NANA 8 by Ai Yazawa: A+

No way am I spoiling this.

From the back cover:
Hachi’s happiness with Nobu is slipping through her fingers as an unexpected complication with Takumi threatens to upend her entire life. And unlike her past romantic woes, the choice she makes now will change the lives of everyone around her.

I knew this was coming for one of the Nanas (stupid article was just supposed to have only general comments about series, dangit!), but it’s pretty horrible all the same. I have zero sympathy for unplanned pregnancy woes—people are freakin’ morons if they don’t consider the consequences of their actions—but I can’t deny this makes for the big drama, and just when Hachi was on the verge of happiness. I sometimes wonder why I like series like this and things by Whedon, when I so desperately want the characters I love to be happy. I should know it’s never gonna happen.

Anyway, we get to see most things unfold through Nana’s point of view, which is fabulous. This time, the retrospective narration seems to be hers, though it’s similar to what has gone before, like she and Hachi are thinking the same things at the same time without knowing it. Maybe if something has happened to part them, then both are regretting it from whatever future point they’re speaking from. If the series ends with a tearful reunion between two middle-aged ladies, I am going to bawl my eyes out. It already makes me sniffly to see how intensely Nana loves Hachi without the latter being aware of it.

In a scene both terrible and awesome, Takumi comes to see Hachi, finds out she’s pregnant, and promptly calls Nobu to inform him. During the aftermath, when Nobu asks whether she really broke things off with Takumi before coming to him, she doesn’t say she did. The explanation for this initially confusing act is given later, when Junko figures out that Nana did that on purpose to get Nobu to leave. If he knew she really hadn’t been two-timing him, he’d want to help her, would probably give up on the band and take over the family hotel to be able to provide for her and the baby, and she couldn’t ask him to do that for another man’s child.

Nana is particularly upset by the news, because it means it could take Hachi out of her life, the very thing she most wants to avoid. She desperately tries to convince Nobu to claim the baby as his. I find her actions here fascinating, and because the character has been so well-established, her motivations are obvious throughout. And man, this bit makes me teary:

Hey, Hachi… I wanted to keep you chained to me, even if I had to put a collar on you. I was afraid of myself, so I always kept a little distance between us. I still can’t make friends very easily. I’m still… scared.

Artwise, my favorite part was a juxtaposition of this story with the efforts of Blast to obtain a recording contract with a major label. Shin, having an illicit smoke break in the bathroom of the said label, overhears a conversation that implies Blast won’t get much support and will face attempts to change their look and sound. As the dream of a major label deal goes down the drain, he watches his cigarette swirl in the toilet. The bottom half of the page is Hachi being sick, her own dreams spiraling away in similar fashion. I dunno, maybe it’s kind of crude, but I thought it made the point well.

I kind of dread where the story is going to go from here, because it seems like Hachi might end up marrying Takumi and the thought of her and Nobu never being together again is too sad to contemplate. I have some hope that things are going to work out to my liking, though it’s but a wee sliver.

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  1. If you’re looking for a happy read, you’re best going elsewhere, and I count myself as one of those people (addicted chick-lit reader here), but from the very moment I read the first chapter, I fell in love with Nana. I have no idea why, but this bittersweet masterpiece is really amazing. But it depresses me all the time. (But of course, Ai Yazawa balances humor and sweet moments very well).

    But I’ve read farther, and honestly, it gets even worse. But I guess that’s the point…going on with life no matter what. Vol 8 is where the true story of Nana, Hachi and everything else comes together as all the relationships are built and they start colliding. Be prepared to cry your heart out.

    Nana herself is probably the most tear-jerking. I was always enamored with Nana. Her crumbling like that and being so possessive is horrible. I guess I reveled in her coolness to much to realize all the bad qualities about her. I can’t understand if Hachi’d be better off knowing Nana’s weakness and her importance to her or not….It’s strange they’re so similar and yet really difference. The dynamic between Nana and Hachi’s probably why I read this every time, maybe even morse so than Hachi’s love life and Nana’s career.

  2. I can’t understand if Hachi’d be better off knowing Nana’s weakness and her importance to her or not…

    That’s a good point. I think she might need the ideal of Nana as strong, “the perfect shoujo manga heroine” as Nana says.

    I do love the bittersweet stuff, it’s just I can’t help hoping it’ll work. I read Arthurian things and still wish everything will be okay this time. 🙂 I started to read volume 9, but there was a Hachi and Takumi scene that was just too horrible and I had to put it aside.

  3. I know what you mean about reading this even with the knowledge that things are never going to go very well for the characters. Reading this usually winds up depressing me tremendously, but it’s just too good to leave alone.

    I didn’t understand at first why she didn’t stand up for herself about breaking up with Takumi either, but I was especially puzzled when she didn’t tell anyone that it was almost certainly Takumi’s baby since they didn’t use protection (I remember Takumi stating this explicitly, and I seem to remember Hachi at least thinking it). This hasn’t come up again, at least yet, but it seemed to me like she’d want to make Nobu feel better about that situation.

    Volume 9 has been my favorite in the series so far. I can’t remember the exact Takumi scene you mention from the beginning (though if it’s the one I’m thinking of, it is pretty bad), but near the end, there’s an absolutely fantastic scene between Hachi and Nana. It made me cry, and I think I’ve gone back to read it several times. There’s also a lighthearted side story at the end of the volume about the drummer from Trapnest that I liked a lot, too. Just in case you were putting it off because of Takumi, it’s worth sitting through him being a jerk to see the Nana scene at the end.

  4. I’m glad to hear there’s something fantastic to look forward to in volume 9. I still haven’t had the heart to pick it back up.

    The Takumi scene to which I referred was where she just kind of… numbly submitted to his amorous advances. That could be her life now. So sad.

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