NANA 12 by Ai Yazawa: A

Cut for spoilers!

From the back cover:
Hachi tells herself that she’s got her eye on the future and her life with Takumi, but she just can’t let go of the past and her friendship with Nana and the rest of Blast—especially Nobu. And the tangle gets thicker when Hachi’s wedding has to be postponed in favor of Nana and Ren’s nuptials. Can Hachi handle another delay in her happily-ever-after?

Oh, NANA. So good and yet so depressing.

Volume eleven left off with a hopeful/hopeless cliffhanger—Hachi had invited Blast to attend a fireworks festival and they’re all gathered in the girls’ old apartment, waiting for her. Hachi, meanwhile, is broken down in tears because she’s just encountered Shoji and has realized that she has truly lost him forever. Can she now face Nobu knowing the same thing?

Volume twelve begins not with a direct followup, but with a similar gathering six or seven years in the future. None of the old pain has been resolved—Nobu and Hachi still have a palpable connection and chemistry—and Nana is welcome, wished-for, but absent. After this glimpse at what will be, we return to the night of the fireworks festival and to some very selfish actions by Nana.

She has been trying to reconcile herself that Nobu isn’t going to be the glue that keeps her and Hachi together, and even trying to be supportive of his flirtations with a couple of residents of the agency dorm where the band is now living, but just as soon as she gets an inkling that Hachi isn’t over Nobu, she goes into a desperate sort of auto-pilot. She lies to Hachi, saying Nobu didn’t come, and arranges so that Nobu is alone in the apartment to greet Hachi when she arrives. Nobu, though, is too decent a guy to jeopardize Hachi’s happiness and doesn’t answer the door.

Meanwhile, plans for Nana and Ren’s wedding proceed, and it’s made into a huge publicity deal by their agencies, including a press conference on the day that both bands release new singles. The expectations everyone has for this match are horribly weighty. Takumi (and Yasu, too) think that Nana is going to be able to keep Ren from sliding further into drug addiction. Hachi thinks theirs is the dreamiest love story ever and is sure that Nana is in “total bliss” right now.

As for Nana, she’s completely terrified, but still hopeful that marrying will make her feel more stable. Not realizing, of course, that Ren is as much of a wreck as she is, if not more so. Shin points out at one point that no one at a band/agency meeting is discussing the impending wedding like it’s a good thing, but there’s just such an atmosphere of gloom and foreboding that it’s certainly doomed to failure.

In Hachi’s world, thanks to some clever scheming from Reira, Takumi has realized that it just wouldn’t do for two of Trapnest’s eligible bachelors to get married at the same time, so his and Hachi’s nuptuals are on hold indefinitely. She tries to keep upbeat about this, and doesn’t waver in her commitment to sticking it out with him, but even she is honest. “Even though we can construct our little world, I don’t think it can grow.”

The volume concludes with all of the main characters about to meet up again at a joint birthday party for Shin and Reira. I expect many revelations and much pain will ensue, including, perhaps, incontrovertible evidence that Takumi is a cheating bastard, that Nobu has a heart of gold, and that nobody in this story ever really has any chance of being happy.

And yet, for all of the pain and misery, NANA is still simply amazing. I am desperate to read volume thirteen, and yet simultaneously dread it because it will surely hurt. A story capable of hurting you, though, is a story worth treasuring.

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