by Ai Yazawa; adapted by Allison Wolfe
published by Viz; $9.99 US
I’ve waited a month to read this latest installment, because I knew it would be the last for a while. Volume 21 catches us up to the Japanese releases, and due to creator Yazawa’s illness and recovery time, the series is currently on hold. (In the meantime, there’s always rereading the series from the beginning or enjoying her previous manga Paradise Kiss.)
This isn’t a bad place to stop for a bit, actually. Events reach a distinctive turning point, and while it’s frustrating not seeing the characters get a final happy ending, they (and we) will need to time to recover and set their lives in new directions.
Tomorrow is Nana’s 21st birthday, and she’s hoping her best friend Hachi and her boyfriend Ren will both come see her after the difficult, often separated year they’ve had. But early on, the fourth page of the book gives notice that things don’t always work out for the best. It also captures the melancholy note of the series, as captions present Nana’s thoughts:
Even if Hachi doesn’t come see me…
Even if Ren and I break up…
…I’ll be all right.
I’ve got my voice.
However, readers suspect that that’s merely bravado. Nana and Ren are meant to be together, although it’s unlikely Ren will make it, since while fleeing the paparazzi chasing him, his car slid off the road in the snow and wrecked.
Another journalist, while giving up on a story on Nana, tells his editor another key lesson of the series: “If you give something important up to gain something else … you won’t necessarily get what you want. Happiness is about how you feel. It’s not about your circumstances.” These rock kids are chasing fame and family and love in an attempt to be happy, when the potential is inside them all along regardless of what they do or find. The appeal of this series is watching the cast be exquisitely miserable. At least we have this distinctively drawn art to enjoy while waiting for them to find out whether the bargains they make with life work out.
Meanwhile, Takumi and Hachi are playing at being parents and adults. I found it surprising here that Hachi is the wise one, correctly telling the all-knowing band mastermind Takumi what he should have done. It’s a nice reminder that he does have someone there for him when he’s given an incredibly hard piece of bad news to deliver.
If we do not see more of these characters again for a long while, this is a pretty good place to pause. While waiting, readers may want to try Solanin for its treatment of a similar storyline.