Nana by Ai Yazawa

I’ve been away from MangaKast for a little while because I fell into all 21 volumes of Nana, a rock and roll romantic tragedy about two women with the same name.

7af19115fabe1867ec36e65c2c96dee8--nana-manga-nana-anime.jpg

Yeah, it’s been over a week and I’m only just now coming up for air.

Wow, what a ride. I went into it happy to have found another mild slice-of-life story, and by the end I was like, “Wā! Such a soap opera! It can’t end like this!!!”

Of course, when I started Nana, I thought it was complete at 21 volumes, (this will teach me to do my research after picking up a series; I should have learned after Kill la Kill!) Instead, the story skids–almost literally–to an end.  According to Wikipedia, Nana went on an ‘indefinite hiatus’ due to Yazawa-sensei’s illness. Wikipedia seems to imply that the story could continue, but there’s been nothing since 2009.

Which is a shame, because I ended up really enjoying this one… despite myself.

I wouldn’t have thought a sappy romance story about a Japanese rock band would be for me, but, what can I say? I’ve been such a sucker for this kind of thing lately.

 

SPOILERS

.

.

.

.

 

The meet-cute for Nana is based on the title: two women with the same name, who meet, by accident (or is it fate?) on the train to Tokyo.  Both of them are headed out to start a new life in the big city.  Nana “Hachi” Komatsu, our main character, is following after a boyfriend… something she does a lot.  Nana Osaki is striking off to start a career in music…sort of also following a boy, but also not.

I shouldn’t like either of these women.  Both of them are really fairly dependent on their men/the men in their lives, but I ended up really liking their friendship… and the resulting emo/drama.

Nana Komatsu gets her nickname from Hachiko–the famously loyal dog.  In the end, she earns that nickname in a powerful way, but initially Hachi is more like the yappy annoying dog that follows Nana around.  Which is weird, since Hachi is the main character. We start the story with her and her love-at-first-sight problems, and she remains the narrator throughout, even when the action is more focused on the rock star drama.

And, OMG, the rock star drama.

Nana Osaki is a troubled woman. Her boyfriend Ren was the bass player in the band she started in high school, “Black Stones” (“Blast,” for short).  She and Ren are very much modeled on the punk rock icons, Sid and Nancy, complete with drug addiction.  Except in this, Ren leaves Nana’s band to become the bassist for a more successful group that already has a record label, “Trapnest.”  Determined to beat “Trapnest” on the charts, Nana moves to Tokyo and reforms “Blast” without Ren.

Hachi’s part in all this is to be an early fan, a supporter through tough times. That is, until she randomly sleeps with the guitar player from Ren’s band, a guy called Takumi… and gets pregnant. Even though, she was kind of seeing someone in Nana’s band, a kid called Nobu.

You see the soap opera drama?

Yeah, and like I said, I totally got addicted to each twist and turn. I can see how this series became a best-selling shoujo title, even though the main character is stuck in kind of an awful situation, since she ends up marrying Takumi, despite him being a womanizer and a cold-fish and Hachi still mostly loving Nobu best. I say “mostly,” because this is josei, so Hachi kind of loves the one she’s with, even though that’s not at all a satisfying story. (This is why josei drives me crazy.)

There’s this huge push-pull between Ren and Nana that’s never resolved.  Speaking of things I hate about ‘josei,’ a random car accident happens and a major character dies and then people disappear and no one is happy, THE END.

To be fair to Yazawa-sensei, she didn’t necessarily intend to leave it where she did.  You could see, however, from the flash-forwards she started giving us several chapters before the hiatus, that she’d planned for the tragedy and its aftermath.  So, it’s safe to say that this josei ended much like the other one that famously burned me, Kids on the Slope.

Yet, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the ride in both instances.  So, would I recommend it? Yep. Just be prepared to get to the end and have this reaction:

nana-scans-takumi-and-nobu.jpg

I literally spent this morning while doing the dishes (a time I usually watch anime), starting out the window with an expression much like the usually unflappable Takumi (the guy with the dark, long hair).  Internally, I had Kobu’s expression, because what happens in this manga is legitimately traumatizing.

