Manga Quick Information
Ai Yazawa’s seminal shojo (for girls) manga Nana tells the story of two young women on the cusp of life’s realities. While superficially polar-opposites in style and attitude both find one another through an act of fate and set out on their journey as a duo, united by not only by their name but also by a common desire to break free of prior circumstances and carve out a new life for themselves.
Volume one dedicates itself to providing a detailed prologue of its two protagonists and their various associates. The first half considers Nana Komatsu, a slightly dippy girl-next-door type who is relentlessly cheery, prone to falling in love and is wholly dependent on her nearest and dearest. She’s later dubbed ‘Hachi’ by Nana O because of her puppy-like traits – her friendliness, complete loyalty and constant need for attention. It’s an apt description and one that sounds pretty insufferable for a protagonist, but Yazawa’s ability to create genuinely likeable characters really shines with Nana K. She does fall in love too easily and she does depend on others too much, but she learns from her mistakes and wants to genuinely improve. This makes it difficult to hate the girl and her quirky heart-on-sleeve neurosis only makes her more lovable.
Nana Osaki is the other side of the coin. Mature beyond her years and a victim of genuine suffering; she’s the cynical reality to Nana K’s optimistic naivety, the lone wolf to her needy puppy-dog. Her past is littered with troubled events – the most notable being her expulsion from school for alleged prostitution – yet we find her in the present living a happy Sid & Nancy-like existence with her boyfriend and co-band member Ren. This is cut short by a call from the city to make it big with another band; an opportunity Ren seizes with Nana O’s blessing and the couple go their separate ways.
Both Nanas, though propelled by a desire for personal development, ultimately find a catalyst in their various failed romantic relationships. Their separate tales mirror one another in this sense, sharing subtle but important similarities that makes their fateful meeting on a stranded train feel believable (if slightly extraordinary). The events that follow in the second volume document this fledgling friendship with its ups and downs as the pair live together and genuinely get to know each other.
Artistically Ai Yazawa has perfected what can only be described as the ‘coat-hanger’ style. That is to say, all her characters are drawn specifically to accentuate their sartorial preferences. Nana K is a girly-girl with a penchant for the fashion dictations of Vogue and Cosmo, whereas Nana O is the consummate punk rocker who worships at the altar of Vivienne Westwood. Initially I found it difficult to appreciate the unworldly alien shapes of Yazawa’s character designs and particularly their elongated, gnarled fingers, but it wasn’t long before I realised how innately suitable the style was for the story she wanted to tell. It takes some getting used to for those not familiar with what’s now the stock shojo art style, but it’s worth persevering to appreciate the skill in Yazawa’s craft. It tells a story and tells it well.
Nana’s twin protagonists and their cohorts are what the Sex and the City girls wished they were. Impossibly fashionable, young and infectiously charming, their tales offer an experience beyond the traditional shojo trappings and tap into a youthful exuberance that can appeal to everyone. Its mildly cynical humour and conscientious nods to reality further make it something that a wide spectrum of auidence can enjoy. Nana is a solid recommendation for those who love character-driven stories with a sharp sense of humour and a fantastic sense style. And, of course, those with a quiet appreciation for romance . . . which is all of us, if we’re honest.
|Score:||8 out of 10|
|Date Published:||Thu, 26 Jun 2008|