Valentina recommended this manga series in her comments to my review of xxxHOLIC #9 a few weeks ago, and I thought I'd check it out. When I read in the end notes of the book that Nana is "the all-time best-selling shojo title from Japanese publishing giant Shueisha," I was curious to see what all the fuss was about
I think I will need to read a few more in the series to get a real feel for this one. This book is divided into two sections, each about a girl named Nana. The first Nana, Nana Komatsu, is just graduating from high school. She is the sort of girl who falls in love with anyone with a handsome face, no matter how unrealistic the idea of a relationship might be: the video store guy, the pizza delivery guy, a teacher at school, a kind but married man. She hilariously blames her bad luck at love to being cursed by "the Demon King."
The disastrous ending to her last relationship has made her determined to try actually becoming friends with a boy before entering into a romantic partnership with him. So, although she thinks Shoji is a total hottie, she is determined to keep him at a distance - even though it quickly becomes clear that they are crazy about each other. But can their relationship withstand Nana's determination to be just friends? I particularly liked Nana's relationship with her best friend, Junko, whose wisdom and caustic wit help keep Nana on the right track. This story was an interesting look at the way girls, especially (but unfortunately not limited to) teens, tend to define themselves according to the boy they are with. I appreciated Nana's attempts to break away from this mentality.
The second Nana story follows Nana Osaki, singer in a popular band in her town. She is romantically involved with sexy fellow band member Ren, and they appear to have a strong, positive relationship. The problem is that Ren has been asked to join a band in Tokyo that has just signed on with a record label, but there is no need for a singer, so Nana is going to stay behind, still hoping for her big break. What kind of future, if any, can she hope to have with Ren? Again, it was interesting to watch this Nana struggle with those decisions that many women must face about which dreams they want to follow.
My reading tastes tend to run to the fantastical and otherworldly (and manga series like XXXholic and Cardcaptor Sakura), but I do occasionally enjoy something a bit more realistic (like Mars by Fuyumi Soriyo). Nana has an interesting depth of theme and characterization that have piqued my interest and made me want to read about the further adventures of Nana and Nana.
Nana, Vol. 1 by Ai Yazawa (Viz Media. 1999)