A wondrous little window into a whole new range of experience, that still feels relatable and oh so very human. My life in Japan is the fourth autobiographical comic book by author, blogger and YouTuber Grace Buchele Mineta. The 169-page, full-colour comic book was self-published earlier this year (2016) after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Like her three previous books (My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy, My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy, and Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo), My Life in Japan is composed of anecdotal episodes told in comic form – all drawn from Grace’s experiences as an American living in Japan with her husband, Ryousuke. That is not to say that her stories focus solely on the culture shock or the difference between the United States and Japan; she touches on issues unique to inter-cultural marriages, learning and living surrounded by a new language, and making one’s way in a new home. Sprinkled along the way are episodes that do not necessarily depend on a reader sharing common life or relationship experience to be relatable, but resonate on just a human level. Say, for example, reaching the limit of tolerance for people when, instead of quieter days working on your own, you have a busy patch of meetings and obligations that leave you exhausted and drained. Or struggling with self-motivation for things like exercise.
Unlike Grace’s other books, which draw on anecdotes from the couple’s time living in Tokyo itself My Life in Japan focuses on their life in the country side, with the new addition of scenes from their college years in America where she and Ryousuke first met. Also new for this fourth book: the format of the comics, which appear in full colour instead of line art and are given anywhere from three to seven pages - with the occasional explanatory or contextualizing paragraph between panels – which allow for more complete episodes.
These longer comics do come at something of a price though – if only for readers interested in more informational content along the way. My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy, My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy, and Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo all contain blocks of plain prose pulled from Grace’s blog (Texan in Tokyo) that blended with the themes and topics of the comics, addressing them in a less whimsical way, whereas My Life in Japan sticks strictly to the lighter comic format. Not that it is a bad thing; it gives My Life in Japan a consistent pace and makes it a uniform experience.
What makes My Life in Japan so unique is Grace herself, her voice. Like any other YouTuber, the videos on her channel all contribute to the same image – an on-screen persona, perhaps, though she certainly feels more genuine than that. Genuinely sweet, honestly kind, and wonderfully adventurous. Putting forward content that is thought provoking, light, entertaining, and heartwarming in many a combination. That same presence and quality of content shows in her books. Even without the interjections of Marvin – a fictional rabbit who appears in the first three comic books as a stand-in for other people, as a point off which to bounce her arguments, and just as a funny little character – My Life in Japan keeps a light air with a friendly, conversational tone that makes all the punchlines feel like a good time with friends – and all the more serious moments very real and very human.
Marty is an aspiring author from Ottawa, armed with an imagination stuck in permanent overdrive, a BA in English from OttawaU, and (soon enough) Professional Writing credentials from Algonquin College. When not writing, Marty’s usually occupied in some aspect of geek culture – from consuming new media (and revisiting old favourites for the thousandth time), to cosplay and conventions.