I’ve returned home from a very productive trip to North Carolina. The auditions were exhausting, but i’ve got a day to recover at home before returning to work, which is nice. I downloaded the new iTunes last night, and now I’m listening to a “genius”-made playlist, which is surprisingly pretty good!
I never did find a local shop for manga in Charlotte, but as it turns out, there really wasn’t much time for anything like that, anyway. I did take a restaurant recommendation from a reader on the LiveJournal-mirror, who sent us to Macado’s in Concord for the macaroni and cheese, and I have to say it was delicious!
So, as I mentioned, I picked up the first three volumes of Nana for the trip. I’d like to talk a bit more about them now.
SPOILERS TO FOLLOW:
For those who don’t know, Nana is the story of two young women, both named “Nana” who, through a series of coincidences, become roommates in Tokyo. The first Nana moved to Tokyo to follow her boyfriend, and the second, to follow her dream of being a professional musician. Nothing is as simple as it sounds, however, and what makes this story work so well is how real and complex both characters (and their circumstances) are. Even just three volumes in, I’ve already seen these characters grow, through happiness and hardship. The two girls come from very different backgrounds, and probably could not be more different from each other, but their growing friendship is incredibly compelling to watch.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most are the small moments of narration in which the first Nana is directly addressing the second, as though she’s telling this story from some point in the future. It is a really effective device, because it keeps the reader on the edge of his/her seat, dying to get to that part of the story, to see where they both are in that future moment. Also, it provides us with the most poignant moments. At the end of volume three, when we’re watching this awful moment in which Nana’s boyfriend, Shoji, must finally choose between his girlfriend and the girl he’s been seeing behind her back, the page of narration that appears at the end of the volume just tore me to bits. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since, to be honest, and I’m both anxious to get to the next volume, and nervous about the pain that awaits me there.
I feel like I’m talking really incoherently about this, and I’ll try to blame it on exhaustion from the trip, but I think the truth is, I’m still a bit wrapped up in that moment of the story, and I can’t quite get myself free of it enough to talk intelligently about any of it. Perhaps all I can say now is that Nana is compelling and unexpectedly complex, and I’m a bit horrified that it’s taken me so long to get around to reading it.
A brief note to Viz Media: I think you are doing this series a disservice by packaging it as you do. Thanks to Jason Thompson and Johanna Draper Carlson, I had this on my list to buy, but honestly, if I’d run across it for the first time in a store, I never would have picked it up. The Barbie-doll pink Shojo Beat branding all over the books really makes it look like a bubble-gum romance that would only appeal to early teen and pre-teen girls, and this story is so much more interesting than that. I’ve never been embarrassed reading manga in public, but for the first time ever I found myself trying to hide the back cover of a book from view as I read it on the plane. As a nearly 40-year-old woman, I felt like I might as well have been holding an issue of Tiger Beat, which would be, frankly, kind of creepy. Just my two cents, but I really think this series could have a much wider appeal with more dignified packaging.
Oliver saysSeptember 13, 2008 at 3:46 pm
I think Nana would be a great series for me to follow, but I’m also interested in snatching up Paradise Kiss. And yes, I’ve read a lot about how the Shojo Beat label is wrong for the books, but maybe it’s gained the series more sales, which is always good.
I think there’s a lot to be had in Josei manga (manga for women 18+), because the art isn’t so sparkly with huge eyes and it has more realistic stories. While Nana is in a Shojo label, people on the ‘net are arguing it’s more Josei.
I don’t know if you’ve read it, but ‘Nodame Cantabile’ is a great example of Josei manga with its less detailed art and realistic relationships. It’s also a great experience to read, in general. The story is easy to follow because the panels are simple, whereas in Shojo manga, the panels can get quite ridiculous and incoherent.
Thank-you so much again for your wonderful manga recommendations. Apparently, ‘xxxHolic’ and ‘The Embalmer’ are Josei, too, according to this list http://www.joseimanga.net/manga/manga-list
Melinda Beasi saysSeptember 15, 2008 at 9:07 am
Heh, that’s interesting that they list xxxHolic as josei. I mean, technically it’s seinen, since it is serialized in Young Magazine, which, well, you can see what I mean. ;) But in the US, at least, I know more women who read it than men.
I’ll definitely check out the series you recommend! I think I probably would enjoy more josei manga.
Michelle saysSeptember 15, 2008 at 8:21 pm
Ah, you’re one of the people that Nana is about the spiderweb of relationships, how each affects the others with the web in both big and small ways, depending on both big AND small moments. It’s about how we as humans depend upon them so much, and yet it causes a lot of pain. Friends, families, romances….Nana has a much larger cast then you think, and the spiderweb gets larger later on, but even then, it really centers on one relationship in particular. Nana and Hachi. Their relationship is the heart of this story. It highlights a lot of other relationships they (and we) have. I kind of feel bad for others who think the book is about finding boyfriends… They don’t GET it’s brilliance in depicting life so poignantly and realistically.
There are so many twists and turns within the plot that leaves me gasping for air. So get use to that feeling :P It only gets better. Very emotionally draining. And sorry if I’m chattering away too much and hinting at too much or making Nana sound depressing. It’s not. There are funny moments, heartwrenching moments, bitterly realistic moments, and small moments where they just “bond”. So emotionally draining, but in a good way, not overwhelmingly so. It makes me laugh and cry and laugh again. Gorgeous art and artistic sense really helps set it off too… I don’t know. I could be heaping praises on it all day. It’s just so poignant. XD Josei done right.
I started out late too. The “melodramatic” packaging was what turned me off, and the first volume didn’t “click” either. It really sets up their relationships… but I didn’t know that until the 2nd volume. So same here. Not right for Shojo Beat, agreed. Honey and Clover and Sand Chronicles not really for it either… but Viz… Viz… *sigh* Totally missed its mark that way. Got pulled out of the mag because it was too mature, and its older targets ran away like crazed.
And some more stuff you might like. Paradise Kiss, a fast-paced josei manga about “dreams” and “growing up”, done by her as well, brilliantly done in 5 volumes. Sounds like a YA novel? But with Ai Yazawa balancing reality and fantasy, fittingly centered on fashion, and with her gorgeous art, great fashion sense, and quirky humor/characters as icing, it comes out like no other YA novel even come close to.
So yes, I love her a lot. XD Can’t recommend her enough. But you might like the a bit too feminine Suppli, and the similarly draining Sand Chronicles (if not as mature). And for lighter stuff try You’re My Pet…. I’m also just read the latest of the feel good, hilarious, and innocent High School Debut XD Not sure of the connection, but try that if you want something less draining. I swear you’ll go out with a huge smile on your face.
Melinda Beasi saysSeptember 15, 2008 at 9:53 pm
Oh, thank you so much for the additional recommendations! People here and over on the LJ-mirror keep mentioning Paradise Kiss, so I’m sure I’ll end up reading that too. It’s wonderful the way you are talking about everything here, though. I love especially recommendations when they come from someone who is obviously giddy about the material. :)
Again, thank you so much!
It highlights a lot of other relationships they (and we) have.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed particularly about the series so far is how relatable *all* the characters and their relationships are already, even for someone like me who is in a very different place in my life, or one would think. I suppose the truth is, where I am is not so different after all, and we spend our whole lives stumbling through the same things in our relationships, searching and stumbling, and sometimes being lucky enough to find something special.