The NANA Project #4 -- NANA volume 7 & 8

This time around we examine the one character decision that will transform the core relationship of NANA and then wonder if things could have turned out differently.  Also, Danielle gets her rant on and makes Michelle almost like Takumi.  Good times!

Danielle: I feel that both these volumes highlight the influence our choices have upon the people around us -- in volume 7 Yazawa shows us how our choices can bring us together, while in volume 8 she shows how they can tear us apart.  If you had to change ONE choice a character makes in these two volumes, what would it be?  And would that mean that the outcome would then be different?

Michelle: Ooh, nice question. I hesitate to claim this answer, because I suspect Melinda will feel the same, but... I would have Hachi tell the truth to Nobu. I do understand why she lies to him: she feels deserving of blame, and having him believe her unfaithful and unworthy of his love is a comfort in some respects. Better to make him angry than leave him pining away for her. Plus, she knows that he'd be all too willing to toss aside his musical ambitions to act as father to the baby, when it's not his fault that she accidentally got pregnant.

But still!  Poor Nobu!  Poor Hachi!  It took me such a long time to read volume nine after this because I just dreaded seeing Hachi and Takumi together when it finally seemed she was beginning to get away from him. Of course, this would mean possibly more heartbreak for Nobu and Blast, but they would've made such a cute and happy family.

Melinda: Oh, wow, I'm actually kind of torn. On one hand, I'd actually like to change Hachi's decision to get into a relationship with Nobu without definitively ending it with Takumi. I get why she did that the way she did, but since she didn't actually break it off clean in terms understood by both of them, I think that gave Takumi the opening he needed to continue seeking her out. If he hadn't shown up that day when Hachi was at her most vulnerable, home alone with morning sickness, things might have gone very differently.

On the other hand, yes, Michelle, it's true I would like to change Hachi's choice to stay silent with Nobu on that day. I understand that too, though I think I have slightly different ideas about why she did it than you do (some based on statements made by Hachi later in the series). Still, that may point back to my original choice, too. If Takumi had just stayed away, Nana and Nobu would have been the ones to be there for Hachi in her time of need and they surely would have worked things out between them. It's Takumi's presence on that day that made it so easy for Hachi to fall into his confident, startlingly calm care.

Michelle: I did think about that moment, too. Perhaps that really is where all the trouble began. Of course, we could wish that Hachi was simply astute enough to insist on protection!

Danielle: Hmm...I have this feeling that Nobu needed Nana there to get Hachi to talk about things.  That he wouldn't have been able to do it alone...and that is important because that points to a confluence of events / character choices that led to Hachi's final decision to entrust her and her child's future to Takumi, rather than ONE single action that could have turned things around.  I prefer that interpretation, if only to show that Yazawa has developed a complex tale of love and trust and not a simplistic soap opera with simplistic people (which is currently what I'm currently getting as I watch the anime Peach Girl).

Michelle: Hmm... interesting point. Do you mean that Nobu didn't exude the same level of confidence Takumi did?  And therefore, Hachi made her choice to go with the guy who looked like he could better handle the situation?

Danielle: Well, I think in an odd way Nana and Nobu are bound up together -- in a weird way all three are extensions of each other at this point in the story.  Nana is trying to watch over them, but as far as she's concerned Hachi with Nobu means that Hachi also belongs to her in a way she doesn't when she's with Takumi.  That's some messed up thinking, but it reveals how Nana’s obsessive need for Hachi ends up driving her away in that critical moment, and why Nobu alone isn't enough.  It isn't that he can't compare to Takumi in my mind, but that it isn't really him alone in that relationship with Hachi.

Melinda:  Nana's way of thinking about Hachi's relationship with Nobu is certainly messed up (understatement) but somehow I guess I feel like they all could have grown up a little bit together if they'd had the chance. I like reading the story Ai Yazawa is writing (obviously), but I would have liked reading that story too.  :)

And Michelle, I absolutely think that Hachi went with the option that felt safest to her at the time. Takumi took charge of the situation like a father, and I don't think Nobu could have mustered that at the time.  Though, Michelle, to be fair I think that Danielle and I have the advantage of having read further ahead in the series than you have (that's what I meant earlier about my perspective on Hachi's reasons being formed by statements she makes later on).

I still maintain, however, that if Takumi hadn't shown up that day, Nana and Nobu together could have been the ones Hachi turned to.  I agree, Danielle, that it needed to be Nana and Nobu, not just Nobu alone (which is why I phrased it that way in my original comment). If Takumi hadn't been there, though, I think that's how it would have turned out.

Michelle: Ah, indeed. I've only read through volume eleven, which isn't really so much farther than the events we're talking about here.

Melinda: I bring that up because I think I have a very different perspective on this whole time period now than I did when I first read it. I think, Michelle, yours is probably the most pure in-the-moment response here and much like mine on first read. I remember feeling so frustrated that Hachi didn't just tell Nobu that she'd been faithful to him, thinking that was somehow the most important thing--the thing that would make everything different. In retrospect, I think the real deciding factor is Takumi's presence. After all, crisis management is what Takumi does best.  He was totally in his element, while Nobu was, most likely, terrified to the core, not to mention jealous. I think he and Nana together could have given Hachi the support she needed, but Takumi blew that all away.

