*Nana Book 8 — Recommended

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 Book 8 cover
Nana Book 8
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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.

8 Comments

  1. James Schee

    Yeah the surprise in this volume really stunned me, but it works for how Hachi has been.

    I just finished #9, which really blew me away. A bonus for it was a backup flashback tale of the Trapnest characters in their real youth. It was really enlightning, and well done.

  2. Great point, yes, it makes sense for the character although I found it completely unexpected. (Maybe because those kinds of real-life problems aren’t often tackled in American serial comics, and when they are, they risk seeming like an afterschool special.) I have #9 on the reading stack.

  3. I thought this volume was a beautiful turning point for the series. I love Hachi and somehow find her extremely relateable: she’s eager to please, but she also wants somebody to take care of because it makes HER happy as well. However, I think the surprise in this book is what it takes to teach her maturity; instead of running and shrinking away from responsibility, she rises to the occasion. And it gets even better in 9 and 10. :)

  4. [...] gets an advance look at A Promise of Romance. At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson puts vol. 8 of Nana and vol. 1 of Aria on her Recommended list and suspects from vol. 2 of Honey and Clover that that [...]

  5. The manga gets better and better. You’d think that such an event happening to Hachi would seem natural, but it’s so little done (and when happened, done too lightly) that it doesn’t cover any of the real stress and pain someone goes through, but I think Ai Yazawa does that shock really well.

    You think there is a change in tone? I think from this point on, the series is more serious and light-hearted moments are few (but thank god not entirely gone) but the air of regret and looking-back I’ve always felt even when Hachi was narrating. In fact, re-reading the manga, I can see quite a few hints about how Nana will later break down and the turning point shown in this volume.

  6. [...] been too long since I’ve checked in with this terrific series. I last talked about Book 8 at the beginning of the summer, and there’s been four more installments since then. Nana [...]

  7. [...] easily. Brilliant stuff, with books 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 out this [...]

  8. [...] NanaAi Yazawa’s addictive manga series had six volumes, 8-13, released in English in 2008. It’s a briliant blend of character development — as the two young women who are its title characters learn about love and what they want from life — masquerading as a rock’n'roll soap opera. [...]

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