Nana: Baby momma drama…(spoilers)

Nana: Baby momma drama…(spoilers)

This entire post is basically one huge spoiler, so please be cautious when reading, especially if you haven’t read volume 21 yet.

Although volume 21 of Nana brought the series to what could have been a dramatic finale, the series is actually on hiatus because Ai Yazawa was being hospitalized for an unknown illness. The manga tells two stories: one of the present day alongside brief glimpses into the future. However, with the series unfinished, there is a gap left between the present day and the future, so many questions have been left unanswered. When did Nana Osaki leave all of her friends behind to go to England, and why? What happened to Black Stones and Trapnest after Ren Honjo’s death? And what happened between Hachi and Nobu? But the biggest question I think many fans want answered is who are the parents of Ren and Satsuki?  I have a few thoughts about this subject, but please be aware that my opinion is pure speculation and that there is no right answer as long as the series remains unfinished.

Child Ren

I’ll start with Ren, the boy we see with Takumi in England in volume twenty. This may get confusing because there are two Rens: Ren Honjo, Nana Osaki’s boyfriend who dies at the end of volume twenty, and Ren the child, so from now on I’ll be talking about the latter unless I use Ren Honjo’s full name. Even though Ren calls Takumi ‘daddy’ and Hachi asks where he is during a phone call with Takumi, many fans do not believe that Ren is the child of Hachi Komatsu and Takumi Ichinose. When Hachi got pregnant, she had just broken things off between her and Takumi and began dating Nobu. However, when she realized she was pregnant, she and Takumi got engaged even though she loved Nobu because she believed there was a greater chance that the baby was Takumi’s (since he didn’t use protection). The fact that Ren has light hair has led many fans to believe that Ren is actually Nobu’s son with Hachi. As for my personal opinion of this theory, while I do think it would make for great storytelling that Hachi dumped Nobu because she thought she was having another man’s baby, just for that baby to turn out to be his, I really don’t believe that Ren is Hachi and Nobu’s child. Just because Ren has light hair doesn’t automatically mean he can’t be Takumi’s son, especially since Hachi has light hair as well. At the beginning of volume 20, Ren is very cold to Takumi, which reminds me of Takumi’s coldness toward most people. Naoki even comments that Ren has Takumi’s “evil eyes,” and thus for these reasons I believe that Ren really is the son of Takumi and Hachi. I wouldn’t be surprised if I were wrong though – after all, this is Ai Yazawa we’re talking about.

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Nana: Visual Tragedy (Spoilers!)

Nana: Visual Tragedy (Spoilers!)

There are many, many spoilers here, so if you have not  read volume 21 of Nana, you may want to avoid reading this.

In Volume 21 of Nana, Ren gets into a car crash and passes away. Ren’s death is so tragic that it’s impossible for me to read or think about it without tearing up. Yet my reaction to Ren’s death would not have been as painful without Ai Yazawa’s wonderfully expressive artwork. Instead of relying on dialogue, Yazawa’s art helps convey sorrow in a dramatic yet completely realistic way, so that we not only empathize with the characters but are absorbed into their world. Here’s the rest of the entry

Oh no they didn’t! – The most shocking moments in shojo.

Oh no they didn’t! – The most shocking moments in shojo.

   While most anime and manga recycle cliché after cliché, some of them are capable of genuinely surprising moments, and shojo is no execption. Sometimes it’s not even what happens in a scene, but how it happens that makes it stand out. Here are some of the scenes in shojo that truly shocked me (and please note that there are several spoilers, so proceed with caution!).

–          Shika finding out her father isn’t who she thought he was in Sand Chronicles. This one is great because it was Fuji who suspected that he wasn’t a legitimate Tsukishima heir, and tormented himself to the point of closing off other people – I certainly didn’t see it coming that it was really Shika who was illegitimate! And it was made even sadder because she, unlike Fuji, never even suspected any of the secrets in her family. I thought Fuji’s storyline might play out à la Yuu from Marmalade Boy, but it turned out better not only because of the twist involving Shika, but also because Fuji’s emotional distress was better handled.

We Were There's Nanami

–          Nanami’s line at the end of We Were There volume eight: “I never saw Yano again.” Yano decides to move with his mother to Tokyo for his last year of high school, and he and Nanami make a promise to meet there in a year. The series then flashforwards from their separation at the train station to the end of Nanami’s last year in college, where we find out she and Yano never kept their promise. The next volume couldn’t have come out fast enough, because I couldn’t believe the way Nanami and Yano drifted apart. This also counts as one of the saddest moments I’ve read in a manga, because reading this scene moved me to tears.

–          Ren asking Nana to marry her in volume eleven of Nana. In the panels leading up to this scene, the mood is very tense because Nana anticipates that the next time she sees Ren they’ll be breaking up. Instead, Ren says ‘Marry me.’ I think I stared at those two words for five minutes before I could comprehend what was going on enough to turn to the next page!