Good story, though. Really not my usual, but it was very good none-the-less.

If you prefer to watch rather than read, you have two choices. There was a live-action movie made as well as an anime. (The Hulu link said it was unavailable for me and I didn’t try out the KissAnime link, so I can’t vouch for the quality/availability of either of them.)

Advertisements

Kasumi by Surt Lim / Hirofumi Sugimoto (Vol. 1)

9780345503541_manga-Kasumi-Graphic-Novel-1.jpg

I don’t know how to feel about things like this.

Like Avatar: The Last Airbender, Kasumi is an English-language original (known to otaku as OEL, “Original English-Language”), published in the U.S. by Del Rey.  Is it really manga? Does having Sugimoto-sensei, in Japan, as a collaborator make it ‘legit’? Does a property have to have a Japanese connection to ‘count’?

Readers must have decided ‘no,’ since this series was cancelled after only two volumes. Of course, that could be Del Rey, because publishers suck.*

SPOILERS

.

.

.

You can see what Del Rey is hoping for with the back cover copy:  “Kasumi is a special girl–not just because she’s a super-cute high schooler with a heart of gold. She has a major secret: she can turn invisible when she holds her breath…”

You can almost see the editorial meeting.  “These mangos all the kids are reading. They’ve got magical girls in them, right?  Let’s do that!  Oh, yeah, and my daughter is into that Host Club show, set it at an elite school and add a bunch of bullies to make her life hard (oh! And be sure her mom is dead! All anime heroes have dead moms!).”

But, maybe that’s just my jaded side coming out, because I didn’t hate this.  I was fairly intrigued by how Kasumi gets her superpowers. I feel like I’ve seen this ‘sacred tree’ motif before, in Kannagi (which I didn’t review here because I only made a few chapters of the first volume before I bailed on it.)  At any rate, she seems to develop her ability to turn invisible after an encounter in the woods with will o’ wisps/fox lights (kitsune-bi).

However, I found the high school drama to be overwrought and uninteresting. For some bizarre reason, Kasumi thinks that it’s a good idea to show off her magic tricks (she’s a burgeoning stage magician) as an intro to her first day of her new high school. She is, of course, mercilessly mocked. There’s also a high school prince, Ryuuki that everyone treats like he’s actually the school’s administration.  These parts ring a little false to the usual Japanese high school slice-of-life stuff.

Would I recommend it? Mmmmm, it’s tough knowing that all you’re going to get is two volumes, with the story incomplete.  It has been scanlated, or, I guess, just pirated, so you can try it for free at places like Mangakalot.

Do I know how I feel about this?  No.  I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with OELs. Does this still feel like a try-hard?  Kinda.

 


* I may be jaded. Having had several novel series cancelled by publishers will do that.

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda (Chapter 50) by Junko

oimg_305.jpg

So, yeah, I’m following this pretty religiously now, and I am not sure what to make of that.  If you want to join me, you can read the latest chapter here on MangaHere.com.

SPOILERS

.

.

.

The chapter opens with the former-harem trying to figure out how to help History Guy (Mutsumi) and the heroine (Serinuma) get back together.  Klutz (Shinomiya) suggests starting a write-in campaign to have the anime kill off Serinuma’s favorite character.  This is quickly squashed by the Prince/Princess (Nishina), who is also a fan of the show.

These wacky hijinx are interrupted by Seinuma, who shows up in tears, claiming that gay boy (Yashiro) has stolen her man, Mutsumi.  When everyone asks what’s wrong she tells them she saw them kissing. As other people are kind of stunned by this sudden queer turn of events, Nishina asks where they were kissing?  When Seinuma says it was the rooftop, Nishina, who reads BL/yaoi, becomes convinced that this is a classic yaoi set-up and they could be “doing it” right now.

Everyone rushes to the roof.

The boys are just coming downstairs.  The confrontation is a cold one. Yashiro is ruthless and reminds Seinuma that she really has no place rushing in, since she still hasn’t answered the question: “who is more important, your RL boyfriend or your anime husbando?”

