oyceter: (two nanas)
Note: I'm reading these in the original Japanese, so I may be missing nuances and giant plot points.

Spoilers are still worried )

No further spoilers please!
oyceter: (two nanas)
I also reread vol. 16 with the Viz translation, so I am more clear on what's going on in that volume.

Spoilers are lost )
oyceter: (two nanas)
I really need to reread this in English, because I am certain I missed a ton of nuance. Still, reading first in Japanese and then in English is fun: it makes me feel like I have not completely forgotten Japanese and when I get new volumes in English, the reread uncovers new layers.

Spoilers can't breathe )
oyceter: (midori happy)

I read this years ago, when it first came out, and I spent most of the summer searching for a reprint in Taiwan so I could reread it. It's not quite as good as I remember, particularly the ending, but it's still charming and cute, and it's interesting to see Yazawa's art style between the rougher earlier style and the later very stylized bits.

Mochizuki Mizuki meets a mysterious English guy named Adam on her seventeenth birthday; she's extremely unhappy for reasons we don't know and runs away from home to live with Adam in a deserted old house. But when she decides to run off with Adam for good, we see her ex-boyfriend running after her just as a car hits her.

We then meet Shiraishi Hotaru, a sixth-grader (I think) looking for her cat in an oddly misty territory, and Mizuki helps her. Hotaru soon finds Mizuki living in the abandoned house, but Mizuki's lost her memory and only knows that she has to find Adam again. Hotaru and her friends are determined to help "Eve" (Mizuki's forgotten her name), and most of the series is about what happened to Mizuki and who Adam is.

The mystery itself isn't that interesting on a reread, but the gradual formation of relationships among the four kids is still wonderful. Hotaru first confides in her best friend Sae, and they soon enlist Masaki, whom Hotaru has a bit of a crush on, and Tetsu, an enthusiastic kid who reminds me of baby!Nobu. I don't have much to say about all of them except they're all so cute! And I was glad that Sae actually gets a lot of character development; for some reason, I hadn't remembered that but had remembered liking her a lot.

Alas, the weakness in the series is the resolution; there isn't enough of what happened to Mizuki and her ex-boyfriend, and what we do have is much less messy than most of Yazawa's relationships. I also wish there had been more of a resolution between Mizuki and the four kids.

I would totally read a sequel about the kids in high school or college or beyond. They are awesome.
oyceter: (midori happy)
Oh, series, I had forgotten how much I loved you. While this definitely follows the shoujo template more closely than Yazawa's later series, particularly in the extent to which Midori bends over for Akira's angst, it does some very interesting things with shoujo tropes as well.

Spoilers )

Anyway, I am SO GLAD this lives up to my memories of it; I was a little afraid that it wouldn't, since I'd tried rereading before and the first volume didn't grab me as much. But it's really the latter volumes where the series finds its strengths, and I love all of the characters so much. They feel like people I wish I were; they are so human and try to be so kind even as they all stumble and make mistakes and hurt people. And the focus on the school reminds me a lot of Honey and Clover -- just that eventual reminder that graduation is always there, that you have to make those big life decisions in the end, that your school friends will eventually scatter and leave, but that that makes the time spent there more precious.
oyceter: (midori happy)
This was the first Yazawa Ai manga I read, and it was the one that made me fall in love with Yazawa Ai. I don't think it's the best she's written; Nana's taken that place for me, but this series still holds a spot in my heart. It also helps that the protagonist is one of my favorite manga characters and among the few fictional characters I would love to befriend.

Saejima Midori is a first-year student (10th grade) at the newly-formed Hijiri Gakuen. It's so new that her class is the first class there. Her class eventually gets her to run for student council, saying that Midori is the angel of their class and that she should become the angel of the school (ergo, the title, which roughly means "I'm no angel"). She's got a crush on the rebellious-looking Sudou Akira, and the series is mostly about her relationship with him and the relationships of the kids who make the student council.

