*Nana Books 12-14 — Recommended

Picking up from Book 11, I figured it was time I indulged myself and got caught up on this amazing series.

Time is flexible with this series, what with its narration frequently taking a nostalgic tone of wistful memory. That’s even more obvious in the first chapter, in which we’ve jumped ahead to see Hachi and her daughter (!) Satsuki and her friends gathering for a summer fireworks festival, just as they did back then (which is the reader’s current time).

Nana Book 12 cover
Nana Book 12
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The flash-forward drops hints, based on which characters appear and which don’t. I like this approach, because later, when all the strands come together, it’s neat to see how now led to then, yet it still leaves surprises to come. And it’s, in a way, happier, knowing that some of them, at least, are still talking, even if there’s plenty of foreshadowing that not everything ends well.

Once we’re back in present-day, things become much more melancholic. Nana’s trying to get Hachi and Nobu back together, even though Hachi’s engaged to Takumi. She has a misguided idea that Nobu’s better for Hachi, which may even be true, but it’s really a way for Nana to keep her friends together and make herself most comfortable. And she’s right about the appeal of a girl who seems like she needs to be rescued to a certain kind of boy.

It’s even more odd that Nana’s focused more on Hachi than her own upcoming marriage plans with Ren. But then, when a record company has to approve the idea and the date, maybe it doesn’t seem as romantic. They’re all seeking comfort, stability, the sense that they belong somewhere, and they’re hoping to find it in official recognition of their relationships. But that brings its own problems, like press conferences and celebrations that are really marketing events.

Nana Book 13 cover
Nana Book 13
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It all comes to a head at Reira’s birthday party, the same day as Shin turns 16, in Book 13. All this promotion turns them into celebrities, causing people to concentrate on them instead of their music. Yazawa does a particularly good job with the art in these sequences, balancing the confusion of a celebrity crowd with powerful solo emotional moments, trying to find someone or avoid being seen by a particular person.

Takumi comes off particularly hard-hearted in this episode, as he always puts work first, above his fiance and her feelings. He’s breaking up couples left and right, sometimes without even recognizing it, and lovers are forced to realize that more mature considerations — like reputation or career or future plans — may take the place of acting on feelings. The key question is how to balance love and control: of yourself, of your emotions, and sometimes of others. Especially in the face of desire.

Takumi isn’t that bad a guy, but I think I’ve figured out why he seems like such a villain. Many of the characters are driven by not wanting to be alone. They need attention, whether from a crowd at a performance or fans buying the CD, or from friends or lovers. Takumi, on the other hand, makes it clear he’s putting business first. (Some other characters do the same, like Shin asking for money for sex, or Yasu’s mysterious silences, but we can see that they don’t really mean it or that they’re wrong for doing so.)

Nana Book 14 cover
Nana Book 14
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Nobu’s getting together with a porn star. Shin’s been warned away from Reira. Hachi is torn between Takumi and Nana. Meanwhile, Ren and Nana are wrapping sex and death and rock’n’roll together into one sexy couple. Although their never-ending love drove the series premise, as the books continue and we see more than one kind of relationship, I’m not sure that their love is really the way things should be.

On a completely different note, I love the way couples take baths together to have serious discussions. I’m sure part of it’s cultural, but it seems so warm and comfortable and intimate and potentially sexual (but not necessarily so).

In Book 14, Nana’s band Blast is on a press tour, making appearances to promote their album. There’s a lot of discussions about fans and groupies and how they should behave, and separated, the guys start misbehaving. One’s into women, another’s doing drugs, and the more I learn about Yasu’s past, the more I want to know. He attracts the most beautiful women. Ren, on the other hand, was more attractive before I knew more about how he thinks. As life moves faster, more characters retreat into memories (which means flashbacks for us, distinguished by a different font) to reassure themselves of who they are now.

Typical for me, Book 14 ends on a cliffhanger, in which Nana, kept apart from Ren by the tour, learns something she didn’t want to know and may not listen to him explain.

Here’s a review of Book 13 that explores the depth of character development with some spoilers.


  1. “On a completely different note, I love the way couples take baths together to have serious discussions. I’m sure part of it’s cultural, but it seems so warm and comfortable and intimate and potentially sexual (but not necessarily so).”