The “are the boys together” shtick continues, as Shinomiya happens to come across them after a bookcase has been knocked over and it seems like they’re on top of each other. Meanwhile, Yashiro and Mitsumi are  playing a lot of Japanese chess, Shogi. Dark-haired sporty dude (Igarashi) stops by one of their sessions and asks for a quick word with Mitsumi.  He wants to know if he’s done with Serinuma because he’s going after her, if so.  This riles up Mitsumi and tells him nope.  Igarashi says, okay, fine, I’ll stay away for now, because I respect you, man, but get your damn act together.

Mitsumi is so fired up he wins the shogi match in one move.  Yashiro, seeing how upset he is, asks Mitsumi to accompany him on an out-of-town trip to a shogi competition… you know, not to get you away from that girl or anything, just as a change in pace.

….which somehow Mitsumi does not see as the ACTUAL YAOI SET-UP THAT IT IS.

Back to Serinume, who is despondent.  She can NOT pick between IRL boyfriend and anime husbando.  Who could???? Luckily, her oldest friend, Ah-Chan (who is an otaku like her, but who has managed to have a boyfriend this whole time) shows up ready to kick some sense into some nerd butt.

The solution is pretty clever.  Ah-Chan whips Serinume into a frenzy over opposing ships to her anime husbando.  Could you see him with so-and-so?  NO!!! NEVER! Could you see him with this other guy???  ARGH, I WOULD RATHER DIE. MY OTP IS THE ONLY PERFECT MATCH FOR MY ANIME HUSBANDO.

Exactly, Ah-Chan says.  No one should be with your anime husband other than your OTP pairing.

Not. Even. YOU.

The choice is easy.

But, when Serinume goes to call Mutsumi with her answer, Yashiro picks up his phone.  They’re at a ryokan…. out of town…. TOGETHER.

The final scene is Yashiro making his move:

 

oimg_340.jpg

Oh noz!

This is, of course, a huge threat, because, as we all know from our extensive reading of yaoi, if Yashiro gives Mutsumi a taste of Teh Gay, there is literally no way Mutsumi can retain even a shred of Teh Straight. Even a single kiss could potentially awaken Teh Gay in Mutsumi and he might suddenly start to notice how cute Yashiro is and then, literally, there is zero hope of any part of his straightness ever surfacing again.

These are the facts, ma’am.

Except, yeah, I can only hope that Junko-sensei will simply just have Mutsumi look at Yashiro and say, “You’re cute. Kissing you was nice, but I’m in love with someone else.”  A beat later: “Sorry! Also, still straight!”

I mean, as a queer reader, I do love it when people have moments of queerness, but the gay guy as threat to Mutsumi’s virtue is… well, let’s just say, gay predator is not a helpful stereotype–though incredibly common in yaoi.

So, I would rather Yashiro was rebuffed kindly and thoughtfully.

And that he stepped back, kindly and thoughtfully.

Probably it will be played for humor. I could be mad about that, too, but since this manga is literally about girls who love BL/yaoi/slash it’s kind of nice to have an actual gay subplot happening with one of the boys.

There has been decent moments of cleverness and thoughtfulness and kindness in the writing so far, so I’ll hold out a little hope.

—-

P.S. On a side-note, when I posted my review of this manga on Facebook, I got a couple of people suggesting that if I liked this, I would like Genshiken.  Once again, when I went to Crunchyroll, I accidentally ended up watching the first episode of the second season (although, as it happens, that’s all they HAD.)  I tried to hunt up the first season, but, wow, the art…. I… yeah, I dunno.

I might try reading it, though.  But, I have a bunch of others in my reading queue, so we’ll see. I offer the link here, in case any of you are interested.

 

 

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me (Chapter 49) by Junko

I got a notice that the newest chapter of Kiss Him, Not Me is out.  Apparently, I am now following a monthly shoujo.  Worse, it’s so accurate to my life that I can’t even.

oimg_8630.jpg

Just fill in: “Who is more important Renji or me?” and it me.

When last we left our intrepid harem (which has collapsed into a couple), Mutsumi (history guy) has discovered that Serinuma (our heroine) has skipped out on a fairly important date with him–he was taking her to his family’s grave–to go to some fan event or another because Yashiro (white-haired chess player) had an extra ticket.