All of this sounds incredibly boring, and the angel bit sounds eye-rollingly precious. Also, the art is awful -- the figures look stiff and wooden in some scenes, and Yazawa's still developing what will become her very distinctive style. I think the art gets a little better later on, but it's still fairly rough throughout.

And still, I love this and rereading the first three volumes have made me incredibly nostalgic. Much of the appeal is Midori herself. She's the one in my icon, and the picture perfectly encapsulates why I love her so much. She's one of those people who let every emotion show on their face. When she's happy, she beams. When she's sad, she cries. When she's touched, she says so. And she is happy so much. I love her because she's optimistic and sees the good in everyone and everything, because she is so generous with her affection, because there is not a mean bone in her body. She has her flaws and her weaknesses, but she strikes me as the kind of person who tries so hard and as the kind of person whose happiness is infectious.

While this series doesn't privilege female friendship the same way Nana does (the Akira/Midori romance is the central relationshpi of the series), Yazawa's keen eye for character is still there, and one of my favorite relationships in the series is that between Midori and Mamiya Yuuko, the somewhat icy, grumpy, antisocial, awkward girl who's the secretary of the student council.

So far, several plot complications have already come in, and since this is high-school shoujo, we've already had a school festival and a play. But I love the characters so much that I don't mind; there's less of an emphasis on hijinks (let's put the hero in drag!) and more of an emphasis on the rhythms of the school year, on the emotional highs and lows of being a teenaged girl, on friendships and schoolwork and clubs.

Highly recommended.
oyceter: (two nanas)
I've been not-so-subconsciously avoiding reading more in the series a bit out of fear -- I've pimped this series and this mangaka so much in the past, just based on four-year-old memories of first five volumes that I was worried that later volumes couldn't possibly live up to my memories. It also didn't help that I was a little underwhelmed rereading the first three volumes, but I suspect some of that is just because I have read them so many times already.

I was also worried that I had wrongly pimped this series and Yazawa Ai to pretty much everyone on the planet and that I would have to take Yazawa Ai out of my mostest favoritest mangaka list (currently Yuki Kaori, Minekura Kazuya and Yazawa Ai, and if I were forced at gunpoint to pick, I would have to pick Yazawa. And I should probably have Umino Chica there as well for Honey and Clover, except I've only read three volumes of it).

So when I say that these three volumes have surpassed my expectations, you will all know just how high those expectations were. And also keep in mind that I'm reading this in the original Japanese, which means I'm probably missing a ton of the nuances, and volume 9 still made me cry and flip back to the beginning to reread.

Spoilers )

OMG I love this SO MUCH.

People! If you like authors like Sarah Dessen or anime like Honey and Clover, read this. Really. Even if you usually don't read manga. Because while the back cover copy makes it sound like it's all about fashion and punk bands and glamour, it's not. It's about friendship and romance and growing up and losing yourself and messing up, but really, it's about people and the connections between them and how we hurt and love and lie and weep and laugh and keep going.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (oosaki nana)
And now I hit the extent of my Nana-reading. Everything else from now on will be new! How exciting!

Spoilers for both vols. )
oyceter: (two nanas)
I feel a little odd blogging about these; I read them about six years ago when I was doing homestay in Japan. This was the first series I read in Japanese, and because I bought 1-3 back then, that's how I will forever remember the series.

I've been a Yazawa Ai fan since end of high school/beginning of college, and this is my favorite of her series (at least, so far).

Two girls named Nana meet on the train on their way to Tokyo; Komatsu Nana (hereafter "Cute Nana"*) is going to be with her boyfriend, and Oosaki Nana (hereafter "Punk Nana") is going to try to start her own band. Volume 1 acts more as a prologue to the series: we see Cute Nana's trouble with boyfriends and Punk Nana's eventual heartbreak. In volume 2, through a series of circumstances, they end up being roommates, and there, the real story begins.

I know a lot of people really dislike Cute Nana at first, but she was actually the reason why I loved the series. Yes, she's shallow, she has very little common sense, and she's extremely flighty, but she's also really kind at heart. And I like that Yazawa doesn't make her flaws out to be the standard shoujo heroine's quirks; Cute Nana's approach to life really doesn't serve her well. Punk Nana is much easier to like from the start -- she's cool, she secretly nurses a broken heart (er, sort of).