    LOL. I don’t think it’s cultural, but more that Yazawa is picking up that many of us are at our most relaxed and off guard when we’re in the bath or shower. My SO and I usually have the best discussions when I’m taking a bath. He sits on the toilet since there DEFINITELY isn’t enough space for two, but there’s something about sitting alone in the warm water that makes me crave conversation and find it easy to be forthright.

    There was a study recently that warm drinks can actually make people react more positively to and comfortably with one another (which is why if you’re looking for someone to “warm up” to you, you should invite them for hot cocoa, tea, or coffee, not cold beer), and I’m sure the same works with baths!

    It made me laugh, though, when you pointed this out. I’d noticed but never noted it in the books against my own life or the reasoning behind it before.

  2. […] [Review] Nana Vols. 12-14 Link: Johanna Draper Carlson […]

  3. […] Souls and The Dawn of Love at Boys Next Door. Johanna Draper Carlson gives her stamp of approval to vols. 12-14 of Nana. Michelle Smith reviews vol. 1 of Papillon at Manga Recon. Deb Aoki gets a chuckle out of vol. 1 of […]

  4. Ah, to miss Rivkah, I would like to point out that what Johanna says about baths being cultural is absolutely true. Although I agree with your statement, as a person who is Japanese, I can personally tell you that baths are a cultural thing, from onzen to hot springs, to domestic households, where even though it’s very traditional, it is still expected that when a man comes home from work, his wife will have a hot bath waiting for him, even if she is a worker too.

    I think that Ms. Yazawa is taking that cultural aspect, and making it more modern and sexy for a younger reader, all while still enforcing a traditional value.

    If you see Hachiko-Nana, she is very obsessed with romance, and she wants to be a wife. she would be the kind of wife that had the bath ready for her husband when he came home from work, but the difference being she might join him.

    I guess it might be hard to do, but one cannot separate the Japanese aspect from manga by using American cultural aspects. They’re quite variant!

    Aha, and please, although I know it sounds horribly sexist, and has even declined in the years (although not by much, understand that it isn’t a bad thing at all that a woman would feel more “wife-like” while in a tub with her lover, in Japan.

    And even though the Nanas are their own people, the reader can see that they secretly long for the same goal – marriage and love.

    The bath is a cultural thing that enforces that desire, and a lot of little girls can relate to.

  5. What interesting background, thank you! I hadn’t thought at all about the “good wife” aspect.

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

  7. […] what am I buying? Manga. All my favorites seem to come out in the same month: Nana, High School Debut, Sand Chronicles, Oishinbo, Black Jack, Parasyte… good […]

  8. Well, Nana, certainly is the manga that tops my Favourites list. (I do happen to read scanlated versions, however I don´t think that Ai Yazawa is going to suffer much from it since I buy it in 3 languages (English, Spanish and Japanese)I know Im pretty obsessed by it, but I can´t resist it. When I walk into a Borders store and see Nana on the shelf i have to get it. When I walk into a Vid (not Viz) store and see it displayed i also have to buy it. When I go to the Asian neighborhood in LA and i see it being sold I also buy it.
    The aesthetic beauty that is demonstrated by Ai Yazawa really comes to its peak with this manga. Her previous stories like Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai and Gokinjou Monagatari, and Parakiss are all very beautiful but they are sometimes lacking in line definition and can sometimes appear to be old school shoujo style drawings,well Parakiss not so much but still there is something missing, that Ai Yazawa has finally pinned down and applied to Nana. The storyline is also very mature and there are so many things happening that you can´t get bored. As opposed to her other stories, the supporting characters of the story also get their time in the limelight and they each get to grow while you watch them each reach maturity.
    This manga is classy, interesting and ever so beautiful. It is not easily constricted into one category but transcends them with the superb handling of both art and story.

  9. […] Yazawa’s addictive manga series had six volumes, 8-13, released in English in 2008. It’s a briliant blend of character development — as […]

  10. […] Nana Book 18 — the most mature and involving of the lot, the story of a rock chick and her best friend looking for love and satisfaction […]

  11. These Nana books are amazing! I hope the writer starts feeling better soon :)

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