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Fans of Kiwi Blitz will recognize the name Mary Cagle, the author and artist of the teenage-crime fighters in a kiwi-mecha webcomic. But among her many side-projects is Let’s Speak English, an autobiographical comic starring Mary and her English-language class students in Kurihara, Japan. Cagle, a native Texan, trades life in the United States for life as an elementary school Assistant Language Teacher in the Miyagi Prefecture. Besides adjusting to the culture, climate, and language, she has to contend with over excited youngsters and Japanese misconceptions of Americans (apparently, we eat too much bread).
The strip is drawn in a basic four-panel layout, in stark black and white coloring with some manual screentone, similar to a gag strip. Each strip is a stand-alone story, usually centering around something silly her students did or said, or a funny interaction between coworkers. Sometimes Cagle will use a multi-panel page for specific story arcs, such as when she and a fellow ALT attend a rock concert. Her drawing is cartoonish in appearance, especially the depictions of children, adding charm to the daily life depictions.
Aside from sporadic story arcs, there is no overarching plot, but this aspect is why the comic works. It’s rather like having a pen pal who sends a short postcard with a simple story about their new home. Cagle’s strong point is using humor to underscore the differences in American and Japanese culture. Stories range from incorrect translations, student silliness, homesickness, and anime collecting.
Mary Cagle’s comic about an American in Japan is a fun look into a different culture through a friend’s eyes. You can catch her further adventures at MaryCagle.com.