There's an every-day-ness to these three volumes that drew me in to begin with. I like that Cute Nana has to worry about money and jobs, I like that Junko and Kyosuke look at their friends and shake their heads, I like that they have a favorite burger joint. Punk Nana's band story is somewhat more in the realm of shoujo fantasy, but somehow, the narration by Cute Nana makes me believe in it, because Cute Nana believes in Punk Nana.

And most of all, I like that Yazawa clearly sees the foibles and flaws of her characters even as she loves them for it; Cute Nana's sunshine-y nature doesn't make her any less annoying, and while we understand Shoji's frustration with her, we also sympathize with her as well.

On a side note, Viz's translation sucks! I still can't get over everyone saying "Girl, you gotta..." or "Dude!" I know I say "dude" a lot, but it sounds very odd coming from Cute Nana. I could see it more from Shin or Nobu, but I feel Cute Nana would sound slightly more valley girl-ish. Also, unlike the Saiyuki translation, the slang here is used very poorly; all the characters use the same slang, regardless of their personalities, and as such, the slang is a mixture of valley girl, surfer dude, and netspeak that drives me insane. At least after the first few times, they took the slang out of Cute Nana's narration, because the Japanese is wistful and melancholy. And for once, I can actually tell the difference because I still hear the characters in Japanese in my head.

* I don't like referring to Cute Nana as "Hachi" because the series is named after both of them, and I feel like calling her "Hachi" makes the other Nana more the namesake Nana. Um, I never said this was reasonable or rational...

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oyceter: (neener)
(Now trying to post this for the 18th time.... LJ, never leave me again!)

This is one of Yazawa's weaker series, and probably her weakest since before Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai, which is when I think she both found her art style and her voice. I am a little happier with it now that I've read the ending; while I can see why some people might dislike it, the end actually made me like the series more.

Spoilers for series )

So. I'm still not quite sure what to think of the series as a whole; I don't think I'd actually rec it to anyone except a Yazawa completist, but if you've started it, it is worth continuing on to the end.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I read these a long time ago, and separated by quite a few months as well.

I've raved about Yazawa Ai before, and since Paradise Kiss is one of the only two of her series that's out here, I figured I should finally get around to reading it.

Paradis Kiss is a sequel to Gokinjo Monogatari (Neighborhood Story) of sorts, but you don't need to read that to understand this series. It's just a little more fun if you do, since there are some callouts.

Yukari is a normal high-school girl; she's focusing on the upcoming college exams, going to study school after school, and in general, focusing very hard on making her future successful. Then she bumps into Miwako (the little sister of Mikako from Gokinjo Monogatari), who wants Yukari to become a model for their fashion school design studio, Paradise Kiss. Yukari finds that she's not as happy with her studious life as she orignally might have thought, and gets tangled up with the blue-haired, capricious designer George.

As a side note, for once the strange-colored manga hair makes sense; everyone in Paradise Kiss dyes theirs.

I'm not actually that invested in the George-Yukari relationship, but I don't think it's meant to be quite as central as the romances in other shoujo series. One of the things I like best about the series is how incomprehensible George is and how much Yukari turns to Miwako for friendship and help and support. It's not that Yazawa portrays the other sex as impossible to understand, but she very deftly captures the high school feeling of the opposite sex being rather foreign compared to same-sex friendships. Since most romances and shoujo series I read downplay friendships and non-romantic relationships, this was a real relief.

I also like that Yukari struggles a lot in her relationship with George; the misunderstandings aren't stupid ones that could be cleared up if people only talked to each other. Instead, they stem from differences in personality and philosophy.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure why I haven't read vols. 4 and 5 yet; this is, like almost all of Yazawa's series, a good, solid, quiet manga about real people, despite their crazy fashionable clothes.
oyceter: (midori happy)
In which I finally talk in full about my very favoritest mostest bestest mangaka ever. Ok, maybe with the exception of Minekura Kazuya. Except Minekura has lots of people touting her and sadly only two of Yazawa Ai's series are out in the US.

