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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson! 
20th-Sep-2007 09:31 am
Just four panels this week. But four DRAMATIC panels! That's Micki, the one good cop in Smithson.


Although the real drama begins in The Chronicles of William Bazillion! It's just one insane cliffhanger after another, isn't it?

Another reminder: I'll be at the Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland on September 29 and 30, so stop by and see me if you're gonna be in town.

Right. Overlooked Manga Festival time!

This manga is not totally overlooked; until recently, it was one of the titles serialized in Shojo Beat magazine, which upped its profile. But more people ought to be reading it, dammit! I say this for purely selfish reasons, as I would personally like to participate in a huge, Harry Potter-like fan community dedicated to talking about it and speculating about it and writing smutty fanfiction about the characters. I imagine such a community exists in Japan, where it's one of the biggest-selling shojo manga, but not so much here.

But it's so awesome!

Nana is the current project of genius creator Ai Yazawa, whose Paradise Kiss, about a teenage girl who falls into the funky world of art-school fashion students, is one of the best shojo manga available in English. Nana is even better. And I'm kind of baffled that more of Yazawa's work hasn't been published over here, but, you know, whatever. If people would rather print lame manga than manga that TOTALLY ROCKS OUT, that's their problem.

The first thing Nana fans will tell you about Nana is that it's great, but it starts slow. This is pretty much true, but the beginning is still better than almost any other manga you're likely to read; it just gets way better and more absorbing as it goes on. Tezuka's Adolf is "the story of three men named Adolf," and this is the story of two girls named Nana. Nana Komatsu is an ordinary girly-girl, cute and uncertain of herself and really, really stupid about men. Nana Osaki is as extraordinary as Nana K. is ordinary, a heartbreaking punk rocker determined to hit it big with a new band. The first volume of Nana introduces us to each Nana separately before bringing them together as, for very different reasons, they both land on the same train to Tokyo.

The Nanas wind up sharing a Tokyo apartment and lots of big-city dreams. They also, naturally, accumulate a slew of love interests. Nana O. still carries a torch for her first boyfriend, slinky Sex Pistols disciple Ren, who once played in a band with her and is now the idol of millions (mostly millions of girls) as the guitarist for the hit band Trapnest.

Nana K. has a boy from home, but as Nana O.'s band, Blast, takes off, she gets caught up in the swirl of musicians, concerts, musicians, parties, musicians, and really hot musicians.

But, copious sex scenes aside, Nana isn't really about love. It's about friendship, and how it can be far more intense, vital, joyous and painful than love. Despite their radically different personalities, the Nanas grow achingly close, close enough to share a big brass bed and a clawfoot bathtub, close enough to destroy each other if something goes wrong.

Meanwhile, Yazawa builds up a massive, eclectic supporting cast. We get to know all the members of Blast, all the members of Trapnest, and all the problems that occur when they start mingling and sleeping together. Nana K.'s hometown friends hang around as a kind of Greek chorus, particularly two who are in a comfortable long-term relationship (just so you know what that looks like) and comment regularly on their friend's none-too-bright romantic and sexual choices.

Like the great Fumi Yoshinaga, Ai Yazawa constantly hits you with the realization that she's working on a higher and deeper level than most manga creators. In place of the thin cliches, timid erotic fantasies, and mopey self-absorption that make up so much of shojo manga, Nana digs up the real dirt on human relationships. Her characters feel alive, and their problems feel like the problems these people would really have. I've experienced this phone breakup, for example.

At the same time, Nana is a fantasy: a fantasy of moving to the big city, hanging out with rock stars, being a rock star, having the coolest friend ever, living your life on a bigger and sexier scale. Yazawa knows how to do sweeping emotion and Drama with a capital D, and boy, does she ever do it.

Although it doesn't really stray far from the standards of mainstream shojo manga, Nana is one of those series that can open your eyes to what manga--and comics in general--are capable of. Also, everyone in it is totally hot. Which helps.

Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Dr. Slump
Your and My Secret
Wild Act
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi
Banana Fish
Skip Beat
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History
Cyborg 009
Anywhere But Here
To Terra
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
Doing Time
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators
Mariko Parade
Golgo 13
Ricca 'tte Kanji!?
Pure Trance
OMF Special Event: My Legacy
OMF Special Event: An All-Star Tribute to Carl Gustav Horn
Guest OMF by Jason Thompson: 888
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Tekkon Kinkreet
Yakitate! Japan
Flower of Life
OMF Special Event: Top Ten Lines from the Excel Saga manga

