I’ve reviewed various volumes of Ai Yazawa’s Nana before, so I thought I’d keep it up. (There are going to be spoilers, incidentally — be warned.)
I just read #7-8, and they seem to be something of a watershed for the series. The series has always followed on both Nana’s (Nana Komatsu, or Hachi, and Nana Osaki), who live together and have recently become close friends. Up to this point, though, Hachi has been the narrator and we’ve been more inside her head. In 8 though, Nana O starts to give the earnest (and somwhat irritating, I’m forced to admit) voice overs. More importantly, she starts to reveal more of herself. It’s been clear for awhile that Hachi has an enormous crush on Nana; she’s fascinated with her music, with her confidence, and with her general hipster vibe. Nana has always seemed very fond of Hachi, but it’s been leavened with a bit of condescension and amusement — certainly she hasn’t appeared to be infatuated. When she kissed Hachi earlier in the series, it was a way to freak her friend out, not an actual expression of borderline desire.
But in 7 and 8, the perspective shifts slightly, and the relationship between Hachi and Nana is subtly but definitely upended. As we get more inside Nana’s head, it becomes clear that her occasional coldness towards Hachi isn’t because she’s aloof, but because she’s shy. While Nana has a long-term boyfriend, and seems very capable of dealing with male friends, her intense reaction to Hachi has completely befuddled her. After a moment of toying with the idea, the book sets aside the suggestion that Nana’s emotions are sexual, but they are certainly possessive and seem in some ways to be more powerful than what she feels for her boyfriend. She rather desperately tries to set Hachi up with Nobu, who is Nana’s childhood friend and bandmate, because she hopes to keep Hachi in her circle permanently. When (and here’s the spoiler) Hachi spoils that by accidentally getting pregnant by another man named Takumi, Nana quietly but completely freaks out.
What’s particularly heart-tugging here is that, for all her sincere depth of emotion, Nana is (as she seems to fear) too wrapped up in her own anxieties and self-doubts to actually help Hachi — who, it seems quite possible, wouldn’t have been sleeping with Takumi if she hadn’t felt that things with Nana were quite so unrequited. And when she hears about Hachi’s pregnancy, Nana basically runs away. It’s up to Hachi’s friend Juno (little seen since the first volume) to provide advice and reassurance — which she does in one of the most amazing scenes in the series. Juno’s completely ruthless (“This is what you get for sleeping around and being carless! Do you understand that!”) but also loving and helpful, offering actual clarity and insight rather than bullshit platitudes. She, too, seems freaked out (“I can’t believe she’s having a baby…I’m so worried I could puke.”) But she puts her own shit aside for her friend. Nana can’t do that — which is heartbreaking, not just for Hachi, for for Nana as well.
The art is, as always, amazingly subtle; Juno’s stricken expression in particular just kills me, and the layout and design couldn’t be much better. This is the bestselling manga in Japan, and no wonder — it’s just about perfect.