April 6, 2011

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Nana Volume 9

Written by Ai Yazawa
Illustrated by Ai Yazawa
Viz

When is a wedding more like a funeral? When most of your friends are against it! That's what Nana K learns as she starts to make the changes necessary in her life after the shocking results of the prior volume. While she tries to keep things going, it seems like her impending wedding to Takumi will destroy everything else about the world she's created. Meanwhile, Nana O's band is on the cusp of greatness, but with the media starving for scandal and a plethora of personal issues plaguing the band, can Blast keep things together without their mascot (and close friend) Nana K? Everything is very tense and very fragile in the world of...Nana.

Oh, Nana! It's so nice to have you back in my reading orbit. I'd missed you in the months while you were away. And you're even over-sized this time! That was quite considerate of you! I was very pleased that despite my short hiatus, I had no problem getting back into the swing of things, feeling extremely emotionally involved with these characters who are not even real.

When I talk about this manga with people (and I tend to talk about Nana to anyone who will listen to me) I always sing the praises of Yazawa's characterization. She is able to capture exactly what it's like to be in your 20s and trying to find yourself. While you or I might not have had the exact same problems as our Nanas and their friends, we certainly had friends who did or we can relate their problems to our own. How many secret loves did we conceal until there was nothing to be done about them? Why did we give things up for those who probably didn't care about us? Why did we chose to move away or to stay? How many of these questions still lurk in the back of our minds, the way they do the Nana who is narrating the story?

Even if you're happy with your life now (and make no mistake, I love my job and my wife), I think we all spend just a bit of time wondering about those moments in life we'd like to have back. Yazawa gets this, and takes it even further by making sure that the characters are unable to take the time to think carefully. They must act in the moment, just we did, when we filled similar shoes.

It's this overarching idea that drives my love for Nana, but that doesn't mean I don't also have a close interest in the storyline itself. There's plenty of drama going on here, and it's quite compelling drama. Yazawa has spent hundreds of pages setting up a delicate web of connections, and all that build up is paying dividends for the reader now. Each time one character moves, it ripples not just on those around them but on just about everyone in the cast. I'm particularly interested in seeing what happens when the stories from Nana O's past are dredged up, because we're already piled so high under possible pitfalls for Blast that I don't know it can take one more hit. I'm less interested in the folks in Trapnest, but I have a feeling they, too, are in for it. Married band members are tricky to handle, and I don't Takumi is up to the task.

Because I like so many of the people involved in Nana, I really hope for a happy ending once Yazawa's health recovers and she's able to resume the manga. However, I don't think that's in the cards, because quite frankly, too many bad decisions have been made here at the outset. Regardless, I can't wait to read what happens next. I've already got Volume 10 in my possession. The echoes of my mistakes call out to me to read about those of others. Once you get hooked into the Nana experience, depending on your age, you may soon feel the same.