NANA 1 by Ai Yazawa: A-

From the back cover:
Nana Komatsu is a young woman who’s endured an unending string of boyfriend problems. Moving to Tokyo, she’s hoping to take control of her life and put all those messy misadventures behind her. She’s looking for love and she’s hoping to find it in the big city.

Nana Osaki, on the other hand, is cool, confident, and focused. She swaggers into town and proceeds to kick down the doors to Tokyo’s underground punk scene. She’s got a dream and won’t give up until she becomes Japan’s No. 1 rock’n’roll superstar.

This is the story of two 20-year-old women who share the same name. Even though they come from completely different backgrounds, they somehow meet and become best friends. The world of NANA is a world exploding with sex, music, fashion, gossip, and all-night parties.

The last line of that blurb is so unappealing. It’s also wrong. There was a smattering of sex, some music, a little bit of fashion, no gossip that I was able to discern, and the only thing close to an all-night party was a quartet of friends talking and drinking beer. Ooh, wild and crazy!

This volume serves as a prologue to the main serialization of NANA, which begins in volume two. There’s a long chapter for each of the Nanas, covering the last two years or so of their lives. I’m pretty sure I’m not in the minority when I say that, while directionless Nana Komatsu is okay, I much prefer the driven Nana Osaki. Nana K. could be excised from the series entirely and I’d still keep reading it, but the same isn’t true of Nana O.

There are some good things about Nana K.’s story. Her eventual boyfriend, Shoji, is much more like a regular guy than the typical shoujo love interest. He admits he’s capable of sleeping with a girl he doesn’t love, is hesitant to confess his feelings, and has an unromantic approach to consummating the relationship. Perhaps my main problem with this chapter is that I saw the beginning of the NANA anime, and revisiting it again is a tad boring.

Nana O.’s story is really great, though. The chapter tells the story of how her boyfriend, Ren, decides to join another band in Tokyo with a chance of making it big. Those around her assume she’ll be going with him, but she says that, if she did, she’d just sit around the house, making miso soup and watching Ren become successful in a group with a better girl vocalist (than she is). She has too much pride for that, so allows him to go on alone and stays where she is to improve her skills. I gotta love a character who’s serious enough about her goals that she’ll not let love distract her.

Each chapter ends with a Nana on the verge of coming to Tokyo. I’m really looking forward to seeing Nana O. meet up with Ren again someday. I haven’t any particular anticipation regarding the other Nana, though.

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  1. I think the strength of this series is that Nana K is the main character and I still read it and love it. I can’t say I absolutely hate Nana K, but she lines up pretty well with nearly everything that gets on my nerves in a character. She’s so well-developed that I can see the logic behind everything she does during the series. Her decisions may drive me up the wall, but I can always understand exactly why she made them, and that makes it really hard to hate her.

    I’m glad to see you started this series, by the way. It really is one of the best shoujo/josei series in English, I think.

  2. I’m enjoying it. Volume 2 (the review of which I’m about to start writing) was even better.

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