20th-Sep-2007 05:46 pm (UTC)
Cool. I was looking for a series to pick up, as I'm about to finish Death Note (just finished volume 8, which may have jumped the shark), and Yotsuba&!, which I HEART.
20th-Sep-2007 05:50 pm (UTC)
Yay, Nana! I need to go read the rest of that series- I got sidetracked by moving halfway through and forgot about it.
16th-Jul-2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
I need to go re-read the actual story now, while physically holding the actual purchased volume in my hands.
20th-Sep-2007 06:44 pm (UTC)
I'm curious to read it as I've for a long time been fascinated with the "literary double" which this seems to have in spades. Hrm. I wonder if it's available in inter-library loan.
20th-Sep-2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
NANA is my absolute favorite manga currently being serialized in English. Even more than PHOENIX and that says a lot. And while it lowers its profile, I'm actually delighted that it won't be in SHOJO BEAT anymore because that means that the production schedule might speed up! Wahoo!!!
21st-Sep-2007 08:45 pm (UTC) - From MangaBlog.net
I just started reading this series and find myself just as impressed with it as you are. While I understand the marketing of this manga as shojo, I feel like it's increasingly moving towards josei, in terms of the mature themes it presents regarding relationships and one's place in the world. I think that's also one of the reasons Shojo Beat stopped serializing it (besides the sex scenes, that is).

IMO, the whole Hachi self-discovery plotline puts it in a different realm as compared to the stereotypical chibi-loving, sparkly shojo...Don't get me wrong, I love shojo, but this seems like so much...more than just that.

Anyway, thanks for featuring one of my newest favs! :D
26th-Sep-2007 08:55 am (UTC) - Re: From MangaBlog.net
"I just started reading this series and find myself just as impressed with it as you are. While I understand the marketing of this manga as shojo, I feel like it's increasingly moving towards josei, in terms of the mature themes it presents regarding relationships and one's place in the world. I think that's also one of the reasons Shojo Beat stopped serializing it "

Technically (and I knwo all this can be debated forever) isn't Nana usually categorized as josei? I've hear different things--and certainly I know its fandom spreads over a wide range of ages (it's kinda thrilling when something so *good* is also so popular--I mean it's not unheard of hre, or in Japan--look at Studio Ghibli but still I always cynically don't expect it).
26th-Sep-2007 03:34 pm (UTC) - Re: From MangaBlog.net
Well, from what I understand, Nana was originally published in a "josei" magazine in Japan (Japan doesn't use the term josei as much; from what I've read, it's an industry label), but is often referenced as "a shojo title with josei elements." IMHO, the whole rock band scene is fairly "fantasy" in many ways (like most shojos), but the relationship-related scenes/plotlines scream josei.

Unfortunately, josei (and seinen) is still struggling for recognition and sales in this country, which is why I think it's being more widely marketed as shojo. It's a wise move on Viz's part...Now, they'll just have to see if the series success continues despite its lack of serialization in Shojo Beat...
26th-Sep-2007 10:30 pm (UTC) - Re: From MangaBlog.net
Ok that makes complete sense. I agree the rock band thing is pretty fantasy although even that has a much more realistic edge than mot shoujo treatments would have... Still, it makes sense to keep it marketed as shoujo here--I don't really think the American industry needs or is ready for new sub-labels like josei etc yet, even if it does have the benefit of maybe appealing to the older reader who might overlook all shoujo... (ditto Honey and Clover) I have to admit that it's always so appealing when you find this kinda relationship based, addictive, "soap" manga and it focuses on *adults*, even if young adults, but not junior high girls...
26th-Sep-2007 11:07 pm (UTC) - Re: From MangaBlog.net
Ah, yes, I'm definitely excited for Honey and Clover and have been reading the serializations in Shojo Beat just to read a piece of it before the volumes start getting released in January! And you're right--the market isn't ready to be sold on sub-genres of manga, just yet. Maybe in a few years when the "kids" get a little more into more mature titles?

If you like "soap"-ish manga, you should try "Tramps Like Us" (if you haven't yet, of course). It's got a really interesting premise that proves addictive fairly quickly...
9th-Oct-2007 01:21 pm (UTC) - Re: From MangaBlog.net
Sorry slow reply here... Yah I followed Honey and Clover's anime and only now am reading the manga--but it deserved all the praised heaped on it. Wonderful stuff, albeit not quite as addictive to me as Nana (probably because it focuses more on humour than Nana's melodrama which is more my forte though both have plenty of both).

I've always intended to read Tramps Like Us--I have a few volumes of the comedy series by the same manga-ka which I liked but didn't love, but will check it out!
22nd-Sep-2007 02:55 am (UTC)
Hmm, I've been meaning to look into this one given how crazy the fans I personally know are for it.