Yazawa Ai writes and draws shoujo manga, usually of the non-fantastic sort. My friend first noticed her because of her very distinctive art style: long-legged, lanky characters with knobby knees and bony fingers, strong, clean lines and white space without much shading. Though her characters have the same big eyes that most shoujo manga characters do, hers have spiky eyelashes and a more realisitic shape. Also, unlike many shoujo manga characters, her noses are often more rounded and her characters actually have lips. I also adore their enormous smiles and the way they beam with happiness, or how their faces scrunch up and turn ugly when they cry.

TokyoPop and Viz's respective marketing departments continually emphasize the fashion and the glamorous lifestyle portrayed in her manga, and while her two series published in the US do have models and fashion designers and goth punk rockers, that's not why I like her so much.

I like that she tends to focus more on character development and growing romances and growing friendships. Everyone jokes that so much of manga is on crack, what with the pretty boys and the wings and the robots and the catgirls; what I find most refreshing about Yazawa's works is that there's an underlying realism to them. Granted, there's still the glamorous occupations that tend to be the norm in shoujo (fashion design, modelling, punk rock band), but the complexity of the characters really anchors the stories.

What I've read

Marine Blue no Kaze ni Dakarete (Embraced by the Marine Blue Wind), 1990-1991, 4 vols.

I read this in Chinese, and I don't remember much of the storyline. What I do remember is being thoroughly unimpressed. This is before Yazawa really started drawing in her own style; the art here is somewhat wispy and soft, very typically shoujo. It also looks like it was from the late eighties or early nineties, which doesn't help. I can see some parts where she is starting to draw much like she does later, but it usually clashes with the standard shoujo style and doesn't much work. The storyline is also fairly pedestrian; it's a shoujo story of falling in love and being emotional. Again, Yazawa has a few moments that remind me of later series, but the characters never really come alive.

Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai (I'm No Angel), 1992-1995, 8 vols.

Again, I read this in Chinese, and it's sadly not out in translation. This is one of my favorites, partly because it's the first Yazawa Ai manga that I read, and partly because it's just good. I flipped through the first volume when I was in Taiwan this year, and I have to warn you. The art in the beginning is horrible. The perspective is off, people look stiff and unnatural, and her lines veer between delicacy and boldness, and it's very odd. The story starts out like that as well, with the main character, Midori, who has a crush on the bad boy of the class, Akira. They end up on the same student council together, and shoujo plot ensues. Except, in a way, it doesn't.

There are the same dramatics that go on in most high school shoujo manga series, from the athletic competition to worries about college and graduation. What I love the most is that Yazawa focuses on all of the student council members, and then the generation of student council members after that. I like that her love triangles are sympathetic and believable. And I completely fell for Midori, who is the angel of the school in a non-schmoopy manner (she's the one in my icon). She's bright and cheerful without being too self-sacrificing; she's someone I would want as a close friend in real life.

In the end, I could go on and on about this, but what really matters is that I ended up loving every single one of the characters and really empathized with them as they went through their three years of high school, romance, and friendship together.

Gokinjo Monogatari (Neighborhood Story), 1995-1998, 7 vols.

Sadly also not available in translation. This is loosely set in the same world as TenNai, but only with a few brief, oblique references that add to the story if you pick up on them and don't detract at all if you don't.

It's another hard-to-summarize manga: Mikako and her friends go to the Yazawa School of Art (where Yazawa sticks in cameos of herself as the extremely odd principal). Mikako wants to be a fashion designer, her friend and possible crush Tsutomu wants to be a musician, and they meet others on the way. Again, it would be boring if I didn't like the characters so much. I don't like Mikako quite as much as Midori, though Mikako's probably a more complicated character. She's childish and stubborn, but also likeable in her own way. I also have a strange fondness for the extremely fashionable, chic girl whose name I forgot, who is high maintenance and neurotic, just because Yazawa manages to do it in a way that makes her human and real. She also seems to be a prototype of Komatsu Nana of Nana.

