Nana 21

July 10, 2010

Ai Yazawa – Viz – 2010 – 21+ volumes

Unfortunately, Ai Yazawa went on an extended hiatus for unspecified health reasons a little over a year ago… and was actually in the hospital for about ten months, apparently, and doesn’t know when or if she’ll be able to draw again. That’s most heartbreaking, and I do hope she is well again.

This volume… I don’t know if it’s a terrible place to leave Nana, or one of the best. Words fail me when it comes to the content. When I saw what happened at the end of the last volume, I was sure it was bad, since this series takes its drama very seriously, but I didn’t think it was going to be nearly as bad as it looks. It was.

I’ve got no commentary to offer here. For such an event, this is one of the most raw and human takes I’ve ever seen of it. Nothing is glossed over or honored, we just get the very rough aftermath. It’s how me or anyone else would react in this situation, and for realism, as always, Ai Yazawa is the absolute best. But all the same. Not only do I not want to spoil it, I just have nothing to say that would inform this. It’s heartbreaking. Sad. One of the saddest volumes of manga I’ve ever read, and there’s nothing else.

But what if this was the last volume? As far as loose threads go, Nana is still gone in the present, but we’ve found out what the gathering is for. There are some insights from the characters that ring as true as anything else, and it feels like a good, if absolutely bleak and sad, place to leave things. Actually, there are lots of loose threads, because Nana hasn’t left in the past yet, although we can assume why she does at this point. I think most of the unfinished business was stuff I could fill in without being told, other than the reunion in the present, and all the final thoughts the characters offered at the end here… felt right. As did the unfinished business. Because, if nothing else, Nana has always been very reality-based, and how often do you get a happy ending with all the loose threads tied up?

This is the most crushing emotional low for the characters yet. That it was still 100% more worth reading than almost anything else in my to-read pile is an absolute testament to the strength of both Nana and Ai Yazawa.

What an awesome series.

Nana 20

December 12, 2009

Ai Yazawa – Viz – 2010 – 21+ volumes

This volume ends… badly.  Very badly.  I suspect it’s not nearly as bad as it looks, cause this is a manga, but I’m guessing since the manga is Nana, it will be devastating/debilitating all the same.

That last scene wiped pretty much everything else that happened from my memory.  Lots of see-sawing back and forth between Nana and Ren about getting back together without either speaking to one another.  There was also talk about the lineup of Trapnest, and Reira took a bold, unadvisable action to cover for Ren while he got his stuff sorted out.  I liked where everything was going finally, but then that last scene.  I nearly cried because of the implications, but again, things don’t usually work out that badly.

I still like Takumi an awful lot.  I like his devotion to both women in his life, in both the wife capacity and the younger sister capacity, though it’s disturbing to label Reira as such considering what is going on.  He finally has the talk he needed to have with Ren, but that confirmed my suspicions that he’s just giving Reira what she wants, rather than… actually cheating on Nana, though most would probably still call it that.  I still say he’s the best character in the series.  Even the “present” story segments paint him as fairly devoted to his family, but a workaholic.  Hachi and he are separated, but it sounds like it’s half that he’s never home and half that Hachi wants Nana to come back to Japan and won’t leave for wherever Takumi is.

There’s only one volume of the series left before it went on hiatus at the beginning of last summer. I suspect that there aren’t too many volumes left in it anyway, because it feels like the “present” pieces of the story are slowly starting to fall into place.  It just occurred to me that something at the beginning of this volume hints at the worst, but I’ll hold onto my hopes.

Needless to say, Nana is still fantastic.  It really is made out of the best stuff.  The plot, art, characters, setting, emotions, situations, music, and everything about it is just superior.  I don’t think there will ever be anything quite like Nana, which is another reason I think it will probably end soon.  I’d hate for it to drag out too long.

But at present, it is on hiatus.  I sincerely hope Ai Yazawa will be well enough to finish it soon.  Perhaps she and Moyoco Anno will return to being professional mangaka simultaneously, in a fit of wellness, unleashing all sorts of girly awesomeness onto the world once again.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Nana 19

December 11, 2009

Ai Yazawa – Viz – 2009 – 21+ volumes

I never really have that much to say about Nana, since even dropping a little hint would spoil every volume, but it breaks my heart every time.  Even volumes like this one, that aren’t particularly sad, are heartbreaking and excellent in a way that only Nana can be.

Several things happen, including a resolution to the Shin situation, a light at the end of the tunnel for the problems that Ren and Nana have (or at least a healthy view on Ren’s part), a proposal from Nana to Hachi, and a separate, but no less disturbing problem that Ren seems to be getting into.  I would rather the series not take that path, but it should be interesting if it blows up and the other characters catch wind of it.