How was the film version, by the way?
23rd-Sep-2007 07:10 pm (UTC)

I don't know. I haven't seen the films. I'm so busy reading all the manga in the world that I have no time to watch any adaptations of manga into other media.

Yes, that means I almost never watch anime. My life is hard.
26th-Sep-2007 08:57 am (UTC)
The first film is good with good music--I found it a bit unnerving and none of the guys looked nearly as hot as in the manga--in fact they looked kinda silly. But it was good--I know some people *love* it but to be fair I don't tend to be a huge fan of live adaptations of manga.

The anime is VERY good though and VERY VERY faithful to the manga (in fact an early episode was virutally aired twice with a few small edits because Ai Yazawa herself apparantly complained that an important nuance was missed the first time by the animation staff.

22nd-Sep-2007 12:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the plug for NANA. I've been in love with this series for some time now and haven't understood why it's not more wildly popular. Hopefully, more people will give it a shot now. :)
26th-Sep-2007 08:49 am (UTC) - Nana
There was a time where I bought every shoujo title released in English blindly just because I love the genre, and it was relatively easy to keep up with titles. That time's long gone and it seems the major releases I keep up with are the true classics--msot current titles strike, that get released here, stike me as too similar, cliched, etc. (In a way it's a blessing that the classic titles I follow --especially now that Banana FIsh is done -- mean only a handful of titles to keep up with at a time--which reminds me I need to pick up Andromeda Stories--after meeting Takemiya at her lecture here in Vancouver :D )

But Nana is *incredible*--I was a fan of Ai Yazawa from way back when Iused to watch the Gokinjo Monogatari anime--even back then what at first seemed like another Ribon relationship soap for kids, like Marmalade Boy you soon noticed had a certainly deeper quality missing in most of the other titles. Then I went to Paradise Kiss thanks to TokyoPop (the gokinjo spin off) and finally Nana. While I am not up to date on the manga and I know some fans think it's been stretched too far now, I do think that where Season 1 (?) of the anime ended I was riveted throughout. Yes it's a soap but it shows just how good, moving and revelatory about your own life a good soap can be (as well as as addictive as a crack cocaine Blizzard of course) and it rarely insults your intelligence with characters acting out of character for a crazy plot twist the way bad soaps (in manga and tv form) often do.

I wish some company would wise up and snatch up Ai Yazawa's other titles--I'm still surprised Tokyo Pop never got Gokinjo Monogatari as it's not a long series, and ParaKiss was one of their early successes but even more so I'd love to see perhaps my fave of Ai's major works translated--Last Quarter (Kagen no Tsuki), which is short and concise but moving beyond words--to me anyway. There's an ok live action movie of it which has been released subed.

11th-Nov-2007 09:00 pm (UTC)
Huh. I liked Nana at first, but then, because of all that sex, I just lost respect for it.
14th-Nov-2007 01:34 pm (UTC)
*confused face* So depicting sex in a fairly realistic manner--one that I could relate to is cheap or disrespectful?
11th-Jan-2008 09:54 am (UTC)
With this inclusion of NANA, I have to break out of stalker-mode just to applaud you. You have now officially mentioned some of my favorite manga EVER--NANA, Yakitate!! Japan, Kekkaishi, Skip Beat! (the latter two that I learned of from here), as well as giving me a chance to catch up on some older ones that I might otherwise have been leery of looking at (Please Save My Earth, Monster). Props to you!
29th-Sep-2009 11:48 pm (UTC) - Nana
Hi! I'm a Nana-fan and so much of a book-nerd that I'm now taking Literature at university level. I must say, I really liked your presentation of Nana. It was not too much, not too little and insightful on just the right parts. I have done a recommendation of Nana on my novel-blog, but I surrender to a much more talented presenter. What I wanted to say was; this was great! (and Nana is the best manga in the world ;p)

Have a good one!

8th-Jun-2010 04:36 am (UTC)
Nana Komatsu is a young woman who's endured an unending string of boyfriend problems. Moving to Tokyo, she's hoping to take control of her life and put all those messy misadventures behind her. She's looking for love and she's hoping to find it in the big city.
Nana Osaki, on the other hand, is cool, confident and focused. She swaggers into town and proceeds to kick down the doors to Tokyo's underground punk scene. She's got a dream and won't give up until she becomes Japan's No. 1 rock'n'roll superstar.

This is the story of two 20-year-old women who share the same name. Even though they come from completely different backgrounds, they somehow meet and become best friends. The world of Nana is a world exploding with sex, music, fashion, gossip and all-night parties.

You can buy Nana manga at manga comic

Andy Landers


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