Finally got around to reading Nana #9 and 10. Volume #8 was probably the high point of the series so far for me, and these two volumes were something of a let down. The most interesting part of the story for me is the realtionship between the two Nanas (or Nana and Hachi), and that takes a back seat here. The two are effectively no longer roommates (Hachi, after getting pregnant, has moved in with her emotionally distant rock-star boyfriend Tagumi) and over the course of the two volumes the two women hardly even meet.

The absence is intentional; for one thing, it allows Nana to start to realize how emotionally (and quasi-romantically) attached she is to Hachi. The problem is, the mechanism for keeping the two separate is a pop band melodrama that I find pretty uninvolving. Basically, Hachi’s boyfriend and Nana’s boyfriend (Ren) are in the same band; the band is trying to avoid tabloid publicity. When Nana and Ren are photographed together, it sets off a media firestorm, giving Nana’s band huge exposure but causing Ren’s band (Trapnest) to run off to London.

Part of the problem here is cultural different, I think. It’s just unclear to me why the media would care that Nana and Ren are dating. Neither of them are married or have any other attachment; in fact they’re childhood sweethearts, essentially. Ren’s a big star, but Nana isn’t. I don’t know, in the U.S., this would be a cute story that might make the front of the book in People on a slow week, but it certainly wouldn’t be a scandal of any sort. Presumably, within the Japanese context, there’s some reason why this would be a big deal (is it that they aren’t married? are Japanese stars just not supposed to date?) But, for me reading the story, it’s hard to get beyond the fact that everybody seems completely freaked out over nothing. Also, I’m just not that interested in this kind of music-industry insider drama. Certainly the “will Nana become a big star?” question is a lot less interesting to me than the “Oh my god, Hachi isn’t going to marry that louse is she?” question. And, unfortunately, over the course of these volumes, at least, the first query seems to be pushing out the second.

Not that there isn’t a lot to like here. As always the relationships are subtle and develop in thoughtful and surprising ways. I especially like the way that the fact that Ren is kind of a jerk begins to occur simultaneously to Nana, the reader, and to Ren himself. Nana’s bandmate, Yasu, continues to be a delightful character; he finally reveals that he loves Nana in a brilliantly low-key scene. Takumi remains a snake, though not one without charm; you can see why Hachi feels some love for him even as you wish she’d dump his sorry controlling ass.

This is currently the only comic I’m getting regularly, I think, and it’s certainly still worth buying. I just hope the next few volumes give us a bit less band, and a bit more Hachi.