But I want to talk a little bit about Takumi.  Takumi is the closest this series has to a bad guy.  Not very many people like him, and he started the series off as a jerk.  We were given hints he wasn’t all that serious about Hachi.  But as the volumes progressed, any hints we were given about infidelity seemed like just teases, aside from the dangerous, but necessary and long-standing relationship between he and Reira.  He seems to wave back and forth between pushing Reira away and encouraging her affection depending on her mood, and he does the same in this volume, but in a less veiled way than before since Reira is emotionally unstable without Shin.  Takumi also comes home late to Hachi and always leaves her feeling lonely, something that it’s hard to forgive him for.  But on the other hand, whenever he is home, we see that he and Hachi lead a somewhat cozy, affectionate domestic life, and he treats Hachi with a great deal of love and devotion.

This time around, we learn that Reira is more important to him than anybody else, but while he is a womanizer, Hachi is the only one he loves for real.  The problem with Takumi is that he’s not very sincere.  He may love Reira, his childhood friend, but he seems more devoted to Hachi, his wife.  He may love both women, which puts him in a spot, but not a spot he would ever, ever seek advice for a way out of.  He doesn’t really have any friends to talk to, anyway.  From the way he carefully words things, I would guess that he loves Hachi and indulges and is very attached to Reira, who does need emotional support.

Basically, aside from all the weird craziness that came up in this volume, I took away the fact that Takumi is probably my favorite character, and one of the more interesting things about the series.  And for all that stuff I mentioned up there, he and Yasu are probably the most centered, least emotional people in the main cast.  They are the ones that call the shots and offer advice to the others, but Takumi is a bit more direct, demanding, and evil in what he does than Yasu.  I like him a great deal for it.

Nana 18

August 11, 2009

Ai Yazawa – Viz – 2009 – 21+ volumes

I felt bad, because I wasn’t really in the mood for Nana and read it anyway.  Nana is certainly one of the best series I’m reading right now, but reading it when I’m not feeling it is a total waste.  It might also be telling that I reached for We Were There before Nana, but We Were There is new and shiny, and I’ve had a few years to grow into Nana, now.  After starting the volume, it only took a few pages to get me completely sucked back in the story, and only the best series can do that after 18 volumes.

There were a few twists here.  The present-day story continues, and the gang seems in favor of going after Nana.  The relationship dynamics are interesting, because… well, it seems like everyone is present and accounted for, even people who we have yet to see.  I’m a bit sad that it seems like Takumi and Hachi are separated and that Nobu is still some sort of rebound guy, because in the end, Takumi isn’t so bad and Nobu deserves better.  I’m still half expecting the other shoe to drop, but Takumi’s only flaw is probably that he’s slightly less considerate than he should be, and even then, jealousy reflected through Hachi’s side of the story probably distorts that a bit.

But then again, I suddenly remembered that Takumi sleeps with the star of that soap opera, the one that Nana and Hachi like.  So, yeah, there’s that.  I don’t know.  I like that the soap opera was referenced in this volume without alluding to the affair.  I also like that the affair is a really minor plot point that’s likely never to come up again, when everything else that Takumi does is examined in such microscopic detail.

I’m still trying to figure out the general thrust of things in the present.  Mosly it seems that Nana went off to be by herself and nobody knows where.  In the past, the “main” storyline, well… there are lots of things going on.  Nana and company are about to perform in a huge arena and are super-psyched.  Life is good for everyone.  Takumi and Hachi are doing well together.  Ren and Nana are getting along.  This is the happiest the series has been in a long time.

But Shin.  Poor Shin.  Life really hits him hard here.  For no real reason.  If he hadn’t been so lonely, nothing bad would have happened.  And that pretty much derails everything for everyone.

On the bright side, there’s a bonus story in the back, this time about Takumi’s childhood.  He was an adorable kid, and I’m happy that this story came when it did, because it helps shed some light on the relationship he has with Reira (which really is one-sided, though he does love her dearly like a brother).  He also doesn’t think nearly as much of himself as I thought he did, which also makes him a lot more likeable.  Takumi’s not a bad guy, and I hope that the story never proves that he is.

I loved how the volume began and ended with the same Trapnest song, too.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Nana 17

May 25, 2009

Ooh, in the “present day” storyline, something major happens.  Even though that story only gets a few pages or less per volume, I like how details have slowly been revealed and things are still happening.  I guess a few pages per volume over 17 volumes is still a lot of time for story, but still.

Also, an ad in the back of the volume advertised a special Takumi story in Cookie Magazine.  Hooray for Takumi’s childhood next volume!  I’m still most fond of the story focusing on Naoki, but I bet the Takumi story will be really fun.

Anyway.  One of the things I like about this series so much is how all the characters have their own lives, and some parts of them are unrelated to things the main characters do.  I have a hard time remembering who some of these really minor characters are, but the best example in this volume is where Misato’s brother is talking with a friend that is begging an introduction to Misato.  I didn’t remember who either of the boys were, but their connection to the story is through Misato, whose connection to the story is as Nana’s unknown sister, though really she’s just a fan of Nana’s that recently got to meet her at a party.  The fact that there are these scenes between characters that are three and four times removed from the plot is pretty cool.  Sometimes I worry about the cast growing to an unmanageable size, but I don’t think I’d ever sacrifice scenes like this.