It had been looking like we were going to be adding a sixth to our harem in previous chapters, but, it turns out, Yashiro only has eyes for Mutsumi.

Ironically, finally, one of the boys ACTUALLY wants to kiss another boy.

oimg_8645.jpg

I could not be happier with this turn of events.  The coming full-circle of this is just too, too perfect.

However, the pain Serinuma is experiencing in this chapter is very real… maybe a little too real for some of us.

For the most part, fannish obsessions are treated very kindly in Watashi ga Motete Dousunda, and for his part, Mutsumi seemed like the perfect guy who would understand (or at least deeply tolerate) Serinuma’s otaku heart.  But, Yashiro, did, in fact, blow open the problem with obsessiveness: it’s obsessive.

For some, fannish interests can act like a compulsion or an addiction.  Not just in a “oops, I stayed up until 4 am reading that entire manga!” kind of way, but more of a “I know I promised to do this other thing, but.., but, my anime thing!!!” which… I’m pretty sure we’ve all done both, right?  Blowing of stuff for myself, but also blowing off my friends and responsibilities and family and…. you know?  The stuff that doesn’t just hurt myself, but also other people…?

And I think this is why I find Serinuma’s plight so HARROWING.

It’s a real life problem. There does have to be a balance, and that’s a legitimate struggle in my life.

Serinuma was very seriously schooled in this chapter that her obsessive fannishness is acting like an addiction. She LIED to Mutsumi to get out of their date in order to accept the ticket from Yashiro.  She avoided calls from him because she KNEW she was sneaking around behind his back.  This is a pattern that Junko-sensei has been establishing for some chapters.  There were littler moments, when it was more of, “Oh, I want to do that thing with you, but my show is on,” or, “Oh, I forgot our thing because I was arguing about a plot point on Tumblr for three hours” (oh, wait, that second one might be me.)

We’ve been seeing the toll this has taken on generous, kind-hearted Mutsumi.  We also know from previous chapters where his player-older brother was introduced, that Matsumi isn’t going to push back.  He’ll bend over backwards so far he breaks, if he feels like doing so will make someone ELSE happy.  Mutsumi is making himself sick being so understanding. He’s starting to get nosebleeds. (And not those kinds, either!)

So, Igarashi (dark-haired sporty one) isn’t wrong when he suggests that maybe they aren’t the most ideal couple.

It’s going to be interesting to see where this goes from here.  Junko-sensei has no shame and has been happily playing up the boy’s love part of this.  The ending scene in this chapter is Serinuma walking in on what looks like a kiss between Yashiro and Mutsumi (but is actually Yashiro trying to get something out of Mutsumi’s eye.)

I suspect this ‘gag’ will go on for several more chapters, but how Junko-sensei going to resolve the bigger problem of otaku obsessiveness, I’m not sure.  Mutsumi has always been portrayed as the one who loved Serinuma from the start. He knew her when she was plump and took her transformation into hottie with a shrug and, “So she’s lost some weight, then?” which, of course, instantly endeared him to every human being who has ever struggled with their weight, ever.

However, he’s not a fan.

He’s followed along in the various dates that involved fannish things, and was the first voice to remind the harem that if they’re after Serinuma, they should do what makes her happy.  That being said, he’s never tried reading the manga, like even sporty-this-was-way-out-of-his-comfort-zone Igarashi did.

I have long thought that Nishia (the Black Butler cosplaying prince-girl) was by far the better match.  They get each other on a fandom level. However, as this manga isn’t labeled ‘yuri,’ I don’t think that Junko-sensei is going to go that way, so what Serinuma really needs, actually, is a straight version of Yushiro.  A boy who is actually in the same fandom.

Yeah… I know. Good luck with that.

At this point, presuming straightness on Serinuma’s part, Igarashi actually has my vote.  He has proven willing to try to embrace the fandom…. at least enough to talk plot with Serinuma.

I mean, he also seems to be the one who most clearly just wants to get into her pants, however, so there is that.

