Graphic Novel Review: Himawari House by Harmony Becker

Himawari House by Harmony Becker. First Second, 2021. 9781250235565. 384pp. with a note on the use of accents in the book + early sketches in the back.

Nao moves from the U.S back to Japan, where she was born, to study Japanese for a year between high school and college. She lives in shared housing with four others: Hyejung, from South Korea, who is studying for university entrance exams in Japan; Tina from Singapore who is doing the same; and two young Japanese dudes, the friendly Shinichi and very quiet Masaki. As Nao reconnects with her childhood self and tries to figure out if she’s gaijin or Japanese, the five form the type of fast, deep friendships that can only happen when everyone is in a new place, trying to help each other. (The other characters inner live are explored a bit in the book, too.) The story includes crushes, holiday parties, karaoke, part-time jobs, a charming grandma who lives down the street, and the best use of accented English I’ve ever seen in a book.

Worth noting: When the characters speak a language other than English, the language is in the word balloons along with English. It makes for a great chance to practice another language if you know a little of it, and it’s so much better than putting translated language in English between << brackets like this >>, which is what I saw in a lot of comics when I was a kid.

Becker previously drew George Takei’s graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy.


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