Pick of the Month – Satoko & Nada

Okay, this one… This one right here?  Delightful.

Satoko & Nada is a simple series about two young women finding themselves as roommates in University and exploring each other’s cultures.  Satoko is a Japanese exchange student to America who finds her expectations for her roommate are very unlike what she initially thought when she meets Nada, another exchange student who comes from Saudi Arabia.  However, the two find themselves as incredibly fast friends and, for the benefit of this manga, very open and accepting about sharing their cultures with each other.

Nada talks about being Muslim, wearing traditional outfits, and her large family.  However, she’s also incredibly stylish, loves taking selfies, and is quick with a joke.  Satoko is traditional Japanese in that she’s more quiet and reserved. However, she opens up around Nada easily and is excitedly curious about things.  The two share with each other their favorite meals, their favorite movies, and various other things like colloquialisms and traditional manners. And when they really feel like fish out of water, they band together to figure out the strange foreign customs of America together.

This

Manga

Is

Just

Lovely

For one thing, it’s amazing to see something so respectful of various cultures.  The manga is super educational and likes throwing in little tidbits of facts to go along with the story and jokes.  The author also always approaches topics from with some middle ground. For instance, while the topic of women’s restrictions in their countries comes up, particularly in the case of Saudi Arabia, the manga will usually try and explain why it’s that way and what the characters personally feel about it, without trying to pass huge judgement on it.  I have my disagreements with some of the arguments presented by some of the characters but I appreciate that the author presents the facts, the character’s opinions, and then allows the reader space to make their own decision on it freely.

That said, most of the comic isn’t usually that heavy, aside from some topics that are unavoidable, such as commenting on the unfortunate instances of racism thrown their way.  In fact, even in battling some of those negative issues, this comic can be genuinely funny, with awkward moments abound when the two characters are lost in translation with each other or when two people new to American culture suddenly find some of our weirder eccentricities, like finding the roughly 1 Liter ounce size at Starbucks and deciding to share it because it’s way too much for one human’s consumption.

The manga updates in single page “chapters” and follows a 4-koma style, though uses the whole page and even sometimes the margins.  It’s a really simple setup and story but the wonderful slice of life nature of it gives the series the ability to explore a lot of neat cultural exchanges and all the hilarity that comes from it.  And that’s really what I’m enjoying it for. It’s fun, funny, and allows people to learn and empathize with people who they may not always get the chance to, in much the same way as our main characters do.

While I can’t find the online updates officially being translated by the publisher, you can find the first couple volumes pretty easily on Amazon, if you’re interested, and the series itself is published for free online here, if you know Japanese and are interested.  You can also find the author on Twitter.

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