Last Quarter, 1998-1999, 3 vols.

Four elementary school kids find a young woman wandering about. She's forgotten her memories and her name; she only knows that she must find Adam, her handsome rock star boyfriend. The kids name her Eve and try to find out what's happened to the woman.

I am actually extremely fond of this little series, even though it's small and light. There's a poignancy to Eve's memories of Adam and wonderful, surreal atmosphere to the entire book. And once we find out what really happened to Eve, we feel horrible for her and for all the people involved, no matter how much at fault they might have been. I love it because, like all of Yazawa's series, the real heart is how everyone cares for each other even when they hurt each other.

Paradise Kiss, 2000-2003, 5 vols.

I've actually only read one volume of this, largely because when I first read it, it was in Japan and the manga didn't have furigana so I couldn't figure out a lot of the kanji. It's a sequel of sorts to Gokinjo Monogatari: the students who make up Paradise Kiss, a fashion design studio, all go to the Yazawa School of Art. One of them, Miwako, is Mikako's little sister. Yukari, a normal high school student, gets sucked into the world of design when they ask her to be their model. I don't actually know how things turn out, and I didn't like the first book as much as others. But since Yazawa Ai's series tend to get better as they go on, it's on my list for purchasing.

Also, I like looking at the crazy fashions she draws up.

Nana, 2000-present, 14 vols. so far

Finally! My very favoritest manga ever! Note: I've only read up to vol. 5. Nana is the story of two girls named Nana. Komatsu Nana is a normal girl from a normal town who is unfortunately obsessed with guys and a little shallow at first. Oosaki Nana is the vocalist for a punk rock band. Both of them end up in Tokyo, cute Nana to meet up with her boyfriend and punk Nana to make it big on the music scene. They end up rooming together, and even though they're incredibly different, punk Nana has her hidden soft spots and cute Nana has her hidden strengths.

I adore this manga, like most of Yazawa's manga, because I adore the characters. I like how they interact, and I adore the friendship between the two Nanas, which gets as much, if not more, time and attention as their respective romances.

I also love that they're both twenty instead of the usual high school setting, I love that they're both trying to make money and work in Tokyo. And while there is the standard glamorous occupation that most shoujo has (punk rocker band), I really like how cute Nana has to work at finding a job and budgeting, that they have to think about bringing home food and/or cooking, that they do ordinary, every day things. And I love that Yazawa makes these things interesting.

In conclusion

I make all of these sound horribly boring. The thing is, there isn't all that much that goes on plotwise. There's just this incredible depth of character that I enjoy. Yazawa never takes the easy way out of complicated relationships and love triangles; she doesn't villify people or excuse them. She simply portrays them as people making difficult choices. Sometimes these choices are bad, sometimes they're cowardly, sometimes they're selfishly motivated, but everyone lives with the consequences and grows with them. That's why I love the characters so much, and that's what keeps me reading.

(no subject)

Thu, Oct. 20th, 2005 09:27 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
Wah! I want this so badly! And I've already bought three other rattie sculptures from SlaughterHouse Studios. But still.. a Grim Ratter!

Haven't been keeping much in touch or answering comments; work has gotten even crazier. One more day...

And then, to Vegas! My dad is going on a business trip there and dragging me along with him, so I shall get free good food, which is always happy.

ETA: more linkage! Nana the movie! Wow! I saw the trailer, and since the Japanese is ok, I could understand most of it! It's funny because it starts out with "Ne, Nana..." in the voice of Komatsu Nana, which is exactly how the manga is, which is awesome. And all the sets and the clothes and etc. look so like the manga!


And for those of you who haven't been subject to my interspersed raves about Yazawa Ai (the mangaka who created Nana) -- author bio. I actually had no idea that Nana was so popular in Japan. But anyway, I love all her series, although sadly, the only one currently available in book form in the States (Paradise Kiss) is actually my least favorite of her works (excluding the very early ones that I haven't read).


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