*Nana Book 21 — Best of 2010

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.

Nana Book 21 cover
Nana Book 21
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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.


  1. That’ll sort of help me catch up. The last volume I got was #15, then money problems meant me taking a break from all comics for a while. Hopefully by the time it starts back up I’ll have caught up and be ready to go.

  2. That’s a silver lining to an ugly cloud. Sorry to hear about your forced break.

  3. I’ve been keeping up with buying Nana but I’ve been letting some volumes build up so I can re-read the series from the beginning and read the new stuff marathon style. Since the manga series is on hold now seems like a good time to start reading again. For some series I find the breaks between manga releases are too long and I lose the flow of the story, this usually happens with longer shoujo series. I had to do the same thing with Boys Over Flowers and Kare Kano.

  4. With a long-running series, there is often a sprawling cast and a number of side stories, and it can be a lot to keep up with. I often do the same thing. Right now, I’m planning on rereading Ooku and going back a few volumes in 20th Century Boys for that reason.

  5. What I found most striking about this volume were some of the images. Shin cradling himself while everyone was talking around him, and Nana being carried by Yasu. It always amazes me how much Ai Yazawa can convey in just one image.

  6. […] Cafe) Alexander Hoffman on vols. 1-4 of Nabari No Ou (Comics Village) Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 21 of Nana (Comics Worth Reading) Lori Henderson on vols. 40-42 of One Piece (Comics Village) Connie on vol. 1 […]

  7. Excellent observation, Jose. It’s when reading a series like this that I wish most that I was better at talking about the art and the images.

  8. I’m letting 20th Century Boys collect too. I went nuts over the first two volumes, but I knew this series still has a long ways to go before the end. And I can just see this story introducing more characters and getting more complicated. And I want to be sure I understand everything! I’d hate to misunderstand a pivotol moment because my memory of a certain character isn’t so good.

  9. […] that tale, but I was much more interested this time. (Perhaps because I’d recently read Nana, and it vaguely reminded me of that rock ‘n’ roll soap opera?) The story doesn’t […]

  10. […] Nana — I’m assuming that the 21st volume, the last published both here and in Japan, won’t be the last — I’ve got to know how the cliffhangers end and how the musicians settle into adulthood. Ai Yazawa has put the series on hold for some recuperation time, but I pray she returns better than ever. It’s an astoundingly good soap opera with some heartbreakingly complex characters. […]

  11. […] I thought were repetitive), and I still have Sensual Phrase‘s 18 books. I have hopes for Nana continuing beyond book 21, once the author feels better, and I can’t wait for Hikaru no Go to […]

  12. […] Viz releases Nana Book 21, the last of the rock-and-roll soap opera series for a while. The creator has put the work on hold […]

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