There’s a lot of hoopla around the tabloids digging up dirt on Nana’s mother and what it means to that family.  It doesn’t really seem to bother Nana or her mother, though her mother actually does something pretty lousy at the end of the book.  I hope that something good will come of it and that everyone has just misinterpreted her actions, but then again, perhaps this is just how she is.  I do feel bad for Misato, though, who we don’t get to hear from after all this goes down.

Elsewhere, there’s the usual emotional turmoil.  Things are still on the rocks between Shin and Reira, Ren and Reira are still getting along, Takumi and Reira have their thing going, Takumi makes Hachi feel a bit lonely since he doesn’t call while he’s away… but it still makes me happy that he always seems to answer his phone and talk to her like a friend.  Takumi is a bit of a jerk, but at least he’s nice to Hachi in his way.

Better, though, is the fact that Nana and Hachi meet up and live together for the New Year’s holidays since Ren and Takumi are away recording.  Being together seems to make the two of them happier than anything else, and I’m still extremely puzzled as to why they always find excuses to not talk to one another.  Their friendship is more or less the best part of this series.

So what’s left for next time?  Well, we will probably get the bonus Takumi chapter, but there’s also Misato’s reaction to look forward to, and… maybe Takumi and Ren getting back into town?  Or, barring that, more of Nana and Hachi together, which would be fine by me.  Quiet volumes like this one (well, quiet aside from the mess with Nana’s mother, which doesn’t seem to stress anyone out that much) are really nice to have occasionally.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Nana 16

April 1, 2009

Oh, Nana.  One of my favorite scenes in this volume was Ren coming right out and asking Nana about all the terrible and shallow things that might make her more happy with her situation in life.  At this point, they both sort of realize that the two of them won’t work as a married couple, I think, though the realization has always been there.  Ren is good to Nana though, and Nana does what she can for Ren.

There’s lots of stuff about Nana’s background in this volume, though.  The main focus is on the concert that Nana’s band is throwing for their fan club.  It’s a big deal for the 2nd Misato that she’s being invited, and a lot of time is spent explaining how she’s going to get there and just how excited she is.  There’s a word or two from the band to reassure Nana that the girl would be there too, since Nana thinks of her as the 2nd Misato.  Then the 1st Misato, along with some paparazzi, sort of burst a bubble and we find out exactly why it is that the story has spent so much time with the 2nd Misato up until now.  Nothing really comes of it here, but I can see that going places later.

We get to see… er, present-day Nana at the beginning of the volume!  Hooray!  I didn’t actually think she would appear in these flash-forward parts.  It’s a very sad scene, unfortunately, and we don’t get as… up close as we have with the other characters.  I didn’t actually understand what was going on at first, and had to read the few pages a couple times before I realized the timeline had skipped again, but it’s still a really cool scene.

Also, hooray for Hachi’s birthday!  I’m glad there was no drama for that.  This volume was actually sort of drama-free save for some minor skirmishes and some big storms brewing.  It’s nice to see everyone sort of happy every once in awhile.

Also, this volume is HUGE, and contains an extra story about Nobu.  I liked Nobu a whole lot more after that story.  He’s a cute guy, and I wish the ladies/life were better to him.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Nana 15

February 4, 2009

I can’t remember if I mentioned this before or not, but I still haven’t gotten used to Miu and Asami.  I’m always vaguely confused at first when I encounter them in a new volume.  It’s not like they’re new characters or anything, either.  They’ve been around for almost half the volumes now.  I think I have a bit of trouble telling Ai Yazawa’s blonde girls apart, even though Asami and Miu look nothing alike, nor do they look anything like Hachi, really.  It does get kind of confusing in one scene, though, when it cuts between something Reira’s doing and something Hachi is doing.  Both of them have their hair pulled back.  Of course, the confusion could be intentional too, which would be a really clever trick in that situation.

No real bombshells in this volume.  There’s a real nice scene between Miu and Yasu that made me like that couple a whole lot more.  I’m not a big fan of the implied Nana/Yasu, even though Nana seems to lean that way herself.

There’s some more of Nana having a nervous fit, and I just feel like her problems would resolve themselves if she and Hachi got together for a night by themselves.  Hachi is really the best thing for Nana, I think.  The rather depressing flash-forward narration always seems to lay these hopes to waste, though.

What else… oh yes, Takumi and Hachi.  They get to have some fun together.  I keep thinking more and more that Takumi isn’t a bad guy, but I’m also waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I know he’ll do something bad if I wait long enough.

So yes, I’m still totally addicted to the characters, the story, and absolutely everything in this series.  15 volumes and the magic is still going strong.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.