata’s story so far then you’ll almost certainly want to see this entry through and continue cheering her on. Once you hit rock bottom the only way forward is up and it feels like Nagata is now at that point.
Of course, if you’ve yet to read any of the mangaka’s work, then this is certainly not the one to start with. Without the emotional connection to the creator, it’s almost certainly going to fall flat for you.
As with the previous books, My Alcoholic Escape from Reality has been brought to the West thanks to Seven Seas and has been translated by Jocelyne Allen. The translation reads well with no problems to note. Nagata Kabi’s next manga My Wandering Warrior Existence has just been licensed by Seven Seas for a release next year, so we won’t be waiting too long to find out how Nagata is doing now!
Overall, My Alcoholic Escape from Reality is another great manga from Nagata Kabi. While it’s a difficult read for those of us who want the best for the creator, it’s a story well worth reading. I can only hope whatever comes next sees Nagata in a much happier place because she really does deserve it.
Until the 16th of June a special interview with Nagata Kabi held by the Toronto Comic Arts Festival can be viewed on YouTube here.