Michelle: You're right—although Hachi's decision not to end things properly with Takumi did come to mind as a possible answer to this question, it was obviously trumped by my desire for Nobu not to get hurt so very badly. As you say, I haven't read much farther, but I'm very afraid this whole experience is going to make him cynical, which would be just awful to witness.

Melinda: Yes, I totally understand. I felt so much pain on Nobu's behalf when I first read this. He's so... earnest. It really killed me to see him so hurt, especially when it seemed unnecessary. I wanted him to know that he was worth being faithful to and that Hachi felt that way too.

Danielle: It's interesting that you bring up that fear about Nobu, Michelle -- as I was reading through these volumes it suddenly hit me how similar Nobu and Hachi are.  I mean, Nana basically says that when they are together it is like two little dogs yapping all the time (great line) but there is something about the two of them together that seems too much like a dream that has to end.  I simply think they are too young to support each other as thoroughly as they need to, even though Hachi mentions that with Nobu for the first time she knows what it is like to want to protect someone, instead of wanting to be protected by them.

Danielle: Let's talk about Hachi's decision to raise her child with Takumi.  Is she running away from Nobu and Nana, is she taking responsibility for her previous decisions?  Has Hachi grown up in these volumes or is she taking refuge in Takumi's talent for managing a "crisis" situation?

Michelle: Y'know, I think the answer to all those questions may simultaneously be "yes," which, again, is a testament to Ai Yazawa's ability to concoct a complex story! I think Hachi is a bit ashamed of her conduct and situation, but is likewise determined to seize the chance to learn to really give to someone else rather than continue to expect to be pampered. At the same time, I remember the scene at the table where it seems that Nana and Takumi are doing most of the talking and Hachi is just sitting there.

Melinda: I am going to go mostly with taking refuge with Takumi. I don't actually think she's running away from Nobu and Nana at all, though obviously alienation from them is a consequence of her decision. But Takumi is the one making it easy for her to move forward in this moment and she really needs that. I also think that, regardless of her genuine feelings for Nobu, she, in spite of herself, can't quite let go of her "Takumi from Trapnest" fantasy, which makes it all the easier for her to fall into that.

Danielle: Do we have any hints why Takumi suddenly steps into this role as Hachi's primary source of support?  I don't think he even has a clue what Nana and Hachi mean to each other yet, so he won't figure out to what degree he may be alienating Hachi from her previous life until later (he must have some clue, since he obviously knows he needs to get her away from Nobu's orbit so she can make a clean break).  But I'm still left wondering about his sudden turn around (i.e. just a volume before he told Hachi that if she gets pregnant, she should just "take care of it" or something to that effect).  Is it primarily jealousy and possessiveness as Jun and Kyosuke believe?

Melinda: I can't believe I'm going to say this, since I seriously dislike Takumi, but... I actually think he cares about Hachi in his way. There's a scene earlier where Hachi's figure is imposed over his plate of curry rice, which Takumi has claimed not to care for. Takumi says, "I don't usually think about curry [Hachi] but when someone mentions it I crave it insanely. Why?" Ren responds, “That means no matter what you say, you like it!" Takumi's expression afterward reveals everything. He's just realized he really likes Hachi.  I think he's attached to Hachi and has a strong desire to keep her in his life--maybe even as a way of creating the traditional family life he didn't have as a kid. It's a weird kind of caring, but I think it's real.

Danielle: So, what the hell is happening with everyone else while all this crazy pregnancy stuff is going down?  The more I read these volumes the more annoyed I get with Ren (he knew what was happening with Hachi and Nobu but was too lazy to get involved).  Mainly I think of him as a self-involved little shit, which is getting to be problematic reaction, considering his "leading man" status.

Basically, when I re-read these books both Ren and Yasu are BIG disappointments to me.  Yasu annoys me because in the flashback he can't be bothered to actually support Nana when she moves to Tokyo and he takes a hands-off approach which is pretty much bullshit.  He's emotionally invested and he knows it, he's just extraordinarily cowardly about it.  Although I admit I’m still annoyed with Yasu’s original decision to salvage Ren and Ren alone from Blast.  So I probably still haven't forgiven him for that.  In contrast, I feel that when Shin or Nobu screw up, they are making honest mistakes in the heat of the moment because they are still figuring out who they are.  Ren and Yasu seem to prioritize themselves or each other and that just pisses me off because they are often pretending they aren't.  Takumi -- who is extraordinarily selfish -- is at least very open about what he wants and why (which is much less offensive to me in the end).  i.e. I think Ren and Yasu are hypocrites but Takumi -- as distasteful as parts of his personality are -- isn't.

