Warning: The following contain spoilers for Nana Volume 8.
This last week I posted a review at Manga Village of Nana Volume 8. In it, I wrote that I wished Viz had waited until after this volume to move Nana to a Mature rating. The manga started serialization in Shojo Beat, and was rated Older Teen (16 and +) to match the magazine’s rating. After 7 volumes, Nana was “graduated” from Shojo Beat to be published straight to graphic novel with the higher Mature rating. Dirk Deppey of Journalista in his Feb. 8, 2008 blog entry was quick to point to a love scene as the reason, which other than one frame, was identical to every other love scene in the previous 7 volumes. Sorry. That doesn’t cut it for me. There has to be more to it than just one frame. I believe the reasons it was taken out was for the very reasons I think I should have stayed in; the subject matter.
With this volume, Nana starts to get into some serious subjects; pregnancy, abortion, having a child out of wedlock and marriage for convenience instead of love. Everything starts out as usual. NanaK. has broken up with Takumi (in her mind) and is now with Nobu, who genuinely cares about her. Her dream of finding someone who loves her as much as she loves them seems to be finally coming true. But then, NanaK.’s past comes back to haunt her. While preparing for work giving away food samples, she gets nauseous. Going on a hunch it seems, she stops at a pharmacy and gets a pregnancy test. It comes out positive. She doesn’t tell anyone at first, and goes to a clinic where her pregnancy is confirmed, and she is told if she wants to abort, she should decide soon. Because NanaK. hasn’t been answering him, Takumi goes to her apartment (he didn’t believe she’d really broken up with him) and discovers the truth. He locks NanaK. in the bathroom and calls Nobu on NanaK.’s phone and tells him despite her protests. Takumi tells Nobu he’ll take responsibility no matter who’s child it is. Not knowing what else to do now, NanaK. goes to Jun’s apartment and has a frank discussion with her. (Basically Jun tells NanaK. off.) NanaK. decides she wants to keep the baby, with Takumi’s support even if it’s only financial, and she’ll be a single mother. Telling Takumi as much, he offers to marry NanaK., as an illegitimate child would be worse for his and Trapnest’s reputations.
So, after seven volumes of watching NanaK. drift around, jumping from bed, to bed, to bed, with no serious direction in her life, we finally get to see the consequences of her lifestyle, and Viz takes the title out of the magazine. Why? Yes, these are mature issues that NanaK. has to deal with, but does Viz believe that only adults (18+) will be dealing with them? 16 year olds don’t have to face these problems? Viz made the choice to lower Nana‘s rating to Older Teen so it could get it into Shojo Beat and use it as an anchor to hook readers in. But, just like NanaK., Viz should have to face up to the consequences of their choices. For seven volumes, 16 year old (and possibly/probably younger) readers have been watching NanaK. have bad luck with men, take infatuation for love, and generally be irresponsible. And when that house of cards finally comes crashing down, and we see the consequences of her choices, Viz yanks the title from the magazine. I have no doubt they did this to avoid controversy, but by doing so, they keep these things from the very readers who SHOULD be seeing!
Making choices in life and then facing the consequences of those choices is something everyone must deal with in their life. And the choices that NanaK. has made are the same ones that older teens and adults are making everyday. Whether we as parents and adults like it or not, our children (both boys and girls) are facing issues of sex, pregnancy, and whether to keep or abort a baby. Often, they get into these situations because, like NanaK., they aren’t thinking of the consequences, or they are thinking “It won’t happen to me” (as most teens do). What makes both this volume and the whole series of value is the intelligent and matter-of-way that Ai Yazawa approaches the subjects.
When you start reading this series, you have no idea it’s going to go in this direction. You are just watching two girls who meet on a train to Tokyo with the same name, trying to make the dreams that they are going there for, come true. But, just like real life, things get in the way, and their choices affect their path. The characters and the situations they face are very real, so there’s no feeling of the story being preachy or trying to tell girls “Don’t let this happen to you!”. You see it happen to NanaK., and instinctively you think you don’t want that to be you.
I’m not gonna pretend that this is some kind of solution to the teen sex problems in this country. But we, as a society, have a bad habit of burying our heads in the sand when it comes to talking to our kids about sex and it’s consequences, and an even harder time getting them to listen. So, if there’s a book, that just shows it to them, and sucks them in before they even realize there’s a message in it for them, then I’m all for them reading it. There are particularly three scenes that I think are powerful and older teens should see; when NanaK. figures out she’s pregnant, her visit to the clinic to confirm it, and Jun having the frank conversation with NanaK. These are the scenes that stand out the most, and really drive the point home. I think could do more than any lecture, public service announcement or “after-school special”.
Viz should have let this play through this volume. It not only gets some poignant issues across, but would have made a better cliff hanger to get people to keep buying the series. If this volume of Nana could get just some teens and young adults to think twice, or at least act responsibly, then it’s worth any controversy that could arise.