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Nana, vols. 1-3 (Ai Yazawa)

This series came highly recommended. It's visually appealing, and every once in a while it hits a note of emotional intensity that strikes a chord in me - but mostly, I think this is not my sort of thing.

Two 20-year-old women, space cadet Nana Komatsu and aspiring rock musician Nana Osaki, end up sharing an apartment in Tokyo - and soap opera ensues. It's fairly tasty soap opera, but I don't identify with either character. It's me, Nana - not you. (There's bit more to it than that - if you're interested, I go into it in more detail below the cut.)

I'm slightly tempted to give it a try for another volume or so. Many manga series seem to have less-than-inspiring or even downright rocky starts: Samurai Deeper Kyo, Saiyuki, and Fruits Basket all underwhelmed me at first. And in fact, rachelmanija warned me that I'd probably have this kind of problem with this series. So have I given it a fair try with three volumes - or not?

Nana, vols. 1-3 - and Chomiji's taste in books etc.

I think the root of the problem is that because I can't lose myself in the story by identifying with one of the characters, I started fretting. I want to reach into the story and straighten them out (especially Nana O). And because I can't, I want to stop reading. This is also why I generally don't watch TV - either it's brainless, or if it's involving, it's full of people whose problems I can't help fix. I have the same issue with most mainstream novels, for that matter. It's like nurse Jenny Blaine in Peter Dickinson's mystery One Foot in the Grave, who reads mostly sword-and-sorcery or thrillers: "Tolkien aside, she despised most of what she read, but reading what she called 'proper books' only made her miserable" (quote is from memory and may not be exact).

The funny thing is, if someone asked me to list the 10 books that are most important to me, the top three would likely be To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), National Velvet (Enid Bagnold), and China Court (Rumer Godden) - three mainstream novels that celebrate the details of everyday life, among other things, and contain characters with their share (and sometimes more than their share) of problems. But each contains characters with whom I can identify, and each contains at least one mentoring character who helps ease the problems - in fact, Mockingbird has two. With Atticus and Miss Maudie, Mrs. Brown, and old Mrs. Quinn on the scene, I can let the other characters' problems go: they don't need my help.

But I have a feeling that for the intended audience, the idea that the young women will muddle through this essentially on their own is part of the attraction ... .

ETA: Eeek, I got the Nanas' names mixed up! (And no one told me ...   :-(    ) I have fixed them now in the review, but I can't do much about the comments (which already have comments attached to them in turn). So please note that they're still mixed up in my answers (below) ... .


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 8th, 2007 04:54 am (UTC)
No, I was mainly thinking of the first volume. If you don't want to follow the lives of either of the Nanas by three, the series is not for you.

Jun. 8th, 2007 10:36 pm (UTC)

>sigh<   I really did try to like it ... if perhaps more of it had been from Nana K's viewpoint? I have the feeling that Nana O. is meant to be the proxy for most of the intended readers, and she's ditsy on purpose so that they can feel a little superior to her (because they're likely to be a couple of years younger than she is).

Thanks for your input on this.

Jun. 8th, 2007 05:23 am (UTC)
Hm. I have some of the same issues with Nana (stop stealing my brain!), and I applaud you for surviving through three volumes. If I wasn't subscribed to Shojo Beat, I doubt I would've made it that far. As it is, I do still read it in the magazine, and find it...not so much interesting as addicting. I don't really care what happens to the Nanas, but...I want to find out what happens next! At least, that's how it was until recently. But these past few editions have had a fair amount of drama that I can really get into (possibly because I'm a hopeless romantic...) There's also some heavy-handed foreshadowing that, for me, makes me want to keep reading despite myself.
Jun. 8th, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC)

>> stop stealing my brain!<<

My brain! I know I had it first!


We'll probably end up getting more of them - as soon as we have all the available Ouran and Fruits Basket, my daughter will probably decide that she wants to find out what happened. And if they're lying around, I may well read them (although it didn't work that way with One Piece, which she was reading for a while - that was just too lame-brained somehow ... ).

The guys were much more interesting to me than the girls, actually. I'm worried about the baby gigolo bass player, who has issues more serious than Nana O's budget problems, and I like Yasu.

Jun. 10th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)
Mm, yeah. I'm getting to really like Nobu lately myself, but that's for reasons that you have yet to encounter.
Jun. 12th, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)

Well, who knows, the books may yet still show up at our house, in which case I will probably read them.

Jun. 12th, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC)
Heh, I know that feeling...oh look, it's here! Might as well read it...
Jun. 13th, 2007 01:47 am (UTC)

Yeah, it happens a lot around our house! I'm sure my husband would never touch a copy of People magazine ... except that I sometimes bring them home when I need brain candy, and then leave them lying around the bathroom ....

Jun. 8th, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC)
It's interesting that you comment about female mentoring characters because that's often what I find myself for looking sometimes, especially oddly enough with CLAMP shounen-ai type stories like Legal Drug. As a teacher (I'm an English professor), I deal a lot with young people, and I occasionally find myself wanting to sit some of these young characters down and give them a good round of advice. :-)
Jun. 8th, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC)

Actually, in Nana, I'd take any mentor at this point, male or female. Jun (Nana O's girlfriend) would seem to be the only possibility, but Nana O. wasn't listening to her at all, so it hardly counted.

(Nana O. is the kind of girl who, if she was working in my section of our agency, would be in my office telling me all her troubles within a month or so. Most recently, it was one of our library student interns who was doing that ... .)

Jun. 9th, 2007 12:52 am (UTC)
I think that may be one of the reasons I didn't get into Nana. I read the first few chapters when Shojo Beat first came out, but I wasn't that interested in the Nanas' problems. They seemed very self-involved, and there didn't seem to be any counterbalance.
Jun. 11th, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)

Yes, I think it was that self-involved thing, esp. with Nana O, rather than the age. I can read about kids and teenagers 'til the cows come home - a big stack of my "comfort reading" is children's and YA favorites - but Nana O's tedious triviality without any resolution in sight did my interest in. Again, I think Nana K's thoughts would have been more interesting - she's learned a lot more about being a team player, as well as about how the world works - but we don't get that much of her viewpoint in vols. 2 and 3.

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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