June 5, 2010

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Nana Volume 8

Written by Ai Yazawa
Illustrated by Ai Yazawa
Viz

Shock follows shock as the relationship drama gets taken to another level, as Nano O starts to wonder about how she treats people, Trapnest fights off the press (while inviting scandal) , and Blast wonders about the compromises involved in making it onto a major label. But most shocking thing of all is happening to Nana K, whose life will change forever based on the choices she makes now. Everyone's world may be crashing down around them as we continue the adventures of our dual heroines in Nana.

I'm normally more articulate than this in a review, but all I can say is...wow. Yazawa certainly doesn't pull any punches in this one, in terms of the seriousness of the subject being discussed. It looms over everything that happens in this trade, which is a bit of a shame because I think there's a lot of other things going on that are going to matter later which might get missed.

It's hard to blame any reader, however, for focusing on the elephant in the room that we get here. I had a feeling this issue might pop up somewhere along the lines, given the hints that were tossed out there that certain parties were not acting as smart as they should have.

I'm not going to come out and say what the problem is, but let's just say that it's a sensitive subject that, depending on your feelings, may offend you when you read it. There's not a lot of middle ground, and I think that's the territory Yazawa opted to land on, at least for now. I give her a lot of credit for going down this road in the first place, and I give her even more credit for doing it tactfully.

This is not a quick plot point designed to complicate things for a chapter or two, then moved to the background. Nana K's feelings are explored in depth, including her chain of logic. She discusses things with her closest friends, and best of all, she does it without being perfect in the process. Nana K is a very flawed person, that's what makes her so interesting as a character. When you are screaming, "No, don't let that happen" at the main character of the book, then you know the author has done something right.

In the bigger scheme of things, I'm not sure how this is going to play out in future volumes. It seems like we may be set for a separation of sorts in terms of the paths of the main characters, especially since Nana O (taking the narration reigns this time) seems to be pretty upset at what appears to be the loss of friendship between herself and Nana K. I'm wondering if Yazawa wrote herself into a bit of a corner here. Only future volumes will tell.

While Nana K tries to work on her situation, Nana O and the rest of Blast aren't faring a lot better, relatively speaking. The highs of maybe going major label start wearing off here, and I like the way that Yazawa is putting problems in their path. It makes perfect sense, as I remember at least one local band I knew having similar issues. That's the kind of realistic touches that show up all over the place in Nana, and that's why it's so good.

The overall volume is really serious, but there are still good comic bits, like a misunderstanding of paparazzi's pronunciation and the over-the-top ways Nano O acts in relation to the band. We probably could have used a few extra breather moments, but that's okay.

I love Nana, and I am so glad that I am reading this series. It has drama, good characters, and now is even willing to tackle some big social problems along the way. I do suggest that parents read this first, but that's a good rule of thumb to keep in mind with any comic. Adults, however, should really get hooked on Nana, if they aren't already. There's a reason it's the #1 shojo manga in Japan.