Michelle: I think perhaps I don't feel as strongly about this as you do, but I definitely see where you're coming from. Back in volume four or so, it seems romantic and right for Nana and Ren to get back together. The more we learn of him now, though, it seems that it she would be better off without him. Even Nana herself seems drawn to Yasu—again, running to him here when upset—but Yasu persists in putting Ren ahead of himself. Probably he thinks he's being altruistic, but it's still rather crappy, as you say.

I love that your argument boils down to: Takumi is less of a douchebag because he so obviously is one.

Melinda: Hahahaha, Michelle that last sentence is *great*.  I, too, don't feel as strongly about this as Danielle and I also don't carry a grudge against Ren and Yasu over Ren's leaving BLAST (which I think we got into earlier in the project).  I agree overall with your assessment of Ren, however, Danielle, as a "self-involved little shit," because I think that's pretty much on the nose. I also agree that Yasu is a coward when it comes to expressing emotion. I probably can't say that I am less bothered by Takumi just because he's honest about being a douchebag (heh) because I so deeply despise his treatment of Hachi, but I can certainly see your point.

Danielle: Yeah, I think re-reading has made me super-aware of certain

things because I'm always going, "Idiot! Don't you even think how that will affect the people around you?!"  And I'm rarely saying that about Hachi and Nana, who certainly screw up but also strive to change / fix the things they mess up.  At the end of volume 8 Nana is incredibly regretful that she couldn't be there for Hachi when she was needed the most and, yes, once she gets her head on straight it happens to be too late (Takumi's stepped in and Hachi's made her resolution) but that doesn't stop her from wishing she had acted differently.

But yeah, I don't see Ren ever showing that level of reflection and Yasu, who is self-aware I think, is pretty resolved NOT to give into some of his emotional desires in favor of serving certain long-term agendas he's not willing to relinquish (i.e. Ren's well-being above all others').  What can I say, I suppose I feel Yasu chooses poorly.

And yes, Michelle hits the nail on the head with the douchebag line. I have a strange affection for Takumi because he's one those characters who is interesting because he's crazy flawed but very, very functional.  Takumi doesn't know how to serve two masters, he only knows how to serve himself.

Michelle: I can't believe you are kind of making me like Takumi now!

Melinda: I can pretty much guarantee I will never develop affection for Takumi. But I have some pretty deep personal issues wrapped up in that, so it's just a thing.

Danielle: Well, there are certain character-types I kind of like because they are absolute shit-stirrers  -- another example is Sho from Skip Beat! He's a complete ass but he makes the plot bubble and boil over and gets things moving.  *That* I really like.

Michelle: Oh yeah, I actually do like Sho. If it weren't for him, Ren wouldn't get off his butt! :)

Danielle: Now that I've been overly harsh on two very beloved fan favorites and then made Michelle almost like Takumi (heh), I'd thought wrap up this NANA project by asking each of you to offer your VERY favorite Nana-Hachi moment from the first eight volumes of the manga, particularly since they are now going to be separated in the storyline.

Michelle: Oh, that's a toughie. I think I'm going to go with a moment toward the end of volume seven. In the beginning of the volume, Hachi's rather down because Nana's been hanging out with Misato and Ren.  "So I guess I'm not needed at all," she thinks. By the end of the volume, though, we see how ABSOLUTELY untrue this is, when Nana casually confesses that she used Nobu to "give Hachiko free run of my kingdom."  When an ebullient Hachi breaks away from Nobu to greet Nana, the look of tender love on Nana's face reveals at last how very, very deeply she has grown attached. When I first read this, I thought, "Oh, how happy Hachi would be if she only realized how much she was loved."

Melinda: Wow, this is an incredibly difficult question. You may laugh at my answer. I think my favorite moment may be when Hachi takes Nana back home to go to the Trapnest concert in volume four. Earlier, Nana has shocked everyone by saying to Hachi's mom (when it is suggested that living with Hachi must be a pain), "Nana is honest, considerate, and cheerful.  I'm happy to live with her." A few pages later, when they're alone, Hachi starts to make fun of what Nana said and Nana responds, simply, "I really think that."  It's a small moment, but for someone like Hachi who I think has grown up feeling like she isn't anything special, it's pretty huge. It really touched me a lot.

Danielle: It is interesting to me that both of you chose moments in which we see Nana's love for Hachi through someone else's perspective (Melinda's moment is through Hachi's eyes, Michelle's moment through Nobu's eyes).  My pick is one of those rare times we get insight into Nana's relationship with Hachi through Nana's own perspective -- it is the night of the failed fireworks festival and Nana is simply overwhelmed by her feelings for Hachi.  While Hachi runs toward her with one of those silly sprinklers lit in spite of the storm, Nana gulps and thinks, "I guess you don't know...that everything you do blows me away...just like that typoon."  Nana goes on ("I feel like a teenage boy falling in love for the first time"), but what a way to conceptualize Hachi's influence on Nana -- as an uncontrollable storm.

Well, this seems like the perfect place to wrap-up this month's NANA project.  Thanks for everyone for reading and we wish you all a happy and safe holiday season!  We'll be back next year to discuss the huge fall out from Hachi's decision in the next installment.

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