There is little that fills my heart with such joy as a new volume of NANA, though the story itself has gotten pretty troubling. From the back cover:
As Blast gears up for their major label debut, their fan club starts mobilizing. Led by the chic Shion, these ladies are serious fans who won’t let anyone mess with their band. But the fan club has it out for Misato, a maverick fan who has gotten too close to Nana. What will they say when they find out Misato is applying for a job with Blast?!
I find it hilarious that this is what they’ve chosen to talk about on the back cover of this volume, for though this certainly something that happens (sort of) in volume 14, it is so far from being the real drama, it’s almost funny. Real spoilers after the jump.
Even as far as the stories of Shion and Misato are concerned, there could be little less important than how the fan club might react to Misato’s job with Blast. This part of Misato’s story has barely begun at this point, though there are obviously some interesting things to come, especially considering the young fan whose name she shares. The main impact of Shion’s appearance in this volume is to help highlight Nana’s relationship with Yasu, which results in a wonderful scene between Nobu and Shin as they discuss it. I absolutely love the dynamic between Nobu and Shin, and particularly what there is for Nobu to learn from young Shin’s insightfulness. Nana never finds out about Shion’s visit to Yasu’s hotel room, but she does discover Miu there innocently having breakfast one morning, which drives her to finally take action on the paperwork she is required to provide in order to marry Ren.
There is a lot of drama in this volume, and some if it actually moves the characters in a positive direction. Nobu figures out how to suck it up and be a man for Yuri, thanks mainly to some harsh words from Yasu. Yasu and Miu are becoming downright sweet together, and proving to be surprisingly compatible. Hachi has some personal growth going on, finally figuring out that Takumi’s bluntness is actually indicative of him accepting her as she is, though it remains disturbing that she works so hard to convince herself that she should be accepting of his infidelities. Takumi actually says some things that make sense in this volume, which is never a good sign. Things between Nana and Ren are, however, completely going to hell. Ren is clearly going off the deep end, and at one point confides to Riera that he finds himself thinking about killing Nana so that she’d be only his forever. Nana is forcing herself back towards Ren to avoid her feelings about Yasu, only to be surprised by a “gift” from Weekly Search which turns out to be a photograph of Ren embracing Riera. The fact that Weekly Search is missing the point almost as badly whoever wrote the blurb on the back cover of the book will surely not lessen the photograph’s impact on everyone involved.
The theme of this volume seems to be how easily people’s feelings change, and that nothing is permanent. In a way, though, I think the real issues here are the feelings that haven’t changed. Is there anyone at this point who doesn’t think that both Nana and Ren would be a lot better off without each other? Yasu has worked so hard to keep them together, believing somehow that it will save Ren, but for once I think Yasu’s really got it wrong. Not that Ren isn’t monumentally screwed up with or without Nana, but the way he’s dealing with his feelings for her at this point is so unhealthy, the relationship certainly is not doing him any good. Both of them use their relationship as a crutch in order to avoid their real problems, and there’s no way it can end well for either of them.
I feel like all I’m talking about here is plot, but there’s so much of it, it’s hard not to. This is a a volume that delivers a punch in the gut every few pages or so. I was surprised how much I was affected by seeing Takumi’s infidelity portrayed so bluntly, and watching Nobu really figure out how to step up and be a strong partner made me curse Hachi’s choice more than ever. It’s not just the readers being punched in the gut either, but all the characters too. I am constantly in awe of Ai Yazawa’s talent for turning soap-opera drama into something greater, and this volume is a perfect example of that. Another strong theme in this volume is that a person’s history with another person can never be erased, and though that may seem to conflict with the whole “nothing is permanent” thing, Yazawa makes the two ideas work together very powerfully. This volume’s several flashbacks to Ren and Yasu’s high school years, combined with the present-day drama and narration from the future, highlight just how much every choice a person makes can resonate through his/her life forever.
Overall, this is an especially touching and painful volume in a series that always leaves me craving more. You know, as much as I’ve harped the issues I have with Viz’s presentation of this series, it should be said that I’m incredibly grateful for the bi-monthly release schedule which keeps the wait between volumes from being completely unbearable. For all my complaints, Viz deserves some thanks for keeping up with this series so that we can continue enjoying it. Thanks, Viz!