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Satoko and Nada Vol #01 Manga Review

4 min read

Cutest odd-couple adventures

Creative Staff
Story & Art: Yupechika
Translation & Adaptor: Jenny McKeon

What They Say
A charming tale of friendship between a Japanese woman and her Muslim roommate!

Satoko, a Japanese student studying in America, has a new roommate: a Saudi Arabian woman named Nada! They might have different customs, but through mutual respect—and the hilarious adventures of their daily life—Satoko and Nada prove that friendship knows no borders.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Let me be clear when I say I absolutely love odd-couple relationships in media, as simplistic as most may be. They’re like pepperoni pizzas—pretty easy to come by and difficult to screw up. That’s not to say you aren’t able to get deep and existential with them, but it’s just that most of these kinds of stories are so comfortable staying in the lane that the genre has made for itself that it can get pretty hard to find an odd-couple story that really tries to offer something outside of surface-level satisfaction. This is all to say that Satoko and Nada allows just as much room for meaningful discussion as it does for delightful moments of nothing.

Titular characters Satoko and Nada are Japanese and Saudi Arabian women rooming together in America. And while Satoko is clearly the initial means for readers to access Nada’s world (this was originally a manga for Japanese audiences, after all), it’s the two women working together as roommates on equal standing that creates the majority of this volume’s humor and charm. Author Yupechika covers anything and everything between the roommates, from dinner plans, to clothes shopping, to of course the inevitable cultural differences between the two. And it’s in this melding of cultural differences into regular day-to-day life that gives this series its heart. Satoko and Nada isn’t chasing after the drama behind people’s differences, but rather is after normalizing the kinds of friendships that are allowed to exist in this modern society. Yupechika is so pleasantly open-minded in how they approach issues of religion and race, creating approachable scenarios that remain honest and condescension-free. When Satoko learns of the differences between a niqab, hijab, chador, and burqa, it feels less like you’re reading an information pamphlet and more like you’ve walked in on a conversation. All topics, as heavy as some may be, are unpacked with an almost effortless sense of grace all while remaining respectful of all parties involved.

That’s to say nothing of the quality of the comics themselves. Yupechika has an excellent sense of timing and observational humor, usually playing up Satoko as the straight-man to Nada’s more outgoing nature. Though even then, there’s a clear sense of stretching the characters to more than those simple archetypes. As Satoko learns more about Nada, she’s able to become less timid and more trusting of her roommate. Likewise, Nada’s outgoing nature grows and changes as she rooms with Satoko, even within the confines of this first volume. You see the characters as women, foreigners, roommates, teachers, confidants, and it’s in this sheer number of hats the characters wear that you’re able to see them grow and mature, even over the span of what are essentially 4-panel funnies.

Other times there won’t even be a punchline at the end of certain strips, Yupechika instead deciding to take a slice-of-life moment and just basking in it. During these do-nothing moments are when you especially feel this sense of quaintness—the simple fact that you can enjoy another’s presence by doing nothing of particular interest with them. While culture and upbringing is what makes people interesting, it’s in seeing these differences melt away that you’re able to really see these gal-pals thrive.

In Summary:
Satoko and Nada is genius in its simplicity. It’s able to handle issues as heavy as race and religion so remarkably easily that you almost question if the issues were brought up in the first place. Author Yupechika excels at the normalization of cultural differences while still maintaining a sense of unobtrusive respect towards those differences. All to create a lighthearted slice-of-life odd-couple comedy that I can’t wait to read the next installment of.

Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: Teen
Released By: Seven Seas
Release Date: October 9, 2018
MSRP: $10.99