by Ai Yazawa; adapted by Allison Wolfe
published by Viz; $8.99 US
I’ve recommended the Nana series up to this point, but now, reading this volume, it’s clear that everything that’s happened so far has just been prologue.
Book 8 opens with a flashback to Nana coming to Tokyo. Knowing what’s happened since puts it in deeper perspective, or a new reader can start here and fill in the background later. The long-time reader will notice a key difference, though: the singer Nana is now narrating, so we get to see how she thinks of naive, boy-crazy Hachi. Nana calls her a “pet” and their “band mascot”, but she also appreciates the good qualities Hachi provides. Hachi’s optimism works as a tonic for the band members, even if they don’t realize it.
Nana is as honest as she can be with the reader about her feelings for both Hachi and her boyfriend/competitive motivation Ren. That’s one of the strongest sources of the book’s appeal: the complex, multi-faceted relationships that don’t fit into standard categories. Plus, Nana’s passion, her drive to sing beyond everything else, is immensely attractive. Add in the lovely, elongated art with strong sense of style and heart-breaking emotional expression, and you have the best manga series currently running.
The big revelation here, though, is a life-changing event for Hachi. (I’m not going to spoil it; you can read more about it, and possible ramifications, elsewhere.) I suspect that plays into a change of tone that happens in this book. Nana begins speaking as if she’s looking back on events from a more mature position years in the future. There’s a melancholy air of regret that implies that the two Nanas are going to part at some point we’ve yet to read about, and it won’t be as either of them wished.
That’s what life is about — balancing conflicting desires, career dreams, friends and lovers. This series explores a complex web of interesting variations on the theme as the band members struggle and interconnect. People might do the right thing for the wrong reasons, or vice versa. Whether you’re ready for them or not, adult decisions have to be made.