My guess–and if I were the Junko writing this, what I would do–is that the Mutsumi/Serinuma couple will collapse and we will all go back to our happy poly drama of the harem.

oimg_8635.jpg

No, but seriously, that was part of what was fun about this manga. I adore that the five-some has stayed together, despite the coupling, but they’re going to have to move on at some point if this becomes all about whether or not Serinuma and Mutsumi get back together.

Also? I will feel deeply betrayed if Serinuma gives up her anime-obsession in favor of love. It may happen that she will be shown “growing out of it,” but we will all know that’s a lie.

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me by Junko

A friend of mine made a passing comment that a fan relationship I was having reminded her of an anime she’d recently watched called Watashi ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me by Junko.*

l002.jpg

Having now read all 48 chapters, I’m seriously considering my life choices.

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me is the story of a Serinuma Kae, a fujoshi (a “rotten girl,” the sort of female otaku who is into yaoi/Boys’ Love and m/m shipping, in general,) who loses weight after going into crisis after her favorite anime character dies.  This sudden transformation makes her super-cute and Serinuma becomes the object of attention for a reverse-harem made up of mostly boys, but also one girl.

SPOILERS

.

.

.

Normally, I’m not a harem sort of manga reader, but this group is particularly compelling.  These guys look out for each other, while also relentlessly pursuing our heroine, Serinuma. Plus, since I’m not a regular harem reader, I don’t know how typical it is to include a female rival, but Nishina is definitely a type I’ve seen before: ‘the prince.’ She reminds me of the character of Kashima Yū from Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. When Serinume meets her, she’s cosplaying Sebastian from Black Butler at a comic-con.

One of the things that made Watashi ga Motete Dousunda fun for me is all the insider references to fandom.  There are cons, fan fic, doujinshi, voice actor obsessions, anime musicals/fan shows and, of course, fan wars…. and I adore the fact that even though Serinuma changes physically, mentally, she’s still a fujoshi/otaku.  The boys–at least two of whom are typical jocks (Igarashi and Nanashima)–struggle to relate to the anime obsession.

There are a series of arcs that are also send-ups of shoujo tropes, too: there’s a sento ‘episode,’ a lost on the class trip episode, there’s a beach episode, there’s a dating game episode… And, of course, our heroine and all her girlfriends really would rather see the boys kissing each other, so there’s a lot of humor to be had in getting the guys into awkward situations.

Probably my favorite arc is the one that I’m sure made my friend think of me, in which our heroine, Serinuma, and Nishina, the cosplayer girl, discover a new anime and have a HUGE fight over which iteration of the same pairing is better.  Our heroine likes one guy as the top; the cosplayer likes the other as the top.  They nearly break-up over this. Only some quick thinking and tough talk from the other rivals gets things back on track.

What’s nice is that in Watashi ga Motete Dousunda being an otaku isn’t set up as being a bad thing. One of the big themes is loving Serinuma for who she is, which includes her weird obsessions (and, actually, her former figure, which she reverts to at several times during the course of the manga.)  Interestingly, in this final arc, the mangaka is exploring the downside of fannish behavior–the sort of things that makes a person set aside their social obligations for their obsessions.  The last chapter ended with the question: “which is more important, your anime husbando or me?”

This is a legitimately difficult question for an otaku to answer.

It’ll be interesting to see if Junko-sensei stays true to Serinuma’s character in the next installment.

Because, really, we all know the answer should be: there is no one more important than one’s anime husband.

r006.jpg

*No relation.  My fannish name happens to also be “Junko,” but, alas, I am not the mangaka of Watashi ga Motete Dousunda.

Kenka Banchou Otome (Girl Beats Boys)

I don’t normally review anime, but I ended up watching all of Kenka Banchou Otome (Girl Beats Boys). It has no corresponding manga, being based on a video game. And, really, there is hardly any there there…

… but I kind of loved it, anyway.

85022l.jpg

It may be time to admit that I have a problem.  I really love delinquent high school boys… and badass girls.

SPOILERS

.

.

.

So we have our hero(ine), Hinako.

maxresdefault.jpg

She ends up going to an all-boys school called, Shishiku Academy, under the most ridiculous, suspender of disbelief-snapping, contrived set of circumstances, ever.

