So, I was supposed to write about The Boys. I’ve read an issue once, a while ago (not as
a Virgin Read, but as a “please, Nina, you gotta read this!”). I went in expecting foul, original,
envelope-pushing fun. But oh my
god. What’s going on? I finished reading it and thought, “I can’t
write another review saying, “Well,
I’m sure if you’ve been reading this for a while, you understand, I'm a girl, giggle giggle, just saw some Buffy, oh yeah this comic--what the
hell is going on?” Why is Hughie in a
costume? What’s up with all the French? No, wait.
What’s up with all the guys sitting in naked, in lazy boys, jackin’
each other off while watching straight porn?! I – I can’t.
So, I’m reviewing Nana! (please imagine my voice intoning just like a baby’s coo when reading the name “Nana.”) Somebody tried to convince me to review a 1972 issue of Ghost Rider instead, but somebody is a selfish jerk and can go to hell and take his stupid Ghost Rider comics with him, maybe his silly Final Crisis will be a fun pillow when he sleeps on the couch for the rest of the year.
I love this comic. (Oh, sorry, "this manga.") This is the one series where you
could truly call me a convert. I
anxiously await each new issue. I check
the racks at bookstores and the occasional comic book store. That’s sayin’ something. I love Nana.
Now, I’m jumping in to review volume 13. But, lemme give some background as to why I
love it (and possibly incorporate the current issue in said lovefest).
The first volume of Nana had the same effect on me that a mindless,
shallow fashion magazine does. Totally
fun. Something about the way the
characters are drawn in their clothing almost makes me wanna go out and by
outfits just like them. They’re a
black and white cartoon, for Pete’s sake! But I was reading these issues, and I would feel this sort of vicarious excitement
about life, and fashion, and art, and city living that the characters experience--I guess the same way people often feel about
NYC when they read fashion magazines.
Except that I live here – so I’m not all that excited anymore.
ANYHOW, at first Nana was just this fun, simple
pleasure. An easy read about roommates,
following their dreams, dating and the music scene.
However, if it continued to hit only that note, I would have
gotten bored. But there is a development
of character and plot in this series that goes hand in hand in the best way
possible, and in a way I feel is rarely see done. I mean, one might want to compare Nana to the
genre of TV shows like the O.C. or 90210, or Gossip Girl. But with those shows, or with any daytime soap,
characters rarely grow and mature. If
they do, its always in the smallest of ways. It
seems, actually, that in those sorts of television shows, characters flaws or
trademark behaviors exist just to fuel plot twists and love stories, etc. Like
Erica on All My Children. Has she ever
really chaged or grown? Here's a story that might look like one of those--a breathy soap opera of girls in and out of love, but it constantly surprises me, impresses me, fascinates me, when either
one of the Nanas--there are two girls with the name--or any of their other characters mature.
I've got to prove my point, right? Because otherwise I could be lying, right? Okay, fine. To make my point, I’m gonna have to give a wee
spoiler. So if you’ve not yet read Nana
13, stop reading now. I’ll call you back
when I’m done.
So, sure, all along now since Nana, (Hachi that is), broke it
off with Nobu to be with Takumi who she assumed is the father of her child,
I’ve been waiting and rooting for her to get back with Nobu. And even in volume 12 when it's obvious that this
new chick--this porno star--has designs on Nobu, I find her repellent and am hoping and waiting
for the moment that Nobu and Hachi finally see each other. And I’m still in that territory as Nobu is
seduced by Yuri the Porn Star, has sex with her (which is drawn totally hot),
and she later goes a little crazy for him.
It is clear to me that this all wrong. Not "oh these characters shouldn't behave this way" but "nonono please don't do that omigod I can't believe you did that whydidyoudothat!?!"
Then--just when my heart is broken and I'm totally upset, I mean, I'm going to write a letter, the kind of letter that needs a stamp and a post office, a Letter, To The Editor, the story takes this surprising emotional turn. Nobu begins to identify with Takumi in
relation to love life and career, rather than identifying with Hachi and seeing
her as a victim of Takumi. Nobu also seems
to realize that no matter what the drama between Takumi and Hachi is (and it
sort of reminds me of Stella and Stanley in Streetcar),
that its between them and they have to work it out. It's not "his" drama. He's just passing by. He has to let her go.
This letting go and acceptance hts him at this big
house party. The coolest and most realistic
thing that happens takes place late in the evening, just as we think (and slightly
hope) he’s going to kick Yuri the high-drama Porn Star to the curb, and then he suddenly
decides that he’s going to go with what’s available to him. The empowerment and maturity of Nobu occurs
when he tells Yuri that he already caught her lying, and if they’re going to do
be together, the lying cannot continue. He couldn't have said that to Yuri two hours ago. He'd never have stood up to Hachi--heck, he didn't when he should have, and even though I still kind of wish he had, Nobu has to grow up--he either does it now, or he does it later, but it's coming, and it's going to be tough and weird whether that's now or tomorrow. Do it now.
My words aren’t doing it justice. Look, I know it's just pop-culture comics, I know it's just 1999 manga, yeah, okay, I got it, but I'm racking my brain, I woke up my husband and borrowed the hammer, I'm nailing something to the door--I can't remember the last time I read this kind of emotional turning point in a book or a comic. Sure, I'm sure, we're all sure that it's out there somewhere else, maybe I didn't read the right crossovers, but hey. I didn't read it, if I did, don't remember it. Nobu changed, I changed too. I'm all about him, what he's doing. I'm happy for Nobu. I'm glad it was his maturity, his little coming-of-age, that altered the direction of the plot, not the plot changing him to fit the moment. Sure, he could've just slept with Yuri, they could be the next new relationship for the series, I'd still read it--but it's the processing and communication of what's going on between them, whether they stick it out or bail, that's what changed the course of things, that's what determines what happens next. An honest emotional moment sets up the next moment, it's not just a next moment that needs an emotional moment to exist. That's really good writing. That's what I call "really good writing." Really. Good.
Look, I can do this all day. There’s so much more to discuss, but I can’t possibly do it here. I mean, technically, I totally can do it here, but no, I'm not going to, so it's better if I say "I can't" and you make up reasons why then I just say "I won't" because then you'll think it's about you, and honey, it's not about you. It's totally me. I just need some time, you know. I promise to think about calling. Real quick though--there’s Nana and Ren, Reira and Shin, Takumi and Hachi and a baby on the way! The careers of the Blast and Trapnest. All sorts of things. It is so much fun, and yet Ai Yazawa isn’t trying to keep these kids forever young while just putting a new twist on an old story every issue. Yazawa is letting all of these characters have a true, full, emotional life. And unlike the trend in American television or comic books, I have a hunch that Nana will come to a logical and complete end at some point, rather than go on and on. I'll be sad when it does--I was sad when Wallace died too, I was really sad, but I'm glad they didn't make Wallace go on and on and on forever, because Wallace lives in my heart, and I take better care of him then Bodie did anyway.
So, pick yourself up some Nana. Or get it for your girlfriend. Its some good fun.
-Nina Stone, 2008