If you were with us during Women in Comics week, you already know my opinion on manga. For those who weren’t, let me sum it up for you: I LOVE MANGA. Especially the girly, drama-filled ones.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Mara, it’s full of misogyny! It goes against feminism! All those girls care about is getting their man!
Well, yeah, there is shojo manga out there that is only a love story. But there is also shojo manga out there that is about the growth of the female character, the friendships she makes, and becoming independent. One such manga is Nana, by Yazawa Ai.
Nana is about two women of completely different backgrounds moving to Tokyo to fulfill their dreams. They meet by chance, move in together, and begin the friendship that will forever define their lives. Oh, and both of them are named Nana.
Nana Komatsu moves to Tokyo to live closer to her long-distance boyfriend. Nana Osaki moves to Tokyo to pursue a career in music. While Nana K embodies many of the usual shojo female lead tropes (clumsy, cute, hyper, boy-crazy), Nana O is a whole other creature.
Nana O refused to move to Tokyo at first when her long-time boyfriend made it big in the music industry. When he asked her to move with him, she chose to become successful on her own rather than support him in his career. A bold move, considering how much the two of them loved each other. Nana O’s choice says a lot about her view on her gender: she would rather lose the man she loves than be regulated to his wife and mother of his children.
Later, Nana O decides to move to Tokyo to establish a band and take the world by storm (and meet Nana K and be best friends for life). She moves on her own terms, something she felt she was unable to do earlier. It is sad to think that Nana O had to make a choice between being with her boyfriend and being successful, but that is the reality of life. It is also a reflection of society as a whole.
Nana O could not fathom being a wife and mother and a successful singer. When push came to shove, she made a decision not often seen in shojo manga. While the story fixes on the interaction between Nana O and her (former?) boyfriend, Nana O needed to learn how to rely on herself before moving on.
If you’re ever in the market to check out shojo manga, give Nana a chance. It’s got all the ingredients for a great manga – drama, cute boys, romance, and friendship – with unique, dynamic female characters. Many of the actions of the characters will certainly make you think about male and female roles in graphic media.