Even though she was raised as an orphan, turns out Hinako is actually the twin sister of Hikaru, the second son of a yakuza boss.  Hikaru fakes an accident between them and bullies Hinako into cross-dressing and taking his place at the Academy.  He, meanwhile, cross-dresses and takes her place at an all-girls school. (Literally nothing is made of his sub-plot, even though I kind of think he’s pretty happy with this arrangement given that he has posters of a male pop star, Mirako Yuuta, on his bedroom wall, and once in the dress, he’s never seen out of it.)

However, Hikaru neglects to mention that this all-boys school is a 24/7 fight club. Or that his brother, Onigashima Houou, is the toughest tough of the 3rd years and became king of the school in a matter of months.

Hinako is tasked with doing the same.

Turns out, she’s good at it.  Being an orphan meant she got bullied a lot, and with the help of a fellow-orphan nii-san, she got tough fast. Plus, she’s studied martial arts… so, surprise! (no surprise.) she quickly rises to the top.

In the way of these things, pretty much anyone she defeats in battle, she also wins over their hearts, and they become ‘bros (seriously the term used in the anime).

Weird quirk of this anime? A lot of slang is actually defined for you in still-frame cut-scenes.  Also, the characters have these odd moments where they seem to be talking to the audience, 4th wall breaking style, at odd intervals.   I’m sure this is entirely a mimic of part of the gameplay.

Oh, and another thing, the episodes are 8 minutes long.

They do manage to cram a fair amount of drama into those eight minutes (though I initially though something was wrong with my iPad when I was watching this because I thought, “that wasn’t long enough; did the feed cut out after the intro?”)  There’s, of course, the constant threat that Hinako’s true gender will be discovered, but also there are mini-arcs about friendship and loneliness and tragic backstories.

My favorite character was Kira Rinatarou, who is the first to guess the truth about Hinako, and who ends up having a secret connection to her past.

But the whole thing is kind of… dumb? Far-fetched? Ridiculous?  YES. YET I LOVED EVERY EIGHT MINUTE GEM.

I’m such a loser. 😛

If any future commenters want to point out my bad taste, throw this one in my face. I’ll have no defense.

Urakata!!/Behind the Scenes!! by Hatori Bisco

Hatori Bisco-sensei is probably best known for Ouran High School Host Club, but I have to admit to bouncing out of that anime when I tried to watch it, dubbed. (Sorry, J. Michael Tatum! I loved you in the dub of Black Butler, though, I promise!)

This is a similar kind of story to Ouran… in that our hero, Ranmaru, ends up accidentally stumbling into a college zombie movie and ruins it. The bombastic art squad president, Ryuji Goda, gang-presses super-negative Ranmaru into helping them as reparations.

Apparently, no one is scanlating this one….

behind-the-scenes-first-two

SPOILERS

.

.

.

Urakata!!/Behind the Scenes!! is basically about a lost lamb–or as Goda calls him at one point “the dude majoring in wool-gathering from the pessimist department in the school of listlessness”–who finds his people, his tribe: the “art squad.”

Ranmaru comes from rough, small town fisher folk. He grew-up feeling useless.  Due to this, he’s become an extremely negative person. But, of course, even before the end of the second chapter, Ranmaru discovers that, because of his humble beginnings, he’s particularly well-suited for making the most out of limited supplies–a skill set that that the underfunded “Art Squad” desperately needs.

The rest of the volumes is Ranmaru getting to know the other members of the group and learning how to fit-in in various ways.

I’m surprised that this one is labeled as ‘shoujo,’ while Nozaki-kun is ‘shounen.’  I guess this really is a marketing issue. There’s not even much hint of a strong romance (though there is a mild one between Ranmaru and the costumer, Ruka Enjoji), though I could see how this story, even with its heavily masculine cast, might appeal more to girls than to boys.  Most of the story arcs have a feel-good ending, not unlike Barakamon (though that one is listed as shounen, too.)

Ah, well, a marketing mystery.

I would recommend this, but you’ll have to find it via the library or actually buy it.  I’m not sure if it’s worth the price of a brand-new manga, but if you can pick it up somewhere free, I would.