Farewell to My Alter Review: How We Identify

Farewell to My Alter, from Yen Press, is a collection of short stories from Nio Nakatani with translation by Eleanor Summers and lettering by Erin Hickman. The stories explore many emotional issues, such as identity, love,  affection, and loss. The entire collection of nine stories is beautiful. Farewell to My Alter handles the subject and characters with a delicacy that somehow makes each profound. It’s like a snapshot of a moment and asking for some context. Each one has its flavor, but all deal with identity. That’s where it all begins, and Nio Nakatani does a stellar job.

Individuality Optional

The collection of manga short stories has some from previous anthologies, like Éclair, with one new tale. This is my first time reading anything from Nio Nakatani, and all I can say is: I need more. A lot more. The opening story that is the manga’s title, “Farewell to My Alter,” surprisingly explores twins’ identity. Does identity matter here when there is no clear separation between Hariko and Ririko? Especially since their father tossed a coin to decide who was oldest because he forgot.

That coin flip becomes pivotal in how they choose to identify. They learn that identity is fluid and can change on a whim. There could be an entire essay devoted to this one short. It’s not only that good, but there’s so much to analyze within its short twenty-eight pages.

Identity Through Relation

Farewell to My Alter cover image of twin girls posing on a seat in the same exact way.
Courtesy of Yen Press

I loved “The Hero Saves the World Three Times” in Farewell to My Alter since it reminded me of the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated cartoon, “Peace on Earth,” as both deals with humanity’s need to other a group and create conflict. In Nio Nakatani’s story, the hero and others look to channel that need for battle away from other humans. While a beautiful story, the tragedy is the more extensive discussion about whether society creates the need to fight and feel superior to others or if this is innate to all people. 

“Tear-Flavored Escargot” is a comedic look at a crybaby who does not cry anymore because a snail took her ability to cry. Although it seems trivial, the broader themes still deal in the realm of identity. How people self-identify and one’s identity in relation to those around them remains is one I’ve rarely seen discussed in manga to this degree. After all, there can’t be someone labeled a crybaby without an opposite. The recurring themes are woven throughout each short story, even when the general emotions change from sadness to comedy to joy. The drawings complement the stories, and the cover is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It beckons you to pick Farewell to My Alter up.

Give Me An “O” For Obsessed

“Happiness in the Shape of a Scar,” point of fact a lot of the stories, delve into GL or shoujo; showcasing all the myriad emotions including affection, uncertainty, and obsession. Nio Nakatani’s skills at conveying queer love in Farewell to My Alter are spectacular. In this short story, two classmates become friends only after one of them suffers an injury. Interlacing one’s (Torii) obsession is guilt, and yet she’s not the only one obsessed. Kai, the focus of her fixation, fixates on piano, to the exclusion of all else. Obsessing over a person is disturbing, but an obsession of any kind is unhealthy and dangerous. After all, when it’s gone, what does a one have left? 

I tried to pick a story I liked the least and couldn’t find one. Each is sweet, relatable in its emotional authenticity, and get better with each reread. The search for identity, accepting who we are, striving to be who we are, is an ongoing process with stutters and stops. It’s never a simple path, and no one takes the same road. That’s what makes Nio Nakatani’s Farewell to My Alter so riveting. They feel removed yet connected as you read them. Read all nine short stories in Farewell to My Alter. Then reread them!

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