August 8, 2011

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Nana Volume 13

Written by Ai Yazawa
Illustrated by Ai Yazawa
Viz

Nana K goes partying with her old friends, but it's far from a Blast when Takumi tries to get her to bend to his will. Meanwhile, other relationships are kicked into high gear, regardless of the danger. With so many feelings in the air and so much on the line for the careers of everyone involved, can the gang keep this up much longer? It's a delicate balancing act, which doesn't quite topple--yet--here in Nana 13!

I almost gave up on this series, but my friend Summer convinced me to give it one last chance. I'm glad I did. Though very little time passes in this volume, an awful lot happens, and that's exactly what I needed after what seemed like an interminable amount of time building things up. We get the reunion of the Nanas as the highlight, though it's undercut by circumstances that neither of them can control, which was a nice touch. I really like the idea that these two know they need each other, but at this point in their lives, they can't come back together again. Nana O is lost in the world of record promotion, trying to drink her way through a life she thought she wanted. Meanwhile, Nana K looks at the life she gave up when she decided that Takumi was the father of her child--a fact that's still not established.

If we needed any indication that this might have been a bad choice, we get it in the most forceful way possible. Nana K is clearly being abused and will continue to be, because she's not good at asserting herself. I wanted to scream at her for staying with the jerk, but I know it's a better story if she does.

I also know that's the sign this manga is back on track. I *cared* about them again. The chemistry, the humanity, the making (bad) decisions in the moment were all there again. I don't know why Yazawa got away from this for about the past dozen or so chapters, but I am glad to see it return. That's the problem with such an open-ended story. With no set end date, it's easy to just keep going and not always say enough important things along the way. Yazawa had some Bendis-itus going on, but it's fixed now. Hopefully for good.

The biggest thing I took away from this one is that Takumi, while his ideas might be in the right place, is going to be the death of everyone's happiness if the rest of the cast aren't careful. He's not content just to meddle in the life of the Nanas--now he's expanding to the rest of Blast and Trapnest. He's the anti-Yasu in some ways. While Yasu wants to help others by being there for them, Takumi wants to sublimate everyone's desires to his. The way things look, however, I think Takumi's worldview is more likely to triumph, which is great for the story, but very very bad for Nana and company.

Nana 13 is a return to form for the series. Filled with powerful emotions, sexual encounters, and manipulation, Yazawa is back to making her characters people we know, love and care about. I'm definitely in for the next few volumes, and you should be, too.