June 2, 2011

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Nana Volumes 10 and 11

Written by Ai Yazawa
Illustrated by Ai Yazawa
Viz

Kaboom! The Japanese tabloids hit the big time as the secret links between Blast and Trapnest are revealed to the public at last--well, some of them, anyway. How will both bands handle the fallout? Meanwhile, Nana K deals with her new life as the soon-to-be wife of a famous singer and ponders the path her life has taken. With so much going on in Trapnest's world, does Takumi have anytime for his new family?

There's hardly enough time to consider anything, however, as both bands rush to deal with the new situations these revelations placed them in. Blast must now sink or swim in the cutthroat world of the music industry while Trapnest tries not to be caught up in the tidal wave the Nana O-Ren relationship created. Bonds between lovers grow tighter--but are they stretched to the breaking point? It's all happening so fast in the world of...Nana.

I have to admit, these are the first two volumes of this series that I actually did not care for at all. Despite the whirlwind pace at which the characters move, it felt like almost nothing happened. Nana O and Ren can't live without each other, but Nana O also misses Nana K. Nana K thinks she's making a life for herself, but she's really just allowing others to make choices for her--a story we've seen a lot of at this point. It just feels entirely too familiar to me, and not in a good way. While there are definitely good little elements to be had here and there, it's just not adding up in these two trades.

I've mentioned before that the appeal of this series is to see what happens when people make bad decisions in their lives. Just like when my friends and I were younger, the Nanas and their friends act on emotion and what seems like a good idea at the time. To make that work, though, we need cause and effect. Right now, the story seems stuck on "cause" mode. I'm ready for one of the bands to tank at the record store or have a breakup or a drug overdose--something, anything, to get to the effects the actions of the past few volumes have set in motion.

For me, these two volumes were stuck too far in the minutia of the lives of the characters. Takumi meets Nana K's family, but nothing really dramatic happens. Both bands are booked to do the same show on the same night, and while offstage there is some drama, it's the same kind of drama we've had before. Nothing earth-shattering goes on at the show itself. We needed something, anything to happen, to break this stillness that's set into the manga.

Even the introduction of new characters hasn't helped all that much. Two "older" women vie for the affections of Nabu, but it feels more like they are shoe-horned into the plot. The road managers for the bands are funny, but they aren't going to cause dramatic change, either. It's like Yazawa has built all this setup and isn't sure when to light the fuse. Obviously, I'll find out when she determines the time is right, but I am desperately hoping its soon.

Nana has been one of my favorite long-running mangas, but it's wearing out a bit. When you're starting to hope the joke plot of the bonus page (a locked room murder) happens in the real story just so there would be some action, that's a problem. I'll see what the next few volumes bring, but my confidence in this one is fading. Hopefully that will change with volumes 12 and 13.