–          Hachi finding out she’s pregnant in volume eight of Nana. Yes, another moment from Nana – Ai Yazawa is just that good. Most series wouldn’t go this far, having the main female character wind up pregnant in the middle of the series, rather than as some ‘happily ever after.’ The fact that this happens when she’s with Nobu, her ‘dream guy,’ yet Takumi finds out first and is the one to tell Nobu about the pregnancy and that she’s not sure who the father is makes the drama all the more heartbreaking. In many ways, this is where this series begins. This one was still surprising even though I had already semi-spoiled it for myself.

–          Naoki kissing Kotoko on vacation in volume four of Itazura na Kiss. As soon as I saw Naoki kindly approach Kotoko, I could tell it was going to be a dream sequence. Then when Kotoko wakes up and mentions that she can still feel the sensation of the kiss from her dream on her lips, Yuuki is shown hiding, so I just assumed that he had kissed her and was developing feelings for her because he was blushing. I didn’t think too much about it, especially because the incident was dropped for a while. But then a while later in the series, when Naoki’s feelings for Kotoko are being doubted, Yuuki reveals that he knows Naoki loves Kotoko because he kissed her that summer  – it wasn’t a dream! I was as ecstatic as I was shocked when I read that, and all I could think was “Well played.” I really believe that the way Kaoru Tada executes scenes like these is what makes her a wonderful writer, and what makes Itazura na Kiss such an enjoyable series.

Friendship in shojo anime and manga

Friendship in shojo anime and manga

  There are few shojo that focus as much on romance as Marmalade Boy does; the (anime) series literally has a dozen love triangles. But the relationship that interests me most in Marmalade Boy isn’t one of the dramatic couples or contrived triangles – it’s best friends Miki and Meiko. Marmalade Boy was the first anime I watched that featured a prominent and relatable female friendship. I understood Miki’s desire to be the closest person to her best friend, and her disappointment at finding out Meiko never confided in her the way she does. And yet, despite their problems, Miki and Meiko end up being the person the other could depend on the most: Meiko was there for Miki when she was unsure about Ginta, and in return, Miki decided that Meiko needed to see Namura and took her to Hiroshima. So while some of the romances in Marmalade Boy fell flat for me, seeing Miki and Meiko made me wish I could have their friendship. And while most shojo manga best-friends end up becoming a love rival or betraying the heroine (Yuu Watase loves this cliché), it’s refreshing to find genuine friendships that are also not completely perfect or idealized. Watching Marmalade Boy made me think about what other friendships in shojo anime and manga I thought were well-portrayed or could really relate to. And after reading an interesting article on friendships in shojo; I decided to write about the manga friendships that have affected me most.

 If there’s one friendship in manga that reminds me of my own, it’s Risa and Nobu in Lovely Complex. I love the way they tease each other yet always support one another through their problems – and that the way they help each other is by encouraging the other to show their ‘inner boobies.’ I love the random, perverted conversations they have, such as a scene when Risa and Nobu are at a sleepover and pretend to hit on one another. Even though their friendship isn’t always at the forefront, the dynamic between Risa and Nobu feels more than just fun – it feels authentically teenaged, which is what makes them so relatable.

Nana Osaki and Nana “Hachi” Komatsu

 While Marmalade Boy and Love*Com feature my favorite anime and manga friendships, of course there are many other great ones. Kimi ni Todoke explores that awkward stage when you haven’t defined yourselves as friends. Cardcaptor Sakura, on the other hand, has Tomoyo, who always helps Sakura out and wishes for her complete happiness. And it’s impossible to talk about female friendships without mentioning Nana. The series is unique in that the central thrust of the series isn’t a romance or an overarching plot, but the friendship between the Nanas. At first, Hachi idolizes punk-rocker Nana, but as the series progresses and the two grow closer, Hachi realizes that Nana isn’t as strong as she seems. The series not only explores the potential possessiveness and jealousy that comes with becoming close friends, but also the rewards of finding someone you can’t imagine living without.

 Of course, there are great male friendships in shojo manga as well. The main one that comes to mind for me is the F4 from Boys Over Flowers, a.k.a Hana Yori Dango, four rich teenage boys who run their high school. I love the idea of a clique of guys who under their spoiled-rotten façades, are really normal, sweet guys who have also been best friends for thirteen years. I also adore that every member of the F4 has his role: the leader, Tsukasa, who is constantly causing trouble, Akira and Sojiro, who clean up the messes left behind from Tsukasa’s rampages, and Rui, who is usually off sleeping somewhere. And even though they argue (a lot), I love that they always band together to help each other out, especially in the live-action adaptations. Plus, they’re hot. There’s that, too.

  Oh, and I thought I’d mention that when I considered boy-girl friendships where neither character has romantic feelings for the other, I couldn’t think of any! So if any of you guys can think of some, that’d be great!

Boys Over Flowers’ F4 – Rui Hanazawa, Akira Mimasaka, Sojiro Nishikado and Tsukasa Domyoji