May 28, 2010

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Nana Volume 7

Written by Ai Yazawa
Illustrated by Ai Yazawa
Viz

While Nana K tries to hold on to her relationship to Takumi and the band Blast at the same time, she learns that the more popular someone is, the easier it is to get lost in the crowd. Meanwhile, Nano O and the rest of Blast are on the cusp of making it big. But what impact will the choices they make now have on their future, both personally and professionally?

Relationships and music labels share the same themes of commitment and contract, and that's the story of the day in this volume of Nana. Our focal characters must start looking at their decisions and how they are connected. What they see may not be to their liking, which is going to be interesting to watch as it unfolds.

Though just about everyone is doing something they may later regret, I'd tag Yasu as being the biggest potential loser. He's the only one with a steady, successful job that's probably going to have to go by the wayside if they start touring extensively. He's not keen on jumping in bed with a major label (cant' blame him!), and he's definitely hiding his feelings for someone. (Who that someone is I have no idea.)

I like that the music contract for Blast opens more doors for complicating everyone's lives without treading on the same relationship angst grounds. This is especially true for Shin, whose mysterious life may finally be opening up to the reader. I loved the sequence where Yasu, Shin, and Misato verbally spar, partly about things we already know, but partly about secrets that we don't. It's a great character piece that shows that Shin is not the only person who isn't all he seems to be. The revelations are coming just often enough to be intriguing but not so many as to spoil my desire for more. As with all of her other plotting, Yazawa has just the right touch in terms of how she's moving forward.

The biggest surprise, however, is that Yazawa seems to have plans for Nana K's ex. He shows up again as Nana K's two friends from home stop by a bar. He appears to be doing okay, gets kicked in the shins a bit about being a discarded character, and there's a discussion of Nana K's needs in a relationship. I wasn't quite sure how I felt about this, as I think we have just about enough people to follow along with as it is. However, it certainly did surprise me, so points for that. Given his inclusion, I can't help but think his time in Nana K's life, for good or for ill, isn't over yet.

But what of the two Nanas, who are after all, the focus of this manga? To be honest, I was getting a little tired of Nana K's whining going into a second volume, so I was glad to see that she takes the positive step of trying to make a relationship more than about casual sex or childhood sweethearts. But the love she expresses here sure seems deeper than it should be, and sometimes things that burn too hot end up dying in the fire created by passion. (Wow, that might be the lamest thing I ever typed in a review, but I'm keeping it.) Given Nana's general weakness when it comes to love, and her confused nature after the breakup with her school years boyfriend, this happiness may be fleeting. I hope I'm wrong, though, because once in awhile, it would be nice for true love to win out.

The most interesting element of this volume, however, has got to be the actions of Nana O. After seeing so much of her devil-may-care attitude across six trades, watching her start to act more protective of her friends in the band and her desire to see Nana K again was a needed counterpoint to the melodrama of Nana K's life. And just as you think she's starting to grow as a person, there's an amazing splash-page reveal of her true feelings about Nana K and everyone else in her world. It's absolutely brilliant, made me gasp aloud, and reminded me why I think Nana is one of the best shojo manga I've ever read.

A good writer always finds a way to surprise you, and Yazawa certainly did several times in this volume of Nana, shaking up the funk we'd been in for about ten chapters or so while Nana K made questionable life decisions and everyone worried about everything. Now things are in motion, whether the players like it or not, and it's time reap the consequences, while we as the reader follow along, nodding at mistakes and victories that we had in our own youths.

I can't say enough about how much I like Nana, as it both uses and crushes the typical shojo ideas that we've seen time and time again. From one-liners that ease the tension to simple, happy moments to revelations that keep you guessing, Nana has everything you could ask for in a comic story. I am so glad I'm reading this series, and I give it the highest possible recommendation, with the caveat that you absolutely MUST start at the beginning, or you will be totally lost. Trust me, you won't regret it!