In The World Where I Belong by GMOW (edited by Bekah Caden), beings called saviors save suicidal people and grant their wishes. Kouki, a high school student in Japan, encounters his savior during the darkest time of his life. What follows is a powerful narrative about the effects of trauma, the stigma against mental illness, and forgiving yourself.
Reader Warning: This review contains discussions about suicide. If you or someone you know is suicidal or having suicidal ideations, please know that there is help.
Just when Kouki is about to end his life, a savior named Airi appears before him saying “Hey, Sir! I don’t think this is a good place to commit suicide!” At first, he thinks Airi is a ghost. Nobody else but him can see her. But then he later learns that one of his classmates, a young woman named Yuina, also has a savior. As Kouki interacts with Yuina more, Airi struggles with her purpose as a savior and the potential of discovering her past life.
I’ve read tons of fantastic webcomics over the last few months, but now and then comes a gem that’s hidden so deep that, after discovering it, I know I should spread the word. The World Where I Belong explores mental health and suicide rates in Japan from the perspectives of the characters coping with mental illness. The story dispels the myth that people commit suicide for a reason. When Airi asks Kouki why he had attempted suicide, he explains that he felt it was the only way out for him then. When you’re dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental illnesses, death can be the escape from the suffering and anguish.
Kouki grapples with guilt over a past incident with some of his friends. Yuina hides her schizophrenia diagnosis and therapy sessions from her parents. Witnessing her sister’s suicide attempt years ago continues to haunt her. The webcomic contains images that depict suicide attempts, but it’s neither exploitative nor gratuitous. Rather, they add dimension and depth to the characters and plot, showing the effects of past trauma and the stigma from family and friends.
The complex and complicated characters truly make the story here. Airi’s narrative involves trying to find out about her place and purpose as a savior. According to the calendar year, she’s three years old, yet she has the appearance of a teenager. Her encounters with the other saviors give more info about them and where they could have come from. Yuina feels like she’s living in the shadow of her older sister. Yuina’s unstable relationship with her mother contributes to her self-doubt.
A well-nuanced exploration of the perceptions surrounding mental health, this is definitely a story you shouldn’t sleep on.
The World Where I Belong is created by GMOW and edited by Bekah Caden. This ongoing webcomic is available to read on WebToon.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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