REVIEW: ‘I Don’t Know How to Give Birth!’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I Dont Know How to Give Birth

Yen Press’ English release of I Don’t Know How to Give Birth! is a high-energy autobiographical comic essay by Ayami Kazama about…well…pregnancy. Even if the topics of parenting and pregnancy aren’t an interest for you personally (myself included) Kazama’s down to Earth and cartoonish depictions of her life are still endearing. Fans of other autobiographical manga such as the works of Nagata Kabi or Yen Press’ earlier release of Secretly, I’ve Been Suffering About Being Sexless will likely find something to enjoy here. The English edition is translated by Julie Goniwich, and lettered by Abigail Blackman.

Ayami Kazama and her husband, Azure Konno, are both mangaka who have decided to become parents. However, Kazama openly admits that their knowledge on reproduction is minimal at best. This is due to Kazama’s conservative household growing up, whereas on the other end of the spectrum Konno openly admits to obtaining his knowledge of sex from reading hentai (erotic/porn) manga as a teen.

Kazama spends the first few chapters on the couple’s struggles to conceive, and the chaos and emotional toll of fertility treatments. Despite the serious nature of these topics, Kazama maintains a comedic attitude throughout. There is even a point where she realizes other people around her are more uncomfortable discussing her infertility than she is. Many people might feel differently than Kazama does, but her comedic tone feels less like it is making light of the struggles some face, and more focused on her personal experience. It is nice, although sometimes so fast-paced that I felt as overwhelmed as Kazama. I’m not sure if that was her intent, but the consistent absurdity made it difficult as a reader to slow down for the more emotional moments.

Eventually, given the title, Kazama does get pregnant and the story focuses on her prepping to have a baby. There are tender moments scattered throughout. Kazama isn’t someone who dreamed of being a mother since she was a kid. In fact, she has an internal crisis at one point trying verbalize why she even wants to have a baby. Konno, the husband, is good, not to worry there. This is very much Kazama’s story, but I appreciated seeing the comedy in him supporting her, while not being portrayed as flawless either. They both are embarking on this chaotic journey together, and neither quite knows what they are doing. Each chapter has two afterwards, one from Kazama and one from Konno, where the mangakas reflect on events.

The manga’s language does still fall into a strict gender binary when discussing pregnancy and motherhood, and occasionally older biological stereotypes of women instinctively wanting to be mothers. This, however, is relatively mitigated by the manga being an autobiography. Kazama never speaks for a group; instead she only discusses herself and her experience. Also, the biological part is played up for heavy comedy, and (without spoiling) Kazama even questions her absurdity for the line of thinking. However, it is fair to note, as everyone’s personal mileage will vary with this language.

The art is cartoonish, which pairs well with the high-energy humor. Kazama’s depiction has an arrow sticking out of her head that reacts along with her. Faces are rounded in a chibi style and Kazama’s extreme reactions take up whole panels. A special nod is the hysterical personification of Kazama’s nipples. Yes, you read that right, and the character “levels up” throughout Kazama’s pregnancy.

Overall, I Don’t Know How to Give Birth! by Ayami Kazama can be so high-energy that it can be a bit overwhelming at times. The topics discussed might not interest everyone, but Kazama’s focus on the absurdity of her own personal journey will likely appeal to anyone interested in more autobiographical comic fare.

I Don’t Know How to Give Birth! is available now wherever books are sold.

 

I Don't Know How To Give Birth
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TL;DR

Overall, I Don’t Know How to Give Birth! by Ayami Kazama can be so high-energy that it can be a bit overwhelming at times. The topics discussed might not interest everyone, but Kazama’s focus on the absurdity of her own personal journey will likely appeal to anyone interested in more autobiographical comic fare.